An exciting addition to this weekend’s fabric birthday line-up, we got down with the LA disco/house duo
‘Cosmic Kids’ is the euonym behind Ron Poznansky and Daniel Terndrup, two extremely affable Californians who produce whimsical and – yep – cosmic-sounding house and nu-disco. Their biography states that they met in a remedial high school class ‘specially designed for kids who have trouble paying attention to boring stuff’, each immediately sensing in the other a kindred spirit. Adventures and non-boring activities soon ensued, complete with investigations into ‘mycological (the legal kind?) oddities’ and ‘abandoned earth stations’.
Their quest for non-boringness led them to volunteer for KCRW, a public radio station in Santa Monica. Here they were exposed to an eccentric and eclectic range of music, the duo gravitating towards post-punk, disco and house as time went on. The pair began DJing seriously around 2006, and were prodded into music production by (the equally euonymous) Dirty Dave, an LA-based DJ, who hooked the pair up with remix work without actually checking whether they had done any before (they hadn’t). This nudged the boys towards the studio where, presumably, their childhood research into mushrooms and intergalactic space-stuff was finally harnessed for the benefit of all.
2011 turned out to be their breakout year. A string of high-profile remixes for acts such as The Rapture, Holy Ghost!, Poolside and Princeton helped to establish them as major players, and their chart-topping EP Reginald’s Groove on Throne of Blood propelled them further into blogospheric, if not quite ‘cosmic’, renown.
Ahead of their appearance at fabric’s 13th Birthday celebrations later this month, we caught up Daniel to talk about space, music, space-music, and ‘Reginald’.
Your childhood sounds like a Wes Anderson movie. Was it as fun as it sounds?
We grew up in a relatively boring suburb, but found our own ways to have fun. Our circle of friends was always a bit more on the introverted side. We weren’t really going to lots of parties and school dances. We were more into hikes, night drives, weird audio recordings, art, music, and sci-fi films like Flight of the Navigator and Back to the Future. Having a group of friends to share those sorts of things with was always pretty fun.
What was working at KCRW like? It sounds like there is an incredibly broad range of music played there.
It was really inspiring. We were assisting people who had the luxury of sharing their own specific musical tastes with a wide audience of open-minded listeners. Ron and I had been making mix CDs for friends and girls but the KCRW DJs were getting to do that on a much grander scale. We heard so much new and exciting music and we got to meet a bunch of the artists we were fans of. It was also around that time that we really started taking a liking to dance music, largely because of what the KCRW DJs were playing.
What prompted the interest in post-punk, house and nu-disco?
I think it was DFA records that really changed things for us. We had been into some electronic music like Air and Royksopp, but DFA really bridged the gap between rock and dance music so well and so creatively. The label simultaneously turned us on to post-punk and on to the idea of DJing parties.
Does Santa Monica have a house and nu-disco ‘scene’? Did you find that you had to move to Los Angeles to reach your audience?
The area we grew up in didn’t really have a dance music scene, but LA was close enough to us, and that was definitely where all the parties were going on. We’d go see a concert, find out about the afterparty, then end up in some sketchy warehouse in downtown LA, hearing some of the coolest music we had ever heard. It was a very exciting time for us. Eventually, we were the ones providing the music and just sort of fell into the ever-evolving dance music scene in LA.
Speaking of LA, it seems like there’s something of a ‘micro-scene’ there – with Classixx, Poolside, and so on – of producers and DJs all tending to make ethereal, highly melodic forms of electronic music. Even Flying Lotus, better known for more experimental and ‘avant’ beat-smithery, called his (2010) album Cosmogramma. Why do you think this is? Are all Angelenos drawn to spacey themes?
There is definitely a micro-scene going on. We are lucky to be a part of it and have a crew of dance music producer friends in LA. I don’t think we would be doing any of this if we didn’t have a solid group of friends sharing ideas with each other and collaborating. It’s exactly the reason we are going on tour with Classixx, Jerome LOL and RAC next month. We want people to know that we are a tight-knit group of friends. I think it adds something special to what we do. As for the recurring theme of ‘space’ in LA music, I’m not so sure why that is. It was, however, really cool to see how excited everyone was when the space shuttle flew over LA last month. I thought Instagram was going to explode.
How did the EP on Throne of Blood come about? Had you known James Friedman (owner of TOB) before sending him the tracks?
We finished a demo of our first single and sent it to anyone we thought might be interested, one of which was James Friedman. The very next morning we had an e-mail back from him saying that he loved it. He asked if we wanted to release it on his label Throne of Blood, and that’s pretty much the way it went down. It’s great working with TOB because it definitely feels like a family. We’ve become good friends with James and some of the other TOB artists. We definitely have plans of doing more with them in the future.
Who is ‘Reginald’ and why did you name that track after him? Will he ever return to Cosmic Kids’ reservoir of names?
There seemed to be a bunch of house songs with titles like Austin’s Groove and Chico’s Groove. We decided to run with that theme. Ron arbitrarily chose the name Reginald because it’s sort of a funny name. No offence to any Reggies out there who may be reading this.
A lot of house music made these days draws heavily on older styles (particularly mid-90s New Jersey and 80s Chicago house). Why the retromania?
Nostalgia is a very powerful sensation and people are definitely drawn to it. It’s exciting for music to be fresh and futuristic, but I think it’s also important for music to remind us that the guys from 20 or 30 years ago were doing really cool things.
Your productions always have a strong melodic component to them, something which helps them stand out from the general dullness and derivativeness that mars so much other electronic music; there are stylistic and melodic similarities between your music and ‘indie’ music based around guitars and live performance (I’m thinking of earlier Animal Collective and DFA material here). Does this come from working at a public radio station like KCRW?
It would be hard to avoid including those influences in our music because we love bands like Animal Collective. We also love loopy, repetitive house tunes (and we certainly play a lot of them in our DJ sets) but I think they can sometimes be a bit alienating for the average music listener. Hopefully our music will reach people who don’t even particularly like club music, while still being effective in a DJ set.
What do you listen to outside of dance music?
We listen to a lot. Ron is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to ambient music. Lately I’ve been listening to a bunch of classic Roy Ayers material.
What are your top three tracks at the moment?
Ron and I both love the most recent Suzanne Kraft E.P. Two great tracks from that release are No Worries and Crest. The new Inc. single The Place is also pretty awesome.
You have a new track coming out in November, Freight to My Soul, on Chit Chat Records. What was your inspiration? And where does that spoken word sample come from?
Ron and I had been wanting to make something a bit more atmospheric than the tracks we had released in the past. It just kind of naturally came together. The spoken word sample is from an interview with an American Folk/Blues singer named Elizabeth Cotten.
Finally, you’re playing at fabric’s 13th Birthday Celebrations later this month. How does it feel to be invited to play at one of the world’s most famous clubs?
We feel extremely honoured, especially to be on a bill with so many DJs and producers we admire and respect.
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Cosmic Kids appear at Fabric’s 13th Birthday this weekend
Words: Robert Bates