Leading up until the Upstream Music Fest + Summit, KEXP will be spotlighting a new local artist from the lineup with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. Today’s post features Seattle hip-hop collective COSMOS, performing Thursday, May 11 on the Sound Off! stage.
Seattle hip-hop has garnered national attention for the “space rap” sounds of artists like Shabazz Palaces and THEE Satisfaction, but there may be no other group that embraces the idea of the celestial more than COSMOS. The young group won over judges at the 2016 Sound Off! competition with their invigorating blend of rap, jazz, and soul – not to mention their killer NASA jumpsuits. The group released their official debut mixtape, MOONSHINE, late last month. Below, the band reveals more about their fascination with the stars and gives some hints about what to expect in their Upstream set.
From the name of your group, the NASA jumpsuits, and the album title MOONSHINE, it seems like you guys have a fascination with space. What made you want to blend the otherworldly with your music?
Campana (Lead Vocals): “The unknown” has a particular beauty to it. Space has so much uncharted territory; so much unknownness to it. It’s dope, because it piques everlasting interest in that category. There’s always so much to discover with space, as there is with music. Escapism as a whole is heavily tied to the theme of our music; being able to place yourself (figuratively) within a different environment through art, has a certain comfort to it.
Meno (Synthesizer/Percussion): Its like seeing the bigger picture of what we are a part of. Space conceptualizes the void that is so much bigger than our worldview. We use that to define what its like to see beyond boundaries that we hold ourself to.
When you started working on MOONSHINE, was there a core idea you were trying to capture? What story are you trying to tell?
Campana: With MOONSHINE, the core idea was to capture each and every one of our creative styles/influences and implement into the project, while making it cohesive. This alone was a challenge itself because each member of COSMOS has a totally unique taste in music. With the lyrical content, I tried to tailor it closely to the space theme while still having a grounded, down-to-earth approach to keep it at a relatable level. The name MOONSHINE is a double entendre. It, of course, is recognized as super potent alcohol. Our music is just that. It leaves you inebriated.
Meno: The songs we worked on for this project had this core idea of longing and striving for something better and seeing it in the future, but also living with the struggles of the here-and-now. Each song has its own message of hope.
Between hip-hop, jazz, soul, and electronic music, you’re blending a lot of styles in some really interesting ways. Was crossing genres always a priority when you started the project? How do you balance all these different sounds and influences?
Manteloupe (Bass/Guitar): We all have influenced each other musically, I think it’s just one of those things that happens when you put all these elements into the melting pot together.
Meno: This band and us individually all have different backgrounds and all have an acquired taste that we want to get out there. I don’t really see balancing or blending as part of any real process we have. When we get together and brainstorm we just create what we hear in our heads coming from all these places.
You won last year’s SoundOff! Competition. How has that impacted your career thus far?
Meno: Soundoff! was such a blessing and was so moving. We were able to play at some of our favorite events because of it and it really boosted band morale and how we’ve come to appreciate what we have. MoPop has such awesome people working together creating a really inspiring network of support.
MOONSHINE features ParisAlexa and Luna God, both of whom are also playing Upstream. Any chance they might show up in your set or any other guests?
Campana: Yes! There may be a possibility. But one thing is for certain: they will be supporting us on our upcoming MOONSHINE mixtape release show at Neumos alongside Romaro Franceswa on 4/20.
What’s next for COSMOS? MOONSHINE just came out, but are you thinking about the next project yet?
Campana: We are always creating; always working on new music. For now, we’re just jamming out and finding new concepts to shape for our album. We also intend to work on some visual projects with some MOONSHINE tracks. Endless possibilities!
Meno: MOONSHINE was a milestone for us as artists. We are always creating new material I am equally as excited about as the stuff we put out and I feel like we are always expanding.
Find out how you can see COSMOS perform live at Upstream here.