The 15th of June marks the day Cosmo’s Midnight sealed their position as one of the top contenders in electronic music in Australia with their debut album called What Comes Next.
Having become something of a household name in the electronic music scene since their arrival over 5-years ago, they have made their mark on where they rightfully stand in the presence of some of the greater artists Australia has had to offer. With a hefty back catalogue built up over the years and now a full length album, it marks a change the from releasing of singles over the last few years to now a fully fledged collection of tracks to take their music to new heights.
We caught up with Pat from Cosmo’s Midnight early last week, to discuss the things that he finds is unique to their artistic expression and his knowledge of how to mix music software encompassing old and new made for an interesting interview as it touched on a wide array of topics.
SR: Starting off, how did you guys team up with the visual artist for the album, Charlotte Mei?
Pat: So, we were about to put out History last year and we kind of wanted to do something different with our art and we had just embarked on a new phase musically and creatively and wanted something that to reflect on the visual side. So we literally put out a Facebook call looking for someone who is a mix of Matisse crossed with anime and a friend of mine from London hit us up, and put us in touch with Charlotte Mei who’s an incredible artist and yeah, the rest is basically history, no pun intended.
We kind of collaborated back and forth on these ideas and a lot of it was meant to be nostalgic and drawing back to a time past sort of thing, it’s the same thing with our music is that we draw on past music and experiences and try to filter it through the way we write music and all that. Drawing on retro and past music and art and updating it and spinning it in the way that we do it, and she absolutely understood that and all the art she has done has been incredible.
SR: When thinking Cosmo’s Midnight’s sounds, I’ve picked up on is the vibraslap being frequently used. Are there any other sounds you feel are distinct to you and do think you identify with that sound in particular?
Pat: The vibraslap definitely is a sound that we go for and I think its because I guess we wanted to find something that filled the role of a cymbal crash. We wanted to do something different because we often find different sounds to achieve the same function musically because it can get a bit boring doing the same sound over and over. We use a lot of Latin percussion. We use a lot of woodblocks, claps, vibraslap. We draw on a lot of old school drum machines, a lot of old percussion like the 707, 808, 909, DMX and just apply our own processing to it to make it sound new and cool. Same with our synths, all of our synths are old school like the Moog I use the Korg M1 and the Rhodes.
I really like drawing on an instrument that draws on such rich history musically and they’re used for a good reason. A lot of our palette is musically old school stuff and we play it in a way that we couldn’t really do back then. For example, the mini Moog B is sort of a monosynth and these days you can’t poly it. I guess a lot of our synths are inspired by French producers like Daft Punk and west coast rap and disco bass lines from the 70’s like Chic and Nile Rodgers. We draw inspiration from everywhere musically – synth wise and palette wise and we have woven it together over the last four years of writing as a duo and we have arrived at a point where we know what we want to make.
SR: I saw on your Facebook page recently that Pharrell gave Montego the ‘Greenlight,’ was that through you contacting him?
Pat: Basically because the song came because Montego samples a Pharrell beat. We wouldn’t be able to release the song unless we got the greenlight from Pharrell. It’s this little Bossa Nova loop in the middle and we hi-jacked it and made it into our own song. And then two months before the album released we gave it to my manager and said ‘hey, this is a Pharrell song that we sampled and do you think you would be able to clear it for us?’ and he said ‘probably not but we could try.’ He sent it off to Pharrell’s team and they shot it back a week later and said Pharrell’s all cool for you to use it and he doesn’t want a fee or anything, he just wants you to list him as a songwriter on the track. We thought we were going to have to pay an exorbitant fee to get someone like Pharrell to be ok on this track but I like to think that he was like ‘I appreciate this’ (laughs).
SR: I did see you tease that in an Instagram story.
Pat: Yeah, we actually teased that ages ago in January last year. We played it in our backyard and we recorded it on video and uploaded it on Facebook and then we didn’t touch that track for ages because we had no idea how to finish this track and then we started revisiting it around December last year and finished it all within a week. Definitely one of my favourite tracks from the album because it’s just instrumental.
SR: What’s your thoughts on the level of detail that artists are putting into their tracks these days? Do you think it contributes to an artists success? If I go through your tracks over the last 5 years or even the average artists, it’s gotten so much more complex in how much percussion now fill up a track. Do you feel there’s a sense of one-upping one artist to the next and your thoughts on if that’s an element of success?
Pat: Ummm, to be honest I definitely think its on a per artist per track basis. To put it simply, you can’t polish a turd. If it’s embellishing something that isn’t fundamentally strong it doesn’t make it better. If you start off with a really strong core idea and the song is banging with three layers and it doesn’t need anything else then there’s no need to start layering stuff on top of it. But you know it can take it that extra step to add little poly rhythms and micro stuff and really going intense in the production.
