Never fear, fans of now-defunct sibling band KO KO: Ryan and Taylor Lawhon are alive and well—they’re just living under a new name. The Los Angeles brothers underwent a name change to avoid a lawsuit; apparently they weren’t the only ones to think of “KOKO,” so they’ve changed their musical identity to reflect their West Coast upbringing and are now recording as Pacific Air instead. Their debut EP under the new name pays homage to the old one, though: out October 16 and rife with catchy melodies and hopeful lyrics, it’s called Long Live Ko Ko.
We’re excited to premiere a new single from the EP, “Roses,” a hypnotizing surf-pop track that proves no matter where they are, the Lawhons’ hearts are in California. We spoke with Ryan Lawhon about SEO, being a foodie, and finding somewhere to call home.
AGES: 23 (Ryan Lawhon), 20 (Taylor Lawhon)
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, CA
THE NAME CHANGE: I was just straight-up told we had to. There were a lot of artists that had the name KO KO. They said it was some ridiculous trademark. They had like 100 different musical uses of the word name KOKO. “K-O K-O” or “KOKO,” however you want to look at it, both of them were taken. We had a lawsuit, so we decided we should change the name. We had only released a three-song demo EP (as KO KO). We’ve only been a band since March, so it hasn’t been too long. And KO KO was kind of an SEO nightmare. The monkey and the British venue: there are so many exact spellings that really messed us up if anyone was Googling us.
ON COMPARISONS TO PASSION PIT: It’s not someone who I’d necessarily maybe call an influence. I really like and I respect Michael and his music, but it’s not something that I listen to too often. Though, our album was produced by Chris Zane, who also did Passion Pit. So, it works very well and a lot of people are feeling the similarities, which I like.
WHY “FLOAT” BECAME THE BAND’S FIRST SINGLE: I just really liked that song. I think that song, to me, was why I created this project. I created the project around that song and the two others that I originally released. It kind of worked with that time in my life. The lyrics explore the emotions of not achieving your goals, whether they’re professional or personal, and the consequences on my psyche and my ability to move forward. It was nice to put that out. I like having it as the intro to project.
SMELLS LIKE “ROSES”: All of our songs are written by both my brother and me. There’s no specific formula. For that song, my brother Taylor did all of the rhythmic production and then I came in and wrote the lyrics and melodies. It was really nice to collaborate in such a direct 50/50 way on that specific song. But “Roses,” to me, is a really dreamy, surf-pop kind of vibe with a little less reverb than in either of those genres, which is a little more refreshing for what I want to do. I tended to shout all of my vocals in reverb for such a long time that having something that open: just a very minimalistic take on a vocal, pop-driven song. I’m really happy with it.
THE LIFE OF A NOMAD: We are from the West Coast. That’s actually a very apt description of where we’re from. We’ve lived everywhere in California and Oregon, actually. Growing up, we lived a very nomadic lifestyle. We moved some 25 times before I was 16. We never lived anywhere longer than six months. It was very difficult to really call one place home, other than the West Coast. Before I was 18, I always just assumed as soon as I turned 18, I was going to get an apartment, live there until I need a house, and move there and stay in one place. It hasn’t been that way; we’ve been staying in many different places. We haven’t left southern California. We’ve just been anywhere: LA, Orange County, San Diego and every place in between. We’ve pretty much been living in different places and touring nonstop. It hasn’t really slowed down as far as where we live. Since I’m used to it, I really like it. It’s kind of the way I function at this point.
THEIR FIRST CMJ FESTIVAL: I really love New York, so I’m really excited to go back and be able to play shows to a bunch of friends and people we know there. We’ve been living in New York, actually, since June; we’ve been recording the album. We’ve only been back out on the West Coast for a couple of weeks. I’ve really grown to love New York over the past few weeks. I’m excited to go back and really see some faces that I’ve come to be close with. My favorite part about New York is the food. I’m kind of a foodie. They have some really great cuisine, so I’m excited about that. I’ll put on a couple of pounds. We were based right in Nolita, so the whole time we were pretty much below Houston Street. We only went above Houston like five times for random food and Momofuku. Outside of that, we’ve been downtowners for the most part. Apparently when we told our record label that, they said, “That’s very hipster of you.” I didn’t know that. We found some places we liked. We really liked Jack’s Wife Freda.
HIPPIE INFLUENCES: Our influences are a little weird. We didn’t really grow up listening to a lot of classic rock, per se. We grew up listening to more New Age stuff. My mom was a pseudo-hippie. We listened to a lot of Ray Lynch, Enigma, Sarah Brightman, and Enya: more of that kind of thing. We are very much into melody and atmospherics. As we’ve grown up and taken a more urban stance on music, it’s been fun to bring our love for atmospherics and ambiance into more urban-style beats and music.
THE GREAT ALBUM ANTICIPATION: It’s actually done. We finished mixing yesterday. It’s exciting. I’m really happy with it. I have no idea about a release date, but it’s done.