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Although born in New Jersey, the intricate personality of Cosmo Jarvis became fashioned in Devon, his obsession with music and film appearing at a young age from basic bedroom beginnings.  Jarvis’s second album “Is the World Strange or am I Strange” was released on September 26th to extremely mixed reviews, although highlighting a complex personality, someone who doesn’t appear to fit easily into what’s regarded as “normal society.”  Intrigued to discover why an artist would wear their heart on their sleeve so readily, Mudkiss met with Cosmo prior to the Manchester leg of his current tour at the Night and Day Cafe, for a frank and extremely personal discussion.

ANDY: You were in Manchester just a few weeks ago for the Pride Festival, how did that go?

COSMO: It was good, it was better than I expected it to be…….I was pretty weirded out that the main stage was so far away from the stage I was playing on, so I thought that might affect it, but it was really good…….good sound, good vibe and it was a pretty long set as well, they gave me an hour…..I usually like an hour and a half, two hours if I can and I was expecting a forty five minute number,  but it was good, really good.

ANDY: Are you starting to see support from the Gay community due to the Gay Pirates song?

COSMO: I guess so……I mean……..I’ve haven’t really thought about it really….I guess because it’s a love song with gay characters……..I guess they can relate………so yeah, I suppose so.

ANDY: I just noticed when you played the Borderline, you mentioned a few members of the audience had turned up dressed as Gay Pirates, so it certainly sounded as though the following was starting to build.

COSMO: Yeah, yeah, yeah  quite a few……..Yeah it’s certainly got them into it……and then a lot of them have just heard the album and like the whole album and stuff,  some of them just like that song and they hate everything else…….so it’s all good.

ANDY: It’s a very varied album; you employ a lot of different styles, not just through the songs but also within the songs.  Is that you being influenced by many different genres, or wanting to just play around with music?

COSMO: (Long pause)……….. I suppose I sort of see musical devices and genres as like tools…..they’re all just tools in the same way that a guitar and a mandolin might be a tool and a penny whistle is a tool,  just to create something. So I employ them as one would employ certain vocabulary to convey certain things you know………it’s just exactly like that really. 

ANDY: So you aren’t setting yourself any musical boundaries in that case?

COSMO:  (Distracted by the support act starting to sound check) Yeah, absolutely.

After assuring Cosmo the voice recorder will pick up our voices even with background noise, we continue.

ANDY: The album is extremely sad in many ways as there’s a strong sense of alienation throughout it. Is that something you’ve felt throughout your life?

COSMO: Definitely…..yeah when I was a kid there was always something you know…..I’d always have the same thing and it would always be there in other areas of my life as I went through puberty and grew up and all  that shit… was always the same thing just amplified or manifested itself in many different ways…….but yeah, definitely I just don’t understand how like, some people can be the way that they are…’s not that I think anybody’s worse or anything like that, I just don’t get how they can be like that, because why can’t I be like that sort of thing.  It’s quite funny you should say that, cos today I got a Facebook message from this girl who said, the song “Is the World Strange or am I Strange,” she said she related to it. And that’s kinda good as at first I maybe thought I had a fuckin inferiority complex and I was paranoid or something was wrong.  I started psychoanalysis as a kid but it was discontinued because the woman who was analysing me……it was to do with my family and stuff…… was like a bi session because I was just this kid and my Mum was sitting in on the session so anything I said was just poo pooed sort of thing……so, it’s sort of since that time really, just growing up, just shit….. it’s not bad, it’s not like the end of the world but it does make me think very differently about like…….over analyse people and analyse situations a hell of a lot more than I probably…… maybe your average human needs to……because it is a bad thing to do, to devote that much brain power to something that is ultimately going to alienate you…… because these are facts, this is logic, this is the only kind of logic I can ever sort of find in this life……… just the way that people are……. just be seeing trends in the way it is……. recognising things about the way I think and conduct myself……..those are the only things that are real to me so much more than faith or anything like that, things to do with other people are much more important to me…..and the more that  I think about it, it’s just a fuckin mess really (Laughing)..... yeah.

ANDY: Do you think being brought up in rural Devon is a factor in that feeling of alienation.  Is it more difficult to fit in if you are different to the expected norm, rather than a city such as Manchester for instance?

