Interview with Cuco: The Chicano Artist From The South Bay

All photos by  Jerry Rangel

All photos by Jerry Rangel

Omar Banos a.k.a Cuco took a moment to share about the meaning behind his artist name, upcoming music, his biggest inspirations and what it feels like to sell out a show at the age of 18.

Teal Magazine: Can you introduce yourself and describe what kind of music you make?

Cuco: I’m Cuco from Hawthorne, California. I really don't know exactly how to describe my music. In a sense it's like alternative dream pop.

TM: What’s the story behind your artist name CUCO?

Cuco: Oh, it's because my mom used to always say I was ‘cuckoo’ as a kid. My family would also say it since we are Mexican and we spoke Spanish so they would always say I was CUCO.

TM: What inspired you to start playing instruments such as the trumpet and guitar?

Cuco: Well, with guitar I just always wanted to learn it since I was a kid. I would be like, “Man, I really want to learn that instrument.” I kind of just did. I took me like 3 lessons then after that the next 10 years I learned it by myself. When I got on the trumpet I really didn’t have a choice. I was put in my school's marching band so just had to learn all of that to pass it and it got me out of P.E too. (laughs)

TM: In what point in your life did you start writing music?

Cuco: I started writing music when I was 6 well, oh no that's a lie. I started writing when I was 11 or 12 but I didn’t actually start recording until I was like 15 or 16.

TM: Do you use song writing as a therapy?

Cuco: Sometimes, most definitely.

TM: What’s your biggest dream as an artist?

Cuco: I definitely want to bring up that representation from the Chicano community because that definitely isn't there. I wanna help out any causes that I can because I might not know sometimes how to speak out on things but I do want to be able to help. I really want to bring that to light.

TM: Who are your biggest influences in the music world?

Cuco: Man my biggest influences… That’s a hard question. I have a lot of influences sometimes it can be Kevin Parker of Tame Impala and Ariel Pink is cool too. It's weird and it's all over the place. To get like a good feel of what my inspirations are you can just dead ass look at my Spotify playlist and stuff. It's really all over the place. I listen to Classical Music, Jazz, and Trap.

TM: As an artist what do you hope to achieve?

Cuco: I really want to play festivals. That's all I really wanna do. You know, just play the biggest music festivals in the world. I really don't care about that radio play stuff - I just really like performing. It's really fun for me or even just touring, you know. I don't even have to play the biggest festivals, just intimate shows in small venues. I just like performing.

TM: Do you prefer house shows or venues?

Cuco: I like small venues and house shows. Both of them are cool but at the same time I have to make a living of all of this if I really want to thrive more and with venues they will kind of cover me and at the same time I will get to meet all the people that really fuck with me. And with that I could be able to meet people after my set and take pictures with me which is the best thing.

TM: How excited are you to play a sold out show at The Constellation Room in Santa Ana?

Cuco: It's going to be insane like I really can’t grasp it. It's crazy because The Constellation Room and The Echoplex are the venues we would say we would go in like year and now we are playing both of those in the same week. The constellation room is already sold out and I’m still in shock.

TM: How does it feel to be 18 and already selling out venues?

Cuco: I feel like it hasn’t hit me yet I think I should feel some type of way. I don’t know because it’s weird and even though it happens so fast like I was just playing house shows and the next thing I know I already sold out The Constellation room. It definitely feels great. When I saw the thing that says ‘sold out’ I couldn’t believe it. I was like “Damn, I’m just 18”. At the same time I feel like I am going to need some of my favorite artist validate me so it can finally hit me.

TM: What’s your dream venue to play?

Cuco: Maybe the main stage at The Observatory or like The Forum one day. It's because The Forum is in Inglewood which is right next to Hawthorne, my hometown, so we would always see the biggest artists play and I wish I could do that one day.

TM: What’s your dream collaboration?

Cuco: Kevin Parker, for sure. I always listen to him when I was in High School. He produced all these crazy great things and I wanna be part of it. He is one of my biggest influences. Probably, Kali Uchis too because it’s going to be nuts! Also, Tyler the Creator, not just musically but his entire background because he is from Hawthorne too and he inspired a lot of artists here in South Bay and it’s gonna be amazing to collaborate with him in the future.

TM: Any new music soon?

Cuco: Probably. I’m working on this one track which is super cool – well, I don't know but I think it's cool because it’s very 60’s inspired and a bunch of oldies vibes. So I feel like this is one of those track I won't be able to wait to put out. So once I finish it I probably will release it like out of impulse, you know. It’s a maybe. But if anything sometime in April, May or June - Pouya and I might put out that collaborative song/songs. Maybe. We have to wait and see.

TM: Are the experiences you write/sing about based on your real life events?

Cuco: Yeah, a good portion of that stuff is pretty real. A lot of them are most likely emotions. It all kind of goes back to one event. Whether it happened when I was a junior in High School or maybe senior or sophomore or recently. It’s always an emotion towards a certain period.

TM: If you could only live with one instrument what would it be and why?

Cuco: The guitar because that was my first instrument and I have been playing that for the last …. I don't know if it's going to be my 11th year playing but I think it's my true calling in life. (laughs)

TM: From all the songs you have written which one are you the most proud of?

Cuco: Probably ‘Lover Is a Day’ because that did so well like I never even thought it would do so well, it kind of got me out there. But also ‘Lava Lamp’ because it was never supposed to come out and ‘Lover Is a Day’ wasn’t supposed to come out either. I was at that one point where I was like, “This song is never going to be good as I want it to be so I wasn’t going to put it out”. The same thing with ‘Lava Lamp’ but I gave that beat to my friend but he never ended up using it so I asked him if I could get it back so I can come up with something and it ended up crazy. That song goes hard.

TM: Have you ever had any funny/memorable fan experience?

Cuco: A lot actually. It's just cool. There’s so many memorable experience with them. They give me flowers, take polaroids with me and they make covers and stuff like that. It’s all those cute little things and it means a lot to me.

TM: To conclude our interview what would you like to tell your fans.

Cuco: I just want to tell them that I love them so much and I have nothing but love to everyone that fucks with me. It's crazy that I have gotten this far and I am really nothing without the people who listen to me. They are my everything and made me who I am.

TM: Well, thank you so much!

Cuco: Thank you for interviewing! This was so cool!

Check out more of Cuco's music

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