It is not often that we are exposed to an artist, or group of artists that are caught at the early stages of what seems like will be a long and fruitful career. The Australian twin duo Cosmo's Midnight have been making music for a few years they have only just let out a showcase of their laid back ability with Surge. In order to broadcast the duo's hard work they have allowed us to premiere their debut EP (Surge) along with an interview to give Cosmo and Pat an artistic and palpable persona.
While Surge is only fourteen minutes long, its four songs manage to flow together nearly interchangeably as lush textures provide a background for arched melodies to grow off of. In a way the EP seems like an extended track that focuses around their debut single "Phantasm" as it can be hard to really point out major transitions.
"Phantasm" was released in April to wide-spread acclaim online, which built a sense of hype around the duo with its familiarly interesting take on what comes off as a chilled out electro pop. However, if there was an expectation that the EP would all be styled the same as their single listeners will be in for a surprise.
As a whole the EP's other tracks stray away from the pop-esque sound that are carried by Nicole Millar's vocals. Instead they maintain the same form of backing with an ambient-foundation to build off of. For Instance, the track "Surge" is built around a heavy rhythm and eludes to the following track ("Phantasm"). Throughout "Surge" maintains a level panning tone, where vocals can be lost in the overall wave-like textures that build ambience throughout. "Surge" paints a good picture of the direction that is travelled in the latter half of the EP.
Just after the "Phantasm" the listener is introduced to"Lover's Shadow" and "Won't You Stay" which blend together very nicely, as they stick to a pattern of open-ended eerie breaks and more melodic hooks. In "Lover's Shadow" chopped up synth grooves flourish with a rhythmic backing to support weightless chord progressions."Won't You Stay" takes on an airy vibe, as the only weighted element is the backend of the beat, that is lead by shifting off-beat snare. Throughout the built-up segments, claps provide a reference of tempo and direction, from what could otherwise be lost through the ambient moments.
When reflecting back on the EP the question of where the Aussie's will go from here comes into question. Pick up the entire Surge EP for free from BandCamphere.
(The song and video mentioned in the interview are included in order of discussion for reference.)
EARMILK: We have to ask, since you guys are identical, since you guys are nearly identical twins, what is the best way to tell you apart?
Patt: When we were younger no one could really tell the difference, but now we've sort of come into our own-I suppose you could say. But the main difference between me and Cos is that everyone seems to think that I have a longer face and I've got a crook in my nose-this bump thing.
Cos: We're both scraggly and we've both got crazy hair. This isn't what I'd say, this is what other people say--I don't analyze.
Patt: Some people can just get it and some just can't.
Cos: I've actually had a mate for about 8 years that still can't tell us apart.
EM: Have you ever been to Earmilk before?
Cos: Yes plenty. I actually heard of you guys a few years ago as a source of tunage.
Patt: I used to work with this dude-I can't remember what his name is, but I used to teach him stuff on Ableton and I ended up seeing him on Earmilk with a massive following. He makes like trap, I can't remember his name though…
Cos: Like CRNKN, with all of the vowels taken out, kind of like TNGHT.
EM: In relating to other artists, who does Cosmo's Midnight draw influence from?
Cos: This is like that question that you always get asked and you you're like 'ugh.' I don't know--you kind of listen to all of the stuff in your iTunes and you get little bits of everything. If I was to narrow it down from a bunch of artists everyone says Flying Lotus. It kind of seems like a staple because he kind of is a go to.
Patt: I don't like to say Purity Ring that much because we always get our track "Phantasm" compared to Purity Ring.
Cos: I get the connections but I also think that if we didn't say that our influence was Purity Ring that people wouldn't notice that it sounds like it at all.
Patt: But it was somewhat influenced by their earlier stuff.
Cos: We go into the world of disco and stuff. We started making nu-disco back in the day—we made remixes of that French girl Yelle. We did Metronomy remixes and stuff like that. We started getting all 'chordal' and such—chord progressions from Chic and Donna Summers, so we have a lot of jazzy chords, but I try not to sound wankey.
EM: What kind of music do you incorporate into your live shows? It is more of a DJ set, or how do you transition to original material?
Patt: We have only played one live show yet and we tried to find our way to make it work. For the first show we returned no money starting off, but in our live show we played only originals. What we do is have all of our songs mapped in Ableton so that we can trigger sequences in each song—kind of like stem-mixing, if anyone knows what that is. That worked well but it wasn't as live as we wanted. Me and Cosmo had a Novation Launchpad, like Madeon's. We only borrowed off a mate for the show. In that show Cos was playing the drums on the Launchpad and choosing samples, while I was doing the overall stem control on the APC 40. Just a couple of weeks ago we bought the Akai MPK25, a keyboard with a drum pad on it.
Cos: I feel that button pushing was a step up from DJing and now you got to do something else apart from that because I feel that people are getting tired of that as well. You may have heard of Flume, he is a bit of a household name is Australia, but he came to fame so quickly that he didn't have much time to develop a live set, which I think is a bit of a sad thing. We kind of want to have something that can be a bit more engaging because we don't want to fist pump and let the computer do the work.
Patt: It's rewarding as well, if you fuck up it feels bad, but if you get it right it's like ten times more of a high.
Cos: Yeah, it's like the risk of making a mistake is all part of it. One thing we are not sure of yet is if we should play each song individually—play or song and stop and say "That's our number" and then we'll play the next song, or kind of do a seamless transition between songs. I think that comes down to what the crowd wants, or the venue.
