Cosmo Jarvis song writer, music and film maker, and personable chap sat down with us to talk about his music, film and future plans.
After braving the cold for what seemed like hours, we found ourselves being led through the Newcastle Academy to one of the dressing rooms where our interviewee Cosmo Jarvis was waiting to perform in tonight's show.
After greetings and handshakes we made ourselves comfortable on the regular sized sofa (anyone who has read previous interviews may recall that the venue has the lowest sofa's we've ever encountered), and got down to business.
Cosmo Jarvis, a personable and seemingly intuitive chap barely into his twenties, has somewhat of a talent when it comes to music.
“I'm a song-writer” he tells us as he explains a little more about himself “I'm more like a record maker to be honest but like, I like write songs, but I don't actually just write them. The writing process is the recording process pretty much for me apart from a few other cases, so any kind of music based around I guess, kind of like, I don't really know like folky, a blend of folky, rocky rappy reggae kind of rap rock stuff.”
Cosmo's début album 'Humasyouhitch/Sonofabitch' was released on November of 2009, a little under 3 months ago, how has he found the response?
“Shit.” he states bluntly “Terrible, I didn't even sell anything. I sold more at gigs I think than I did in shops, and that wasn't even that much. Most of the albums that shifted were probably me giving them to friends and relatives and, yeah it was all right though, I guess I mean a few people liked it, a few of the radio people liked it but a few people hated it. But it's been okay, but it's not done terrifically amazingly.”
The album itself was a double disc record, each half holding songs of a specific sound, something that is not seen nowadays in albums, especially débuts, so what was the reason behind releasing it as a 2-disc record?
“There were too many songs basically to put on to one disc” Cosmo explains “So that was what was going to happen first, and Peter Vaughn said 'oh well no one knows about you', yeah no one really knows about you so you can't just give them a shit load of songs because they'll... its the same thing in the music industry if you give someone too much of something then they won't listen to it, so you have to pretend that everyone's stupid and just give them a little package with everything, so that was probably the best thing to do with this. But then I thought that an organised way of doing it would be the uppy kind of poppy kind just bright without any reason songs, and then the kind of songs that required the more thought maybe, so that was the only way I could really divide them and then that was just the way it was.”
Would that be something that might happen again in the future on another record?
“Maybe” Cosmo says tentatively “Maybe, it didn't go too well this time but maybe if I ever need to. I think the next albums going to be less songs definitely, its going to be 12 I think, its called 'The Kind Of Shit You Don't Want To Be In'. 12 [songs] kind of just to make a little point just because apparently, I think a lot of the reasons this one didn't work well was because it was too long so yeah, maybe if I ever have that many. I'd do it if I ever released that many songs at one time again, I would do it as two discs because people really don't do double albums any more that much.”
And they don't, considering that Cosmo has been writing and making songs for a number of years, he does seem to have an extensive back-catalogue of hidden gems waiting to be discovered by the world, many of which are in different styles from the last. Which, is not something that many artists or song writers do, so does being able to write in various styles allow for more creativity?
“Yeah, definitely” he smiles “Because you're not held by anything so you can just pretty much, if you get bored of one thing, you can just drop it completely and just go on to something new”
Given that, and also the seeming penchant he has for writing finding the inspiration to continually write must be difficult.
“Whatever comes up,” he says on where his inspiration comes from “Anything movies, other songs, people, places, dreams, you know anything it doesn't really matter.”
As well as taking inspiration from various places, Cosmo finds influence from various artists.
“Any one who has good songs.” he begins to tells us “But if there's one person that has an influence over anyone else, I just admire anything that Tom Waits has ever done, pretty much. I mean he's done some shit, but mostly its fucking unbelievable. And Crash Test Dummies and some stuff by The Beatles. I just started listening to Spearhead as well, that's pretty good and that's pretty much it.”
Does he hear those musical influences coming through into his own work?
