INTERVIEW: Cosmo’s Midnight

In 2018 Cosmo’s Midnight introduced themselves to the world as two of Australia’s most exciting new producers with their debut album ‘What Comes Next’. And in 2020 they’ve altered that narrative and claimed their own artistry as musicians with a deeply personal and cohesive collection of tracks that re-introduces themselves to listeners in a bold and definitive light. 

The Sydney based singer, songwriter, production and twin-brother duo have not only opened their hearts lyrically on ‘Yesteryear’, but they’ve also found their voices as artists and built a cohesive and immersive body of work that glides through a disco sonic. Layered with live instrumentation, they’ve found a way to fuse their electronic roots with a sound that is easily adaptable into their live show that they play completely live. 

I recently chatted to Cosmo Liney from Cosmo’s Midnight about creating something that has been dubbed their “most personal work yet”, discussed the most surprising collaborations they’ve done, and explored the creative processes behind ‘Unwind’, ‘We Could Last Forever’ and ‘A Million Times’. Check it out HERE; 

THOMAS BLEACH: Yesteryear’ is a really cohesive body of work that also doubles as your most personal collection of tracks yet. To get to where it is now, what did those early sessions for this album look like? Were you in-between touring, or did you take some secluded time to think of the next step? 

COSMO LINEY: Basically we finished off our first album and then we were heavily touring it for around two years. So towards the end of that album cycle we started writing demos for this new record. Even when we were in Europe doing some shows over there we were writing some of the demos, like ‘The Get Down’ and ‘Time Wasted’ which were both done in London. 

We are always working on demos while we are on tour, but at that time we didn’t really have another album in mind. But come January last year, we had just got back from a lovely New Years with some friends down in Wollongong, and we were at our studio in Redfern having a few drinks when we picked up our instruments and stated writing ‘C.U.D.I (Can U Dig It)’. Once we finished that song it felt like it was the beginning of a new project and that slowly morphed into what ‘Yesteryear’ became. ‘C.U.D.I (Can U Dig It)’ spearheaded the whole thing. 

TB: The phrase “most personal collection yet” has been thrown around a lot in reference to ‘Yesteryear’ in reviews and interviews so far. So reflecting on these songs, what would you say is the most personal moment on it for you? 

CL: I feel like it’s not just personal in the sense of what the messages are, but this is also the first time we’ve been so personably involved in the project in the sense that we had very few collaborative sessions. A lot of this stuff was written just me and Pat, which made the whole experience feel more personal as we had full control over the whole project which is something that is relatively new to us after being producers first and foremost, and finding topliners to finish off songs that would be singles.

For Pat, learning to topline was a huge growth, and I think the first song that we did for a topline was ‘Time Wasted’. So even though that song is a deep cut, it is actually the first song Pat wrote on. And looking back on it all, I think throughout this time we’ve also matured as people as we find our feet, and we’ve both even moved out of home. It’s been a real coming of age.

The first album was a big statement for us as it was a definitive “Here we are! We are musicians, and we can make an album”. Whereas this one was led by the conversation “how do we want to be perceived in the future? Do we wanna be known as producers or as singers and songwriters?”. And that’s why we moved into this next album with being more self involved with the process. 

TB: Do you also think playing so many live shows, and finding your groove onstage has influenced this new direction? 

CL: Absolutely! Because we used to write everything with just a mouse and keyboard, we were relatively new to the process of performing with live instrumentation. Even though Pat and I are somewhat trained musicians we weren’t really up to scratch when it came to performing in front of people. So I think over the process of touring the last album we really started to enjoy how the combination of live instruments and the digital background of our music can combine together which influenced the progression of this new album. 

TB: Are there any songs on the album where Pat is singing the vocals that you nearly had a collaborator on instead? 

CL: Honestly, early on a lot of the demos had Pat singing on them but we weren’t sure if he was going to sing on the actual record at all. We had a lot of demos and we shopped them around, and I feel like it puts a lot of pressure on people to finish an idea on an already progressed demo. It’s interesting because when you are working with a collaborator overseas, you will most of the time do it all over emails, which is one of the most unnatural ways to collaborate. You can’t really bounce off each other and instead are just sending off finished ideas, it’s really frustrating for both parties involved. 

So for this album we acknowledged that we had done the whole collaborative thing before, and that we’ve both sung in the past, so we decided to immerse ourselves in the process more, and have full control of the project. It happened quite naturally. 

