Coco Verde frontman and bassist Julian Anderson sipped on a beer and talked about heartbreak music and death. But I needed to get a simple question out of the way.
“So why the name Coco Verde,” I asked.
Part of the answer was simple. “Because I had a crush on Koko [Coco Verde keys player],” Anderson said. The rest was more complicated.
He didn’t have a name when he recorded the band’s first single. Out of desperation, he reached out to his dad who suggested naming the band for Babs Verde, a woman who helped hundreds through the underground railroad. Intrigued, Anderson spent a few days researching Verde but found nothing, Then his dad fessed up: it was actually the name of a high school crush.
“I’m like, ‘I’m not naming my band after some crush you had in high school.’ So I made a compromise and named it after a crush I had,” Anderson said. “But also, Coco Verde, Cocaine marijuana, I don’t know, [it means] whatever you want.”
Koko Williams plays keys and sings in Coco Verde, and though the two dated and broke up as the band just started to blossom, it hasn’t affected the music. Williams, Anderson and the rest of the band, Ryan Laetari (guitar), Jonathan Sacca (guitar) and Jacob Cavell (drums) all met at work and have been playing together as Coco Verde now for two years.
Their 2017 debut EP Marathon was six tracks about heartbreak and surviving the city. Songs like “Clara” and the title track uses slide guitar and echoing vocal harmonies to bring tears to your eyes. Then, right when you think the floodgates are about to burst, songs like “Tootsie Roll” and “Glitter” pick up the pace with fuzzed-out electric guitar and sped-up drumbeats making you want to boogie all night long.
Coco Verde, “Tootsie Roll”
Though the EP and band are still new to the music scene, Anderson is an NYC veteran. After living here for over a decade he said he’s gone pleasantly “batshit crazy.”
The Detroit native has spent his time in NYC going from musician to medical student and back to a musician. “Bob Dylan was here at one point in time, so I thought that was pretty cool and maybe I should come to New York with my acoustic guitar, too,” Anderson said. “I was gonna go to Chicago but, I guess maybe it wasn’t dirty enough, so I came out here.”
The NYC music scene can be punishing and Anderson weaves in and out of it. His first leave from music led him to study medicine for a few years. After spending most of his time in a hospital around the sick and dying he had an epiphany. “I realized life’s pretty damn short, so I picked up the guitar again and was just like, ‘fuck it,’” he said. “I figured maybe I’ll heal with the guitar instead of an IV.”
The band is recording new singles this fall and debuting Coco Verde outside of NYC this month in Washington D.C. on the 13th and Philadelphia on the 14th. In the meantime, listen to the entire interview with Coco Verde’s Julian Anderson and Marathon on this week’s The Music Meetup.