“Yeah sometimes,” he nods “Sometimes way more than others, but sometimes I'll just hear some really heavy band like Killswitch Engage and sometimes just want to write a song like that, that sounds like their recording of that song. And then what I'll try and do is just try and think... I was playing something by a band the other day called... oh shit what were they called, they're really old well not really old but quite old but really big, I don't know. System of A Down and Incubus both kind of take quite a lot from them... what the hell are they called they're massive. Like apparently the singer went mental and decided to eat his own shit on stage, they're huge.” he tried to remember their name (we looked into this some more as we were no help during the interview, and we believe Cosmo is talking about Frank Zappa) “Them but like Incubus ripped them, ripped him the singer from there completely just hands down ripped it everything about it, System Of A Down ripped it but kind of did it a bit better, I think System Of A Down built on what they kind of built already and just an example you know if you're taking a bit of influence, kind of take it sort of in a new direction. Taking influence and then pushing it somewhere new, and that's what I try and do sometimes, I've wrote this death metal song its pretty funny.”
Did the song turn out well?
“Yeah,” he laughs “It always turns out kind of good, I wont show anyone until its done and then when its done, then its like I'm happy with it otherwise I don't really see it like a proper song. But yeah I think its all right, I mean people who like most of my music will probably hate it.”
Maybe it could be a hidden track on the album.
“Maybe, that's the problem” he laughs again “Because the album I have people like three tracks and then a few more [people] like a few more tracks, and then both of those kinds of people will hate each other and hate each others music tastes. So it's kind of difficult to get an audience, which is like I don't even know why I'm on this tour, no ones going to like my music but, you've got to do it I guess.”
It's obvious to us that Cosmo is passionate about music, and the way he has discussed his music with us goes to further define that point. How did he get into music?
“Just from when I was a kid it was a good thing in my life I suppose,” he recalls “I always loved listening to it and then I eventually wanted to play it, and I started with piano and then just from there messed around with guitars. Then I moved house and I was real insecure about where I lived, I didn't really know anyone at all and I just sort of sat in my room and recorded stuff. But from then on even though I started gradually to maybe put a lot of stuff away, I got a guitar and just carried on recording and never really stopped.” he admits “Even today, but that always had priority over everything else, it had priority over school and all of that kind of stuff like just making it, doing the recordings.”
When we spoke with Cosmo, he was currently supporting The Sunshine Underground on their tour, and was playing a number of dates. Was he looking forward to the tour?
He smiles a little “I feel bad about putting a Sunshine Underground audience through me. I feel bad for making them endure a three minute mandolin solo, because they don't want to hear a three minute mandolin solo they want to hear the Sunshine Underground. So I'm just there like 'Sorry guys, I'll just be over in a minute'.”
But some people might want to hear the mandolin solo.
“They might” he nods “Three or four exactly yeah, and that's the three or four that count, but that should be good”
Second guessing being on this tour aside, we were curious to see if Cosmo enjoyed touring in general.
“Yeah,” he replied after thinking a little “Not as much as making records and stuff but yeah. I never used to, I've only just started because only recently I kind of used to get really annoyed if I didn't sound good, and I used to get really annoyed if I didn't sound like my records or sound as close to my records as I can, because obviously I play with a session band. But now I kind of don't care that much any more because its going to be different I guess, and in not letting that worry me any more it's kind of become a little bit more easy going, and so the whole thing, yeah its good.”
Having toured with a number of artists, some of which are quite popular in the music world, did any of them give Cosmo any advice?
“That's a good one.” Cosmo states before pausing in thought “Uhm no” he tells us “Oh Gabriella Cilmi said once ages ago that I should do more on my own, acoustic kind of stuff, and I do sometimes, but now I get angry that it hasn't got all my bass parts in and stuff so I can't play by myself” he laughs “But mostly you don't even meet. I went on tour with Gym Class Heroes, I didn't even really see them. But [in general the bands] they don't really say anything.”
Knowing that Cosmo has done a lot of shows, and a lot with some well known names, we were curious as to if he had a favourite show that he's played so far in his career.
“Single show?” he asks before briefly pausing “The Tap House in St. Agnes. Its this little place run by my mate Tim who's a barman there and its a tiny little place. We squeezed in five people and a drum, bass, guitar, another guitar and percussion once, but its just an amazing vibe, everybody comes down and just stands up and just drinks and I'm playing, and he was feeding me shots of Sambucca in the middle of my set.” He smiles broadly while recalling the night “My set was supposed to be a curfew of midnight, but he said we could go longer. It was really good, so that was a good gig for me and people down there kind of... its weird, I don't play in Devon even though I'm from there. I don't know how or why but I don't think I'm doing enough down there because people down there get a lot the crap that I'm talking about more, not that people up here won't, but its just like surely that would be a really good place to start. I don't know, I don't know anything about booking, but this seems like a bad idea, not a bad idea like a bad idea, just like a bad idea, why I don't know, I don't know. Everyone's saying I should go on tour with someone more folky or something, but then those folky people would get pissed off with my rap songs. So I don't know.”