If the song doesn’t capture you from its inception and doesn’t feel right from the start then there’s no point fleshing it out and trying to get a vibe from it, you know? Everyone works differently and some artists do so much with so little… like Kaytranada’s production is incredibly simple but he makes it work with his really full sounds. He has his one drum line, a pad and a synth lead and this really thick bass with a vocals and it doesn’t seem like it needs very much. It just depends on what it feels it need to get that finished track.
SR: Were you thinking, in particular, of The Internet “>remix he recently released?
Pat: Yeah, so simple. It’s just a bass line and a kick drum for so long.
SR: Yeah, he seems to be a master of that.
Pat: Even his early “>remix of Kaleidoscope Love. I think that was just a bass line and a kick drum. He’s always done really cool exercises in minimalism and I don’t think I could do that myself because I feel I need to put something in, but he has a really good sense of restraint and he pulls it off so hats off to him, it’s just not how me and Cos operate as producers. As soon as we hear something we hear another texture or layer or something that we could bounce off it and so we get carried away, so we kind of have to pull back and remove some layers because its starts to get too dense.
SR: What has been some of the more exciting parts of creating the album? Have there been some moments where you felt the album really clicked together?
Pat: I guess I really enjoyed it when a track came together incredibly quickly. So that feeling of being in the zone that everything happens and clicks naturally and in this almost surreal way that the track kind of writes itself. And we had a few moments with tracks like that with the Woode’s one and one on the end with Lovelight and Talk to Me, those songs all came together so fast and it feels so depressing when you have been agonising over the songs and just trying to get it finished, then you have these songs where it takes just a day or two and your like, ‘god damn it.’
Me and Cos both love working with people. I feel like we approach vocal collaborations a little bit differently, because with vocal collaborations producers approach it differently and want them to just lend the vocal side of their artistry whereas me and Cos get really excited on making it more of a collaboration by meeting both of our sounds together. On the Winston Surfshirt track he was on it and we also got his trombone player and he came on and played some little brass bits for us and I feel like that made it a really good combination of Winston and Cosmo’s and that how we like to really approach that stuff.
Highlights yeah has been writing History, which was super fun, and writing that the day after a really big night out in Melbourne and feeling real rough and we just wrote music all day and drinking juice and eating fruit, and had just two hours left on the session and just wrote History. It banged out and felt so natural and it’s the same with Talk to Me as well. We wrote that with Sarah Aaron’s at first and she was in Sydney for two hours before she flew off to Melbourne to meet her parents and she said ‘boys I’m in Sydney, let’s get a studio and try wrap up things,’ and we had always wanted to write together because we feel we have an artistic connection and we vibe what we make together, so we made this real quick progression together and went for the bridge and she sang this incredible song and we wrote for that in two hours and thought, ‘holy shit what do we do now.’ I wish every song was that easy to write.
This album has been so long in the making that I feel like we have written fifty or so demos and slowly filtered it down to twelve tracks. We were really discovering the sonic palette we wanted to have and use on this album and this took a long time, took about two years just to figure out how we were going to do this album and in the meantime releasing songs like History and after we put that out that was the first song of the album that we know of, we started the album cycle with History and then another year before we put out Get To Know. All of 2017 was spent writing the album, didn’t know it would take so long but we did it (laughs). I wish we logged how many hours we spent on this album but it would be something stupid, that’s for sure.
SR: I remember watching Mura Masa’s video on how he made“> What If I Go and the way he talked about how it’s basically trial and error.
Pat: And he was saying that he had been all these ideas and he was on the train, it’s always something like they were on the train and I wrote this idea and it ends up being the biggest song. There’s been so many moments on this album where once I was in this AirBnb in LA and Cos was out and wrote a tiny little melody, or cos and I were flying from Seoul to Detroit and Cos wrote one of the songs off the album called Boogie, and you don’t know if I didn’t get on that plane or something would I have written this song. There’s so much interstate stuff that’s going on with music, like what if he didn’t get on that train? Would he have not written What If I Go?
It’s definitely interesting, I like seeing how other producers come up with stuff and it’s also really comforting hearing that other producers struggle too (laughs). It’s the whole thing with social media where it’s a projected image of perfection but little do you know what goes on behind the scenes.
SR: I’ve always wondered the thought process behind some of these Flume tracks and how they came about.
Pat: I’m so happy I wasn’t in his shoes because his follow up album would have been so so so stressful. It’s like ‘hey I kind of just pioneered this new movement in Australia in electronic music and now I have to one up it’ (laughs).
SR: Yeah, I saw he went to Tasmania to write some of his tracks as a way to deal with the stress.
Pat: We basically wrote all our tracks at home. I’m curious about seeing if you can bunker down somewhere and how it changes your approach. So many ways you can get to writing music and I like travelling sometimes but I do feel like a new location can definitely massively change the way you write something and Rufus I think wrote their last record in Berlin and I feel it was their strongest one. But yeah, I think that certain people are affected by their environments they put themselves in and it’s the same with any art form and artwork, you’re shaped by the people and the culture and the environment you’re surrounded in.
SR: I see song writing as being very emotion based and it’s what you’re feeling at the time. Especially if you’re travelling. Everything is new and it has that edge of being very exciting which can translate into your music inspiration.
