Buzz band Mondo Cozmo aka Josh Ostrander has always had the gift for writing songs. He's been is bands since middle school. When inspiration hits, he writes them quick and fast. When the video shot with actor Paz De La Heurta for his song “Sixes And Sevens" did not feel right, he just wrote a whole new song. The result was “Higher” with it’s Hot Chip-like dancey backbeat, and elation with finally making it big. He sings: “Girl, we go higher and higher. But after tonight girl, I ain’t gonna work no more.”
When he performed that song live, at his first-ever headlining show at The Troubadour, the absolute glee and euphoria of those words were palpable. Ostrander was in his band, Eastern Conference Champions for more than a decade but the struggle to ‘make it,’ eventually forced him to walk away from it all.
In a gutsy move, when he eventually felt ready to get back on the horse, he headed straight for the record label that dropped him, early on in his career. They gave him the opportunity to record a solo EP, however, thanks to “Shine’s” steady rise up the radio charts; the label has fast-tracked him, straight to a full debut album release, slated for this Summer.
After the experience with ECC’s mouthful of a name, he came up with the moniker, Mondo Cozmo as the name fit perfectly on a t-shirt. It was inspired by his dog Cozmo and the dark, bizarre John Waters comedy, Mondo Trasho.
Currently, playing arenas and opening for Brit band, Bastille, we caught up with Ostrander ahead of his Bay Area show, this weekend at the Greek Theatre. He chatted about how ECC’s songs are getting a second lease of life; why auditioning for a new band was nerve wrecking for him; and how humbled he was with Anna Faris, who stars in his video, “Hold On To Me.”
AXS: I read a Facebook post of yours ahead of your sold out Mercury Lounge show where you said ‘How many times have you opened up for shit bands at the Mercury Lounge? Not tonight, it’s me!’ It gave me a quick glimpse into your journey as an artist. Through it all, have you ever thought why bother?
Josh Ostrander: You know I felt bad about saying ‘shit bands.’ But I won’t lie; being able to headline the Mercury Lounge or the Troubadour after all this time, it is really special. Writing songs it’s the only thing I know. Now, when I go into these meetings with the label, and they say ‘how do you come up with these songs so quickly?’ The only way I come up with my ideas is that I’ve done it for 15 years! And I’m proud of that. I’m not going to shy away about my age. Or how long I’ve been doing this. I put my time in: This is my fu*king time.
AXS: It’s indefensible that I’d never heard of ECC but I had a chance to check out some music videos on Youtube, and you guys were really good with some great songs. What happened there?
JO: I don’t know. I am excited that people are now re-discovering ECC. We had a lot of really good songs. We got a call the other day from a TV show that wanted to sync one of our old songs. You know it just came out of the blue; I thought, ‘I bet somebody heard Mondo Cozmo and recognized my voice;’
AXS: How long after pulling the plug for EEC, did you start writing again – as it must have been quite a conflicted and painful time for you?
JO: I never stopped writing. I took a minute though… my goal was always to come up with a recording project where I could just release music. Mondo Cozmo... it just happened, so quickly. Thanks to “Shine” doing so well on the radio charts, the label asked if I had a full-length, I said ‘yeah.’ One of my stupid gifts is to write dumb songs, really fast. Then they said ‘can you do it in two weeks?’ and I was like ‘holy shit! But yeah I can.’ So I went out and rented a house in Joshua Tree and it was done.
AXS: How did you get Anna Faris to be in the video for “Hold On To Me” which is a stunning song?
JO: We were going to ask Anna to do the video for “Shine” but my wife, Aria (Pullman) said ‘you should ask Anna to do the video for ‘Hold On To Me.’ That was one of the coolest experiences of my life, filming that video. There was no script. Everybody there doing it for zero dollars; they just wanted to be a part of it.
AXS: You had no script – you must have had some idea of what it was going to be about?
JO: I just wanted Anna to do a dance video. I grew up in Philly. My buddy Corey and I, grew up in a retirement facility, he was my neighbor and is now a director. He said ‘why don’t we go back to that time and get Anna to dance with old people?’ I loved that. So I brought the idea to Anna and she said ‘I’ll do anything you want me to;' she didn’t care. She is such a pro. You meet people that have had the careers like she’s had; they are such professionals but also, so nice. She rolled the dice. I was a nobody at the time.
AXS: What was it exactly about the Paz de La Huerta video that was shot, that made you have second thoughts and write a completely new song?
JO: A lot of it was that it just didn’t really match up. We shot it for a song called “Sixes And Sevens.”
AXS: It’s more like a punk rock song?
JO: Yeah, it’s kind of punk. It just didn’t translate to that. Everyone that saw it was like ‘this is cool but it’s not right.’ I was like ‘well, I’ll just write a new song.’ So the next day, I was like ‘try this?’ So we loaded it in and it was like ‘wow, this is actually perfect.’ That’s cool we shot the video before we had the song. (laughs) It’s amazing. How cool is that?
AXS: The Mondo Cozmo live shows have renewed your love for performing, in the past it was the recording that you would have leant towards, what do you think changed?
JO: I was dreading hiring musicians. I had to do auditions cause I didn’t have a band. And I come from such a band world, I know what that’s all about… I think it’s so cool that the thing that I was dreading the most, turned out to be the most satisfying. Playing these songs live with these guys I’ve now surrounded myself with; it’s been truly amazing.
For tickets to Mondo Cozmo, opening for Bastille at the Greek Theatre, in Berkeley on April 23, please click here.
Mondo Cozmo 2017 Tour Dates
April 23 — Berkeley, CA — Greek Theatre *
April 25 — Portland, OR — Keller Auditorium *
April 26 — Seattle, WA — WaMu Theater *
April 27 — Vancouver, Canada — UBC *
April 29 — Boise, ID — Taco Bell Arena *
April 30 — Bozeman, MT — Theater at the Brick Breeden Field House *
May 2 — Omaha, NE — Orpheum Theatre *
May 3 — Clive, IA — 7 Flags Event Center *
May 5 — Nashville, TN — Ascend Amphitheater *
May 6 — Charlotte, NC — Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre *
May 7 — St Augustine, FL — St Augustine Amphitheatre *
May 9 — Orlando, FL — Orlando Amphitheater at the Central Florida Fair *
May 10 — Atlanta, GA — Fox Theater *
May 12 — Raleigh, NC — Red Hat Amphitheater *
May 13 — Atlanta, GA — Shaky Knees Music Festival
May 20 — Gulf Shores, AL — Hangout Festival
May 26 — George, WA — Sasquatch
May 28 — Boston, MA — Boston Calling
May 30 — Burlington, VT — Higher Ground Ballroom
June 2 — Syracuse, NY — The Lost Horizon
June 4 — New York, NY — Governors Ball Music Festival
June 6 — Covington, KY — Madison Live!
June 8 — Manchester, TN — Bonnaroo
June 15 — Dover, DE — Firefly Music Festival
June 14 — Louisville, KY — Forecastle Festival
July 29 — Detroit, MI — MO POP FESTIVAL
Aug. 4 — Chicago, IL — Lollapalooza
Sept. 26 — Los Angeles, CA — El Rey Theatre (Grab tickets here)
* = with Bastille