Interview with Mondo Cozmo

Back in May 2017, my pal Daniel Young – aka the owner of VIES Magazine – shot me a message for one of the greatest last minute opportunities: covering Sasquatch! Music Festival 2017.  I got to catch up with Josh Ostrander, the mastermind behind Mondo Cozmo. After finishing up a tour with Bastille, and moving on to a bunch of festival dates with a full summer and an album due out, we chatted about the experience he had on the road with Bastille, where he got his dog (who Mondo Cozmo is named after), recording out in Joshua Tree, giving away things to fans, and his love of gardening.

Alexis: So, my first question that I had for you is from a fan who is a little bit curious to know: is Mondo Cozmo a band, or just a solo project by you?

Josh: Oh it’s just me; I record everything in my guest bedroom so it’s not really a band but it’s become this cool thing for the live show where we have like, my group of guys and they’ve become like, this family. It’s been really great, man. Like, seeing all these songs that came from my guest bedroom, now we’re playing like main stage at festivals and stuff, it’s so cool, it’s awesome.

A: Cool, they’re really interested because they’re a big fan of your whole band – like your touring band that you have – because they find them quite fun as well when they’re performing.

J: Yeah, they’re great.

A: Are they a permanent fixture for you, or…?

J: Yeah, it seems like they’re not going anywhere *laughs*.

A: Another question they had was, how did Cozmo come into your life?

J: My dog? Uh, my girl and I were looking for a dog for weeks at different shelters and stuff and we just couldn’t find the right one, and then we found Cozzy. We just fell in love with him right away. But we looked for like, weeks; every weekend we’d go to a couple different dog shelters and stuff. It was cool.

A: Was he named already when you adopted him?

J: No, we named him.

A: Oh okay, cool. So where did the name Cozmo come from?

J: I was a big Seinfeld fan and one of the characters is named Cosmo so… Kramer Cosmo. Cosmo Kramer.

A: And as someone’s who’s been in the industry for a while in various bands such as Eastern Conference Champions and Laguardia, what made you decide to start MC?

J: Um, I just love recording songs and stuff, it’s just what I do. I just happened to record some that kinda caught fire and I’ve been really blessed. Yeah.

A: What inspired you to pursue music?

J: Um, it’s the only thing I’m really good at. If I wasn’t doing this I’d probably be doing like, some terrible jobs so I’m really lucky to be doing this. ‘Cause I can’t do anything else really good at all.

A: Who are your major influences?

J: I like Bruce Springsteen, I like uh, a lot of modern music too. I like it all. I’m just a fan, you know. I like all types of music so it’s tough to pick a couple when there’s just so many, like LCD Soundsystem is playing tonight and I’m just such a fan, you know.

A: Are you excited to see them tonight then?

J: Yeah, it’s gonna be great. I can’t wait. It’s gonna be awesome.

A: And I have seen some comparisons online: how does it feel being compared to Bob Dylan?

J: It’s crazy. He’s a once in a lifetime artist so when you get compared to people like that, you must be doing something right,  you know. So I’ll take it; it’s a huge compliment.

A: So you released your single, “Automatic”, last week…

J: Last Friday, yeah.

A: And I saw that you helped design the artwork for it.

J: I did, yeah, I like doing that stuff.

A: What’s the story behind that? What inspired the design behind that?

J: I was just bored on the [tour] bus and I’ve got a tattoo that says ‘love’, and love is one of the main lyrics in the chorus. So I was like, ‘I’ll just mess around with it’. I was just messing around on the bus and I was like, ‘I like this, let’s go with the cover for this’.

A: So you’ve been touring for quite a while, you mentioned that you designed that on the bus, I think literally every festival lineup, you’re on as well.

J: I know, we got really lucky, it’s crazy.

A: Is there anyone that you have discovered as a result of being on those lineups yourself?

J: Um, we’ve only played 3 so far and I’ve just been lucky enough to be so busy that I haven’t— this is the first one tonight where I’m gonna be able to go see some bands, and I’m pretty excited about it because the past couple of ones I’ve really been swamped, either we had to leave and get to another show so we didn’t really get to hang out. There’s a couple of bands we’re going to see today. I’m not sure, the boys made up a list of all the bands we’re gonna go see so I’m excited about it.

A: I’m assuming LCD Soundsystem *laughs*

J: Yeah, that’s where I’ll be at tonight.

A: I recently saw you open up for Bastille while you were touring with them…

J: Yeah, that was great.

A: What was your experience like, while you were touring with Bastille?

J: They were great. I’m super thankful because we haven’t played that many shows, we’re a fairly new band, so to be able to get into those kinds of venues; it really set us up for our summer tour and all the festivals that we’ve got coming up so we’re really super thankful. I couldn’t imagine a better tour to be on, and they were just so nice to us.

A: Do you have any stories from that tour at all that you can share?

