To come up with the title of this column I polled three people: Mish Way of White Lung, whose suggestions were equally as embarrassing as my original ideas and will thusly be left out of this piece, Austin Barber of Obliterations, and Derek Cowart of Cosmonauts, both of whom independently offered up the suggestion Hot Rocks. (Spooky, right?) And so in celebration of democracy and also the Rolling Stones, here is the first edition of Hot Rocks, and in honor of one of the originators of the title, whose band also happens to be playing New York next week, here is our first subject: Cosmonauts.
Cosmonauts came into being in 2009 in outer space or Orange County, depending on the way you like to look at things. The band was originally formed by Cowart and Alexander Ahmadi after Ahmadi heard Cowart play a Spaceman3 song solo at a show in their home town of Fullerton. The two were students at different high schools but as it turned out, of the same musical school of thought: two lovers of lo-fi, adorers of the atmospheric, kindred Krautrock-appreciating spirits. The two bonded over the Velvet Underground and Brian Jonestown Massacre, and quickly turned their mutual appreciation club into a rock band.
Cosmonauts have been on a fairly stellar journey ever since, picking up bassist James Sanderson and a host of different drummers along the way (the spot is currently filled by Cole Devine), and quietly putting out a number of great releases through Fullerton neighbors Burger Records, a cult label best known for its monopoly on the garage rock cassette tape market and its rabid, pin-loving teen fan base, as well as for serving as the current casting ground for Saint Laurent designer (and Burger Records fan) Hedi Slimane.
Aside from possessing the rumpled, apathetic good looks Slimane seems to be a fan of, Cosmonauts don’t fit very neatly into the fabric of their scene: too psychedelic to be punk, too punk to be psychedelic, and too absorbed in making their own brand of music to care. You know when you are very tired and worn ragged from life’s various missteps, and that tired makes room for a secret sadness that makes you feel like all of your emotions are exposed like raw wounds? Cosmonauts sound like the blanket you wrap yourself in, soft and encompassing, its fibers slowly making their way into your skin.
The band has been compulsively touring in support of their latest offering Persona Non Grata, a lush, multi-layered musical offering that is beautifully well-crafted and equal parts angsty and lovely, and that hardly belies the band’s origins (unless of course you stick with the intergalactic myth, which is what I prefer to do).
You can catch Cosmonauts in Brooklyn at Death By Audio on April 2 and in NYC at Mercury Lounge on April 3, both dates with Black Sea.