Cosmo Jarvis is larger than life. When Music Feeds call in to speak to the young Brit about his infectious ballsy take on pop, he’s sitting in his pad filled with his sleeping friends. Like any twenty-one year old Cosmo speaks candidly about what he believes in. He may not be the next biggest thing, but he’ll certainly have a tilt; directing and acting in his own films and video clips and writing over 200 songs in a short but prolific career so far. We find out what it is that makes Cosmo click…
Music Feeds: What are you up to?
Cosmo Jarvis: I’ve got two fridges in my kitchen one of them works and one of them doesn’t work. I’m in an area of my house where there’s an office and a bedroom; there’s someone in the bedroom and there’s four people in the office, but they’re all still asleep. I’m in the kitchen next to the fridge with the kettle right here, so I’m making coffee while I talk to you.
MF: I saw a video of you online on this crazy house party tour, where everyone was totally wasted while you played in people’s living rooms. Are you describing the aftermath of one of these shows?
CJ: No, no. Oh my god, I looked so bad in that video, that was a while ago. It was amazing fun when it was really good, some of the gigs were great and some of the gigs were awful! It takes it out of you partying and drinking like that every night. A fair few of them were my mates. Fletcher, he’s my brother, he used to drum for me (now a guy called Harry drums for me). He still does percussion every now and again and he’s production manager for all my music videos now.
MF: I’ve heard you’re a good talker. You’re also veraciously creative. Tell me what were some of Cosmo Jarvis’ first productions – films and music – were like?
CJ: I had always done it ever since I was a kid. I had a little webcam and I’d make short movies and animations and as the music came on I just kinda started and I learnt how to make films the same way I learnt how to make music, by just editing things myself and acting myself and just putting it all together. Those two things, music and acting are the most important things to me definitely. My music started taking off and I just I still want to make movies so why don’t I just shoot and direct my own music videos. To be honest, I think doing it this way gives the artist the opportunity to have the perfect visual for their song, they can compliment their music with their own images. It baffles me seeing all these shit videos that are shot for like twenty grand, when I enjoy making mine myself so much. Having said that, I haven’t been able to get my videos played on TV much at all, I think MTV in the UK said that my song Problems was just too dark for daytime television and I was just like ‘what the fuck?’. Oh and I say gang rape in Gay Pirate so it never gets played on radio or anything.
MF: How many journalists have asked you if you were gay after you released Gay Pirates?
CJ: Several. So many. Yeah, almost all of them. I understand why. It’s pretty funny.
MF: You write songs about some interesting characters, often painting them as losers and taking the piss out of the whole thing a bit. Have you always enjoyed playing with the conventions of pop and as I said taking the piss?
CJ: I like writing songs that are stories, you know. I like to use the verses as a platform to tell a story in pieces and then have a chorus that sums up the overall message so that people can follow the characters in the song, singing as though I am the character. With Gay Pirate I wrote it because I wanted to break that gay stereotype a bit. I wanted to do something that was modern like singing about a gay relationship, but giving it an old fashioned twist. There are so many guys that have a stereotypical view of gay people. Guys that normally wouldn’t see past that stereotype can get into this song that has a fairly leery tone to it and get into it without realising that they’re actually becoming enthusiastic about a gay relationship.
MF: Do you have a lot of people that are first time listeners cottoning onto what you’re actually singing about once they’ve gotten past the energy and involvement of the songs?
CJ: For first time listeners it’ll only be until the second verse before they really understand what I’m singing about, because they’ll hear me say “You’re the man I love” and they’ll look at me and then kind of listen more closely as the song continues. You can tell these things. Then when the chorus comes everyone just goes nuts which is great!
MF: Your songs are often little narratives that are really enjoyable to follow throughout a song, when you sit down to write something how does this process begin?
CJ: It depends. Sometimes it’ll just be a thing I see, something that’s chewing away at me. It feels like it’s a solid enough thing to talk about. Cause there’s nothing worse than getting to the middle of a song and just putting in words to fill the space. I mean I’m as guilty as any other person from time to time, sometimes I just end up doing it because my ideas aren’t strong enough. But it’s really good when you can find something and talk about it as naturally and comprehensively as possible. I try and talk about stuff in my songs as though this thing is really happening to me, not trying to explain it to the listener. There’s nothing worse than spoon-feeding people in my mind. It’s so obvious when someone does that and it sounds so cheap. Sometimes I sit down and I start writing and I can just feel it, whether I need to stop with the idea or keep going.
MF: How does it feel to have Brian Eno singing your praises? Do you pay attention to that sort of thing?
CJ: It was pretty weird I gotta say. I mean he’s awesome and is still so relevant, writing music and releasing music that is still critically acclaimed, I don’t know why there are people that dis him because he is pretty amazing in my mind.
MF: Steven Fry tweeted about the film clip for Gay Pirates; was it kind of bizarre to wake up one morning with hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube?
CJ: It was really weird waking up, going online and seeing literally thousands upon thousands of views for the clip. Shitloads! More than I’d ever hoped for. My mates and I shot that video in a village hall in like two days and for him to even like it let alone tell others about it, that just blew my freaking mind. I was honoured, because if anyone knows about performing it’s him. It was just cool to have a proper grown up who does it for a living and does it well, to get right into it. He’s an intelligent motherfucker, I mean he’s one of the most eloquent human beings on the face of the planet, so it was really reassuring with all the positive comments that came out of him tweeting about it.
MF: Sure As Hell Not Jesus has a bit of a go at the Catholic Church and generally takes the piss outa the whole media frenzy surrounding abuse amongst the clergy. Are you an innately political kinda guy?
CJ: Absolutely not, I don’t know nearly enough about politics to have any real opinion on it. All I can do is bitch about the society that I live inside. The song is actually nothing to do with the Catholic Church, it’s actually about having a really good friend that’s really close to you, but at the same time having that friend is making you weak and reliant upon them. When it came time to make the video for the song, there was nothing really visually strong to get the idea across. When I went through the lyrics and by complete coincidence I came up with this church idea, all of the lyrics seemed to have their place within the narrative of this priest character in the video. The reason I chose the priest as the main character was because I was seeing all these like forty-year-old guys coming out and telling the world that they were rogered when they were boys by members of the church. It goes onto kinda show that the pope has all this central control over. People are aware of it, yet it keeps happening. So I thought. well I might as well add to the awareness – every little helps – like TESCO! God bloody causes more trouble than he’s worth.
MF: I suppose. What does the next year hold for Cosmo Jarvis?
CJ: Well I’ve got my record Is The World Strange Or Am I Strange? coming out in August and there’s been talk of a tour to Australia at some point later this year, so I’m really fucking excited by that to be totally honest. I would love to get down to Australia – it seems like one of the coolest places on earth, seriously.
Cosmo Jarvis will release Is The World Strange Or Am I Strange? on August 15.