COSMO: Maybe….. maybe yeah…. because you have to just be with people and your contact with other human beings is hell of a lot more frequent, not that it’s like out in the sticks, sticks…..but in Devon there’s this thing……not just the isolation of one human being in a town or a village in Devon, it’s the isolation of the village from the rest of the world……you look on the news and the news is directed at people in cities like Manchester and London and stuff and you’re just sorta like, what the fuck…….there’s this kinda thing of I’m gonna die here……cos that’s just the way it looks…….. from an outsider, it just looks like everyone that’s born there dies there and it does happens a lot…….you don’t need to go anywhere, you’ve got your car, got your fuckin school, raise your kids, do the whole……. end of it………..Yeah, had I been in a city I’m sure it would have been very different.  It’s an interesting thought actually, I do really like being in cities. Like last night I was in……..where the fuck was I……………….Bodega, in Nottingham.  They had this dressing room key…… and I so wanted to go out, it was like a student night and I’ve never been to uni, so I’ve never really been out on Freshers week, I’ve played at plenty of Freshers events but never been like out…….and I got back to the Travelodge, I was going to go back……cos everybody else weren’t really into it, they’ve got girlfriends…… do I in some way……..but you know,  I do shit anyway.  Got back to the Travelodge and then I’ve got this key still…… I got a cab back to the thing cos I sort felt I had to return this key to the lady at the venue…….. went back there and it was just crawling with people my age all like well dressed and I was on my own….I didn’t really know what to do, so I literally just walked round the block about fifteen times…….I spent about an hour doing it………I mean,  I wrote a song about it…..but I mean I physically couldn’t be in the line and go in…….I couldn’t handle it, I don’t know why……..stuff like that’s kinda weird……..but in the same way, it’s beneficial for somebody like that……and there’s a lot of people like that…… because there’s stuff to look at, there’s people to look at,  you can get to know how that group of people sort of  operates as a social unit and that’s interesting.

ANDY: So it’s very much a confidence factor, a feeling of insecurity in certain situations?

COSMO: I suppose so……..I suppose so………yeah……..but like it doesn’t really apply to me on stage or if I do a bit of acting or I’m making something….it’s not there with that, it’s just with the most regular things, regular conversational things….. like this is alright, I have a purpose with this I know what I’m doing here, there’s a purpose to this conversation…..but things that other people just sort of do……I need a rule book……if I had a rule book I could do it fine, it’d be absolutely no problem….. but because I don’t, I’m constantly trying to read other people to see what they’re doing so that I can try to build something……build myself a set of rules based on what that person who’s being successful at that particular social interaction is doing……and it just becomes this cluster fuck of things……and it ends up being safer just not to do any of it. (Laughing)   

ANDY: I think one of the reasons why I’m fascinated by your lyrics is because I can identify to a certain extent with your feelings. As a teenager, I tried to fit in with people while really thinking, I don’t really want to do this.

COSMO:  You sort of have to otherwise you’re substandard to everyone else in a really weird way…… and it’s horrible…….especially like, I went to a sports school and I wasn’t  the most sporty person, I wasn’t on any teams or anything like that and it was one of those schools were if you were a rugby player, played for the school, you were respected more by the teachers and you were cut more slack………and it was so many things happening at the same time……there was that and then a mixture of kids who brought in certain scenes……. at least they had each other in those scenes…….and just stuff like this…….so what I tried to do from day one was apply to everyone as it was demanded……..I could make anyone laugh in a certain way, I was sort of a clown at school, I just fucked about and did stunts and shit…….and no matter who, or the social status of the person watching, they’d laugh so I sort of built myself a purpose through doing that…….and that’s sort of how I dealt with it in the beginning……then music and film and stuff.   

ANDY: So you threw yourself into music and film at that point as an escape.

COSMO: Yeah.

ANDY: I found in a similar way,  I could fit in through drink, when I’d had a few beers, I became funnier and could talk to girls, something I couldn’t do when sober.

COSMO: Totally…….and everyone else just thinks you have a problem……….like a substance problem…….but it’s not….it’s all to do with the barriers you build yourself and how disciplined the human mind can be once it get’s itself into a certain trend, it’s horrible. (Laughing.)

ANDY: There’s a great track on the album “She Doesn’t Mind,” which sounds like a plea for parental approval. You’ve found the best girlfriend in the world, the cleverest, your parents must like and accept her and she doesn’t mind……. what? Or doesn’t that matter, could be anything you wanted to add in?

COSMO: I never thought of it like that man, that’s amazing……that was just a fictional character…..I never thought of it like that…..that’s good. I actually wrote it just about, imagining the situation…..because some parents are really like that…..a lot of parents are just like….. she’s not good enough…….so I was just like I’m going to write the ultimate scenario song based on that idea……..that was all it was, I never thought of it like that.

ANDY: That’s just my own interpretation, the parental approval and you’ve been knocking because I play the guitar all the time, whatever, and she doesn’t mind.

COSMO: That’s really…….that’s good.

ANDY: You can use that idea if you want. (Laughing)

COSMO: I can, I can……..ace.

ANDY: Perhaps it’s me who looks into things to deeply (Laughing.)

COSMO: No,  but that’s the beauty of it though…….you’re a living example.

ANDY :  I guess that’s one of the most interesting parts of writing a song, what other people get out of it, as long as they aren’t reading something offensive that isn’t there.

COSMO: Totally………ace.

ANDY: So what have you coming up at the moment,  the album only came out yesterday and you’re in the middle of a lengthy tour, so how have the shows been going?