TB: The Collaborators you do have on this album include Matthew Young, ASL, Stevan and Ruel. What was the most surprising collaboration session for you on the record? – like was there a song or sound you didn’t expect to make with someone in particular?

CL: When we worked with ASL we really had no idea what we were in for. Like, we knew that they were a really prolific songwriting team and were responsible for a lot of pop hits in America, so that had us second guessing what they were going to want to listen to and create. But they were honestly both the most flexible and professional people I’ve ever met. 

One of them is Shungudzo Kuyimba who is responsible for the majority of the new Jessie Ware album, so I had a lot of respect for her after that album came out. When we wrote our track ‘Have It All’ together, it came about so quickly and naturally because they can read the room of any song or vibe put in front of them. So that session for us was just a bunch of light bulbs going off for everybody. There was no real debate about how it was going to be put together, we just created the track and they sang over it, and it was almost all done in one day. It was very natural in comparison to some of collaborations that were more painstaking like the Ruel one where we couldn’t figure out how we were going to make the track work around his vocal. We went through 5 or 6 iterations before we got to the one that you hear now on the album. 

TB: ’Unwind’ opens the album with this psychedelic meets disco crossover, while ‘We Could Last Forever’ then closes out the album in full groovy disco mode. Why did these two tracks feel like the natural openers and closers for the album?

CL: We really wanted to bookend the album and think about the structure a lot more because we were going through a lot of different vibes whether it be more dancefloor beats like ‘Unwind’, ‘Yesteryear’ and ‘We Could Last Forever’, but the songs do take you on a journey and we wanted to make sure that it didn’t lose momentum by the time it got to the end. 

We really wanted to have a big sense of disco on this album because I feel like we slowly started to move into other genres like funk, psychedelic and ballad music. So we made sure that there wasn’t a loss of cohesion as we were going through the record. We kinda tracklisted in this way that it felt like a narrative where you started with this big exciting moment, and then you get led on this journey of all these tracks, and then end on one of those credit rolling moments. 

TB: ’A Million Times’ immediately stood out to me on the record an cohesively sits so strongly in-between ‘Ice’ and ‘Down For You’. Could you explain how it creatively came together? 

CL: With ‘A Million Times’ it felt like a really long writing process too. We were really struggling to switch together the structure of the track. We had this really strong middle 8, and that was all we had written. It sounded like it was just in the middle of a song, so we had to figure out reverse it and turn the whole track around. So it was kinda about us slowly coming up with verse, chorus and the little pre-choruses. 

We were actually working on that with Jarrah from Panama who is a very competent pianist. He was like; “I have this amazing transition chord, and it’s going to help you get in-between these”. So we were like “okay, hit us”, and it seriously helped us gel those moments together. 

Another thing that was new to us was Pat singing a crazy falsetto for the whole song. He was questioning whether he was going to be able to do it live because it’s just so high and consistent throughout the whole track. So when it came to us doing our live stream show last week, he literally just practiced that song religiously in the weeks leading up because he was like if he could nail that song then he could do the whole record. 

TB: A few weeks ago you performed the album in it’s entirety minus ‘The Get Down’ at The High Garden Sydney Rooftop. From envisioning this album in a live context, what song was the most difficult to bring to life?

CL: I would say the ones that are the hardest to bring to life are the ones that are leaning more into the electronic production opposed to the more instrumental songs. So songs like ‘C.U.D.I (Can U Dig It)’ and ‘Unwind’ are examples of that. 

One of the reasons that we didn’t do ‘The Get Down’ was because we were having trouble making it feel like it was sitting properly. When we were playing it, it felt like we were covering our own music, and it didn’t feel like a good live translation of the album. 

TB: Now before you go, I have to ask, I always enjoy seeing your updates on Instagram, and the other day I saw that you posted a selfie of you both with a huge Lady Gaga poster of the ‘Applause’ single artwork. So who’s is that, because we stan! 

CL: *Laughs*! That’s actually in my house, it’s my girlfriends! We have been doing the art for the house at the moment and we’ve been moving some things over from the old place and buying some new stuff, and she said that she wanted to get a Gaga poster and I was like “you can get a Lady Gaga poster as long as it’s the ‘Applause’ artwork”, because it’s the one that we can all agree on is great artwork. So yeah, it’s my girlfriends! It’s huge! Every time I go to the bathroom it’s just me locking eyes with Lady Gaga *laughs*. 

‘Yesteryear’ is out now!