So how would he describe a typical Cosmo performance?
“Its a little bit of vibe,” he begins “There's some folkyness and some rockiness, and some electric guitars and a big percussive element, and then there's other acoustic instruments like mandolins and ukuleles and a recorder - I'm not doing those tonight - but, usually there's quite a wide variety of different genres and instruments.”
Aside from song writing and being a musician, Cosmo is also a film maker. Does this allow him to extend his creativity?
“Totally,” he states enthusiastically “Yeah I love making a film and then spending ages writing music to it.” he turns to the desk and shows us the screen of the open laptop “I'm just editing my next music video at the moment” he turns back “And that's good because what tends to happen is everybody gets involved who usually does stuff like that, and then you get someone else for that. But I've always kind of done everything myself. I like to make some films about some of my songs and some songs about some of my films and so its good how its all inclusive I guess, and if I ever make a film for someone else I'd like to do the sound track as well if I could, it'd be cool.” he laughs “It's only small fish at the moment, it's just messing around, and its always kind of worked out pretty well.”
Like with his music Cosmo is clearly passionate about his film making, but are there any influences from the film world that he incorporates into his film making?
“Yeah, I like anything M. Night Shaymalan does, and Terry Gilliam, and George Lucas – I'm a big Star Wars fan – but not so much visually more in like how he just designed the universe” he tells us “And I love a lot of Wes Anderson movies, and I like Lars Von Trier. He directed this movie called 'Anti-Christ', and it was crazy but it was marketed like a horror and they screwed the whole thing up because it wasn't a horror, it was like a psychological weird film” he explains animatedly “But I guess they tried to make it... same with music you try and plug the lowest common denominator because they see a pair of bloody scissors on the cover and everyone wants to go and buy it, but its a really good movie you should see it, its cool.”
Knowing that he enjoys and is passionate about both topics, we decided to find out which side he would choose if he had to – music or film?
“Film,” Cosmo says without a pause for thought “Because in film you have to take as many cocks in the mouth as you do in music, and I'd be more willing to take those cocks than in music. Music if it's coming out of one person and you're doing it the amount of bullshit you have to do to get anywhere; I've held myself back by trying to maintain some kind of integrity, but thats been completely extinguished by everyone's unadventurous bigmouth no action 'I'll take a risk on you but I wont really take a risk on you' attitude.” he explains “But with film you have to work with other people and you have to compromise with people because its a larger scale, and I'd be fine with it. To do that its just what you do, and so it wouldn't be an issue. And also I think there's way more ground to explore with film as well. So probably film because I mean music, I'll always do it and I'll always make songs and but marketing it is much... but if you make a film its upped to other people. Its like a group thing, everyone really has their job, and really their job is such art. There's so much skill in film, so without them you're screwed, the film won't get seen by anyone, or it'll look bad or it'll sound bad or whatever so yeah film.”
Aside from the rest of this tour and making the next album what does Cosmo have planned next?
“I've got to make album two after this tour.” Cosmo tells us “I've got all of my old demo's and some of the tracks are already done, they just need a bit of tidying up. I've got to maybe re-record a few of them. And I think that's two weeks I've got to do that. So yes as soon as I get back I've got to do that.”
He pauses to think “Then I'm off to Texas in the summer for the South By South-West music festival, and I'm doing that and then I get back and then I think that's it. I haven't got any other tours, I think I might have some other things in like Europe maybe.” he pauses “I'm making this feature-length film called 'The Naughty Room' this year. When I was 15 I tried making a full length movie and it was good but, you couldn't sit through it properly. You could if you were involved in making it but it was bad. I'm going to try and do one properly, I've written the script and everything, its all done so its a way away but I'm starting to get gears turned to get that made, and that'll be good. I think there's some other album that I'm doing, a kind of acoustic album to get some songs out but mostly for syncing. We'll see how album 2 does first, but the singles from there [album 2], there's a song called 'Jesus' a song called 'Gay Pirates' and a couple of others it should be all right. Hopefully.”