The hit single “Shine” has revealed the artist Mondo Cozmo to be an urgent, passionate song-crafter, singer and musician. With the enthusiastic support of influential indie radio hosts, including Jason Bentley and Nic Harcourt, the song has received considerable exposure, not only in Southern California, but throughout the country. Cozmo, also known as Josh Ostrander, who previously led the band Eastern Conference Champions, has been compared to everyone from Bob Dylan, Beck, Damon Albarn and Arcade Fire, to Spiritualized, Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder, so clearly this is an artist with a variety of inspiration and expression.
“I want to bring the mystery back to rock & roll,” Ostrander has been quoted as saying. He certainly likes to create an elusive profile, with brief, sometimes cryptic entries on the various social media outlets, posting vague, shadowy photos of himself and his notable Mohawk. The facts as we know them are that he is originally from Philly and has been based in Los Angeles for a few years. His first experience with a major release was in 2006 with the band Laguardia, which released one record on Universal/Republic. That was followed by the aforementioned band Eastern Conference Champions, initially on Geffen.
Photo by Travis Shinn
While many of his Mondo Cozmo tactics are grass-roots and organic (such as releasing quirky, low-budget videos sporadically for his tracks) he signed once again to Republic Records in June 2016. Ostrander and Republic will release the Mondo Cozmo full-length album later this year. Since 2016, he has released songs and videos via social media and his attorney (more on that to follow), to great popularity. “When I think about what independent or alternative music is, I think back to the ‘90s, especially Beck. He could do just whatever he wanted to, and that’s what I listened to in the ‘90s, when I first started playing guitar. When Beck put out Mutations, I realized that was what I wanted to do.”
In the beginning of this year, Ostrander rented a house in the town of Joshua Tree, in California’s high desert region, to complete the upcoming full-length album. After releasing separate tracks and videos, and playing a handful of small shows, the buzz is growing and Republic is eager for more Mondo.
“‘Shine’ did so well, they told me to make a full-length record, so I’m out in the desert cramming. And it’s lonely!” says the artist, who is working by himself on the album’s remaining tracks. “I have an old computer I use,” he says, and he plays all the instruments himself. “If I went into a regular studio, I’d just end up making a rock record. I’ve done that, and I love it, but when I’m left to my own devices and not being charged by the hour, I can do stuff that’s a little different.”
The Indie Radio Connection
Ostrander is thrilled to have been embraced by two of the most influential radio DJ’s in Southern California, if not the country––KCRW’s Jason Bentley and KCSN’s Nic Harcourt. “Nic Harcourt was the first person ever to play my music, back when I was living in Philly. I found that out when a friend told me he was playing Eastern Conference Champions. He has really supported me ever since.” Harcourt was an early supporter of “Shine” last year, playing it in heavy rotation on his KCSN show, after which the rest of the DJ’s on the station responded to listener requests for the song throughout the day and night. “And Jason Bentley started playing my bedroom demos a while back.”
It would be most young artists’ dream come true to get their music endorsed by Bentley and Harcourt. What’s the secret password? When asked how he got their attention, Ostrander replies, “I really have no idea. Jason Bentley never played any of my previous music, and I just thought he didn’t like me, or maybe I had hit on his girlfriend or something. And then he got a hold of ‘Plastic Soul’ and starting playing it every day!”
“Plastic Soul” is a track recorded last year with a slightly shady history. “I recorded that and I used a sample on it. I knew we had to get clearance, but I had no idea how to do that. When we knew we couldn’t make money from it––that we had to give it away for free––we released it (via a clip on Instagram) at five o’clock on a Friday, setting it up so that if you emailed my lawyer, he’d send you a link to download it. It was rad, we got a couple hundred emails right away, and then Jason Bentley started playing it all the time. I was so thrilled that that kind of thing can still happen.” Ostrander has said of the song, “It was written for David Bowie and it’s about time travel.”
So what was the sample? “You have to contact my lawyer!” the artist says. “I don’t want Music Connection to get dragged in to court!”