It’s always hard to play the opening set on the last day of a festival. It’s not the stage or weather that’s necessarily the problem, it’s all the fatigued, slightly hung-over concertgoers limping to the finish line in hopes of making it one more music-filled day. If you can get a crowd like that on their feet and moving, then you’re more or less ready for the big leagues, which is exactly what Mondo Cozmo
managed to pull off on Sunday morning at Boston Calling. Led by Joshua Ostrander, the band tore their way through an upbeat set list of indie-punk and classic rock anthems, making it a perfect and plenty energetic way to get the festival rolling for one more day. After the band’s set, I caught up with Ostrander to talk about his upcoming debut record, Plastic Soul, as well as the general stuff about life as a working musician.
Robert Steiner: You just played your set a little while ago, how’d it feel to make your Boston Calling debut?
Joshua Ostrander: I’ll tell you what man, it was awesome. I really had a blast, and I was just really thankful that people showed up early. Like we were the first ones on, but it felt like a headlining show, man. Like everyone was down front singing along and dancing, it was awesome.
RS: How do festivals compare to ordinary gigs?
JO: I mean luckily we were so thankful to get a run with this band called Bastille, and it really set us up for playing stages like this, ‘cause we haven’t played that many shows. So to be able to come into these situations and know how to work a crowd a little bit, I’m just super thankful for it, really am.
RS: Any particular preference?
JO: I mean I like playing the small, sweaty gig shows, like the late at night shows, but you put me in front of an audience and I’m happy, man, I really am. I don’t car if it’s 1 o’ clock or 4 in the morning, it’s the best thing in the world, it really is.
RS: How important is performing live to the overall creative process?
JO: That’s just where we get off, man. My favorite thing is recording music, but honestly man, the past couple of months with getting these live shows together and playing these songs out live and meeting people and just seeing the reactions has just been so powerful, it’s just been so great.
RS: So recorded your upcoming album Plastic Soul in the middle of Joshua Tree. How did that idea come about?
JO: Well we released a song called "Shine," and it went to number one on some chart, AAA chart or something. So when it went to number one, my label called and they were like- ‘cause we were gonna do an EP- "hey guys, we wanna do a full-length, is that cool?" and we were like, "Yeah, let’s do it!" and they were like, "Alright, great, can you do it in two weeks?" And I was like, "Jesus Christ, I mean yeah I guess I can, I’ll try!" But I record everything in my house, and I was like, ‘My wife’s gonna kill me,’ ‘cause [my studio’s] not sound-proof, it’s just a guest bedroom. And I’m like, it’s gonna be 12 hour days, 14 hour days to get this album done, so I was like, ‘I’m just gonna go rent a house, I’m gonna take my dog and my computer, and I’m just gonna go out in the desert and get it done, and I did man. It turned out so, so well, and I’m really proud of it.
RS: Did the scenery of the desert serve as any significant inspiration?
JO: It just helped me focus, I guess. ‘Cause I didn’t have TV, the internet was shit, and so I was just really focused. I had nothing else to do, so it was good. It was smart to do that, ‘cause I wasn’t on my phone or anything. I was like "This is my job, I have to nail it, let’s go."
RS: You’ve done some pretty outlandish outreach campaigns with your fans- the official Mondo Cozmo hotline, urging fans to contact your lawyer for the latest single, etc. –How would you describe the relationship you’re building with your fans?
JO: I’m just trying to be honest. What I’ve learned is that people just want honesty, you know? They can see through the bullshit, man; they can tell when you’re being fake. I talked to my label, I was like, "Everything’s gotta be in my voice, this is the only way it’s gonna work," and the reactions have been really great. People seem to really respond to honesty.
RS: With the recent attacks in Manchester, concerns arose regarding security leading up to this weekend. I wanted to ask, how did you guys react to the news, as a working artist where live shows are such a huge part of your career?
JO: I was sitting with my wife when we heard the news, I turned on the TV and we were like, "fuck man." We booked every festival this year, and we were like, "man this sucks." The last thing you wanna do is be scared. It was so sad man, ‘cause it’s like what fucking cowards to do that at that venue to those kids. That’s just fucking cowardice, man. I guess it gets to a point where you can live in fear if you want to, but I’m gonna choose not to do that and continue to spread good music and a good attitude to everybody I meet. You can’t live in fear, you just can’t.
RS: You’ve got a big tour through October planned for this year. What are some of the immediate goals while you’re out on the road for the next few months?
JO: I want the tour to like, I’ve never really done a run like this before, and some of the venues we’re playing, we’re really shooting, like "let’s go for it," you know what I mean? So I really wanna smash that, I wanna put on a show where people are like "You gotta go fuckin’ see this thing," you know? There’s a lot of talks about how we’re gonna do it, and I’m just really excited about it.
RS: You’ve probably heard the cliché "Rock Is Dead" many times before. Clearly it’s not, your band being a prime example, but I wanted to ask: What do you think is the current state of rock, and where do you think it’s going?
JO: I don’t think it’s dead, honestly, and it’s such an exciting time to be a musician. For a while there, I was bummed out about how people are only buying singles, they don’t buy albums anymore. But then I was like, "Fuck it! Adapt or die, man!" So we started releasing singles, and it took off, so I was like "Wow, how cool is this? Now I gotta go full length ‘cause the singles did well." You just gotta embrace what music is now, and I’m guilty of it too. I don’t buy a lot of records, but I listen a lot, you know? It’s tough to bitch about shit when you’re also doing it, like when’s the last time you bought a record? It’s few and far between, like you don’t have to. I dunno how record companies are doing it, but rock ain’t dead. I mean, we’re gonna watch Tool tonight, and it’s gonna be fucking insane!
RS: So you think there will be a greater emphasis on singles as time goes on?
JO: I think so, as time goes on. I could even see where like 20 years from now, where songs right now are like 3 minutes long, I could see them being 2 minutes long in the future. It’s weird, but I think it’s cool, man.
RS: So what’s next for you, looking at the near to distant future?
JO: Dude, if I can keep writing music and recording music and playing music in front of people, then that’s the goal. I mean, I’m just getting going. This is what I’ve worked my whole life for, I’m not gonna fuck it up. I’m gonna go down in a blaze of glory!