Musician Mondo Cozmo on writing ‘New Medicine’ during pandemic and looking ahead to live shows

“Normally, when we put out a record, you go on tour, you go to the radio stations. You hug them as hard as you can and hope they find it. And this one … I was doing Zoom meetings,” says Mondo Cozmo. Photo by Travis Shinn.

Musician Josh Ostrander, a.k.a Mondo Cozmo, told Press Play last year that the pandemic gave him time to work on his songwriting: “A lot of the lyrics are aimed at that right now, but it’s like, I don’t know if anyone is going to want to hear anything about quarantine by the time the song comes out next year.”

Now he’s out with an album called “New Medicine.”

KCRW: Tell us about this new album that came out in June.

Josh Ostrander: “We spent like two years on the road. And I was like, ‘Man, I'm gonna go in and write a record that is meant to be played live.’ And then the world ended. So we haven't played any. We played one show in Philly. That was it.”

How did you release the album, with everything being locked down?

“There were talks of not putting it out, like waiting. But I write a lot, so we were kind of just like, ‘Let's just put it out.’ And I'm glad we did. … Social media became really important, which I'm sometimes good at, sometimes not. It’s a weird thing. Normally, when we put out a record, you go on tour, you go to the radio stations. You hug them as hard as you can and hope they find it. And this one … I was doing Zoom meetings.

It was hard because I'm good [in person]. I can go in and have a beer and talk about music. And it was really difficult for me to figure out how to navigate promoting a record. And it was also weird being stressed about people not knowing where money was coming or going. And asking people to buy vinyl was suddenly like a weird request for me to ask.”

Did you go online and ask your fans, “Hey, I have this album, please buy it?”

“I have a really cool relationship online with the people that follow me, where I was very much like, ‘I don't feel comfortable doing this, but there is a new record. ... If you have money and you want to buy a T-shirt, God bless you, that'd be so cool. If you don't, don't sweat it, we're on Spotify and Apple.’ I think that was the best way I could approach the guilt of asking somebody who just lost a job to buy a shirt. But at the same time, I’ve got to pay my rent, so it was a tough one. It really was.”

Were you struggling financially?

“We had this issue with our merge company. After I did all that and got all these wonderful people to buy something, my merch company went out of business because of the pandemic. And I lost all that money. I couldn't get mad. It really messed with my head. Because I was like, ‘Man, there's people struggling right now. Pull it together, dude.’ I didn't want to complain about it. So I just tried to be positive and move on and just focus on what's important.”

What did you focus on?

“I really just started writing, and I hit a streak that was really, really wonderful. I think it's a muscle, I really do. You have to really flex it and you’ve got to work it. I started doing these days where I'd go in super early and I would just put in the hours, and if I was stuck on a tune, I would stop working on it and start working on something else. I stopped being on my phone so much, which was really helpful. And I just really focused on songwriting as a craft and trying to understand where I was at with my head, and where people might be at too. It'll be interesting to see how some of these songs go over in the future with the lyrical content.”

Did you write specifically about being as locked down in the pandemic and the year we've had?

“Yes, I did. Mostly from my standpoint. I was just so obsessed with the news and with Trump and everything. I was checking in a lot and trying to be smart about how I word things. I also tried to put a chorus in and make it rhyme. I hope people tap their foot to it.”

When we last talked, you were writing a song called “Here's Hoping.” Were you optimistic back then? 

“I just liked the title of it, I thought it was a really good title. I don't think that one made the cut. I think I wrote probably 75 tunes since we last talked that have been recorded and are up for possible next record situation. But it runs the gamut. I feel like we're leaning towards a lot of the songs that are more optimistic and have a better groove. And they're more upbeat. 

I think that's what people want. That's what I want to hear. When I get home, I put on stuff that's gonna make me forget what's going on. But it does seem like there's a light at the end of the tunnel. We're already getting requests about shows and stuff at the end of the year.” 

How excited are you to go out and play a show? 

“I realized I haven't been working out at all. I was doing really good before the pandemic with working out, staying in shape, and having a good mental state with that. But I realized I was only staying in shape to play these shows, because our shows are pretty aggressive, and we really give it. So I've been trying to figure that out too. I'm like, man, I’ve got to get going.

But I’ve missed all that. I miss soundcheck and vocal warmups. I miss getting up early and going to do the radio. I can't wait. I really think it's going to be a beautiful thing when it comes back, and I'm excited to hear the music people are writing right now. I'm excited to go to shows. I'm excited to do the meet-and-greet line and just hug everybody. I am hopeful.”