I Am the Cosmos have been active for a few years now; first as an outlet for Cian Murphy and now as a duo consisting of Murphy and Ross Turner. The pai have made steady progress this year since releasing their propulsive debut album, Monochrome, in January. As Turner states in the interview below, the band have largely eschewed media and playing live but will perform at Dublin’s Twisted Pepper on Saturday night (21st December) to celebrate the end of a successful year.
Monochrome was first released back in January, so what has the reaction been like? And how do you feel about the album having had almost a year to reflect on it?
We’re happy with the reaction and still proud of what we produced. The album has been more of a word of mouth thing because we didn’t really do a press campaign or force it down peoples throats. A positive also that people are still coming to it and liking it when the turnover of new music is so short-lived these days.
What have been the highlights and lowlights for I Am the Cosmos in 2013?
We signed a publishing deal with Faber Music in October, conducted mainly through an industry legend James Endeacott, he signed the Strokes and the Libertines to Rough Trade. A great man and very flattering to have him approach us. We’ve been working on new material in the National Concert Hall since the summer, as part of a residency scheme, which has been pretty amazing. Cian and I have a motto “No guilt, no regrets”, so we can’t look back on the year in a negative light. We will, however, do things differently next time around.
I got to see you at Forbidden Fruit. It was a great set that turned me back onto the album, but were you disappointed by early daytime slot you were given?
No, we were thrilled to play the main stage. To hear our songs on that scale was amazing, it was fun. Playing live was something we didn’t really want to do too much, but it seems to have an impact on people.
Yourselves, Solar Bears and Lasertom are part of some loose coalition of Irish electronic musicians. How do you feel the “scene” has developed over the past, say, five years?
That list could go on for days… everyone is trying to help each other out. There has been a rich electronic output from Ireland for years. I think now bands, musicians are way more savvy when it comes to putting themselves out there and the resources are more direct. You can do it all from your laptop … make the music, post it online, contact labels-managers, network. That’s not to take away from the talent of those around at the moment. There is some incredible music coming from Ireland. We asked Terrierz to support us in Twisted Pepper; those guys are making some particularly deep music.
We have made some dear friends through bonding over a shared path. Cian and I really want to utilise the super talented bunch of friends we have for our next album.
You’ve been very clear in the past about the influence of Mariah’s ‘Shinzo No Tobira’ on I Am the Cosmos’ sound, what is it about that song that appealed to you?
Straight away we were drawn to it and still are. There is an emotive weight to it while pulling you along ’til the end. The singer is Iranian, the band Japanese but the fact we can’t understand the lyrics doesn’t matter. I believe every note sung. I guess it had all the elements we love too – live playing, synthesizers, an outstanding bass sound, great arrangement, unpredictable vocals.
From Mariah to Yves Klein’s brand of minimalism, you’ve been vocal about what sounds and ideas have influenced Monochrome. Are these ideas ingrained in the band, or do you think you will change up with ease going forward?
We will retain those ideas for sure but we won’t repeat those themes. Naturally we’ll be into different things. It’s important to find new inspirations. I haven’t been able to get past Nick Cave and Tom Waits this past year [and I’m] interested to see where or when that influence will pop up. Cian is a sponge and always has something thought provoking on his mind.
The record is largely analogue. Will you continue to record that way?
Wel,l the way things are going, yes; I think less synthesizer and programming for sure. We’re working with Neil O’ Conner (Somadrone) on the album too. It’s exciting. He is a Doctor of music!
What is dance music without an emotional core?
Everyone reads it in different ways I guess. Some want the uplifting peaks and troughs of straight up techno or some want the lost, lonely vocal of broken heart disco.
Is a dancefloor an inherently sad place to be?
There can be an isolation to the dance floor. If you’re really engaging the music being played you can get completely lost in that. You might be surrounded by people but its down to you and the music. It can be a very happy place and mostly is I think. We just like the sadness in dance music sometimes.
‘Esque’ rather stands out, thanks to Daniel McAuley’s vocal. Was there any significance behind featuring such an uncharacteristic song on the album?
We wanted to get Dan in on something, he is a mind blowing singer and that performance is incredible. We had that song and wanted to include it no matter of its variation in relation to the tracks. A lot of people remark on that track, it has been quite divisive. We’ve been making more tracks with Dan in mind, which are very different from ‘Esque’. Glossy pop.
What can people expect from the Twisted Pepper gig? Any new material to air?
We’re actually doing ‘Esque’ for the first time live with Dan. We’ll be playing two unreleased tracks also.
Image by Dorje De Burgh