Skyler Cocco on songwriting, MUNA’s co-sign, and her new song “The Drive”

Back in May, we hosted an episode of The Inbox with pop outfit MUNA in celebration of their new sample pack.

One of the tracks, “The Drive,” was an indie pop earworm by New York-based singer producer Skyler Cocco that immediately grabbed Naomi McPherson’s attention – so much so that they declared Skyler the winner of The Inbox episode, and Skyler took home a brand-new Fender Stratocaster guitar. Today, Skyler releases “The Drive,” and she recently gave us the inside scoop on writing the track and getting the co-sign from MUNA.

Thanks so much for sitting down with us Skyler. To start, can you tell us a little about how you came to making music and your journey as an artist?

I started producing music in the sixth grade. My late father was a musician and recorded his own songs on a digital eight-track that he kept in a make-shift studio in our basement. When I was eleven, I was old enough to be trusted in the studio, so I started recording my own songs and taught myself guitar, piano, and bass by ear.

I was releasing music on Myspace and Bandcamp throughout high school, but I started pursuing a career as an artist more seriously while I was attending Purchase College. While studying at their music conservatory, I was surrounded by so many talented peers who made the idea of a music career much more attainable. Since graduating, I’ve continued experimenting with my sound and have been focused on blending synth pop and dream pop with my alt-rock roots.

What’s your day-to-day looking like these days?

I feel like the textbook definition of a DIY artist. My days are spent songwriting and producing, directing and editing music videos, and managing every other aspect of my career. I also spend time walking around my neighborhood in the middle of the night to get fresh ideas and refocus myself. Due to the uncertainty of the world right now, I also make sure to stay educated and actively show up for all marginalized groups in this country.

What’s the story behind “The Drive,” and how did the lyrics come together? Did it follow your usual approach to songwriting (if you have one), or was it a result of experimentation?

My songwriting process usually starts with a rough sketch of a production idea, and the lyrics and melody find their way to the surface. The first four lines were written within minutes of starting to work on the song. I tend to have ideas floating around in my mind like a constant radio, so when I had the guitar sample from the MUNA sample pack on loop, those lines came instantly and I chose to center the song around those lyrics. I knew I wanted to write about the human tendency to lash out and say things we don’t mean to those closest to us, and how it’s okay to take the space and see where you went wrong in a situation. Ultimately, the song is about the responsibility you have to hold yourself accountable.

Where and when did you record the track? What vibe were you looking to achieve with the instrumental?

I recorded the track in the bedroom of my childhood home in New York in the midst of quarantine. I was experiencing a creative lull due to the pandemic and was feeling extremely uninspired at the time. I found out about The Inbox competition the day before the submissions closed, and mustered the strength to get out of bed and just try to write something. MUNA is my favorite band and I’ve always been inspired by their sound, so I went in a more synth pop direction with this track while incorporating my own dreamy / alt-rock vibe.

“The Drive” was the winning entry to MUNA’s episode of The Inbox. How did it feel getting the seal of approval from Naomi? Tell us about your relationship to MUNA’s music and how they’ve inspired you.

Right before my track played, Naomi mentioned they had tweeted about the song, so when I checked Twitter and saw they were talking about my track, I experienced an immeasurable rush of serotonin and adrenaline. It was honestly so surreal and so validating to be recognized as a good songwriter by my musical heroes, and their encouragement meant the world to me. Funnily enough, I found out about MUNA because a former classmate of mine at Purchase College (Mitski) retweeted the music video to “Number One Fan,” which sent me down the rabbit hole of discovering their music for the first time.

I had their first album on repeat for months leading up to the release of Saves The World and their music has since been a consistent source of inspiration for me. MUNA is one of those bands that expertly blends all the best parts of indie and pop while also managing to tug on your heartstrings every time. On a more personal level, I came out as bisexual in June this year, and am so thankful for their existence in pop music and inclusion of queer voices and stories.

What’s next for you?

I shot a music video for “The Drive” and it’ll be out on October 7th! I’m also finishing up an EP that will be released as singles, and compiled as an EP in early 2021. Hopefully, I’ll be able to move to LA when things settle down over there, and eventually I want to tour when it’s safe to do so. Ultimately, I’m very focused on keeping the momentum going for my career and want to thank Splice and MUNA for aiding in that. “The Drive” helped me out of the quarantine blues, so thank you for the push I needed to get creating again!

September 25, 2020