Like true, blue folkies, the Coo’s adventure began with a serendipitous meeting at an open mic in Amsterdam. Such is why the duo—comprised of Matt Arthur and Jara Holdert—meeting in an Amsterdam cathedral to perform their new EP, Amsterdam Moon, feels just as blessed as it all comes full circle. Amsterdam Moon is dotted with stories that feel especially poignant for the Coo themselves; latest single ‘If Only’ is the first song that Arthur and Holdert have ever written together. The sweet, harmonic folk number unearths the inception of their collaboration.
Today, 15 May, marks the release of Amsterdam Moon. In celebration, the Coo have joined forces with For Folk’s Sake to take our readers on a ride through the album in its entirety with a track-by-track review. It is available to listen to via Spotify and the like now.
LOW COUNTRY GIRL
All of the songs on the EP were recorded live in front of an audience in an old synagogue – The Uilenberger Sjoel – in Amsterdam in April 2019. We decided to open the night and the recordings with this song because it sets the scene of our relationship and for the project.
Low Country Girl tells the story of how we met, serendipitously, one night in Amsterdam. Matt lives in London but he was in the Netherlands for a festival, feeling a bit lost in life, and he decided to go to an open mic to see if he could meet some kindred souls. He ended up meeting a musical soulmate, and like all good English troubadours he wrote a poem about the experience, which later turned into this song – finished together on a warm afternoon behind Jara’s piano.
Something’s Turned started off like a lot of our newer songs – one of us has the spark or the germ of an idea and then we go from there together. This time Matt had the verse ideas and he sent them over whatsapp to Jara and she started to take them in a new direction. It’s so nice to have a collaboration where each of you can constantly surprise the other and improve on the ideas they have. We came back to this tune each time we visited each other, to add another change, another harmony, a bridge, and slowly it became what it is now.
Like a lot of our lyrics, these sprung from a long conversation we had about love, and how the tides can turn so quickly sometimes.The song is about that intangible moment when you realise something may have changed – in a romantic or any kind of relationship – where you’re not sure you’re going to be able to get it back. We often talk to each other about the finer mechanics of human relationships and it’s a real fascination for us – why is it that these subtle changes happen and where do they come from? How sometimes it’s about time and context and sometimes it’s just about forces outside of our control.
When we met at that open mic in 2016 Matt had mentioned to Jara that if she was ever in London she could come stay at his place, and maybe even jam and do some gigs together. But after that first meeting contact faded – as it often does when you’ve met someone just once. But then kind of out of the blue Jara messaged Matt in the summer of 2017. She decided to ask him if the offer still stood! And it did… We ended up writing If Only in the space of about two hours and then played it that night at an open mic in Camden Town. It’s a special song for us because it really marks the beginning of The Coo, even though we didn’t know we were going to start a band together at that point. ‘If Only’ was the very first song we ever wrote together.
One thing that has been so cool about our collaboration has been the ability to breathe new life into each other’s songs, as well as writing songs together. Rosie is a song that Matt had written a few years before we met and he was ready to abandon it because he felt as if it was missing something vital. As we started to build this musical relationship together, we would visit each other and play impromptu gigs where we’d get up and sing on each other’s songs and Jara always really liked ‘Rosie’. Matt says that as soon as Jara started to sing with him the song became what it was always supposed to be – like it had found the missing part of the puzzle.
The song’s just about two people discovering a new love and just being kind of baffled and amazed by it at the same time. It’s these two lovers who just want to tell everyone how great it all is.
BABY WON’T YOU PLEASE
This is a song like Rosie in the sense that we didn’t write it together – Jara had written this one some years before they met and she had become tired of it. Matt always loved singing it and over time it became a really important part of our live sets. ‘Baby Won’t You Please’ is about that double situation of fighting with a lover; the anger that makes you say you don’t need them at all, while deep inside there’s just this helpless feeling of love and wanting it all to be alright again. We almost always finish with this song when we play live so it made sense to finish the night of the recording and the EP with it. It has this kind of longing to it, and the sense of things unfinished, which lends itself nicely to the end – maybe you people want to come back and hear what happens next?
Words by: Jonathan Frahm / The Coo