International trio, Cosmopolis, have recently released their latest song “The Distances“. The band, whose members are scattered across the world in Australia, Belgium and the UK, took the time to answer some questions posed to them.
You have just released your latest single “The Distances”. How do you feel the song has been received? And what is the story behind the song?
In regards to the story behind the song, it feels like we live in extraordinary times and we wanted to reflect a little of that sense of the dystopia we seem to be sliding into. Instrumentally, we wanted something with intrigue, with a soundtrack feel. So it’s tentative, restrained, absorbing, maybe even beautiful, but then we switch into a crescendo which is much more forceful.
Lyrically, we wanted to capture that sense of being outside looking in, yet still caught up in a disastrous world that we cannot understand any more. The lyrics at the end (“Don’t Stay – You’re Not Welcome Here – You’re Not Wanted Here – Get Out of Here”) try to capture not only the extraordinary and dangerous divisions in our society that you can see in, for example, anti-immigrant sentiment, or in Brexit, or in the increasing authoritarianism and isolationism so prevalent around the globe; but there is also a nod to our climate crisis, a sense that the earth is being destroyed, and many of us are being ejected from where we live.
Elsewhere in the song, there are nods to Byron and the Romantics; we are interested in the death of Romanticism – a turning away from Nature – and the contemporary destruction of Nature we see all around us today.
The song has been very well received, and we are pleased with how many positive reviews we have got already. People seem to like the melancholy of it, but also like that the melodic hook is pretty catchy.
If you had to describe your sound, how would you do so? Furthermore, what artists (or other sources) do you cite as influences?
It’s interesting that we keep getting reviews that point to Radiohead and Bowie and U2 as people we sound like. Of course, growing up it was hard to avoid hearing Bowie, but although we like Radiohead a lot, we are not sure if they are a big influence. I suspect it’s that we listened to the same music they did, so what you can hear are our common influences. Actually the three of us have quite different tastes, so it’s hard to summarise our influences. The obvious one is that strand of art-rock that owes a lot to the Velvet Underground and Captain Beefheart, and then Talking Heads, Beck, The Fall, etc. But also very important to us is the electronic tradition, those descendants of Kraftwerk. So what we try to do is combine art rock with electronica.
What is like being a global band? In the sense that your members live apart in Australia, Belgium and the UK? What are the challenges and positives of this?
At the moment, being in a global band is difficult. It’d be nice to be able to get together occasionally so we could write and play together. There is definitely something a bit bloodless about music when you are working on your own, sharing files, waiting for them to come back with new parts and additions. On the other hand, we have hit upon a way of working that is incredibly timely. I think our long-distance collaborations would not have been possible before now. Not long ago, it took 60 days or even longer for messages to get from Europe to Australia – so what we do is so much more convenient and instant than sending sheet music and waiting 120 days for a reply. But it feels like we a band who represent the new normal – distributed, virtual, connected by technology rather than geographical proximity or personal contact.
One thing that is great about our arrangement is that we are awake at different times, so it often feels like we are a 24/7 band – while some of us are sleeping, others are working away on a song. It’s exciting to wake up in the morning and see what has happened to a song.
If you could be the main support for any living artist, who would that be for and why?
It’d be really interesting to be the support for a super-group, like the Rolling Stones. We’d love to see what it would be like to be inside a giant entertainment operation, playing enormous stadiums and to huge crowds. It’d be terrifying, of course, but fascinating.
Apart from that, it’d really great to support a band who put on a show, and who really have a big visual presence. Someone like Laibach or David Byrne would be fun to support, even though we’d look pretty boring by comparison.
What artists have you been listening to? Additionally, who should others be listening to?
This a tough question. Nowadays, I don’t think we really sit down and listen to albums as much as we used to, and it’s common to let streaming services provide you with a playlist. We are always hearing great stuff, and then can’t remember who it was. But aside from all the hundreds of brilliant songs that we can’t remember: Mogwai, Balthazar, First Aid Kit, Lorde, Childish Gambino, these are all great songwriters. And we also like that ambient/neo-classical music – people like Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm. Some of our music is rather cinematic and soundtrack-esque, so listening to people like this is important for us.