Cocoon – Welcome Home
French recording artist Cocoon releases his long-awaited third album Welcome Home today via Barclay/Universal Music. Spacebomb worked on the new record at our studio in Richmond, Virginia, produced by Matthew E. White and horns and strings arranged and conducted by Trey Pollard.
Cocoon appeared on the French scene barely ten years ago and soon established their reputation as the driving force of a new folk movement. Led by singer-songwriter Mark Daumail, with Morgane Imbeaud singing harmonies, the group released two albums that went platinum. They also scored a hit with “Chupee,” taken from My Friends All Died in a Plane Crash in 2007.
After Cocoon’s last tour, Mark Daumail put the group on standby and set out to explore new musical landscapes, now as a solo artist.
Recording a first album in his own name, he swapped Cocoon’s acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies for the electronic sounds of machines and programming. “I wanted to play around with synths and beatboxes,” he remembers today. The musician from Clermont had left Paris to settle among the vineyards of Bordeaux, where he set up his recording studio. He began to spend time there a year and a half ago when his family suffered a private drama. “Our first child was born with a heart malformation. We found ourselves trapped in a tunnel between the hospital, intensive care and the cordon sanitaire protecting our baby.”
Soon, Mark found a way of dealing with the situation, playing guitar at his baby’s bedside and writing him a first song: “Get Well Soon.” In it, he sings, “It’s been a tough year for my family,” alluding directly to the ordeal they faced.
When his son had recovered, the experience provided material for some of the happiest songs Mark had ever written. “I wanted to write a glowing album,” he explains. Mission accomplished!
To make the new record, he decided to put away his synths and return to a more organic musical approach. “I needed some analog warmth.”
Having written a number of new songs, Mark played them for the people close to him, who immediately decided they would be perfect for Cocoon, but when Mark contacted his former associate Morgane Imbeaud, she declined his offer to join the recording sessions, preferring to continue her personal projects Un orage (A Storm) and Les Songes de Léo (Leo’s Dreams). So Mark began to work on the album alone as he searched actively for the right female vocalists to feature in the new songs. “I loved both Natalie Prass’s singing and the Matthew E. White and Trey Pollard arrangements on her album,” he recalls. After laying down the guitar, bass and drum foundations of the album in Bordeaux, Mark Daumail contacted Matthew E. White and sent him demos. The arranger was enthusiastic about the songs and Mark went to meet him in Richmond, Virginia.
The dynamic city with its population of one million was home to a very active musical scene, like Portland. A collective of many talented young musicians and artists revolved around Matthew E. White’s studio and label: Spacebomb.
In just a week, Mark recorded three new tracks with this team: “Grandaddy,” “Shooting Star,” and “Up For Sale.” They were produced by Matthew E. White, who also supervised additional recordings, wrote the brass sections and introduced Mark to strings arranger Trey Pollard. Trey came up with tailored orchestrations whose Willie Mitchell-style soul flavor echoed the album’s lyrics. “The musicians immediately understood what the album was about,” he notes. The Resound Choir and its gospel harmonies added the final touch to the tracks’ emotional spectrum.
Meanwhile, Mark finally met with Natalie Prass. She added her haunting vocals to two tracks: “Retreat” and “Watch My Back.” The last song on the album, “Up for Sale,” is a glorious duet with Matthew E. White that continues the record’s family theme. “I wrote it when I found out that our family house on Bréhat Island, where I spent my summers when I was a child and teenager, had to be sold.” He stayed in that house in midwinter to complete the album’s lyrics.
Mark recorded his vocals in the former studios of East German radio in Berlin, taking particular care with his accent. As a result, he has never sung so brilliantly as on “Welcome Home,” a bright, warm record that he sees as his most successful project since he started out ten years ago. “I’m not so scared of writer’s block anymore. I think I know how to put together a song.”
The tracks on Welcome Home are reflected in the illustrations of American artist Esther Pearl Watson, who handled the album’s artwork. “I got in touch and asked her to draw a house for each of the songs. I wanted a record about home life and also the emotional side of the family. The album is my way of saying to my son, ‘Welcome home.’ He was always the record’s connecting thread. The day he came home was a miracle I had to celebrate.” And what better way of marking the event than with this, the finest album from Cocoon, a project that has never lived up to its name so well? “I began to cry when the record was finished. That day, I knew my son had been born a second time,” concludes Mark Daumail.
Cocoon’s Welcome Home, a Spacebomb Production, is out now via Barclay/Universal Music France