J: Well, we went and looked at crocodiles one day when we were in Florida and that was fun. But yeah, they’re just really nice guys, like I don’t really know what to say. They’re just really sweet, with no egos— it was like, an egoless tour, it was pretty cool.

A: I saw that you guys had like a massive end of tour bus party, what was that like?

J: That was fun. Like, with most tours you have that party at the end and it was just cool. The next day was pretty tough, I’ll put it that way. We had a tough day the next day. We had to play a festival the next day and I was like ‘oh my god’. We were hurtin’. But it was fun, it was great.

A: Obviously with ‘Automatic’ being released, there’s been a lot of talk about your album and I see that’s gonna be called “Plastic Soul” after one of your other songs that you have released. Is that inspired just by the song or is it a general message that you feel comes off of the album?

J: I just love the title of it, I don’t know. I wrote that song when Bowie passed away and he always referred to his music as plastic soul, and I always thought that was so cool and it was just a no-brainer for me. I was like, let’s call this Plastic Soul. It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made.

A: What about Bowie inspired you?

J: It was just that he was fearless, you know? He was just a fearless, artistic dude and I’m not even the biggest Bowie fan, it’s just his spirit is one that will inspire for people for a very long time. He was just an incredible dude.

A: And you were signed 3 times beforehand. How does it feel now with the success that you’re having with Mondo Cosmo?

J: Yeah, *laughs* it feels really good. I put my time in so this feels really nice to, you know, hear the song on the radio, like, I don’t take that lightly, like, I worked really hard for that so it’s cool, it’s awesome.

A: So when should we expect Plastic Soul to be released?

J: It’s coming out August 4th.

A: August 4th? Right in the middle of the summer! Do you have any summer jams that are going forward?

J: Yeah, there’s a couple on there. It’s coming out the day we play Lollapalooza actually, so it’s kind of perfect timing. I think it’s a really great record, I’m really proud of it. I just hope people listen to it, it’s really good.

A: Do you have any stories behind the album? I did see somewhere that you recorded some of it at Joshua Tree.

J: I recorded most of it at my house. I had to finish the record in two weeks so I was like, ‘shoot, if I do this at my house, I’m gonna drive my neighbours crazy.’ So I just rented a house on Joshua Tree, took my computer and my dog and went out and recorded everything there. It was great, it was an easy record to do to be honest, like, I have a lot of songs so it was just finding the right songs and making it all fit together. It came together really nice.

A: Are there any experiences from recording there at Joshua Tree that were really stand out things for you?

J: It was just a cool time where I’d get up and go for a run with Coz every morning in the desert and it was just really, like wow, there was nothing there. It was just a great place to go clear your head.

A: Was there any songs on the album that were inspired by your time there?

J: Yeah, there’s a song called ‘Come With Me’ that was completely written there. It was the last one to make the record and it’s really good, it came out really great.

A: Can we expect the album to sound a lot like what you’ve already released? ‘Cause I know that the sound that you have is very different on each song, that’s what I’ve found.

J: Yeah, it’s kind of all over the place. I let the song do the work, I don’t really try to be like, ‘alright let’s make this sound like this, let’s make this sound like this’. If I start working on something and it sounds like that, I just follow that through, you know what I mean? Like, I don’t try to say like, oh, let’s make this sound more rock and roll, let’s make this more R n B, or something. It’s all over the place.

A: I saw on Twitter that you gave away some tickets to a waitress yesterday.

J: Yeah!

A: Can you tell us about that story? Have you seen her?

J: Well, we’re playing all of these festivals and we don’t know a lot of people so we’ll get there, in the town and we’ll have 5 tickets and we’re like, shoot man, we don’t have any friends here so, you know, we’ll bump into a waitress and be like, ‘what are you doing tomorrow? You wanna come to Sasquatch?’, and she was like, ‘yeah, I’ve never been and I live here’. So it was cool, I loved it, because, you know, these tickets ain’t cheap so it was cool.

A: So did you get to see her today then?

J: Mhmm. Right before we went on, she came round and said hi. ‘Cause we didn’t know if they’d actually show up or not so it was cool, I loved it.

A: That’s cool. I know that also when you were on tour with Bastille I saw you calling up fans as well, or offered a phone number that fans could call.

J: Yeah, I have a hotline that fans can call. It’s 1-866-MONDOCOZMO and if you call you can leave us voicemail messages and stuff so sometimes we’ll put out: “If you want tickets, best voicemail gets [free] tickets”, so I love having that hotline, it’s fun.  We get crazy messages.

A: Yeah? What kind of messages? Were there any real stand out ones?

J: Yeah we get really nice ones where people are like, ‘aw, Josh, I just heard you and I’m such a fan,’ and then you get mean people and then you get weird people leaving very weird messages but it’s fun, it’s all good.

A: Do you call back?

J: I haven’t called back anyone at all yet. I’m scared to.

