Disco crooner, Cola Boyy aka Matthew Urango, is a self-taught musician and singer devoted to social and political activism and making change. Producing electro-pop rooted in positivity, love and happiness, Cola Boyy’s music is made to feel inclusive and universal.
His latest debut EP Black Boogie Neon, released in September, is a string of deviant disco tracks that touch on love and the happiness it spreads, making Cola Boyy an uplifting musician to watch.
We chat to him about his biggest influences, supporting MGMT on tour, his political activism and the central message he wants to get across in his music.
What marks the start of your interest in music?
I can’t remember not being obsessed with music and performing. Noticing the general presence of a character in music like a persona is an early memory too… I didn’t fully understand these things, but they always had my attention from the age of 3. It was magnetic.
On the other hand, once my parents pushed me and my brother on the stage of the local mall to sing twinkle twinkle little star. I didn’t like that. There’s a video of it haha, judging by my demeanour 50% of me was uninterested and 50% was scared/confused. It’s pretty funny. I think I was picking my nose the whole time. Maybe it sparked something in me.
What are some of your biggest influences?
Musically I would say I pay attention to song writing, melody, composition, catchiness, and the inflection of how an artist sings or vocalizes the melody, many artists do this for me. Sade is a great example of someone I find great influence, in the way she inflects her words when singing. There’s a nuance and style that’s special, more than just her having an amazing voice. It’s like the voice becomes a character of its own, like a signature. I love that.
Do you have any specific quirks when it comes to sitting down and writing music?
Not so much. I just need a clean quiet room, a guitar, keyboard, synth, or piano, and time. Maybe some booze. I feel I’m not alone on this, but I get distracted pretty easy. So, I have to force myself to stay in rather than go out or spend time with my partner. I’m learning to be strict with the work I have to get done. I’m getting a little busy now! But it’s a fun kind of busy.
How would you describe your sound?
Scrapbook FreakMode on the deck of an android cruise ship. Blade runner discotheque? Listing genres can be kind of vague, I think I’d just describe my sound with a scenario haha, it’s more fun for me! The listener can interpret how they want. I love to hear what they say.
Who is one artist you would love to collaborate with?
I love classical songs that are call and response between a man and a woman, or a low register voice and high register voice. There’s a huge list of classical musicians I dream of collaborating with, but in the immediate working with contemporaries to me is dope as f**k and interesting too.
Just for the sake of coming up with really good songs together, maybe Princess Nokia would be cool? She seems to experiment a lot with different genres, and I like blurring the lines of music in a tasteful but experimental way. So that could be fun. In general, I love to collaborate, I love writing songs for other people too, I dislike individualism in music.
How did you come up with your stage name ‘Cola Boyy’?
I love soda. The bubbles hurt but it feels so nice. Have you ever tried cola and red wine? My grandma used to drink it all the time.
Describe your experience supporting MGMT on tour.
Great! It was my first time meeting them, we were complete strangers until that point. But we ended up getting along really well and became close. I’ve never played in front of 4,000 people before so that was wild, especially doing it by myself! It was scary, but a great learning experience. The crowds all responded a lot better than I thought. Some sceptics, but welcome to my day! The life of a disabled person is hardened by judgement, so I can endure.
You’re a part of a group called Todo Poder Al Pueblo; how does your political activism translate to your music?
Everything we experience is reflected in our art and culture, it’s inevitable. So, my music is either a reflection of my own experiences or of the experiences I recognise others are going through. The political work I’m involved in is the physical response to those facilitating the experiences that are oppressing people. It’s an obligation of the artist who calls themselves revolutionary or political to take part in both as often as possible. I’m just doing my part.
What is the central message you want to get across with your music?
That “the role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible” – Toni Cade Bambara.