“Kent coast folk with an African twist, that’s how the Guardian described us. I don’t really know myself,” says Will Greenham, singer and guitarist with Cocos Lovers.
The seven-piece band – but sometimes ‘eight with a guest trumpet player’ – which was formed in Deal in 2007, have long been making waves across Kent. Recently though, they’ve escalated internationally with gigs in Texas, Scandinavia and Ireland, as well as having supported stadium folk mega-band Mumford and Sons on tour.
“It’s been a turning point this year,” admits Will, who says he continues to focus on music as the centrepiece and not the industry’s notion of success.
This week Cocos Lovers and other friends on the Kent Smugglers Records label will be holding the four-day Smugglers Festival, so if you’ve not discovered this folk phenomenon on your doorstep then here is your chance.
The gathering takes place from Thursday, August 28 to Sunday, August 31 near Deal, but the specific venue will only be made known to ticket-holders when they buy to protect site security.
Will, 35, is combining the dual roles of festival organiser and musical headline act with Cocos Lovers. It’s the fusion of travel, song, writing and socialising together which Will credits the authenticity of the band’s music.
“It’s very much a collaborative writing project. We have songs which we rip to shreds between us and do lots of things to, and build back up,” he says.
“The initial song lyrics usually come from Billy Glinn, the band’s bass player and singer, or myself, but the musical riffs come from all quarters.”
Will returns to describing the Cocos Lovers sound. He says: “It’s quite progressive world music, a little bit psychedelic. It’s inspired by the freedom of jazz and, because we self-release our music, we don’t have to try to make it commercial. It keeps us making records because we just do it for the love. It’s the scenic route to success.”
It’s certainly a way of life for Will, whose wife Natasha is the band’s violinist. And the family connections don’t end there.
The father-of-two says: “You have to become like a family because we’ve been through a lot together: babies being born and parents dying. A lot happens in seven years. When you are together as a band, that’s what you end up writing about – the real things.”
Singer-songwriter Fiona Bevan
An act you won’t want to miss at the Smugglers Festival is Fiona Bevan. The songwriting friend of Ed Sheeran wrote One Direction’s No.1 hit Little Things with Ed and has since gone on to release her own superb album called Talk To Strangers. An impressive musician as well as a beautiful singer, Fiona plays the piano, violin, guitar and ukelele. Catch her on the line-up on Friday, August 29.
The Smugglers Festival takes place from Thursday, August 28 until Sunday, August 31. Day tickets cost £25. Weekend tickets cost £35 for children aged 12 to 16 and £70 for adults. Visit www.smugglersrecords.com for more information.