A: *laughs* but you’ve given away tickets and stuff like that to people.

J: Yeah, I’m a really big fan of giving away stuff.

A: That’s really nice. Do you have any other plans coming up for doing that kind of thing?

J: I should, I think we have Bonnaroo coming up and Governor’s Ball and most of the festivals coming up, the tickets are already taken, but definitely some shows. I think we’re gonna have a lot of our own shows, definitely this fall so I’ll be giving away a lot of tickets for that I’m sure.

A: So there’s a plan for a tour this fall after the album comes out?

J: Yeah, I think we’re gonna do a headlining run this fall. I think they’re booking it right now so I’m really excited.

A: Are you going to be specifically just touring in the States or are you going to be coming up to Canada at all?

J: I think we’re gonna be coming up to Canada. We’re playing with the Arkells in Toronto and then we’re doing some in Montreal. They stopped telling me what’s going on because I keep forgetting so I just go where they tell me to go but I know we’re booked till like December so I’m sure we’ll be coming through.

A: I did see that you’re playing that show with the Arkells up there in Toronto. Do you know the Arkells that well?

J: I do, I’m really excited about that show. I know that they do really well [in Canada] too, so I’m really excited.

A: Yeah, they’re really big in Canada. They play the same place that you played with Bastille in Vancouver; the same venue.

J: Oh wow. That’s huge!

A: It’s really weird to see how they come down to the states and they’re just opening for other people on their tours and in headline runs up in Canada.

J: Why is that? It’s funny.

A: I don’t know. It’s sad because they’re a really entertaining band to see live. You haven’t seen them before?

J: No I haven’t seen them live.

A: Well you’re in for a treat! They put on a really good show.

J: Oh that’s cool. Awesome, I can’t wait.

A: So I also saw in one of your videos you’ve got Ana Faris!

J: Yeah, she’s my buddy.

A: How’d that come about?

J: We were buddies and she asked me to write the theme song to her podcast. Then a month and a half later, we had to do a video for ‘Hold On To Me’ and I was like, “I should ask Ana to do this”. And it was tough, because she’s really famous and I didn’t wanna take advantage of that, but I was just like, ‘Ana will you do this? It would help me out?’, and she was like, ‘oh my god yeah, I’d totally do it, let’s go do it’. And we did it a week later, and we did it for zero dollars and it was really just a great moment. That video, it was amazing.

A: What’s she like to work with?

J: She’s quite possibly the nicest person I’ve ever met in my life, and that’s no lie. She’s a pro, and she doesn’t complain and she’s just incredible. She’s an incredible person, and I’ll forever be grateful.

A: Do you have any plans for the video for “Automatic”?

J: Yeah, I wanna do a dance video!

A: A dance video?

J: Yeah, I’m excited.

A: Where are you planning to film that?

J: I think I’m gonna shoot it in Nashville. We’re working it out right now.

A: Is it gonna be more of a live thing? Or a dance party type of thing?

J: I don’t know yet, we’re figuring it out. But it’s gonna be some terrible dancing for sure. *laughs*

A: So you seem pretty open about a lot of your life, as I’ve seen online. You talk about drinking and rehab and that sort of thing in your profile descriptions on Facebook and such. Is there anything that fans might not know about you?

J: I’m a pretty open book at this point. Most people that follow me know most of the things about me. But I love to work in my garden, that’s my favourite thing to do. I was just home for two days and all I did was work in the yard and I loved it, it was awesome.

A: How big is your garden at home?

J: Very small but it’s a lot of work. I don’t know how people have these big gardens and shit, it’s crazy.

A: Do you have any specific plants that you really love in your garden?

J: Since I live in Los Angeles I’m trying to get plants that don’t take a lot of water.

A: Like cacti and that sort of thing?

J: Yeah, and it’s fun. It clears your head and you don’t think about anything else. It’s awesome.

A: I was also wondering, I just remembered from your set, I saw the woman with the umbrella. How did you feel about the umbrella?

J: I loved the umbrella, I felt bad calling her out that she spelt it wrong, which happens all the time, people spell shit wrong all the time but yeah, it was funny. She was great though.

A: Yeah, I saw her up there with her umbrella, she was very into it. I’m glad that she was having a good time. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

J: Well I can’t wait to get back to Vancouver, I’ll tell you that.

A: Yeah?

J: Yeah, I loved it up there. That’s a beautiful city you’ve got.

A: Did you get to see any parts of Vancouver while you were up there?

J: Nope. *laughs* I just worked. Played the show and then we had to get out but just driving around. I went up and saw EA Sports while I was there, they’ve got a big thing up there, which was cool and everybody was really nice. I love it up there, it’s beautiful. Just a beautiful city.

A: Mhmm, it’s a lot cooler, temperature wise, than it is here.

J: Yeah, I bet. It’s nice. Awesome, well this was good.

A: Yeah, thank you!

J: Thank you so much.