Three years ago, Eliot Sumner unexpectedly found herself at a creative crossroads. Named for poet T.S. Eliot by her renowned parents — musician Sting and actress-producer Trudie Styler — she adopted the nickname Coco, and by 17 had begun recording under the more anonymous sobriquet of I Blame Coco, issuing a Swedish-tracked, electro-pop debut “The Constant” in 2010.
But after outgrowing that material – and the persona – she disappeared from the London scene to reinvent herself. “I moved to the middle of nowhere in total isolation, and I kept writing songs until I was happy with them,” says Sumner, who appears in San Francisco this week.
The two-year experiment worked. Last year, Sumner – who was blessed with her father’s angular cheekbones and eyebrows – posted a handwritten online announcement for the curious – “I am happy to inform you that I am alive and well. New music is on the way!”
Inspired by darker post-punk and vintage krautrock, she emerged with spooky, 4AD-ethereal new dirges like “Information,” initially featured on an EP and now the title cut of her upcoming album, both issued under her birth name. It’s a sound all her own.
Sumner was in the wilderness, literally, in a cottage in Beatrix Potter’s scenic old stomping grounds, England’s Lake District.
“I moved there with my German shepherd, and I just kicked it with the dog and wrote music every day,” says the singer, who just turned 25. “I didn’t have a car, so I had to walk to the nearest village, which took me about 40 minutes. And there’s sheep and cows walking around, and they had the right of way — if there was a cow in the middle of the road, you just had to move around it. So I kind of had to fend for myself a lot of the time.”
The guitarist remembers her breakthrough moment, when everything started to coalesce. She was bouncing ideas around with Peace/Vaccines producer Duncan Mills in early pre-production, when something clicked.
“We just looked at each other and said, ’This is the start of the album,’ and I think Duncan’s enthusiasm was a massive part of the whole process,” she says. As were the estimable skills of Noah and the Whale bandleader Charlie Fink, who started co-writing with her. “And Joy Division, for sure, was a massive influence,” she adds.
Dad has already heard the finished record, and loves his daughter’s new gothic identity. “That’s pretty cool, to get the OK from the old man, because he’s quite critical, which he’s allowed to be,” she says. “But I always tell him, ‘If there’s something you don’t like, tell me in six months. Otherwise, keep it to yourself!’”
IF YOU GO
opening for On An On
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Sept. 3
Tickets: $13 to $15
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.snagtickets.com