WR865: Tired Cossack

Episode 865 January 24, 2024 00:41:39
WR865: Tired Cossack
Witchpolice Radio
WR865: Tired Cossack

Jan 24 2024 | 00:41:39

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Hosted By

Sam Thompson

Show Notes

Good chat on this episode with indie rock/post-punk/shoegaze/'genre salad' artist Tired Cossack about his new(ish) ‘I Know, I Guess’ album and its sonic and thematic shifts from its predecessor, songwriting, “janky guitars”, and so much more!

Need more Tired Cossack in your life? Check out his previous appearance on episode #652 (Jan. 2022)

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Episode Transcript

[00:01:07] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Welcome to Witchpolice Radio. I'm here with a guest who has not been on the show in a couple years. I think the reason that this came up, this having a part two, I guess, to our conversation is that the anniversary of that previous episode came around. I always keep track of sort of on this day in whatever year. And our previous conversation came up, and I know you'd released an album sort of late last year and I'd been meaning to arrange something so the timing worked out fairly decently. Anyway, so I think the best way to start this off, as I always do, is to have you introduce yourself and give a bit of background about what it is you do as an artist. [00:01:41] TIRED COSSACK: Cool. Yeah, so my name is Steve. I perform under the name Tired Cossack. And yeah, I guess I'm a solo artist from here and... I don't know what genre to call it. It's all. It's, I guess at its core indie rock, but it's influenced by shoe gaze, post punk. There's some kind of traditional Ukrainian elements in there as well. And yeah, it's kind of a little genre salad. So it's a project now that I've been doing for four years, almost brilliant. Last time we spoke, it was still very new and I think I was still kind of figuring out what it really was. And I think I'm still kind of doing that. But I have a better idea now at least, so I'm happy to be back. Thanks for having me. [00:02:35] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Well, thanks for doing this. I think you're definitely more established now. I mean, not only have you been doing it for a couple of extra years, but you have now two full lengths out. You got an ep out. You've been obviously making a lot of music sort of in the time between when we last spoke and now. So maybe let's just start with that most recent record. It's funny because I was listening to it and I've listened to the one before that hocus pocus. I listened to that a number of times. You gave me the copy of the tape. I've definitely played it quite a bit, but this new one seems like a more significant body of work. I was looking at the times, and it's not that much longer than the previous one, but it seems like more of a substantial record, I guess. Does that make sense? [00:03:20] TIRED COSSACK: Yeah, totally. And I agree. I feel that way. And I think it's just the amount of sort of work that went into it. Not that work didn't go into the first one, but the first one was a lot more bare bones in terms of what I had available to me and kind of where I was just as a songwriter, too, it was kind of just like, okay, crank this demo, mix it, make it sound as good as possible, get it out the door, get the next one. And I really still like that because it has that kind of aggression and rawness to it where this one, I think it took a lot more time because. And I credit Donovan, who worked on the last album with me, Donovan Ostapovich, for basically telling me, like, listen, if we're going to do another album now, let's do it properly. Let's meet more often. Let's sit down. Let's take the time to make decisions about things, take the time to retract things if they're a bit sketchy, which is a completely foreign concept to me at the time, and remains so, I must admit. But, yeah, it felt like a good time to make an album, and I honestly, going into it, thought it would be the exact same process because I'm happy with that. I like quick and dirty, and I had never done anything else. So going through it, it was a huge learning experience. And I think that kind of is reflected in the album, too, even in terms of just genre wise, it's all over the place. But again, I think in a good way. I would like to think the listener thinks in a good way, too, but it's just kind of like. I think there's a lot of growth in there. There's still that rawness that I hope to convey. But, yeah, you're right that it does feel more substantial. It definitely took a lot more out of me. [00:05:15] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Well, it feels more polished. And I mean, like what you just said about that kind of rawness and aggression and quickness of the previous tapes, you put out. I like that, too. When I was in bands, I always wanted to record things immediately, regardless of quality, and move on to the next thing. So I get that attitude, for sure, and there's that kind of DIYness to it, but this feels like it. You always spent more time on it in a good way, and I think that comes through in the songwriting and just in the way the songs are kind of presented, too. That genre thing, like you said, it is all over the place, and I think it's positive. From track to track, you're hearing different influences and hearing different sort of styles that obviously you're experimenting with. But even the more raw songs, the more aggressive songs, they sound polished. They sound more kind of almost more lived in as an artist than the previous ones, which I don't want to say they sound like they're tossed off quickly, because even if they were, they don't have that kind of throwaway vibe. But you know what I mean? It seems like you've spent more time sort of determining how you want these to sound, rather than just playing them and getting them out there. [00:06:24] TIRED COSSACK: Yeah. Which I think for some songs was fantastic, and everything sort of fell into place, and then other ones, it was like that as well, but it's just the ones I was the most excited about. You had all these different avenues and possibilities that you kept thinking of. And again, poor Donovan. There'd be times where we were into mastering on one of the songs that I basically said, no, we need to go back to skinning. I'd want to rerecord the guitar. I want this tone know, luckily. And that's the thing, if you want to do something right, at least if you're someone like me, you need people around you to force you to be patient and to quell your impulses and talk you off back from certain things. And I can't do stuff like that on my own, so, yeah, it was just crazy process to get to know. I really thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the kind of consternation it put me through at times. But, yeah, it was awesome. I mean, making music rocks, and when you're with people that are passionate about the project, too, it's so much easier to spring out of bed than it is for a job. [00:07:46] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, definitely. [00:07:48] TIRED COSSACK: I was. So in times where it's like, even if I'm frustrated and mad, it's still the best. [00:07:55] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah. You can't argue with the fact that you get to go create all