Fresh off the heels of their debut album release, Anna Burzlaff chats to I Am The Cosmos about artistic intent and sustaining friendships
Music history has been steeped in great pairs. John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, even Sunny and Cher; they’ve all made names for themselves through partnership in some way or another. Also seeking the accolade of great partnership are Ross Turner and Cian Murphy, otherwise known as I Am The Cosmos.
Turner and Murphy are new on the scene. Their debut album, Monochrome, was released only a few weeks ago but is already making waves in Dublin and beyond. Inspired by a song by ‘80s Japanese band, Mariah, Monochrome has a curious dichotomy of sound, combining both a nostalgic feel, by way of analogue equipment, and something wholly modern, by way of innovative song writing.
“We definitely tried to make a modern album, that was our idea,” says Murphy. “Even though we were using older gear there were times when we’d be quite adamant about trying to keep it sounding modern. It’s very easy to fall into nostalgic holes, trying to get a particular ’80s synth sound.”
Monochrome sounds intense. It’s heavily laden with emotion and full of romantic heart ache, a prevalence both Turner and Murphy acknowledge. It was, after all, a record made in the wake of personal romantic difficulties. Turner’s description of such a style of music as “tears on the dancefloor” emphasises the meaning further. It’s heavy, harrowing, intense, yet inherently danceable. A strange juxtaposition when it comes to musical genre, but one that Turner and Murphy have managed to create.
It seems natural to gauge the two as melancholic characters from the content they create, but Turner and Murphy seem to defy expectation, chuckling, joking and being generally merry throughout the interview. One would wonder how the burden of such heavy emotion, present in their song writing, avoids leaving any overwhelming residue on the two. “I think everyone has a bit of darkness in them at times, for sure,” explains Turner. “But I think because the music can be quite intense or dark at times, we would juxtapose it with just cracking really bad jokes, or trying to make each other laugh, or going out with our friends and laughing our heads off, just to kind of break it up. There are certain bands you look at and they seemed pained, almost, by their intensity. Maybe it’s an Irish thing as well; we try not to take ourselves too seriously.”
Clearly then support for the album wasn’t confined to the depths of the studio, nor did it just come from one another. The music scene in Ireland is one which is constantly growing, churning out more and more interesting and exciting names. It would seem the days of ruthless backstabbing in a frantic scuffle for record deals and European tours dwindled with the recession. Good things can emerge from bad; Irish musicians are providing support for their fellow artists. As Murphy puts it: “Everyone’s just super supportive of each other, cause things have been getting a bit harder. It brings people together, and everyone wants everyone to do well and there’s no backstabbing. There’s maybe not as much at stake anymore. There’s no guys coming in with briefcases of cash going ‘This is what you’re working for,’ but then there’s so much going on as well, it’s incredible.”
It’s hard to believe that were the environment of money-driven music still prevalent in Ireland that Turner and Murphy would be susceptible to its pull. It’s not as if the two don’t appear driven, it’s rather that they seem so at home in what they’re doing that little muddies their direction. Surely, the bond of friendship is a factor also. As Murphy says, “It’s a very personal thing, I think, to make music together, especially when there’s only two of us and there’s stages when we’re doing 12 hour stretches, just the two of us. It’s an intense thing.”
Much of Turner and Murphy’s repartee is back and forth. Like all good partnerships, they seem to be on the same page throughout. In terms of the music they want to create and the way they intend to go about it, both are of like minds. They’re extremely lucky in that sense. They are, in their approach, unusual. The use of analogue equipment, the online download release, the lack of extensive touring, it would seem natural to describe their engagement as off kilter. However, a question on whether they consider themselves mavericks is met with bellowing laughter from the two, as they quip jokingly: “We’re like Top Gun, yeah Top Gun. The Top Gun of the music industry, that’s us.”
So, perhaps they don’t regard themselves as mavericks, but they do acknowledge an unwillingness to conform in terms of contemporary trends, with an album that avoided any sense of stylisation or adherence to what was regarded as cool at the time.
Acrimony is a path well-travelled when it comes to musical collaboration, John and Paul, Sunny and Cher – they all ended in some form of discord. It would seem as if to work together is to grow disgruntled at one another. Long hours in the studio provide the ideal environment for prickling hairs and bruising egos. If one were to have such a preconceived notion on the nature of musical partnership, meeting Turner and Murphy would come as a shock. There’s no tension, no battle for superiority; on the question of their friendship it’s a unanimous “stronger than ever,” accompanied by a display of healthy man love in the form of a hug. The hug is bromance at its most genuine. The album, on the other hand, is Irish music at its most exciting.
I Am The Cosmos play The Button Factory on February 23rd and their debut album, Monochrome, is available for download now.