Forecastle 2017 is right around the corner. We’re celebrating with 40 Days of Forecastle, covering the festival from all angles — playlists, artist interviews, city guides, behind-the-scenes stories, and a whole lot more. WFPK’s 40 Days of Forecastle is made possible by Kiel Thomson Company and Spalding University.
Joshua Ostrander’s Mondo Cozmo will be at Forecastle this year. Before Ostrander started his latest project, though, he was the frontman of WFPK favorite Eastern Conference Champions. He recently took some time to discuss his journey from his previous band to his current one.
What’s the journey? How do you go from Eastern Conference Champions to Mondo Cozmo?
In ECC we signed a deal with Interscope a long time ago, almost 10 years or so. We put out a record. We started self-releasing after that. We sat a little bit on that success and were able to tour through Europe and do the States. We started working on the next record, Love in Wartime, a great record, but couldn’t find anybody to put it out. We kept hitting walls, and it was so sad because I had the realization that for me to be able to put music out, I have to leave ECC. I write a lot of music and was bummed that I wasn’t able to release it. It was tough, man. We had to pack it up and put Love in Wartime just online so people could get it.
Then I started writing songs for what would become Mondo Cozmo. I was working two landscaping jobs and would come home at night and start recording in my bedroom. It was tough, man — a tough, tough year. I had “Shine.” Then I had “Hold on to Me” and was thinking, “What am I gonna do?” I got a manager and was seeing if anyone wants to put this out, but we needed a calling card that will blow them away when we walked in.
So, I asked my buddy Anna Farris to be in the “Hold on to Me” video. We go into the offices of the president of Universal and play him the song, and the guy starts crying. The video was so emotional to him. Maybe something was going on in his life, or he was connected to it. It was the first time I’d seen somebody connect with the music. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing!” Since then, it’s been nuts. It’s been really, really great.
And then you have this amazing song, “Shine,” that really has the fire right now and is taking off. What a cool song, because there is this spirituality with the song and the references to pot, which is an interesting tie together there. Where did that come from?
The songs just came together; lyrically and melodically it all happened so quick. I remember the last thing I recorded was the bridge, “Come with me Mary…”. You can hear when I sing the last line to the bridge, and you can hear my voice break, because I nearly stared crying. At that very moment of singing that line, I knew this was the best thing I had ever done. I just remember singing that and feeling, “Oh my god! This is bigger than me!”
There was also [“Plastic Soul”] that can’t be released, right?
Oh my gosh, I think we’re rounding the corner on it from what I hear.
So tell me about that one, because it has a nice Bowie sample in it.
It’s got a sample of an old soul song on there. We wrote it, my wife and I, over the weekend that Bowie passed away. My wife and I were cleaning the house, and she put on some playlist. I heard that sample and thought, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing!” I just took it and made a song out of it, didn’t think anything of it, just messing around in the studio.
Then they label said, “Look, you can’t just put this out, because it’s somebody else’s.” We waited and came with the idea on the Friday when the offices were closed and just put up a video with a link – because you can’t just put it on Youtube – so if I just get it out on my personal dropbox, then I’m just sharing it with my friends at that point.
So a couple people picked it up and the feedback was good. Then Jason Bentley on KCRW started playing it and talking about it. Every time he would play it my phone would just die, because so many people were emailing for the link, and the song would soon become one of the most popular songs on KCRW that year.
They kept playing it and my manager called saying, “They’re playing “Plastic Soul” on the radio.” And I was just, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know!” (laughs).
The cool part of it is the reaction. I was able to go to the label and say, “I have thousands of emails here of people that are just…” Not only do they have to search the song, because it wasn’t coming up on Shazam or anything, they had to go to the playlist and find out where to watch the video to get the email address and email it, and download that link.
It was a lot of steps for somebody to get a song. So I was able to just come to them and say, “People really like this. Here is proof.” At that point there said, “All right, let’s try and get it cleared.” So it’ll work out.
It was cool to see your arrival, especially if you look around now at some of the posts from magazines. There is a certain mystery about you. That word is even used, a mystic-like thing. Was that because you were a new name and the Mondo Cozmo moniker was a new name and no one could find the info? Did you craft that in a way? Is this a persona, perhaps?
The idea when we first came out was that we wanted to get myself a little distance from ECC, just because I was with them for 12 years. I wanted people to work for it and didn’t want any people to assume anything when they heard this stuff, because I was crafting a different type of sound.
We wanted it to be more of a Beck situation when Odelay came out. The guy was just what everyone wanted to do, one song didn’t always sound familiar to the next but that voice just kept it all together. That was our plan, my manager and I. “Let’s just do this!”
When people started asking questions, we would just kind of not answer them. We just didn’t do any interviews at first and just hoped people would love the music instead of loving the fact that the guy from ECC is making something new. Know what I mean?
Glad I didn’t ask back then?
Well if you didn’t know, then that was good, because you were one of the guys that would know.
I’m all for the mystery in rock and roll. I think it’s a lost art. I’m nostalgic for the history. What you’re doing with Mondo Cozmo, I love everything about it. Congratulations on everything you’re doing!
Thank you so much! I appreciate it, and thank you so much for being one of the first guys to roll the dice on me, I really appreciate that!