‘Feel Better’: An Interview with CocoVera

CocoVera is the project of the dynamic duo of Alejandra Robles Luna and Janelle Obert, two rockstars with separate bands that divide their time between making music, touring, experimenting in visual art like directing music videos, and a relationship.

For fans of Robles and Obert, it can be a daunting task to keep track of their work. Their sounds spread across a number of acts including the larger than life bands of Le Butcherettes and Stars at Night, the two bands most might recognize them from. But right now it’s CocoVera that is rising to the spotlight and highlighting the two’s musicianship at full force.

Janelle Obert sings alongside Teri Gender Bender at the Lowbrow Palace in El Paso, TX. Photo by Antonio Villasenor-Baca for Con Safos Magazine.

In fact, 2019 featured a tour of the two aforementioned bands for Le Butcherettes’ tour of their most recent album, bi/Mental.

CocoVera released their first and so far only album, Rosary Peā, in 2018. But with now two singles out, CocoVera seems to be in full traction. Their latest single, “Feel Better”, features Le Butcherettes’ vocalist Teri Gender Bender.

The full lineup of CocoVera is Alejandra Robles Luna on bass, Janelle Obert on vocals and guitar, Neko Gehr on lead guitar, and Riko Rodriguez also of Le Butcherettes on synth.

This interview was done via email.

Antonio: My first question is just, how are you doing? How are you passing the quarantine?

CocoVera: We play a lot of chess and are finishing our album so we can start on our next album. We were sort of used to being homebodies, the only difference is wondering where our next toilet paper fix is coming from.

How and when did you both meet?

We met in 2016 in Los Angeles in the music scene. Alejandra passed on being the drummer in Janelle’s band “No Girlfriends”. (She later regretted that decision, but it all worked out).

So, I guess with this question, if it’s prying please ignore it. But I’m interested in the dynamic of being in two different bands while in a relationship. Does the musician lifestyle bring you closer or is it something you have to find a way around? What is like being a couple in the music world?

Being in a band is like being in a relationship with all the people in the band, so already being in the relationship sort of works to our advantage if you think about it; respect and communication don’t hurt either…We always enjoy when we get to have new experiences together, like touring or playing live.

What is the process for making music with CocoVera? For instance, I saw on Janelle’s IG that it was Riko that added the synth, and then you also have a guitarist, Neko Gehr. Are the three of you the band and how much do both of your fellow band members help you with this project?

Neko Gehr and Janelle Obert. Photo courtesy of the artist, by Girlwolf.

There’s no real recipe. It always starts with the two of us in a room playing the bass or the sampler or even drums. We pushed ourselves a lot with this album to finish songs that we really loved because we have so many half-written songs in our song graveyard. One of us had to be a strong advocate for the idea and then we just started adding the layers from there. As for Neko and Riko: they are two of our closest friends and two of the most talented musicians we know, so we naturally wanted them to add their flavor to the songs to make them better. They will also be our live line-up, except Riko on drums and Ale on bass.

How would you describe the music for this project? Is there a different, poetics or mission with this band? And the cliche question, where did the name CocoVera come from?

CocoVera is two of our cats (we have three). We usually make music that they could listen to while on catnip. They prefer heavy bass lines and a lot of percussion.

What goals do you have for CocoVera? Global pandemic aside, are there any plans for an album, a tour, or even down the line? Would this ever be another full-time band?

We do have a new album coming out in May, All’s Well That Ends! We did have a tour scheduled with Le Butcherettes this spring, but obviously it will be rescheduled. We’re moving towards a more theatrical sound, we would love to score a movie one day!

The project also includes outside of just the music making aspect; for instance, you directed the debut video foe medioc0re’s “chemiKILL” video. How integral is directing and the visual to CocoVera?

Alejandra studied photography and Janelle loves editing, so visuals just seemed like a natural addition to the music. We’re definitely more protective of our music than with visuals, where we feel very free and more willing to make mistakes. We get excited by the opportunity to be able to add to other people’s ideas and vision, and we also we take it more seriously.

An article I saw written about that video described you both as people who “gravitate towards the unsettling and the obscure”; would you agree with that? And would you agree with that sonically? The music seems glossy and smooth but dark, like some futuristic sounds, but is it actually dark? This latest single “Feel Better” continues in this soundscape but the message seems counter to that.

“Feel Better” single cover art. Courtesy of the artist.

It’s precisely that duality that we gravitate towards: the unsettling mixed with positivity. That is the representation of our worlds and we are always looking for ways to express that in our songs, and in our visuals.

Lastly, can you talk to me about this single? Where did it come from, what does it mean, what was the process?

It came from a deep feeling of hopelessness while trying to connect with a loved one. We were just playing around with the sampler at our studio, and decided to turn this frustration into something people could dance to as well as relate to.

Why the decision to bring in Teri Gender Bender for this track? Her vocals seemed perfect for the sound, was the song made with her in mind?

Every song we write we ask ourselves how it can be better and “asking Teri to sing on it” always seems to be an answer. She said yes, and came in and nailed it in like 15 minutes! She completely transformed the song and brought it to life.

That’s it for my questions. Thank you both so much for your time, and I hope you’re both doing well during the quarantine. I don’t know if there’s anything else you want to add, clarify, anything I forgot to mention?

Just that these questions are very thoughtful and introspective and we’re honored that we were able to answer them! Stay Safe! Love Alejandra, Janelle, Coco, Vera and Paco

By Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

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