KOKO AND THE SWEETMEATS Whoa! Long photo exposure times are neat-o.
Laurie Clark

"PEOPLE DON'T REALLY want to like us, but they're learning to," explains Garett van der Crimp, who fronts Seattle psych-pop band Koko and the Sweetmeats.

He's likely referring to the fact that his band with the peculiar name is something of an anomaly in the Emerald City, which—aside from the usual pockets of weirdos—is riding a hiphop and folk-pop renaissance as of late. He jokes, "People are like, 'This show's really loud and noisy. Why aren't there any harmonies?'"

Van der Crimp and his drummer wife Laura have been releasing albums under the moniker Koko and the Sweetmeats since Garett decided to move from his native South Africa in 2007. And they might be Seattle's best-kept secret. The duo (who, in the live setting, occasionally double in size with bassist Kieran Smith and Andrew Houle on sax) have gently applied their Kinks and Howlin' Wolf influences to a handful of brilliant and criminally unheard releases.

Their latest LP, Sacrifice, is their best—an endearingly ramshackle pop record that sounds as if it were made in a garage... on another planet. "Will We Ever Make It to the Ocean?" and "My Brain Came from a Factory" are spacey blues trips that are equally raucous and ethereal.

While van der Crimp doesn't come from another planet, he has traveled here from a great distance. Growing up in the 'burbs of the small seaside town of Durban, South Africa, he absorbed grunge and Brit-pop records; as a pre-teen he started playing music and setting up shows in shabby hotel lobbies. After studying abroad in Seattle and meeting his future wife, van der Crimp decided to make the move permanent.

His early recordings as Koko are stripped-down affairs, which made it an easy decision to record acoustic versions of the songs on Sacrifice on the record's B-side. They're no less potent. If anything, it proves how good the songs really are.

It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that Seattle's best-kept secret just might become Seattle's best garage band. And van der Crimp has definitely come a long way from his days setting up shows in hotel lobbies. "This is luxury. Here you don't even have to ask for a PA."