From The Ronettes to The Sonics - meet The Courettes when they come to The Loft, Southsea
The Courettes are a truly international affair – guitarist and vocalist Flavia Couri is Brazilian, drummer Martin Couri is Danish.
Their influences are mainly American. Their music seeks – and finds – the sweet spot between the girl-group pop of The Ronettes, Motown, and the garage thunder of The Sonics.
And they used a Japanese engineer to recreate Phil Spector's legendary ‘wall of sound’.
Plus they’ve recently signed to cult UK record label Damaged Goods.
They are about to kick off a 17-date UK tour here in Portsmouth – the same day as their new album, Back In Mono is released.
The pair, spoke with The Guide from their home near Århus in Denmark about how they got together and their quest for sonic perfection.
Back in 2013, Danish garage-punks The Columbian Neckties were sent to Brazil to tour with Flavia’s then band. Martin was the Neckties’ drummer.
As Flavia recalls, she was not happy: ‘It would be two weeks in a 10-seat van with nine people, driving six hours a day, and I was the only woman. I was thinking, this is going to be hell...
‘There was one spare seat, so I put my bag down next to me so I could avoid someone sitting next to me.
‘And then here comes the drummer and asks “Can I sit here?” Boom – he sits down. Damn it!’ she laughs at the memory.
Martin adds: ‘The rest of the tour I was only sitting there next to Flavia.’
‘I was not impressed,’ says Flavia, ‘but at some point in the tour, I thought: “Oh, the drummer's actually interesting...”’
The two began a long distance relationship which meant plenty of time on aeroplanes – time Flavia used to write songs.
There was no plan originally to be a band together, but on a whim the pair decided to mess around in a rehearsal studio using some of Flavia’s new songs.
‘We tried a couple of songs and it sounded really good,’ says Martin, ‘an explosion of sound. It was the real deal.
Flavia explains: 'I had so much time with myself – so the first songs are all about travelling and a love story. I'm actually a bass player, so I did the songs on guitar – we plugged it in and tried it, and I said to Martin: “I think we have something cool going on”.’
At their first ever gig, Kim Kix from Danish ‘donkey punks’ PowerSolo was in the audience, and was so impressed he invited them to record an album for him.
‘We did the first album after the first show we ever did,’ says Flavia. ‘So that's why the first record is eight songs because that's all we had.
‘Then after we recorded the album I moved to Denmark.’
That debut, Here Are The Courettes was released in 2015, and passes in a 19 minute blur. Next album We Are The Courettes saw them develop as a band.
But it is the new album which really sees the duo hit their stride.
In 2019 the pair sunk everything into building their own studio.
‘We could see 2020 is going to be really good, we we're going to have our best year ever,’ says Martin, ‘so we could afford to do it because we would recoup the money, and then in March – slam! But the good thing is we had the studio, so it was perfect.’
The Couris had wanted a studio packed with vintage equipment where they could emulate Phil Spector’s famous wall of sound.
But as Martin adds: ‘We didn't want the typical stuff that other studios have, so I spent hours and hours searching for weird microphones and amplifiers.’
‘Then we built our own echo chambers because we knew what we wanted to do for the Back in Mono record,’ says Flavia.
‘We wanted to see if we could do original songs from today but with an authentic wall of sound.
‘We don't want to be a tribute band. We've never done covers, and we didn't want to use the hotshot producers that all the garage bands use because they all sound the same, so we really put a big price on trying to do things our way.
‘I hope the results are good, but I think we can be proud of it.’
Once they had the recordings down, they were still left needing someone to mix it who could get that sound nailed.
‘We tried different people, and they did a good job, but it wasn't sounding like The Ronettes, it wasn't sounding like Ike and Tina Turner – it was good, but not the wall of sound.’
They found their missing link through the most unlikely of sources.
‘We released a Christmas single, and it reached a top 20 hitlist of new Christmas songs. I checked this list out and the only other song I listened to was a song by a girl called Soleil – a 15-year-old Japanese girl and it had the wall of sound – but it sounded modern.’
Martin tracked down the track’s mixer, Seiki Sato, through a Japanese music blog.
‘He doesn't speak English, but he has an assistant who does. We tracked him down, he loves the songs and wanted to do it. He did the mixes and it's massive. Such a wall!’
But neither Flavia nor Martin have ever actually seen a picture of Seiki let alone met him.
‘I have this romantic kind of image that he's sitting in a temple on the top of a mountain somewhere with long-lost Gold Star Studios equipment,’ says Martin with a laugh.
Flavia adds: ‘He could be 18 or 60, we don’t know. We wanted to put a picture of him in the record and he refused.’
But since they worked on Back In Mono, the relationship has continued, and The Courettes hope to take their first trip to Japan and hook up with him in person in the studio.
‘That’s the dream,’ says Martin.
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