Posted by: Addison – Jun 29, 2012
Leave it to California’s Cosmonauts to reach their orbit without the aid of rocket fuel, the Russian Federal Space Agency, or scientific reasoning. Rather, the band achieves lift-off with the aid of a somewhat more common set of supplies – guitars, drums, an ID card that allows for the purchase of medical-grade supplies at a range of dispensaries, and most important, the love and desire to use and abuse all three of these supplies until they reach the breaking point.
Reaching that breaking point has been something the band has done with remarkable consistency on a variety of releases. A self-titled cassette out on the always-tasty Burger Records provided the initial launch-pad, while last year’s impossibly insane New Psychic Denim EP crushed like a meteor shower, and left you equally unclean.
Yet the most powerful explosions are yet to come, as evidenced by the band’s most recent full-length, If You Wanna Die, Then I Wanna Die. If reading the album title alone has you feeling sinister, go off and see a minister – because you don’t have a prayer of surviving Cosmonauts’ explorations like “Motorcycle #1″ and “Super Reverb.”
We were fortunate enough to catch two Cosmonauts – guitarist/vocalist Alex Ahmadi and fellow guitarist/vocalist Derek Cowart – on a rare moment when gravity has them stuck on earth, and we interviewed them in anticipation of their appearance at Austin Psych Fest 2012 [...which has since occurred -ed.]. Enjoy.
Are all of the Cosmonauts from California originally? How, if at all, do you think being from California has influenced your music? Were there any local or semi-local bands of note that compelled you to move forward with the Cosmonauts, either prior to your formation or after? What is the most positive thing, musically or socially, about being from your part of California?
Derek: We’re all from California originally, but none of us can surf or skate. So, I guess we’re pretty bad at being Californians. We live by Burger Records in Fullerton and share a lockout with Audacity – those are probably the most compelling locals.
Alex: And they’re way more into all that X-Games shit. But I bet California’s influenced us more than we know. Not the music as much, but just growing up in Orange County where we always get to wear t-shirts. There hasn’t been this much music happening in Orange County since the 80s, y’know, with Burger Records, Audacity, The Growlers and everything. And I really dig what’s going on in San Francisco right now. We’re like twenty minutes from Los Angeles, but I don’t care about much shit there. There are some rad bands though, like Dirt Dress, The Meek, Tijuana Panthers, Sleeping Bags, and Pangea.
Speaking of the Bear State, what can you tell us about the origin of the song “T.V. California” from your self-titled album, one of the shortest and most hyper-charged songs on an album full of hyper-charged songs? What are your overall thoughts on this album now that some time has passed? How likely are you to go back and listen to older Cosmonaut songs in general?
Derek: When we started with “T.V. California,” it was a slower song, maybe the slowest. Eventually, we played it as fast as we could, just as a joke. We liked it better that way.
Alex: Yeah, our drummer at the time just did it once like that, and figured it sounded cooler. And I don’t listen to them that much. Once in a while when I’m stoned in traffic I’ll listen to the tapes.
The songs on New Psychic Denim are – to our ears – slightly more insane even than those on its predecessor. The vocals on the title track are straight out of a mental institution – but what is the song about? Do these new psychic denim jeans make my ass look fat? How much was the song title “Flower Bomb” influenced by the Hawkwind classic “Urban Guerrilla” (“So let’s not talk of peace and flowers/And things that don’t explode”), and if the answer is “not at all” … why not?
Alex: I guess New Psychic Denim is about mean girls and drugs. But mostly about how much of a dick everyone is.
Derek: “Flowerbomb” has more to do with motorcycles and perfume than it does with Hawkwind.
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what is your favorite Beach Boys song and why?
Alex: Royal Baths new stuff sounds great, and also our friends Tomorrow’s Tulips have a great record out now that’s some of the best beach/fuzz/drug/pop I’ve ever heard. And as far as the Beach Boys, “Don’t Worry Baby” might be it. It’s about a dude’s girlfriend giving him the courage to race his car. Real nostalgic shit.
Derek: Been listening to anything I can get my hands on. I just got some Ringo Deathstarr – hope to catch them when we’re in Austin and see what they’re about.
Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that we are attempting to start right now) that you will actually not take the stage at Austin Psych Fest this year, but will instead operate a food cart in the vendor area, selling roasted peanuts, cashews, and almonds, called “Cosmo Nuts”?
Alex: Not really.
How did you first hear of Austin Psych Fest? Are there any bands sharing the bill that you have not seen before that you are particularly excited to try and catch live?
Derek: The Brian Jonestown Massacre. I’m stoked for them.
Alex: Likewise, also The Telescopes. I’m hoping they play a loud set. A lot of psych music nowadays is ultra-sterile and really fucking boring. I get real turned off to bands when they jack-off with a delay pedal or whatever. That’s definitely a problem with a buncha L.A. psych bands currently.
What has been the most surprising thing about your experience in the Cosmonauts thus far? What have you learned about life in general – that you didn’t know before – from playing together with this band?
Alex: I learned that Californian weather and girls from Texas are babes.
The first human in space (aside from Sky Saxon) was of course a Cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin, though perhaps more spacey was our old friend “Wild” William Burroughs, who once said the following:
“In my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas… a cosmonaut of inner space, and I see no point in exploring areas that have already been thoroughly surveyed.”
Derek: Let’s make maps.
Alex: Ha, I wish more bands read that quote and took it to heart. Just earlier today, Derek and I were talkin’ about some of the bands we saw at SXSW last week, and how they are just regurgitating the same “relevant” shit as everybody else. But I totally agree – there’s no point in “exploring” areas of music that have already been discovered. I realized that when I was sixteen years old and quit my high school band that sounded like Rage Against The Machine. I’m just shocked sometimes by people who are older than me (I’m 21) that have yet to realize the same thing.
What’s next for Cosmonauts?
Alex: We’ve got our second full-length LP, If You Wanna Die Then I Wanna Die, coming out this April, 2012, on Burger Records, and a 7″ EP of even newer stuff being released by The Reverberation Appreciation Society. That’s gonna be titled Lazerbeam and released in April as well. We’ll be touring with Night Beats after Austin Psych Fest this year. So if you live in the Southwest or on the West Coast, look out for us. And also we plan on touring Europe within a year or so – we’ve been getting hit up by a handful of European booking agencies recently, and have also released a couple of 7″ singles over there. You can expect national touring and more vinyl from us this year, so pay attention.
By Ryan Muldoon/originally appeared at revoltoftheapes.com