Chillin' with Cuco
The 20-year old producer from California, who performs under the name Cuco, has stayed an independent artist despite his sudden and meteoric rise from making dream pop beats in his bedroom to brushing shoulders with Kali Uchis.
Banos, who writes in both English and Spanish, is as inspired by old Chicanx rap as he is by contemporaries like Homeshake. Despite how fast everything is moving, he’s not even close to bothered; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a rising musician as humble and go-with-the-flow as he is. office called Cuco from Miami after his Mercury Lounge set in New York City to talk about “sad boy music,” staying grounded, writing love songs in Spanglish, and the making of Chiquito.
Have you been touring for a while?
Yeah, we've been on the road for a minute. Doing back-and-forth shows, one-offs. This was the last of it.
And now you feel more comfortable on stage?
Way more comfortable for sure.
What was it like when you started?
It was kind of whatever, I was just feeling it out. I started playing house shows and then the first venue show, and we blew up after that. I guess the same, you could call it.
It's great that you've gotten so much attention for an unsigned indie musician. You've reached a very broad audience.
How does that feel? That's amazing!
Man, it's crazy. Sometimes it's like, fuck...we really out here. It's really wild, I don't know how to explain it.
Are you thinking of signing anytime soon or are you just chillin'?
I'm chillin'! If I get a good deal that won't fuck me over, I might. To be honest, I'm not crazy about signing, I just want to do what I love doing and make money. [Laugh]
How would you describe your sound?
I guess nostalgic and euphoric. I guess that's how I would describe my sound. I like making people feel like they're in a trance. I want to make people feel things they haven't felt in a long time.
A very Cancerian response. [Laugh]
I wish we could've met in-person; I've read that Pisces and Cancer have a very strong energetic bond, as the emo babies of the zodiac.
Yeah, dude! I guess that's why I call it sad boy music [Laugh]...that's what I hear it called all the time.
What were you listening to when you were making the Chiquito EP?
Chiquito is a collection of music that was already out on Soundcloud with three songs that are newer: “Sunnyside,” “CR-V,” and “Lucy.” I was listening to a lot of different shit; my music doesn't really stay in one lane. I could be listening to G-Eazy one day, and the next Mild High Club or Homeshake, and then just weird shit...The Human Abstract, more prog-y shit. It just depends on what the fuck I was feeling. Metal, rap, jazz…
I read you were going through a lot of substance issues making this, so I'm wondering how your relationship to the music you make has changed now that you're clean.
I still drink every once in a while, but I was having issues and shit with substance abuse and I realized I needed to focus. It's about other people being worried about what happens to me. My mom, my girlfriend, my dad...I don't want them to worry about me being fucked up.
Do you feel a lot of responsibility to your family? As an immigrant myself, reading your story and being the kid of immigrants really resonated with me.
I think any kid with immigrant parents...you kind of have to help out in whatever way you can.
That doesn't play that much into your music; lyrically, you grapple more with feelings than the situations that caused them.
I kind of put myself into a time period where I watched people around me struggle. When I started learning to make music and all that, figuring out theory and different chords, it made it way easier to be expressive of all these things.
As far as expression goes, how do you feel when you write in Spanish compared to English? Whenever I write in Spanish there's so much more happening, I don't know if you feel the same way.
I feel you 100% [Laugh]. I feel like Spanish is a very beautiful language, and anything you can express in Spanish is 100 times more beautiful. When you express yourself in Spanish to somebody, you really love them...or you really don't like them. When you get mad...cursing somebody out in Spanish is...[Laugh]
Dude, cursing somebody out in Spanish you make them cry. [Laugh] When they hit you with the full Spanish name you know you're fucked. Are you an only child?
Yeah, and I'm first-generation, so it's like being surrounded by these things very directly.
I assumed you had siblings and were possibly the youngest because the record was called Chiquito...
I called it Chiquito because it's a small collection of music.
I guess in terms of life you're still also Chiquito...you're like nineteen, no?
I turned twenty in June!
As you keep growing, what's one thing you are keeping in mind to stay grounded?
I have to remind myself how blessed I am everyday, I guess. Not let it get to my head. Be true to myself.
Do you feel like you're letting it get to your head?
Not at all; I feel like I have to keep myself that way. I feel like I don't really understand how crazy this “music” thing is. It's a very repulsive attitude a lot of people have when they have money to throw around, and I feel like a lot of big artists are shitty and more and more people try to become like that and then it's a weird industry. I don't want to be like that. Is there anyone you want to collaborate with? I think the only person I'm really collaborating with is J-Kwe$t, I'm helping him with his album, but I'm not too crazy about anyone. I really have to vibe with you if I want to work. There's not a dream collaboration right now. I feel like I had that in mind as I started making music, and as I've actually gotten into it it's like "fuck this bullshit..." I'm too lazy, is my problem.
When you vibe with someone you do, and if you don't, you're fine by yourself.
I'm chillin', dude; I'm doing whatever the fuck I want.