Sometimes a change of scenery can make all the difference.
At least that was the case for Vancouver funk/soul band Coco Jafro when they took a trip to Morocco two years ago. Under the guidance of band member Amine Said, who's Moroccan, a handful of musicians from the seven-to-nine-person group travelled to the North African country and found ample inspiration for their forthcoming album, Forces of Nature.
"We had a great experience," says Karina Morin, the group's singer. "We jammed some new music and experimented a little more over there."
One example: she and the band's keyboard player ventured out on a daytrip one day—and wound up losing a wallet filled with their money. "We were stranded," she explains. "But the people there were so gracious and welcoming and we were taken in with open arms. One of the songs on the album ... takes from that experience saying, 'you're always welcome.' They always have tea ready—beautiful mint tea, ready to serve. That wonderful atmosphere is very welcoming and gracious."
In another instance, they went out into the Sahara desert, stayed overnight and had a jam session. "Sometimes you need to shake things up a little bit and find that inspiration," she adds. "Whether it's an experience or trip, just to change your setting for a little bit. Your soul grows a lot from that and new ideas come into play."
When the group returned home to the West Coast, they decided to turn the EP they were working on into a full-length album. But the road to releasing it took some time.
"We had a few lineup changes with instrumentation," Morin says. "We had to audition new musicians and finding the right fit was a challenge. Once we found that we could move on with the album because they all contribute to the songs."
After that, they took the almost-finished songs on the road as part of the process to see what worked and what needed tweaking before they headed into the recording studio. "A song is never done," she adds. "You have to decide when it's done. In its infancy, you have the basic structure of the song, but when you play it live, all these different elements change."
But, at long last, Coco Jafro is at the end of the road. Forces of Nature will be released—adorned with psychedelic desert cover art created by the band's percussionist Sangito Bigolow—at a concert on June 1 at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver.
"We're doing a dual release party with another local band—Camaro 67—whose album is coming out at the same time," Morin says. "We thought, 'Why don't we do a party together?' The fans that listen to their type of music crosses over with ours. It's a similar vibe and we thought it'd be fun."
Before that, Whistlerites will be able to get a taste of the new tracks at a free show on Sunday, May 20 at 3 p.m. in Village Square as part of GO Fest. "This is our first official Whistler show," Morin says. "We'd love to do more shows in Whistler."
Festival crowds can expect a wild dance party, she adds. "Sometimes we're up to eight, nine people—depending on the size of the stage and budget. We love to feature more horns and a backup singer. Then we do some dancing. It's nice to be outside. The music just lends itself to that. It's great."
The GO Fest gig is just a kickoff to a busy summer that will see the band tour around B.C.—from Campbell River to the North Shore Jazz Festival to the Surrey Fusion Festival.
"I try to have as much fun as I can and I spread that energy out and pour it out to the people in the audience," Morin says. "Whether that's two people or thousands, we try and bring that energy and get people moving and grooving and feeling comfortable to do that."