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Mondo Cozmo’s Wild Ride: From Landscaping To Lollapalooza


After the breakup of L.A. rock band Eastern Conference Champions in 2015, songwriter Josh Ostrander found himself without a steady musical outlet for the first time in 15 years. In that period, he had been through the music business grinder. Ostrander had twice signed to major label deals (first with alt-rock group Laguardia, then later with ECC) only to later be dropped, and return to the daily struggle of grinding out a career as a musician.

"Plastic Soul" by Mondo Cozmo

"Plastic Soul" by Mondo Cozmo

Courtesy of the artist

The typically upbeat Ostrander was down. “Honestly, that was just the darkest moment,” he recalls. “I was working two landscaping jobs [to pay the bills]. We got to the point where we couldn’t find anybody to put the music out. And [I thought to myself], ‘this beautiful thing has just run its course and it’s time to do something new.’”

“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do music anymore,” Ostrander freely admits. But during that dark time, he decided to give music as a job one last chance and started writing and recording new material in his guest bedroom with renewed focus. Those songs included the track “Shine,” which would prove to be a breakout hit for the veteran songwriter. And now, he’s set to release his solo debut, “Plastic Soul,” under the name Mondo Cozmo. That album comes out Friday, Aug. 4, on Republic Records and later that day Mondo Cozmo takes the stage at Lollapalooza.

Mondo Cozmo joined opbmusic’s Matt Casebeer for a wide-ranging conversation in the OPB studios. Listen to the full interview above and read experts below.

On returning to the University of Southern California to perform two of his songs with the school’s vaunted marching band after working there as a landscaper:  

[The actress] Anna Faris is one of my buddies. She asked me to do the theme song for a podcast, which is called “Unqualified.” It’s really good. I said yeah and I did it and the song turned out really cool. And then she had to do some big live performance. She [asked me to] perform the theme song live. And [I said] ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ [And then I asked] ‘Can we get the USC marching band to do it?’ because it’s Anna Ferris. [Laughter] Within two hours they [replied and said] ‘Let’s do it.’

So, I got to go back. I parked in the same lot on the campus where I would park when I was working there. I had the same boots on from when I was working there … I’m walking up with my guitar in my hand and I hear them playing “Plastic Soul” and I almost started crying. How insane is this? Six months earlier I was digging holes here. And now one of the greatest marching bands on the planet is playing my tune that I wrote while I was working there. It was cool, man. This is my life. It’s unbelievable.    

On how he got the record label to eventually release the song “Plastic Soul” after initially being told by his label that it was in legal limbo due to a sample of Irma Thomas’ legendary song “Piece Of My Heart”:  

I sent it to the label and they were like ‘Dude, you have like one of the most famous samples of all time. We can’t put this out. We can’t afford it.’ I was so pissed that I just waited until Friday afternoon when the [legal] offices closed in New York and I just put up a video on Instagram [with a note that said]: “We can’t release this song. I love it. If you email my lawyer at mondocozmo66@gmail.com, he’ll send you a Dropbox link to download it.” So, we got a couple of downloads. I was like, ‘Man this is awesome. I can’t get in trouble for this because I’m not making moneyofff it. I’m just putting it out.’ I thought it was so cool.

One of the guys that picked it up and downloaded it was this guy named Jason Bentley. He runs a show in Los Angeles called Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW. Bentley just starts playing it every day on his station … I got hundreds of emails every time he would do it. And I thought I was going to get sued. I was really worried. I was like: ‘Man, I’m in so much trouble. But this is so cool. This is the power of radio.’ It got to the point where it forced the label’s hand to have to go and get it cleared. So, it’s going to be on the record. I actually decided to call the album “Plastic Soul” just based off of the triumph of that.    

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