In December 2016, a man and his rescue dog drove out to Joshua Tree in the Southern California Desert.
Armed with a guitar and “a shitty 10-year-old laptop,” this mohawked troubadour spent two weeks screaming into a microphone at two in the morning and bleeding all over the guitar strings in between walking his dog under the cool arid night sky and barely sleeping at the “weird house” he rented.
That man was Mondo Cozmo (the dog just goes by Cozmo, and he may have some wolf and raccoon in his DNA). They left the desert with the artist’s 2017 full-length debut, Plastic Soul [Republic Records], in tow.
Let’s rewind to what got our hero to this point…
“When ‘Shine’ was about to hit #1 on AAA radio, the label called me and said, ‘Can you turn in a full-length album?’,” he recalls. “I was like, ‘Awesome, yes!’ They asked, ‘Can you do it in two weeks?’ I said, ‘Fuck you’,” he laughs.
Everything changed for Mondo Cozmo in 2016. Born in Philadelphia and now based in East Los Angeles, he quit his two landscaping jobs, raised a big middle finger to all opposition, and began releasing songs that could’ve been cut under the influence of a “Champagne Supernova” inside a Seattle warehouse if this were the nineties…but it’s not. A disciple of Beck, Eddie Vedder, and Keith Richards, the song “Shine” introduced this tattooed underground pop outlier to audiences at large.
Not only did “Shine” break at multiple radio formats, but it racked up millions of Spotify streams with NPR hailing it among “Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing in 2016.” He shot a heart-wrenching video for “Hold On To Me” with Anna Faris at a senior citizens home (Faris’s husband Chris Pratt told him not to sign a deal). He sold out the Troubadour in Los Angeles in under five days followed by sell outs in New York and Philadelphia.In fact, every headlining show he has played he has sold out. He lit up 10 shows at SXSW 2017—“Whatever asshole booked those like that was trying to kill me.” He joined Bastille on their arena tour—“It’s unbelievable. I wouldn’t even be able to afford tickets to this fucking thing if I wasn’t playing.” He made his late-night television debut on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! backed by a full choir, and he landed acclaim from Entertainment Weekly, Consequence of Sound,Clash, The Line Of Best Bit, and more.
However, Mondo Cozmo remains Mondo Cozmo. Punk as fuck to the core, he did things like give away three hundred shirts for free one night because the merch company fucked up and the name was spelled wrong. He distributed a demo version of the album’s title track “Plastic Soul” by encouraging fans on Instagram to email his lawyer at [email protected] He started a hotline 1-866-MONDO-COZMO at which Kimmel even left a message.
He did it all by deconstructing everything you know and reconstructing it with a rawness the world hasn’t felt since Pearl Jam’s Vs. or Springsteen’s Born To Run. That’s Plastic Soul.
“I went into the studio after releasing a couple of singles,” he goes on. “I had laser focus. I gauged what people were reacting to. I didn’t want to just make a record and hope it went well. I knew exactly what I was going to make. That’s how it came together in two weeks. Those first songs were written when I was in a dark place. There’s always been a little bit of hope though—constantly looking into the future that things will be different.”
About the new songs, he reveals:
“Automatic”: “It’s a big fucking tune. I think it’s going to take over the world. It was all stream-of-consciousness.”
“River”: “It’s almost like a Beck falsetto moment. There’s no guitar just weird organ and dumb drum beats.”
“Come With Me”: “It’s probably my favorite vocal pass.”
Plastic Soul is Mondo Cozmo.
It’s painful. It’s pissed-off. It’s poetic. It’s passionate. It’s powerful.
“I hope people feel alive when they hear the record,” he leaves off. “That’s it. Ultimately, I don’t know where this thing is going, but it’s going to Virginia tonight…”