COSMO: Pretty good….…..I mean none of the shows have been abominable, like sound wise or playing wise…..Some of the turn outs haven’t been ace, but the people that have been there have walked away having enjoyed it and were pleased that I’d sort of came to the place near where they lived so that’s really good……. generally, good shows……….Borderline was really, really good, ……Brighton was good as well……….there’s been a lot of good ones. Yeah, usually in a tour there’s one gig where it’s like, ohhhh, my God, never again, but so far it hasn’t happened (touching the wooden table)…..probably will now. (laughing.)

ANDY: And what about the film side, you make all you own videos don’t you?

COSMO: Yeah, I write and I direct them and everything……. my little brother usually produces, my little brother Fletcher who used to be my drummer, but now he’s not.... we couldn’t work together because he’s my brother. And they’re all my friends who act in them….they all want to be actors, I want to be an actor as well but all you can do is call yourself an actor until you become an actor.  So yeah, we work pretty hard on them to try and get them done…….I’ve made short films my entire life, started with just a web cam and gradually worked my way up the camera chain. It was quite good getting this management deal because the money that came in for the records, there was a like a music video budget and I said rather than that, I’ll just make it for much less and do it myself…… was sort of a way of keeping myself making films to be honest in the beginning…….but since then it’s kind of become……people have been into the videos….that’s really good.  I’ve finished a feature film as well….well nearly finished a feature film……..which I sort of made in-between making music videos and writing the album and stuff, I made this like a proper feature film…..but it’s been a bit of a mission doing that……..I attempted one when I was sixteen years old just locally with some friends, I tried to make it…..and it was alright but it wasn’t…… looking back on it now it’s a fuckin joke so this one had to be better and it’s a black comedy sort of about a kid who’s locked in a bathroom and another kid who’s got problems with his head…..just self- deprecating, because both their Dads are dead……. and one kid ends up rescuing the kid who’s been locked in the bathroom for eighteen years basically…… sort of about how your friends can sometimes raise you better than your parents can I suppose……that should be finished soon.

ANDY: Are you hoping to have that released?

COSMO: (Groaning) Well first of all it’s going to be festivals....pending the response if it’s good enough........I don’t know’s suffered terribly throughout production because of money and it not being a priority on the to do was sort of left over money from music videos........ I mean I’m proud of it still and people who’ve watched it so far say they want to keep watching it and say it’s like interesting to them, so that’s good........but once I get it coloured......I’ve cut it all myself and I’ve got to finish the soundtrack......and then I’ve got to find someone to clean up the sound, because there’s a few sound issues....... but yeah,  this one guy said he liked it and he’d take it to film festivals,  that’s what he does he promotes films and stuff......and then he said he can do something with distribution.......I’d like it to come out....... I mean the DVD that came out with this album I would like to do something like that maybe have a DVD and the soundtrack to the film, or something, I don’t know ....distribution one way or another, it’s going to happen...........I hope (Laughing.)

ANDY: Just to end with, I’ve noticed a couple of references both within your lyrics of “Why Do Angels make me cry” and on the CD back cover to Ivybridge in Devon. You left school at sixteen didn’t you? did you go to Ivybridge College?

COSMO:  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I went to Ivybridge Community College......I sort of tried a few months of six form in Totnes, but it was literally three months.......I didn’t do too well at Ivybridge.... I mean it was fun and I met some amazing people there but the music department was awful and they didn’t cater for you unless you were a fuckin rugby player.

ANDY: So that’s where all the issues came up, not fitting in on the sports side.

COSMO: Yeah, that was all there, it was fuckin horrible.......but I mean I did some good stuff, I had a few subjects I was alright in..... I tried the sixth form in the other school in Totnes ......somehow I ended up going through a teacher’s windscreen in lunch, a playground thing and they were just like,  you aren’t learning, you’d better leave. So I left.

ANDY: It’s just coincidental, as I get down to Ivybridge quite regular, just across the road from the college.

COSMO:  No way......the paper mill........No shit?

ANDY: Yeah, that’s right.

COSMO: I used to have maths in the building right opposite, that’s unbelievable.......So do you stay down there when you go down.

ANDY: I stay at The Sportsman’s Inn.

COSMO: Oh my God, that’s ace......I used to go out with the girl who’s Dad owned that place a long time ago, his name was Charlie Parker like the trumpet it the trumpet..... Yeah I think it is......and she’s the girl who “Why Do Angels Make Me Cry” is about. (Laughing.)

ANDY: Bizarre, it’s a small world.  Well, that’s great, thanks very much for your time.

COSMO: Cool......thank you very much.

As Cosmo Jarvis heads off to play his set, I’m left thinking he is a brilliant and gifted musician, but a man who genuinely struggles in circumstances the majority of people wouldn’t register as problematic in the slightest.  Insecurities manifest in many ways, particularly during tonight’s performance, striving for perfect sound, almost as though the audience couldn’t appreciate his music without ultimate clarity of every single instrument.  From our short discussion, it becomes apparent although Cosmo exudes an immensely warm, friendly personality; he maintains a slightly skewed view of the world with many demons to exorcise.  I hope music and film continue to provide his necessary outlet.

Interview, video and photographs by Andy Barnes 27/09/11
Press image of Cosmo from Chuff Media