Cosmo Jarvis is a new kind of artist, for whom one world will never be enough. He’s a songwriter and a singer, but he’s also a filmmaker, storyteller, poet, iconoclast, Jessica Alba enthusiast and campaigner for the equal treatment of gay pirates. He’s an ordinary teenager with extraordinary talents.
His heroes are as varied as the art he produces every single day; John Lennon, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Terry Gilliam, Jerry Garcia, Samuel L Jackson, Jamie Fox, Will Smith, George Lucas, River Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix, Mohammed Ali, Maximus Decimus Peridius, Harrison Ford, Robert DeNiro, Elliot Smith and Frank Zappa.
And he’s fast becoming a hero to others, not least Wall Of Sound MD Mark Jones, who will release Cosmo’s eponymous debut album ‘Cosmo Jarvis’ this November. “Cosmo is without a shadow of doubt the most raw talent I’ve ever come across in all my years in music,” he says. “Every day I’m blown away by his natural ability and depth of musical and lyrical content. He has been truly blessed with an ability to speak to people of all ages and backgrounds and has an incredible future ahead of his. I hope the world is ready.”
Cosmo was born in 1990 in Ridgewood, New Jersey, making the move to Devon, England as a child. Maybe it was because there wasn’t much to do, or maybe it was just because he was so innately bloody talented, but Cosmo first began making films at home on VHS when he was barely twelve. The technology might have been primitive but his storytelling already bore a level of sophistication – he would film the television and then film out of the window because that way he knew that he was telling a story.
As he grew in age and competence so he grew in guts, making ‘Jackass’ style dare films that saw him and his skater friends convert bunk beds into quarter pipes, royally trashing the family home. And so Cosmo’s father Shaun was even more delighted than future label boss Mark Jones is now that around the same time he
It seems perverse now that Cosmo is turning into a lyrical talent who is being whispered about in the same breaths as Alex Turner, but he never even intended to write them. “Lyrics would always really annoy me,” he says, “like there’d be this really great piece of music and somebody would ruin it by starting to sing over the top.”
Thankfully that too was a phase, and Cosmo now boasts something in the region of 250 songs – some complete, some instrumental sketches, but all shining in different ways through the unique prism of Cosmo’s talent.
“My music changes from song to song. I like to write in loads of different styles because there is so much to explore. I believe that music will never be fully understood so why stop at one sound? My song subjects change as well. Some of them are about people – fictional or real. Others are about my life, places, feelings, memories, general situations, dreams, growing up, changes, girls, films, loads of other stuff as well.”
With so many thoughts and feelings pulsing through Cosmo’s 19-year-old imagination and so many different styles in which to express them, his debut album was never going to be a very conventional affair. And so his first statement to the world is divided into two segments.
The first, ‘Humasyouhitch’ you might call the ‘fun’ side, packed with playful vignettes of sexual awakening or as Cosmo self-deprecatingly puts it, songs written “when I was discovering I had a penis and girls had vaginas and all that kind of thing.” The songs capture both the awkwardness and the ecstasy with a deftness of phrase rarely found.
‘Jessica Alba’s Number’ is a light-hearted romp through the fantasy little black book of billboard girls that Cosmo will probably never date. ‘Mel’s Song’ is dedicated to a girl who, while probably more obtainable, still seems to be just out of reach. Meanwhile, ‘She’s Got You’ is a cautionary tale to a former friend who, on falling in love, apparently forgot that he also had friends and a personality of his own.
But it’s on the other side, ‘Sonofabitch’, that Cosmo really demonstrates the wisdom lurking in a heart that’s not so much dark as immensely human. ‘Sort Yourself Out’ is a tale of feeling old before your time that will resonate with people of any age. ‘Mummy’s Been Drinking’ shows a skill for storytelling, but the astonishing centre piece of the album has to be ‘Problems Of Our Own’. Its woozy sing-along and rapped verses cloak an impossibly bleak story of family breakdown made all the more bruising by the fact that it’s based, at least in part, on Cosmo’s own family life. He explains: “I could have just written it like that and used all the names but I didn’t want to do that so I wrote it as a story to make it applicable to everyone, because everyone has it.”
If the album is a compendium of what Cosmo’s learned so far, he’s also got a treasure trove waiting to be discovered that reaches even further out into the fantastical. Rare gem ‘Little Wasted Angel’ is to be taken literally, it’s about an agent of God beaten down by the fecklessness of the people she’s sent to guardian, reduced to sitting, smoking on street corners wondering where it all went wrong.
And ‘Gay Pirates’, already a live favourite, is a tragic and poignant story of two men out of time whose forbidden love sees them forced to walk the plank. Cosmo wrote it because, though he’s straight, he thought it would be funny to write a song for rowdy, laddy-lads would sing along to with an openly gay agenda, but also because “there aren’t many gay songs, and I thought there should be one.”
Part of what drives Cosmo is the frustration that there simply isn’t time to do all the things that it’s possible to do. But at 19, he’s a lot further along than most of us could have hoped for. It’s this singular drive and vision that’s going to ensure Cosmo Jarvis is a fixture in our pop cultural lives for a long time. His next album is already written, and for his next project he’s planning to make a short film about a man who takes himself hostage, set in a urinal. Well, of course he is.
The way he sees it, that makes absolute sense. “I have known men stuck in jobs they hate, with wives they hate, not because they knew what they wanted, but failed to go the right way about it. So how the fuck are millions of kids supposed to know? They make it sound like if you fail your exams, your existence is not worth living.
Well screw them.”
Here, and indeed, here.