Euphoric anthems on the slow death of love, when all you’ve got left in common is devotion to your dog. Sweeping dramas imagining the final resting place of great lost ideas. Defiant singalong bops proclaiming everything is fine when life feels anything but fine… Welcome to the passionate, vivid, faintly sinister, welcoming and above all utterly irresistible world of Coco And The Lost.
Few musicians are capable of presenting an alter-ego so fully formed from the outset. Fewer still manage to imbue their world with so many layers, where imperious grandeur, relatable dramas and big-hearted unstoppable joy are merged, often within the same song. And it’s hard to think of anyone else who then manages to wrap all this depth of emotion into a succession of earworms, every chorus making you want to delve further into a rich and rewarding landscape.
An artist bursting with ideas, it’s important to Coco And The Lost that she offers listeners a fully thought-through universe, where songs connect, where her concerts are the ultimate realization of the characters peopling her stunning debut EP I’ve Got Nothing, John.
I’ve always felt misunderstood. In music, I can tell the story I want to tell, how I feel about life. I want to build the Coco And The Lost universe, making it bigger the more my career progresses. On stage, I want people to be surrounded by the familiar, then twist it, to make it so it doesn’t quite belong. I want to build people’s sensory experiences at shows, to use animations, smells and textures to bring the music to life as much as possible.
Such passion is typical of Coco And The Lost. She’ll happily discuss influences. There’s the lyrical insight of Phoebe Bridgers and Mitski; the wit of Pulp; the sonic attack of Wolf Alice; Kate Bush and Florence + The Machine’s otherworldly charisma. But one listens to the unsettling mood within Something’s Going On Here’s full-throttle pulse and the novelistic eye for detail of I’ve Got Nothing, John makes it clear that there is a musician only ever destined to be perfectly and uniquely herself, no matter how infectious her music.
I’m interested in why people say one thing when they mean another. I like the tiny gestures people make, that show how they feel when they think they’re not saying what they mean. The narrative is so important to my music. If I want people to listen to an EP, there has to be a rhyme and reason behind why it’s those four or five songs which are presented together. It can’t be just: ‘Here are some good songs.’
The elegant, strangely mournful Great Magnet In The Sky describes Coco’s vision of the land where great lost ideas go to die. “I have endless ideas and, if I don’t immediately grab it, it’s gone,” Coco reveals. “Imagining all those great ideas sat up there, just out of reach, makes me work harder to capture new ideas. I get ideas for lyrics at other artists’ gigs a lot because I see people enjoy music so intensely that it’s inspiring. I look so strange, typing ideas into Notes on my phone in the middle of a gig, but every time I’ve tried keeping an idea in my head, it disappears.”
Always fizzing with inspiration, Coco’s gift for ideas is partially due to ADHD. She was diagnosed with the condition early in 2022. “The diagnosis has made me understand myself more,” states Coco. “I’ve become more productive since the diagnosis, because I can work with the way my brain does, instead of trying to force myself into working the way everyone is supposed to.”
Something’s Going On Here was inspired by Coco’s understanding of her behaviour with ADHD. “It’s connecting the dots of ‘Oh, that’s why that happened,’” explains Coco. “One verse is about how my ballet teacher told me to stand at the back of the class to copy everyone else because, in her words, ‘Ella’s brain doesn’t work properly.’ She was a very old-school, savage teacher, but she was also probably the only person who acknowledged something was up with me. Also, I genuinely couldn’t remember any instructions, so she was helpful. Something’s Going On Here is having a sense of humour about those moments.”
In case you’re wondering, Ella Flannery, is Coco’s other identity: not necessarily her real identity, because, as Coco says: “I feel more like myself on stage. As David Byrne says, the stage is a safe space, because everyone knows it’s where you’re allowed to perform. On stage, I’m completely myself, as I don’t care.”
Brighton-based Ella created Coco And The Lost to highlight the extremes in her music: “Coco could be the most confident version of me, and The Lost is how I usually feel, what’s behind Coco. I’m both those identities. I feel them shift in different songs, and I’d never want to be too much of either.”
The band-sounding name allows Coco the freedom to explore and collaborate within her music, as she rationalises: “I can build a world around Coco And The Lost easier than if it was just my name. And, as a friend pointed out, there are loads of other singers called Ella already.”
Coco’s father, Mark Flannery, is an established songwriter and producer who’s worked with Def Leppard and Depeche Mode, as well as establishing the songwriters’ module at Brighton’s BIMM music industry college. Her mother, Liz Pichon, is now a successful children’s author, who was Jive Records’ in-house album designer when she met Mark.
My parents discouraged us from entering the music industry, saying how hard it is. I saw for myself how many talented people don’t make it. Seeing records get made gave me so much respect for music that I thought: ‘I can’t insult music with my songs.’ But, secretly, it lit a fire under me too. I just didn’t do anything about it for a long time.
Coco turned to modelling and acting, appearing in several adverts. She was also Daisy Ridley’s picture double in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Typically, Coco used the experience to focus on the reality of how Star Wars’ intricate sets are made.
An internship as a copywriter for the BBC’s idents was cancelled in lockdown, giving Coco time to focus on her music. Her concerts, including appearances at the Isle Of Wight Festival, This Feeling’s Rewired new artists showcase and at London Roundhouse, have since been rapturously received.
The self-made video for Everything Is Fine! is a joyous introduction to Coco And The Lost’s dual identities, as Coco insists: “When you haven’t got any budget, it forces you to be more creative. As soon as I start writing a song, I have a very clear visual world for it straight away.” Visually inspired equally by David Lynch and the British realist cinema of Shirley Valentine and Educating Rita, Coco reasons: “There are two very separate colour palettes in Everything Is Fine!, a bright and colourful world, and a darker, more sombre tone.”
The colours and textures of Coco And The Lost’s universe will continue to expand. The concerts will become even more compelling. And her music already demands repeated exploration. It’s a world in which getting lost is the only option.
Listen to this song and more emerging artists just like this one on “Discover”, playing Sundays at 10 am PT/1 pm ET on Channel R – Today’s Hits & Your All-Time Favorites.
Written by: Tara