21-year-old Omar Banos, best known by his musical moniker, Cuco, is excited about living on his first ever tour bus for the next month when I call him in Boston, having recently kicked off his summer headlining tour of America.
The self-produced artist first began playing music at the age of eight - starting with guitar, and moving on to learning bass, keys, drums, trumpet, french horn, and mellophone all before the age of fifteen. After teaching himself Ableton the following year, Cuco worked towards the goal of releasing his own music independently after finishing high school - and in 2016 released his first mixtape, 'Wannabewithu'.
Having signed a seven-figure deal with Interscope Records (following a reputed two-year bidding war between four labels), Cuco is looking forward to the release of his debut album 'Para Mi' next month on July 26th. Coup De Main caught up with Cuco to discuss all of the above and more...
...sometimes you just don't want to have so many problems and want to be able to escape, and using music to escape is pretty sick.
COUP DE MAIN: Happy early 21st birthday for next week!
CUCO - OMAR BANOS: Thank you; I appreciate it. I'm excited to turn 21.
CDM: How’s tour going?
CUCO: It's been good. Just been working and working and enjoying the three days I've been on the road.
CDM: Are you still feeling homesick?
CUCO: Yeah. Always.
CDM: What inspired you to want to start learning music production when you were sixteen?
CUCO: I was just always thinking about music that I wanted to make and had been wanting to make my own projects, and using my own brains to make the music I want to make.
CDM: In your song ‘Bossa No Sé’ you sing, “I don't know if I love you / I don't know if I hate you.” Do you think that there’s a fine line between love and hate?
CUCO: Yes? No? Maybe? I don't know, to be honest. I just liked the lyric. I don't think there's a fine line.
CDM: Which emotion do you think is stronger - love or hate?
CUCO: Probably love.
CDM: Why do you find love such a powerful emotion to write about in your music?
CUCO: Because it's natural for me. I'm just a loving person, so I write love-music.
CDM: Is there a song that you are most proud of lyrically that you’ve written?
CUCO: Probably just my album, once it comes out. It's done. It comes out next month.
CDM: What can you tell us about your album?
CUCO: It's a mix of my old and new stuff, a lot of new stuff, and I feel like there's a lot more maturity in the production. I can't really explain it, you're just going to have to listen to it.
CDM: Do you have a favourite song on your album?
CUCO: Yeah, it's called 'Feelings'. It's one of my favourite songs off the album.
CDM: Do you have a favourite memory from recording the album?
CUCO: Being creative in the recording was really fun. I basically composed the whole thing, and then liked how we would play it live, so we re-recorded the live versions of songs in thirty days.
CDM: Did you self-produce and record everything yourself?
CUCO: Most of it, yeah. And then there were the songs that half the band recorded on like 'Feelings', and Mauri [Tapia from Los Retros] played drums on 'Do Better', and then we tape-recorded a bunch of stuff with Jonathan Rado at Dream Star Studios. And then Lars Stalfors mixed the album and mastered it.
CDM: How do you know when a song is finished? Is there a special feeling?
CUCO: Yeah there's a feeling that when it's done, it's done. I'm not really sure exactly what it is.
CDM: Last month you tweeted: "It’s cool I made it and all but music was my escape from reality and now it’s like a career but it’s no longer a fantasy but a reality and being in reality all the time makes me wanna escape again but I don’t know how to and when I did it was they drugs and that shit sucks. I won’t fall back into shit cos I’m taking care of myself and doing shit for a better me but it’s hard to find something I love as much as music, I wanna get into cars and fix my shit up more but I never have time cus im@always touring." Why do you think it’s important to have things outside of a day to day reality? Do you think escapism is important?
CUCO: Definitely. Sometimes you just don't want to have so many problems and want to be able to escape, and using music to escape is pretty sick.
CDM: How are you feeling about music as a job now, with your album release coming up and you being back on tour now?
CUCO: It's always a job now because I'm always touring and working and all that stuff, and anytime I'd love to take a break, it's a shame, but I don't know how to take a break. But regardless, it's just what I love, and it's music and it's impactful, and that's what life is. It's important, you know?
CDM: Do you enjoy being in the studio more than touring?
CUCO: I like being in the studio more than I like being on tour.
CDM: A couple years ago you headlined ‘Solidarity For Sanctuary’, a benefit concert series for immigrant families at risk of deportation. Why is it important for you to use your platform to raise awareness about issues that you’re passionate about?
CUCO: I think that's pretty easy to answer, when you want to step in and do something for the community and do something with your platform.
CDM: Your manager Doris Muñoz is amazing - all her work advocating for and helping immigrants is so inspiring. What's your favourite thing about working with her?
CUCO: Yeah! Just how powerful she is as a woman, and a woman of colour, especially in the industry, it is really super inspiring and super awesome to be around someone like that - backing up the work and being able to create something like this with me.
CDM: Having been independent for the last few years, you signed to Interscope Records back in March. Why did you feel like now was the time to let a label in?
CUCO: Because they understood what I was trying to do and it's a good team behind everything I'm doing. It's all really good people around me, which is the most important thing to me, especially with the whole roll-out.
CDM: Were there specific things that you were looking for in a label?
CUCO: Yeah, I just wanted my own freedom and to own my masters.
CDM: If C.U.C.O was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
CUCO: Can. U. Chop. Onions?
CDM: And you're going to Australia this August/September, is there any chance you might include New Zealand in your touring plans too?
CUCO: That would actually be sick. I'm not going this time, please forgive me.
Cuco's debut album 'Para Mi' is out July 26th!
Listen to new song 'Feelings' below...