TNC Archive 2010
Gay Pirates & Creating a Viral Sensation
Originally published in 2010
Cosmo Jarvis burst on the UK music scene in 2010 with an unexpected his GAY PIRATES. Long before viral videos on social media would make you a star Jarvis's unique, fun, touching & heartfelt song about love, fear and loss connected with audiences all over the UK. What made the song so powerful was the subject matter. An emerging singer/songwriter creating a song and a music video that showed two gay pirates who struggle to find love and have their love accepted was unprecedented at the time. And what made the song stand out so much was its raw truth and the beauty in how the love between the two pirates is pure and real.
Hi Cosmo, thanks for talking to The New Current, how did you get into music, has this always been something you wanted to do?
No not really, first of all I wanted to be a Jedi, then an astronomer, then a pilot, then diabetes fucked that one up and so for a short time I wasn't sure. Then I wanted to be an actor and auditioned for ‘Oliver’ in Plymouth and was immediately rejected for not knowing the lyrics. Then I saw Amadeus and wanted to be a conductor, this was probably the first time I dreamed about playing music. I was taught piano for a while by a guy called Mr. Brennan. He didn't like my posture, musical taste or lack of enthusiasm when discussing written notation. I must have been about 7 at this time. I wanted to learn how to play blues and jazz because the ‘Blues Brothers’ was a very musically inspiring movie to me.
So I started screwing around on the piano myself until I met this lady called Sarah Danning who taught me much better stuff than 'Ode to joy'. Which I appreciate now but then it was like sitting though a church service when all you want to do is go outside and take advantage of drunk girls while on LSD singing stairway to heaven backwards - a real downer. My lessons with Sarah were short but were the catalyst for my interest in experimenting melodically and with different formats of musical presentation. I always loved music from having it played to me from a young age, I became a fan of harmony over anything else. Harmony and Aretha Franklin. So yeah one day we got evicted from out flat and moved to Totnes in Devon where I knew nobody initially and, adopting some what of a hermit mentality to a change in my surroundings. I stayed inside most days after school and fiddled with a guitar until I considered myself to have reached a level of skill that wouldn't embarrass me when playing with fellow students at school during lunch breaks in year eight.
When I learnt the guitar I started writing songs in the privacy of my own room and recorded them using an illegal copy of Adobe Audition which was on my computer. School fell apart and I realised I was not cut out for academia in the slightest. I was argumentative and hated all authority, especially that that came with the academic knowledge of a school teacher teaching curriculum that didn't spare time for the questions of a student who wouldn't accept 'because it just is' as a viable answer to any question. After my few months of trying to do sixth form, it was understood by the staff and myself that it was time to fuck off. So I went back to my bedroom and continued making recordings about events involving friends and girls and so forth, and I would burn them for my friends to listen to. Some songs went down well, others didn't.
Through making records by multi tracking all the instruments I slowly picked up bass, mandolin, Ukulele and whatever else I could get my hands on that sounded different. I always loved bass because much modern music has forgotten its importance and how to apply it melodically. And I guess that’s it. Just kept doing that.
How would you describe your style of music?
What do you write first, the music or the lyrics?
Depends entirely on the song. Sometimes a lyrical presentation in takes priority and a rhythm and melody can be found later. Other times a melody creates feeling or memories that require lyrics to be written and then wrapped around the melody. Sometimes it sort of happens in unison - I know what I want to share and as I think of how to share it I use an instrument to compliment the idea or should I say, write both the music and lyrics symbiotically to try to create a prefect spectrum of emotion for the literal content to be abstracted by!
Have you always been creative, have there been any limits placed on your vision?
Only time and prioritising what must be done over what I want to do with respect to advancing any career. If I was a very rich man I would just create. Ease of creative freedom, it seems, is only possible with creative success. If I see something strongly enough though I will strive to witness its realisation no matter what circumstances engulf me.
As well as your music you are also a filmmaker, does one get more time than the other or are you able to balance your time with them equally between them?
When the music is getting busy I get to make music videos so that satisfies a certain hunger for creating motion pictures. I try to always keep both in mind as often as possible, they are so alike - that is the problem, I wish they could be the same thing. I act in my films and music videos and onstage and direct the production of a record similarly to a short film and then write the music for my films. Many musical projects see the creation of ideas for films and vice versa. Intention can fuel any medium I suppose. It’s harder for me to organise a film because I suck at producing. But when everyone is together making a film I find it more stimulating than making music because of how a film evolves during production and the many ways the music will assist a film in conveying emotion and mood (and we'll never know till post).
