"I grew up with two older sisters who I idolised, but they used to pick on me because I was the weird one. I had imaginary friends, but they didn't really like me either... they were always fighting and it was hard work trying to keep them under control". Welcome to the intriguing imagination of CuckooLander, ready to make her mark with a self-titled debut EP.
Hailing from Dorset and surrounded with a musical family - a middle sister with a talent for songwriting and a mother who spent a fair amount of time on the road as a backing vocalist singing for Roger Chapman and The Shortlist. CuckooLander's world was always immersed in music; her older sisters were talented musicians and had their own band, but forbade CuckooLander to be part of it. "They were such jokers, they even managed to convince me I was adopted". This left their younger sibling an outsider, watching from the shadows, and convinced she had no musical talent. However, at the age of ten - CuckooLander plucked up the courage to learn drums and piano, and eventually make music like her heroes - her family.
For anyone else, a countryside upbringing would mean teddy bear picnics in the sunshine. For CuckooLander, this was the forming of a more unique streak; a girl who enjoyed tales of fantasy and dark magic "I spent a lot of time on my own but I was always busy, exploring the forest, recording my own radio shows and filming strange plays, I had no problem entertaining myself as a kid". CuckooLander had a love for weird and wonderful horror movies and spending a lot of time at her Gran's creepy house. The young CuckooLander would often go outdoors to play on assault courses and dens. "I still am fascinated by animals. If I wasn't doing music, I would have definitely ended up working on Wildlife documentaries like David Attenborough". Behind the macabre, there was always an appreciation of the world around her, and music always came first.
CuckooLander was introduced to live music as a toddler, watching her mother performing regularly at shows and festivals whilst she was growing. "I always loved to be at the front dancing or in some kind of mesmerized trance". Later in life when CuckooLander starting studying music, her mother would often take her to shows across Dorset immersing her in the wonders of psych, jazz fusion and funk artists such as Roy Ayers and Joe Zawinul and Bootsy Collins. Being so exposed to such an intensely diverse musical live scene proved to be a kick starter for CuckooLander joining bands and making music, particularly the jazz musicians; "The skills of these musicians went way over my head, but it inspired me to practice hard and not to be so afraid of performing, because even the best make mistakes sometimes".
Nineties grunge, rock and metal also formed a big part of CuckooLander's teenage years, with bands Rage Against the Machine, Deftones, Sound Garden, Silverchair and Alice in Chains leading the way on her stereo. However, CuckooLander explains her true first moment with music was discovering her mother's record collection whilst in college; "There were records from Steely Dan, Rufus, Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone, Frank Zappa, George Duke, Earth, Wind and Fire and Prince. Instead of having a TV in my room as a teen I just used to listen to those records all evening. This made me realise that I had a lot of catching up to do".
CuckooLander still cites her mother has her biggest influence to date, who's singing and music taste she greatly admires. Radiohead, Chilli Gonzalez. The Penguin Cafe Orchestra and The Bad Plus are also name-checked; "instrumental music with interesting arrangements or an experimental or unique sound always excites me, and opens new doors for me creativity". These early years of records and live shows, provided CuckooLander with a crucial period of musical growth and experimentation with her own songwriting.
Flash forward a little, and CuckooLander begins to tour as a session musician - mainly playing drums and heading out on the road with other artists. It was around this time that CuckooLander began to write some new music, born out of her wanting to embrace songwriting in her own right. As the first song to evolve during this new process was 'Dumb Dee Diddy Dumb' - which sums up Cuckoolander's feelings of "passion and frustration with music" and feelings of creative guilt whilst she was touring with other artists. "I have been writing songs since I was fifteen, but 'Dumb Dee Diddy Dumb' was the first song that I wrote and I actually liked". CuckooLander picked up the bass guitar for the first time last year and began to pen more music which formed her first self-titled EP. "This EP is something I've created that feels fully 'me', and I've never felt I've achieved that before".
A friend once described CuckooLander as "If she were any
character from a book, it would be an Enid Blyton one.
CuckooLander would be a member of the 'Famous Five' - maybe the one who's always up to no good". This new EP is a very real slice of CuckooLander's dark side, with Tarantino-esque riffs, and her love of the fantastical "I imagine 'What's Out There' to be my representation of being in a computer game, set in a form of intergalactic disco folk world. It's the feeling of adventure and risk". To add a sedative to the excitement, the EP takes a romantic turn on love song 'All the Way'; a portrait of hum-drum domestic bliss, versus real emotional commitment. With euphoric riffs, soaring doo-wop melodies, this is the tugging-on-heartstrings ballad.
CuckooLander wrote and recorded everything on the EP and after years of writing since childhood, it feels like a real fruition of her work and the beginnings of a new chapter.