Releasing an album, signing to a major independent label, and delivering the most productive year to date doesn’t sound like a reality during a year disrupted and destroyed by a global pandemic, but some are just built different.
It was October 2020 and COVID-19 had already erased months of normalcy and grounded the music industry to a halt, leaving artists, labels, and everyone in between to ponder difficult questions of survival. For those at the top of the pyramid, solutions were easier to come by, but what about those in the middle or at the beginning blocks of their monument? For COMANAVAGO (pronounced “come and have a go”), they pushed forward and set the wheels in motion for what would be a career-igniting album and year that has set them up for future greatness and why they’re an artist to watch moving into the back end of 2021 into 2022.
The duo of Ben and Gabe hails from the United Kingdom. The unlikely pairing, who met at university, have a sound that falls somewhere between big synthy electropop like Lady Gaga, groovy dance beats like Sofi Tukker, and the otherworldly experimental roar of hyperpop like the late SOPHIE. Synthesizing these sounds and styles has created a dynamism that feels flawlessly built for the new era of pop, electronic, and even rock n roll. Their debut album, Heart Failure, proves this stylistic concept and highlights an artist that poses something undeniably special. At times you hear a young Prince. At others, you hear Depeche Mode; and yet, there’s still space for a sexy, elegant pop temptress to rise from the album’s belly. Heart Failure is a perfect, cohessive debutant for a group that is just getting its feet wet, setting COMANAVAGO up for a bright future, which due to their lack of streaming and social numbers, feels like we’ve unearthed a massive, uncut diamond that is waiting to be unveiled to the world to marvel in its luminosity.
Fortunately for us, it was just announced that Ultra Music has discovered COMANAVAGO and is preparing to unleash the duo from their enclave in London to the stratosphere. If Ultra’s track record is anything to go by, that newly earth diamond is about to get the attention it deserves.
With the news of their signing to Ultra and the fact that Heart Failure is an incredible album, we felt it was time to sit down with COMANAVAGO to discuss the project and more. Here is our interview with Ben and Gabe.
How have you handled the pandemic? What have you done to pass the time or stay sane?
We just wrote a huge amount of music, it was the best way to pass the time. We both become our most productive if you lock us away with no alternative, so in a way, the pandemic became an opportunity to find a heap of new sounds and places we hadn’t tried musically before. We ended up making a lot of really heavy, energetic music, which I think was us trying to break out of the sad or monotonous days indoors. We’d both moved back with our families before the initial lockdown so it was a lot of video calls between the two of us pulling tracks together but it was definitely not as bad for us as I’m sure it was for some others.
You are quite new to the scene. What can you tell us about yourselves, the music, and COMANAVAGO identity for those who are just discovering you now?
Well, we’re a duo who are frankly just trying to make the best songs ever and have as much fun doing it as we can! We try not to get caught up in categories- we’re just making what feels right at the time, we love a good party, and we love to turn a stunning look while we’re at it.
Where did the name COMANAVAGO originate?
It came from an old demo- the first song we wrote together- where the lyric for the chorus was “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”. Ben ended up shortening the phrase as a placeholder name and then it just ended up sticking because it just made so much sense with who we both are and the music we were making.
You two met at university. How did this chance meeting turn into “let’s make music” to “let’s form a group and release music”?
We actually were put in the same halls in first year, and Ben needed a vocalist for a few tracks and called me in to write vocals for them. He was so pleased with what I did that we decided to start writing stuff together, but ended up making the most insane and exciting stuff either of us had ever done. We knew straight away we needed to keep at it and the longer things went on the better it all started to get. We started doing live shows together and that’s when things really clicked, people on campus used to talk about our performances and we’d hear about ourselves from other people: that’s how we knew we were onto something.
How would you describe your sound to those who have yet to listen?
Think ‘huge pop music pushed as far as it can go’. It’s us basically trying to make a little bit of everything because we love so many different styles and just having as much fun as we possibly can. We love a lot of really classic pop music- particularly from the noughties- so that kind of energy crops up a lot, but it’s about how to find a new side that keeps it interesting for us and for our listeners (we hope).
What are your inspirations behind your music and artisry?
Gaga is probably our shared biggest influence: we just love that her songs are so catchy but also kind of weird and very solidly written and her vocals are obviously incredible. The other biggest one is SOPHIE, her production is just so untouchable and unbeatable, she was a real champion of sound and image and we’re always sat in our sessions thinking “what would SOPHIE have done with this?”
We also both were huge fans of Nero as teenagers so there’s a massive dubstep vibe to a lot of what we do very involuntarily. Our list goes on and on though, we find a lot of inspiration from really disparate places; Prince, Charli XCX, Jessie Ware, Arca, Skrillex, Bowie, Britney, it’s all in there somewhere.
Walk us through your creative process
That’s actually quite hard to do… To be honest, songs just seem to appear in front of us, it’s quite rare that we really watch what we’re doing or why. It’s just a lot of instinct stuff for us.
I suppose a lot of the time it’s Ben at a laptop playing with sounds until we’re both into what’s happening and then I’ll write some melodies and lyrics at the piano, and then we build our music in blocks from there, but all sorts of things can happen. Sometimes I’ll come to Ben with a fully written track on piano or guitar and we’ll produce it after, and sometimes Ben will come up with a beat on his own that we polish up together that I’ll vocal over.
If you could choose one place where each of your fans listens to your music, where would it be and why?
We both became a bit obsessed with The Matrix over lockdown and we wish the club from the beginning of the first film was a real club because that sums it up perfectly! That’s exactly the setting for our tracks.
You released Heart Failure last year. It’s about a broken heart and a failed relationship. Did this come from past or recent experiences? If so, how do you manifest those feelings in your music?
I actually really struggle to write things that aren’t true, so a lot of the songs are either really specific feelings from certain relationships I’ve had or they’re kind of a conglomerate version of a few different situations. The lyrics are always the last part of the song I write though, so Ben and I will have the vibe of the song in mind and the way I was feeling in that room at the time and then I’ll bend the lyrics around that. Ben’s happy to be a musical exorcist for my heartbreaks- we’ve got a lot of material that way!
“Do What You Like” has a very Prince-like vibe and sound. Was that intentional?
Oh, for sure! We were playing around with some of the stock sounds on my keyboard and they ended up creating a very 80s vibe and no one was really better to channel for it. Prince has always been a massive influence on my style and my delivery, there’s so much to learn from his work.
It was just announced you signed to Ultra Music. First, congratulations! Second, how does it feel to join their ranks?
Thanks so much! It feels incredible- we’re absolutely buzzing to get this chance to work with some really big names and take our stuff to the biggest stages we can and Ultra will certainly help us do that! We had an inkling it’d happen for us one day though. We’ve been acting like rock stars the whole time so we were just waiting for the rest of the world to catch on.
What’s on the horizon?
Ideally some performances! We’re itching to get back on stage and in front of people. We’re also plotting a lot of visual projects that we can hopefully get off the ground. We love to imagine the music videos for all our songs so we’re constantly planning what we could do with them and so hopefully some of those can happen in the near future for all these tracks we wrote while locked away…