I know music evolves too but I don’t do studio stuff so there’s no surprise like when a producer comes in and shows me the final product; I just sort of tinker until it’s right and find ways of achieving sounds I hear or moods I feels translated into sonic information. Music, acting and filmmaking are my favourite things about this planet because everybody can get good differently at each, through their own processes and mistakes. I hate being taught things because I think that defeats the point of learning. If you find something that inspires you while you're trying to master it you will always be giving all of yourself to learning how to do it well.
Hell knows, I just love them both and will do my best to keep on going.
Gay Pirates, how did this come about?
I wanted to write a song about a story that was presented so it could have been received with the same attitude as somebody watching or hearing an adaptation of a classical, traditional story or event. I wanted to make little literal emphasis on the fact that the pirates were gay and instead put all the emphasis on dropping the listener sincerely and honestly into the norm which, in the song, is a gay relationship - that way there would be no 'cheap shots' at the gayness of the characters. It is just one mans feeling toward another. By not going out of my way to write the singing pirate character (the first person narrative) in such a way that accommodated an audience who I suspected for the most part would not be accustomed to this kind homosexual emotion, and instead throw myself into the role of a man stuck at sea in a hostile environment in which he must conceal his true self and true love for fear of dark consequence, I hoped to paint an honest and undoubtable account of my character.
Once I had done this I knew I wanted the production to be raw but lively enough to entice audiences in a live environment, even if they doubted the passion, strength, manliness and love that gay men can posses, to dance along only afterwards realising they are singing along passionately to a song about gay lovers.
The pirates were obvious to me because everyone loves pirates, the stereotype is a male, resilient survivor. Tough. And so other than thinking 'what a terrible situation to be in', I thought maybe if I talked about a man from my characters point of view and people noticed I really meant what I was saying and took my words about Sebastian to heart they'd see that a love story is a god damn love story.
I wasn't trying to give the gay community a new anthem, but merely update the attitude to what a song can contain in this day and maybe make a few people think about thinking about somebody else's head space for while.
"I’m happy with the production and the song and the video but usually singles and videos for them have to be extravagant examples of healthy funding and pointless, meaningless content and production tools."
Was it easy to get people on board, I know you filmed the video in a town hall, where people easy to approach?
Yes, everyone was amazing. The cast had all heard the song before as I have been playing it live for some time. The notion of making a video hadn't been far from many of my conversations with them many months prior to production. Everyone stuck it out and helped each other to make the video as good as it could be.
What has been the response so far, I know it's been going nuts on Youtube?
Seems good. I’m glad people are taking something from it. I’m also glad they like a song that I would say doesn't taint what creative dignity I have. I’m happy with the production and the song and the video but usually singles and videos for them have to be extravagant examples of healthy funding and pointless, meaningless content and production tools. I think this one is free from those things. I mean I always try to avoid gimmicks but in the cock sucking stage of a music career one has no choice sometimes but to compromise potent creative intent into something a little more marketable (well I feel like that anyway).
Obviously some 'artists' never strive for anything more than formulated drivel, not to say I haven’t dabbled in my drivel, however this single and all its assets do not make me feel any guilt toward any aspects of my art.
Who is Sebastian?
In many ways he is the anonymous true love of the singer of gay pirates.
Are there any plans to make this into a short film?
I would love nothing more, if you know anyone who would let a pretty much first time director have funding to make a nautical drama I'd be on it like a holy fly on the popes shit!
What would you like people to take from this song ? You have some live shows coming up, what can people expect?
Songs form the new album and old album and songs from no albums. I play live with my ‘live ass’ band. Together we are a four piece. I play Mandolin, Guitar, Ukulele and recorder at the moment. Can’t wait till we can afford to pay a keyboardist full time too.
Gay Pirates is set to become one of the biggest songs of 2010-2011, did you envision that when you wrote it?
Hell no. Like anything I envision; I just care about the process of its construction and completion during the moments in which it is occurring and that the intention behind the envisioned remains as inspiring to myself throughout all stages of its realisation as it did when I was fist inspired.
Who has been your inspiration?
Everyone except Michael f***ing Buble...
Finally what have you got planned for 2011?
Well, the album 'Is the world strange or am I?' is coming out. And some singles I guess and I'm trying to finish this feature length film I started making in Devon called ' the Naughty Room' like three months ago so I can play it to my one contact who will be able to tell me whether it will do well at festivals or shit or if its worth chasing distribution. Once I have had his opinion I'll know whether to start a new film. Just dying to get it done though really, I think it'll be interesting at the very least. I also have the music videos to make for the next singles from the new album. And hopefully some tours of some places.