Multi-instrumentalist Ora Cogan makes gorgeous experimental folk compositions laces with hints of psychedelia, chamber pop, and rock. Since age 19, the Vancouver-based artist has released six full-length albums and has toured North America and Europe.
Cogan’s seventh album, Crickets, is on its way later this year. Recorded in Philadelphia with Tom Deis of uni ika ai, the album contains lush, intricate songs laden with imagery from the natural world from waves to moonbeams, with sonics carefully constructed to in part reflect that subject matter. The record’s title track, for example, ruminates on the haunting, dusky moods and reflections that often come after sundown with somber, rhythmic piano while singing “crickets” are conjured through atmospheric guitars and effects. Cogan hints that spending time in nature helped her realize mankind’s place in the universe while coping with personal stresses, making the album’s rollercoaster of emotions from light, airy melodies to complex rhythmics and washes, all the more relatable to its listeners.
Listen to “Crickets” now and read our Q&A with Cogan about tapping into her inner groove and translating her love of nature into sound with a dedicated group of collaborators. Crickets will be released this fall.
She Shreds: Crickets are one of the world’s most musical insects, but in pop culture—comedy, literature, etc.—they are used to note an uncomfortable pause in a conversation (as in, “after his joke bombed, it was so quiet you could hear crickets chirping”). What about crickets inspired both this song, and the title of your album?
Ora Cogan: Ah yes! I never thought about the pop culture reference… I fell in love with rainbow crickets in New Mexico. They have these intricate patterns on their bodies and I love the way that they take over a soundscape.
There is this strange and specific mode I’ve been in through working on Crickets. I feel like I’ve been carried along by this shiny little groove that got under my skin that is a bit cricket-like. I also felt this strong desire to cast a spell, to create a sonic space that feels comforting, vindicating and protective.
Beyond the title track, the songs on Crickets are filled with imagery about nature, and many of the sounds on it are reminiscent of natural sounds such as wind, waves, and more. What is your relationship with the natural world and how does is inspire your songwriting?
I do spend a lot of time in remote places and the landscapes always work their ways into the songs I write. I wrote a lot of this album out in Tla-o-qui-aht Territory. Open ocean and ancient forests… Spending time in nature and learning about the natural world is a wonderful reminder of our place in the scheme of things. I was so angry and freaked out this fall, and this beautiful place so clearly conveys what real power is, what real grace is, and how to weather storms.
How do you use your instrumentation or recording techniques to create these “natural” vibes?
There were certain themes and ideas for instrumentation that were just there in my head right away when I wrote the songs, and then other ideas that my collaborators brought in. The feel of the album has so much to do with the people I worked with and that we had fun working together.
Tom Deis of Uni Ika Ai co-produced this record and he is incredible. He played synth, bass, guitar and piano all while engineering the beast and co-piloting with me. He’s a good friend and our workflow was seamless. It was honestly magical working with him ‘cause he has such a great approach to music. I think it helped that we talked about imagery while we were working and that we were both open-minded to each others ideas.
Russell Kotcher from the Chamber Orchestra of New York played violin. He was the cricket in the song, “Crickets.” This was one of those things that I heard in my head as soon as the song was written and he helped to bring it to life. He was fantastic at catching where we were going and then doing his own beautiful thing.
Dani Markham from Tune Yards and Childish Gambino did all the percussion on the record. She played her great grandfather’s bass drum on this song. I’m an untrained musician so when I had a specific idea about what we should do, I would just dance it out and she’d translate my moves into drum speak… She has such incredible style and came up with drum parts that brought everything into a completely new space, in the coolest way.
Following your current tour, what do you have planned for summer before the album release?
I’ll be playing a few festivals with my band and working on a secret collaboration!