Welcome, welcome one and all to another spectacular Beneath the Surface instalment. Today we are joined by the incredible band Cosmopolis and their new single ‘Parasite’. We uncover their inspirations, influences and plans for an upcoming album. So grab a drink, get cosy and let’s get into it!
What would you say first sparked your interest in music/who inspired you to make music?
A whole host of people who were making music in the late 1960s through until the mid 1970s. The first record I ever bought was by David Bowie. It was amazingly lucky (I bought it for childish reasons, not because I had good taste!). But even as I grew older I still liked him. His music was compelling, but of course he was the whole package – he had these striking images and personas, and showed you that you didn’t have to stay in the same rut your whole life. You could reinvent yourself, and take risks with your music.
Someone else to mention is Lou Reed. His example was that you could write songs about anything, even the darkest and most unlikely topics, not just love or surfing or whatever things teenagers think are important. I suppose Bob Dylan could have taught me the same thing, but I didn’t really hear him until much later.
Brian Eno was another awkward customer who wasn’t afraid to give up a career as a pop star and do what he really wanted, and he showed that you could make interesting music even if you were a non-musician. That was inspiring when I wanted to make music but couldn’t yet play anything.
Finally, David Byrne. I loved that he was the complete antithesis of a pop star – a completely awkward band leader, compelling in his sort of anti-Jagger way. And he wrote simple pop songs, but then worked out that he could add in funk and disco.
I like that these four inspirations have a variety of connections to each other, as producers, collaborators, friends, supporters.
How would you describe the music you are currently creating?
We are writing songs with a conventional structure – verses, choruses, middle eights, that kind of thing – but our aim is to write something cinematic. Sometimes we use the slightly awkward term ‘art rock’ to describe this sort of music. The idea is to have an emotional effect on the listener, but to allow the meaning of the song to be a kind of multidimensional puzzle that the listener can engage with. The key thing for us to write music that generates a mood, and that has enough depth that it repays repeated and close listening.
What does your creative process look like?
Cosmopolis are a band whose three core members live in different countries. So usually what happens is one of us has an idea – that can be a complete demo of a song, or a riff, or a sequence, or a drum pattern – and then the others set to work to transform that idea and build upon it until it is unrecognisable. What’s important is that we make something that none of us could have done alone, or could even have imagined.
Sometimes we are able to be in the same place for a few days at a time, or maybe even a week. When this happens, we do the same thing but simultaneously! Especially valuable during these times together is to see if we can write the rhythmic component of a song, as that can sometimes be the hardest thing to do separately.
For the times when we work separately, the computer is the most important instrument. For the times when we work together, it is the different instruments that we play (drums, guitars, bass, keyboards and voice) that are the most important instruments.
Who would you most like to collaborate with? (let’s send it out to the universe and make it happen!)
I’ve got two answers for this. First would be someone who is absolutely at the top of the game: Beyoncé, Lizzo, Taylor Swift. It would be incredible to work with someone at that level, and daunting but exhilarating to write music with that level of pressure.
The second answer harks back to the idea that we are making cinematic music. So to work with someone who knows how to make beautiful, affecting music that has that filmic quality would be a dream come true: let’s say Jon Hopkins, Olafur Arnalds or Nils Frahm.
What is the one message you would like to send out to your fans?
It is quite humbling that anyone enjoys the music we make. Releasing music can make you feel quite vulnerable (“will anyone like it? Is this song as good as the last one?”), so it is lovely that there are people out there who enjoy what we do. We cannot thank you all enough.
What’s your top tip to rejuvenate your creativity/get over a writer’s block?
I’m lucky that I get to travel a lot. I think seeing different cultures and communities and how people live different lives is enormously inspiring. And when there is no travel on the horizon, you can travel virtually by going to a good gallery or museum and seeing otherness and difference. My other tip is stop listening to music! Other art forms can reinvigorate the musical imagination, so art, poetry, novels, sculpture, philosophy can all be a fertile ground for new musical ideas. Of course, listening to other music can sometimes help with that creative block, but sometimes it is good to forget about that medium and seek inspiration in other art forms.
I am lucky enough to be in Vienna at the moment, and am enjoying spending time in the coffeehouses that were such crucial meeting places for artists, writers, politicians and others who sought to reinvent the times they lived in. It is good to spend time in these public places that allow for cross-fertilisation and lively debate. These sorts of places can directly change how you think, but more often there’s something subtle at work when a change of environment forces you to think about how you create in a new way.
What’s next for you, what do we have to look forward to/ what are you currently working on?We have released six singles, and have been pleased with them – both with the response we’ve had from our fans and from reviewers, but also with our own sense of progress. What we want to do now is release an album, so we are currently working on a batch of songs that we hope to release together. I won’t tempt fate by saying when, but we hope this will be pretty soon!