Coco & Clair Clair Are Serious About Their Unserious Pop
The Very Online duo discuss their debut album Sexy, TikTok, and why they want you to just “get them” already.
Coco & Clair Clair know what it’s like to have your brain scrambled by the internet. On “Bitches,” a glittering cut off of the duo’s new album Sexy, the song opens with the manic exclamation: “It finna ‘bout to snap the tea.” It’s funny, and in its unabashed absurdity, kinda hot, too. Then, when the rest of the song comes barreling through, it’s also the truth.
Since 2014, Taylor Nave (Coco) and Claire Toothill (Clair Clair) have been speaking to the online generation through bubbly, off-kilter pop songs about living your best life in the era of the internet. Blending fantasy and inflated ego with an effortless affability that makes lines like “the only bread you pussies get is a yeast infection” not only bang, but also make you feel like you’re in on the joke — they dish about topics ranging from being pop stars to having “not a thought in my head.” The internet has embraced them in kind: Their song “Pretty” went viral on TikTok, and more recently, their 2020 single “Wishy Washy” earned a placement on Atlanta’s fourth and last season, opening their whimsical sound to a brand new audience.
Their gradual ascent, however, hasn’t come without hiccups. Speaking frankly with NYLON over Zoom, the two friends and Atlanta natives say that, for various reasons, they’ve found it hard to be taken seriously by the industry and their peers. “I feel like our music is... We can't even say what genre it is,” Coco says. “We have a hard time describing it, so I feel like other people have a harder time digesting it.”
Below, Coco & Clair Clair talk about how being online has shaped their music, their struggles with being taken seriously as artists, their TikTok fame, and why they hope their latest album, Sexy, will finally let the world know “what to think about us.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Something that I really love about your music is the tongue-in-cheek approach that you take regarding online culture, flipping internet lingo into really funny moments. Where do you get the inspiration to write these lines?
Clair: Most of those lines make it onto the song as a last-minute touch. When we record, there will be a 10-second start where we're waiting for the beat to come in. So often, Coco will just be saying anything, or she'll be really loving the beat and she'll say something like that. We'll just keep it in there because it sounds so funny. Inspiration wise, I don't know. We're just so online. I think we've been so online for—
Clair: It's shaped our humor and quick little one liners. We see them all day: Twitter, Instagram.
Coco: I think Twitter is definitely a big impact. Also, MySpace, being on there at such a young age. I was in elementary school on MySpace. I think I lied about my age and got on there. Just seeing how people joke and interacting with people I feel has really... The internet has made us feel comfortable to show our humor because we know that it's a shared humor.
Would you say humor is a main part of the Coco and Clair Clair sound?
Clair: I don't know. We've definitely written songs and been like, "Okay, we need to say something funny in here, because it's too serious right now,” or it didn't feel true to our sound. Some of the songs on the album, I would say, aren't necessarily funny, but there's a wit to them or a, like you said, tongue-in-cheek nod to some type of joke.
Coco: I feel like we're both just naturally funny. Our music is us, and we happen to also be funny. We happen to also like songwriting and making music, so I feel like it's just another form of expressing who we are to the beat, I guess.
Clair: Even if we're having a conversation and we're sad about something or frustrated at someone, the way we talk about it is laughing at it. We both very much laugh at anything we can. I think when we feel like a song is missing a joke or something, it's like, "Oh, we're comfortable being funny." It makes it easier to talk about having a crush on someone or… It's just a mechanism of sorts, I guess.
Coco: Coping mechanism.
You have talked about how the music you were making wasn't regarded as serious, or taken seriously by the wider industry. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit more about what that means.
Coco: I feel like our music is... We can't even say what genre it is. We have a hard time describing it, so I feel like other people have a harder time digesting it. We've just had a hard time being taken seriously because, yeah, our songs go viral on TikTok and stuff, so then people want to call us TikTok artists. It's like, "No, we're artists that just happened to have a song that went viral somewhere."
Clair: In the beginning, we'd very much jump on any show we could find. If a friend was playing it, they would let us play a couple songs. Looking back on it, we were playing shows with Playboi Carti and people who went on to be very serious. I think a lot of people in those crowds were angry, weird male rapper-obsessed fans. They didn't like seeing two girls being drunk and singing on stage acting crazy.
Coco: And having fun.
Clair: When we'd get on the cover of Creative Loafing or even a small publication in Atlanta, people would be like, "Are you kidding me?" They were annoyed by it, I think.
Coco: Because they think that we're jokes. It's like, "No, it is actually possible that people can have fun doing what they do, be successful at it, and it be a real thing." That can all exist.
Clair: It's just a shame because even kids online today and the majority of music's mainstream fan base aren't that knowledgeable about music. They don't know about Uffie or the people who came before Coco and I who acted the way we act, or even Kreayshawn. They'll see Coco and I do that. It's the first time they've seen girls be in that scene, and they're rubbed the wrong way by it. I think it was mostly coming from boys who didn't like girls being SoundCloud rappers.
Coco: Yeah, other musician guys that put their blood, sweat, and tears into their stuff, and then see us. I guess it looks effortless because we're just having fun doing what we love to do, and they don't think that we deserve that.
Clair: There would be whole Facebook posts about, "Coco and Clair ruined my set because they blah, blah, blah." They would just make up random complaints. Really, they just didn't want us there. I think, finally, when “Pretty” came out and a lot of people responded well to it, that was when more and more people were comfortable seeing us as a real project; not just two girls that were jokingly jumping on any lineup they could.
