SXSW Music Spotlight: Coco & Clair Clair

Progressive pop duo offers an outlet for shy girl catharsis

Coco & Clair Clair (Photo by Shervin)

Coco & Clair Clair’s hushed progressive pop, now an integral sound of the internet, all started with a tweet. One like, then a DM. Nearly 10 years ago, proactive Twitter users Taylor Nave and Claire Toothill bonded face-to-face over Drake’s “Marvins Room” at a party, screaming the lyrics while wandering down an empty Atlanta street at 2am.

“It was like a sign,” Toothill describes of her discovery upon meeting that Nave was followed online by both President Barack Obama and patron saint Britney Spears.

“She’s not me 24/7, but she is an extension of me. I get to act out like the most confident, brave, strong version of myself.” – Taylor Nave, aka Coco

What started as online friendship has skyrocketed the duo to tangible stardom. Sprinkled with the playful glitz of Spears’ heyday from the start, Coco & Clair Clair crystallizes amid a lush fleet of beats and sickeningly clever, deceptively simple bars (“I’ma Jordin Sparks you/ That’s right, ‘No Air’”) via their November debut LP, Sexy. Lead single “Pop Star” rose to trending audio status on TikTok, alongside a late bloom for their whimsical, ad-lib-heavy track “Pretty” from 2017, which has over 40,000 videos on the platform.

“We’ve been the same from the beginning,” Nave notes. “The songs that people now like came out in 2017, 2016. They didn’t respect it then when it first came out, and now they like it.”

South by Southwest finds Coco & Clair Clair sandwiched between their first-ever European tour and a monthlong stateside run. Their busy Fest week wraps with placement on Rolling Stone’s Future of Music showcase, opening for Koffee and Chlöe (of Chloe x Halle) at ACL Live.

Though tirelessly grateful for the digital community of listeners, the duo still maintains concerns about being looped into the reductive TikTok genre.

“More thoughtful reviews and critiques were given to us when they didn’t have TikTok to fall back on,” Toothill says. “They tried harder to explain it and to get it, and now, it often is just like ‘TikTok blingy pop Paris Hilton girls.’ That’s like the easiest thing, you saw like one TikTok and that’s what you think it is now.”

Despite the party girl princess buzzwords they’ve been linked to, the Atlanta natives present their boastful comedy and inflated egos with serious intent. As an outlet, Coco & Clair Clair equates to shy girl catharsis. “She’s not me 24/7, but she is an extension of me,” Nave shares of her musical persona, Coco. “I get to act out like the most confident, brave, strong version of myself.”

Toothill, aka Clair Clair, adds: “It’s a good outlet for sure, but not an alter ego. Just a dressed up version of our ideal selves.”

As purveyors of SoundCloud gen sounds, the duo’s closet-born recording process is more akin to a sleepover catch-up than a panopticon of studio time. Here lies the PEN15-esque (read: genuine) sisterhood at the heart of their project, which gathers real bite from bubbly hooks, hip-hop beats, and the two’s commitment to each other.

“A lot of the time, if someone else was in the room with us, there’d be things we might bite our tongues on,” Toothill explains.

“I don’t know anyone else I could do it with, and I definitely won’t do it alone,” says Nave.

Coco & Clair Clair

Thu 16, 12:45am, Seven Grand
Fri 17, 4pm, Lustre Pearl;
Fri 17, 7pm, ACL Live at the Moody Theater

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SXSW 2023, SXSW Music 2023, Coco & Clair Clair, Taylor Nave, Claire Toothill

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