Pat: Yeah, I completely agree. Me and Cos are about to go to Europe for the first time and we will do some writing over there for sure. Hopefully capture that European summer would be ideal.
SR: Do your tracks reflect things that you were both into or going through at the time? Or relate to a particular time?
Pat: I feel like a lot of artists sort of create music from an emotional state whether that’s consciously or subconsciously. But that said, I think most of our music comes from a very happy or joyous place, even if we are feeling down we want to channel those sort of good feelings because that makes us feel better.
There’s only one or two tracks on the album that are melancholy, but even so they’re often paired with upbeat music. I really like the idea of contrasting more somber songs with upbeat jams and fun stuff, both History and Talk to Me are songs about a fling or a breakup or some chad shit and the bass line are funky as hell and in major so it’s good vibes. I think it’s cool with music that you can still tell and have those darker moments and have them wrapped up in an oddly positive way. Some songs like Polarised I wrote and just wrote the first thing I thought of about the track and I really like the idea that bonding instantly to how a track makes you feel inherently, whatever works for everyone but I like to respond to how music makes me feel straight away instead of sitting down with pen and paper and writing the song and putting music to the lyrics. So I kind of just wrote the song about being at a crossroads and being conflicted on where you should go next and the power to make a decision. That song makes me want to feel like you are referring to a moment in the past where you will have those moments, where you have had a moment of indecision but you have moved on from there and you are in a better spot now.
Polarised is one of my favourite songs off the album, every time I listen to it, and even though I have listened to it to death already, it still captures the same feeling I had when I wrote it which is a really great thing to me. Some of the other tracks like Montego are more musical expressions. Sometimes it comes from a purely musical space and it’s like ‘I want to write music’ and you just do that. So many different ways to write music and it’s so daunting (laughs).
SR: When writing an album, are their certain themes or ideas you’re fleshing out or is it just a collection of moments?
Pat: I wouldn’t say there is a theme in our album. The idea of going for a very specific theme isn’t super exciting for me. I can really enjoy it when other people do it like ‘Jon Hopkins – Singularity‘ and I absolutely loved the whole thing he set out to do and did it really well, but for us I feel like we couldn’t write the music we wanted to if we stuck to one theme for an album. We really wanted to flex different shades of what we could put out and see what we could do as musicians and songwriters, so the album is basically drawing on experiences and maturing as a person afterwards.
Songs like Talk to Me, History and With U are all melancholy songs that are about relationships and moving on from them or finding strengths from not as good moments. Then there’s moments like Lowkey which is about being a girls side-guy, for a lack of a better term, and not being cool with it and that’s more of a cheeky song. So we just wanted to show different sides of our musicality and we wanted to let the guys we were working with to dictate and get their narratives of these songs going, we wanted them to do their thing and we will come to the middle point as producers. So as I have said before, What Comes Next is basically drawing on all of our experiences by the people and the environment and the music and how its shaped us and acknowledging that and then seeing it as this is a launchpad for the next phase in our career and in life. It’s a very optimistic vision statement, it’s a hopeful prediction.
SR: And just to finish up, is there any distinctive or quirky software that you have picked up along the last few years that you find very interesting?
Pat: Actually yeah, we have been using this thing called Mangle and it is basically a granular synthesizer that we use to make textures and pads. It’s just a weird sampler that instead of using samples you use grains of samples and you have the micro seconds to split the samples so you can manipulate them and rearrange them and make these really weird sounds. We use that a bunch now and also ever since we got the Moog and also Sylenth we just haven’t put it down and use it on pretty much every song. Apart from that we kind of are very simple and use all of Ableton’s default plugins and we don’t use all of this extra stuff and they do so much. I just got the Live 10 and so we use the new effects on that.
Sound design and musicality compliment each other, certain sounds work on certain things you know?
Cosmo’s Midnight are kicking off a nationwide tour from July 6th in Sydney and stretching to parts of Europe. You can stream What Comes Next in full below and vinyl releases are said to be in the works so look out for that soon.
Tour Dates (Tickets)
Fri, July 6 – The Metro Theatre, Sydney (SOLD OUT)
Sat, July 7 – The Flying Cock, Brisbane (SOLD OUT)
Wed, July 11 – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne – JUST ADDED
Thur July 12 – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne (SOLD OUT)
Fri, July 13 – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne (MATINEE/ALL AGES) – JUST ADDED
Fri, July 13 – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne (SOLD OUT)
Sat, July 14 – Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth (SOLD OUT)
Sun, July 15 – Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth – JUST ADDED
Sat, July 21 – The Metro, Sydney – ALL AGES – JUST ADDED
Fri, July 27 – The Metro, Sydney – ALL AGES – (SOLD OUT)
Sat, July 28 – Fat Controller, Adelaide (SOLD OUT)
Fri, August 3 – UC Refectory, Canberra – JUST ADDED
Sat, August 4 – The Metro, Sydney (SOLD OUT)