Mistletone, Tone Deaf and Triple R present
Mistletone, Tone Deaf and Triple R proudly present a Laneway side show by the magnificent Connan Mockasin and his band. New Zealand via Paris/London pop sprite Connan Mockasin is a magical artist indeed, serving up an irresistibly delicious brew of oddball psych-folk-pop and lascivious, lustrous soul. Described by Clash Music as "a true cosmonaut of inner space," Connan Mockasin inhabits a singular galaxy, guided by his truly adventurous songwriting that favours reconfigured pop structures with a sensuous funk sensibility. Since releasing his seductive masterpiece Caramel, Connan Mockasin has been collaborating with Charlotte Gainsbourg and touring the globe with such longtime buddies as Mac DeMarco, Julian Casablancas and Liam Flynn. It's another sign that Mockasin is going places, but at his own pace - just as Caramel suggests the process of melting and taking on a new shape, a new taste. That is the true sound of Connan Mockasin.
"In an increasingly homogeneous music world, it's great that Connan Mockasin exists. A stranger to the major-label strategy and the focus group, this quixotic New Zealand singer and guitarist has patently taken on Adam Ant's axiom that ridicule is nothing to be afraid of.... Caramel sounds like an LSD binge in a sleazy motel, or an elf covering a Barry White album, or maybe even a rom-com set on Mars; a collection of trippy, mutated soul songs wedged between dreamlike interludes. He mimics the hip-hop mainstream to brilliant effect, and fuse(s) such a surreal mix of pixie enchantment and pimped-out creepiness that it's impossible not to be seduced" - THE GUARDIAN 4 stars
Some musicians know where they're from and where they're going, and why. Others, such as Connan Mockasin, can only work from instinct, not only disinterested in the bigger picture as unable to see it. Take Mockasin's first album, Forever Dolphin Love, which he only wrote and recorded because his mother suggested it. Or his new album Caramel, triggered because he liked the onomatopoeic quality of the word, and the music and words just followed.
"To me, the word 'caramel' sounded so nice," Mockasin muses. "And as far as I know," Mockasin muses, "nobody had ever used the word for an album title."
This helps explain the evolution from the labyrinthine Forever Dolphin Love to Caramel's equally inventive and unique brand of lustrous soul, almost wholly self-recorded over a month in a Tokyo hotel room. Connan Mockasin remains what Clash Music called "a true cosmonaut of inner space" but Caramel explores different regions of his galaxy, not just soul but a liquefied brew of blues, funk, ambient and folk with pronounced Oriental and Gallic timbres, all laced with an uncanny air of bliss. Caramel has hints of Scritti Politti's exquisitely stitched soul, or of Prince - if the Minneapolis legend had spent time in Canterbury, the learned epicentre of South East England's progressive psychedelia during the late '60s and early '70s, where the likes of Syd Barrett and Kevin Ayers began their own musical journeys.
"Prince goes to Canterbury, that's a good one!" Mockasin retorts. "Maybe Caramel is a little bit soul. Maybe it comes a smidge more from hip hop, which to me sounds much fresher than what's called 'indie'. Sometimes I'm ashamed to be in a band, or a musician, at this point in time."
Being a musician has always been a vexed issue for the man born Connan Tant Hosford in Te Awanga on the east coast of New Zealand's north island. Hearing his dad's Jimi Hendrix album set him on a course to play guitar, "to be the best in school," he recalls. "I was obsessed. But I went off music during high school, and I wanted nothing to do with guitar. I didn't even want to be noticed. Maybe that was puberty."
Instead, the teenage Connan got a welder and built his own version of carnival rides and beach vehicles, and surfed, until high school was over, "and music came back." One of his formative bands was Grampa Moff (also a track title on Forever Dolphin Love) but it was Connan And The Mockasins (named by a friend after Connan's hobby of making moccasins out of sheepskin and motorbike tyre) that first made a mark, when the quartet decided to try their luck in London in 2006. Without friends or contacts, they initially slept on park benches (luckily it was a great summer), but once settled, and with bar jobs, they found interests from record labels, but Connan backed out of an album deal. "All labels we met with began by saying we could record any way we liked, but then started saying, 'use this studio, with this producer'...I could see where that was heading."
Disillusioned with the record industry, and the limitations of a band set-up, Mockasin returned, alone, to New Zealand. "I decided to do nothing, or nothing to do with music. But my mum said I should just make a record. I didn't know how to record but we had a few tape machines lying around the house, so I did. I didn't expect to release it, just wanted to make a record I liked, for my ears and my mum's."
With renewed passion, Mockasin retained the band name as his new surname because he liked the sound of Connan Mockasin and self-released his own mum-triggered album in 2010 as Please Turn Me Into the Snat.
Mockasin returned to the UK before discovering that DJ/producer Erol Alkan had discovered the album and wanted to make the first release on his new Phantasy Sound label. The album was re-released, under the new title Forever Dolphin Love after its magnificently meandering ten-minute centrepiece.
Ecstatic reviews followed, alongside live shows, where Mockasin would eschew set lists, "so that it felt new every time we play. The band has a couple of rehearsals to begin with, but we don't practise after that. I'd rather follow the mood of the audience... playing the same songs in the same way, every night, would be so boring."
Mockasin was about to record what became Caramel with his band when he rushed home when his father was suddenly taken ill. In the aftermath, he decided to retreat to Tokyo - whose aura can be heard in tracks such as 'It's Your Body (Part Five)' and the chatter of young Japanese voices dotting the album, adding more levels of intrigue and imagination. "Too much of the music that I do get to hear, I find too aware, or processed," he says. "I just want to capture the first idea I have, which is always the most mysterious and attractive part."