A lot of it, too, I think we started taking it more seriously and posting about it and releasing often. It was a mixture of things, but there's definitely a lot of backlash, I think, in the Atlanta scene from the guitar boys. They did not like us.
“I guess it looks effortless because we're just having fun doing what we love to do.”
Did that ever make you want to move to a different scene?
Clair: Not really. If anything, I feel like it encouraged us to keep doing it. The people that we thought were cool backed us and kept putting us on their shows and kept supporting us.
Coco: Yeah, our friends were great.
Clair: Yeah. We'd get really good feedback, but then there would be... Even today, there's still people, like Coco said, with the whole TikTok thing. People have such a stick up their ass about that, or they'll think we're industry plants. I'm like, "No, we've literally been doing this since 2014." If this was a plant, it'd be the slowest one of all time. It'd be a waste of everyone's money.
Let's talk a little bit about TikTok. When “Pretty” went viral, was that a surprise?
Clair: I thought it was so random.
Coco: It was so random, but I feel like we had kept seeing comments from people online being like, "Y'all need to be on TikTok. Your songs would do so good on here, blah, blah blah." I felt like, on one hand, it was inevitable, but when it actually happened and we didn't have to pay for any TikTok campaign or anything, which people were trying to get us to do before it took off on its own...
Clair: Yeah, I think we knew it would happen, or we felt like it should happen...
Coco: But it was still shocking to see it actually happen.
Clair: It was shocking. The month leading up to it, we were having talks with certain labels or people being like, "We'll lend you all this money and we'll do a campaign for you, and then you owe us this much." We were like, "No, it's not that serious. It will happen if it needs to happen. We're not going to sign some deal." Then, like 30 days later, it was just naturally viral.
What is your approach to TikTok now? On one hand, there is a big thing around being a TikTok artist. On the other hand, the material gains from TikTok are real. How do you deal with both sides of that?
Clair: I feel like we try not to, as much as we can exist outside of it and keep letting it do its thing. We'll put the songs on there, we'll make some TikToks to them, but we've tried very hard to not be like, "Okay, what's going to be the next soundbite that TikTok wants?" Because that's when it gets scary and weird.
Coco: Like trying to cater to TikTok, I don't think we ever really want to do that. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I don't think that determines anything for us.
Clair: We don't even personally use TikTok that much. I think we notice the worth of it, but it's a beast of a machine that I think we try not to lean too much on because it can really change the course of your whole project.
Is there a song that you really enjoyed working on for this new record?
Coco: 8:00 AM.
Clair: 8:00 AM was really fun.
In the song you mention Beach House, and I was getting Beach House vibes in the production.
Clair: I feel like that shows our taste in music. We're not just making a little bubblegum song or whatever.
Coco: I feel like our influences, they don't sound anything like us. It was nice to make a song that was showing who we listen to, who we like, and who we are inspired by.
I recently heard “Wishy Washy” on Atlanta. I was so surprised! Obviously with TikTok, you have really gained a lot of momentum, but does the lead up to this release also feel like a bigger moment for you two?
Coco: It both does and it doesn't. We were just talking about that. We keep hitting certain personal goals or milestones. Me, personally, I've always been like, "Oh, once we get to this point, I'm going to feel so good." Then we hit it, and I'm like, "Oh, okay." I'm so proud of this album and I cannot wait for it to be out, but I'm also coming to terms with... I know that my life isn't going to change overnight because of this album.
Clair: Yeah, it's very much that. Even with releasing stuff, it's like we said, you put it out. Then, you sit there and you're like, "Okay, well... I guess that was my job. I still have to go to work tomorrow and keep working on new music."
The Atlanta thing was so cool, though. We do see so much feedback from that. Every day we're getting comments on YouTube that they came from Atlanta. It's amazing, but it's also like, if anything, it just turned up the heat. We have to keep going and going and figuring out what the next step is because it's such an unknown path.
Coco: It doesn't really hit until we play the shows and we see the fans knowing all the words and how excited and happy they are to be there. Then it's like, "Okay, this is really happening. This is big." In terms of just releasing stuff, we were just in the suburbs in Atlanta, chilling.
At this point, the Coco and Clair Clair sound is really cemented. Have you guys ever discussed doing something super different, or do you guys want to stick with what you have going on?
Clair: For this project, it was important to us to sit down and get back to the basics of how we make music. What is the sound and what are the vocals and the songwriting capabilities we want to show off? Because we haven't really hit the mainstream yet. I think we've been really successful. We have our fanbase, but I'm not sure people get us yet.
We wanted to make an album that was true to our sound and our style, but there's techno songs. There's a little bit of a more indie vibe on some of the songs. Maybe more palatable and appealing to a larger fan base, but we're always down to try new things. We play around with ideas all the time, and we're both really into songwriting. I think we're always learning new ways to lean further into the musician job title, because it's still new to us.
We wanted this album to really drive home who we are and make it clear to people, because I think a lot of people don't know how to take us or what to think about us.
I feel like that shouldn't be your onus to bear.
Coco: Yeah, but it is.
Clair: Because when we just keep putting out single after single, everyone's like, "Okay, good job." Then they stop paying attention to us. This is our little way of being like, "Here's a full project for you to go sit with and look at and think about.” While you're digesting that, we're going to figure out our next step.