Patt: We definitely want to go for a more live sound—well not a live sound, but more live instruments I suppose.
EM: Do you have a favorite remix from the one's that you have put out?
Patt: The remix we did of Flying Lotus' "See Through To U" is kind of my favorite one. When I first watched the trailer for the album I immediately realized that I had to remix the song. Then I heard the full length and it was perfect. I don't really know how to describe it--exotic and weird at the same time. Thought that it would be good with a deep house vibe. We cranked that one at our last live show and people really liked it. We get a bit of mixed responses from Flylo purists "you just did this to cash in on the flylo hype." I just did it for myself really because I heard the potential of what I wanted it to--what I heard when I listen to the teaser. I imaged it going in a different direction and it didn't go in the direction that I wanted it to go in. I kind of just took it and made it as I wanted it to sound--without sounding douche--but that's how I envisioned it when I made it.
Cos: That's pretty much how we go about making any of our remixes. It's like an idea that we heard in the song that we would have preferred to have gone a different way and we are just trying to make the song how we would have done it. I think that is what a lot of remix artists do actually--give it a bait so it can be a good club banger. I don't want to compare ourselves to Justice, but when Justice would make a remix you couldn't really tie it in to the original one really, like "We Are Your Friends" which is nothing like the original at all. They keep the core idea, which is what we try to do with our remixes.
Patt: Our remix of Yelle was pretty fun to do. We used a ton of live instrumentation. That's back when we were Cosmo&Paatt, like two years ago.
Cosmo: We used to make very different music if you haven't heard any of it before; prog. house, dubstep and glitch hop. We just made whatever we'd feel like because we didn't have a manager and we didn't have any direction, so we just made music for the sake of it. Cosmo's midnight was a way of narrowing down our sound and getting a bit of focus really. We've got some tracks coming out that if you could compare to anything I would say Cashmere Cat, but I don't even know what you would call Cashmere Cat's style.
EM: We love your track "Phantasm" over at Earmilk, how has the track done in Australia?
Cos: It has gotten good play on Triple J. A mixture of Triple J and TV spins is what gave it a bit of a boost. There is a rock guy called Majestik, who is on a bit of a rise, who has been posting our stuff. I actually find that a lot of our followers are actually in the states. When we look at our stats on Facebook and SoundCloud it is something like 70% in America.
Patt: I don't think it is that much, more like 55, but more than half so it is pretty ridiculous--maybe it's college radio.
EM: Did you guys have any say in the video? Do you happen to know who the featured girl is?
Patt: Yeah, she is a friend of ours and we asked if she was willing to get in the pool. It happed to be on one of the coldest days of the year so far (laughs) and she did that for us. We were inside and it was raining while she was in the pool filming. She was more then willing and we were more than appreciative. The idea we had was originally for another song, but we decided to make it for "Phantasm" would be better. Cosmo is good at coming up ideas for music, he will listen to a song and image a movie sequence. It shot in like an hour and editing was done in the same week. The pool looks really sunny and nice because we were shining lights into the pool, when it reality I wouldn't want to go near it.
EM: With a new EP out in the near future, would you care to walk me through your process of creating music? Is everything a joint effort, or do you both work on different things?
Patt: A lot of the times it would be one of our ideas and it will be back and forth until we decide to sit down together and finish the track. "Phantasm" started with an arc and I liked it and came up with the beginning chords for the first half and Cos wrote the chords for the second half. That is usually how a song works out. Sometimes Cos writes pretty much all of it and sometimes I'll write a whole track as well.
Cos: In terms of the creative flow of it all, we can make a track in a day, or months. It is completely dictated by inspiration at the time. Sometimes it is depressing--you'll open up Ableton and click on it and look at it again and say "I got nothing" and another time you'll look at it and write out an entire song.
Patt: Sometimes you will sit down and write out a song in eight hours into the early morning.
Cos: For this EP we had two tracks done in March last year and decided to scrap them because we didn't like them anymore and we had to make two more. Then we had two tracks that were three quarters of the way done, kind of like having an essay due and having to write something, or you're done. I'm happy with the result of the EP.
Patt: It's kind of funny because we never really wrote any of the songs with thematic content in mind, but after we finished it, it kind of flowed into this watery content. It's kind of got this underwater feel.
Cos: I hope that people can pick out the framing. It is not particularly ambitious but I hope that it doesn't feel safe either. We just hope people like it. It is like half a year of hard work. Well not hard work, more like on and off work.
EM: What would you like the public to take away from the release?
Patt: That it doesn't feel like anything that has been done.
Cos: That it isn't too samey to other outfits out there. We want to encapsulate our sound—we want people to say "that's Cosmo's midnight." We want people to look back to the EP and say that was the beginning of Cosmos' sound.
Patt: I hope they can be rewarded on repeat listens, instead of listening to it only a couple of times. I hope that each time they hear it that they can pick up on nuances that took ages. I feel that one of the most important things in music is that it is timeless. There are songs that I wrote years ago and they are nostalgic to me. If you listen to it and it brings back a time and place and emotion then it is timeless to me.
Cos: I hope that people can associate it with something like a feeling. One of the reasons that we changed to Cosmo's Midnight was that we wanted to make music that gave people a feel or emotion, or just something that was a little less…
Patt: Face value—less superficial—if anything Cosmo&Paatt taught me how to polish tracks because I spent so much time making run of the mill electro. You really have to refine and polish your sound because no one even cares about our mix music, they want something professional.