day. [00:07:58] TIRED COSSACK: Yeah. [00:11:22] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: I mean, like, you know, kind of like we just established. I mean, there. There's more work put into the whole process here. But as far as the actual, like, the subject matter of the record, the previous one had a lot of focus on Ukrainian folklore, and there were a lot of those elements in the songwriting and in sort of the story behind the music room you were making. And you said earlier that some of those kind of traditional elements are always in your music, but thematically, this one is obviously not as focused on a single sort of thread as the previous record was. [00:11:55] TIRED COSSACK: I'm glad you brought that up. And before I go into that, I just want to say, too, if anyone's listening, don't get the right idea. I do work for a living, unfortunately. Don't get to make me think of a living. I fantasize about it all. [00:12:08] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, of course. [00:12:09] TIRED COSSACK: Anyway, so that's a great question. And it's one that actually, I think is really important and one that has been biting my brain for such a long time leading up to that album, working on that album, because, yeah, you're right. Hocus Pocus was so overtly Ukrainian with Ukrainian themes, and I felt like once I put that out, and obviously, my name is overt Ukrainian as well, but I was like, okay, well, I kind of said what I wanted to say about that part of myself and that identity, and I didn't really have too much to add at that point. I actually have tracked a few demos now that are kind of going back to that. But for this album, it was like, okay, well, I've established who I am. I don't need to constantly remind people that I'm a Ukrainian musician, and I didn't want to kind of just become. Not that I was worried about being known, for one thing, because honestly, not worried about being known at all. But I also didn't want to feel like I was always forced to kind of have the same theme when my mind wasn't there. My mind was completely in other places. And so that's all I could reflect with any sort of earnestness. And I did worry about the lack of continuity all the time. And what I ended up telling myself was, you know, what? The first album was establishing who you are, and now you are that person. And just because you're not doing the over Ukrainian stuff doesn't make it any less of that identity in you. [00:13:49] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, that's part of who you are, regardless of what you're singing. [00:13:52] TIRED COSSACK: So now, whatever I make, it's still me making it. There was a point where I was like, all right, it's part of my language, but I was like, you know what? Fuck it. I'm just going to make the music that is coming out, and I like it, so let's just follow it. [00:14:10] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Cool. Is it harder to write like that without sort of having that overarching theme, or is it harder to sort of write to a theme? [00:14:19] TIRED COSSACK: I find it hard to write to a theme if I'm choosing a theme. [00:14:24] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Right. [00:14:24] TIRED COSSACK: Honestly, for me, I'm very much someone that I would say I'm driven by the process in terms of whatever is kind of going on inside of me, that's what's going to come out. So, like, when Hocus Pocus came out again, it was kind of like, this is this brand new identity I've built for myself, and let's dig as deep as we can into it and see what comes out. And I was having a real sort of awakening to Ukrainian music as well that I was enjoying listening to. And so kind of playing with influences from there. And then, yeah, this most recent one, I think it was just sort of different sensibilities that were swirling around in my head. So every time I sat down, even if I had a plan, whatever came out was meant to, I guess. And those were the songs. [00:15:16] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Well, I noticed that on this new one, too, that it seems like... And maybe this is just recency bias because I listened to it more recently than the other ones, but it seems more hooky at a lot of points. It seems like all the songs have more sort of, whether it's deliberate or not, they have more sort of earwormy type choruses and they're more. Not more memorable, but more. I don't want to say commercial because I don't think they are. I mean that in the best possible way, but they seem more kind of reaching out to a wider audience. I guess if that makes sense. It seems like it's less sort of quirky and more sort of. This is something that everyone can get into. [00:15:53] TIRED COSSACK: Yeah. And I don't think that's by design. I think, again, that was like. I'm happy to hear that because the one thing I think I'm good at is writing stuff that will get stuck in your head no matter what it is. And if there was a goal, that would be it. But again, the stuff that's stuck in my head is the stuff that's going to come out. [00:16:15] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah. [00:16:17] TIRED COSSACK: So that was it then. And I think you touched on it earlier in terms of this record being more polished. I think that kind of adds to that, where you strip away a lot of the jankiness and then it is more accessible, I think. [00:16:33] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: See, accessible is the word I should have said, and I could have saved myself, like, 35 words there, but. Yes, exactly. [00:16:40] TIRED COSSACK: And then if there's a popular song that kind of poppy comes through where it wouldn't otherwise, because it's still surrounded by jangly, squanky guitars and, like, it lost. And that's not a bad thing either. Like I said, I still will go back to those songs and those songs. I still love playing live, too. [00:16:58] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah. And there's definitely a time and place for the janky guitars like that, too. Right. [00:17:03] TIRED COSSACK: I'm glad to hear that because, let's see, from October 24 till now, I've recorded 14 demos that I'm looking at here, and let me tell you, that janky guitar is a lot of them. Yeah. [00:17:16] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: What has the reception been to the album? I mean, it's been a few months now since it's come out. [00:17:24] TIRED COSSACK: I didn't have expectations in terms of benchmarks of streaming numbers or anything like that. I honestly just hoped that people liked it and that it would be more than nobody. At the release show, at the Good Will. Yeah, it's been super wild just in terms of where things come from, in terms of feedback or kind of exposure, you never know. You do things like fired off to radio stations that you think are cool and stuff with no expectations, anything. And then Internet radio stations that I like in England have been playing it cool and, yeah, it's cool to see. And then it looks like a lot of people are listening to know. I'm spending so much time on my phone now because you're looking at, of course, Bandcamp and Spotify and stuff, which is so dumb, and I wish I was better at not doing that, but I can't help it. And it feels, uh. And I feel like too, locally, just talking to peers in. In music, I think that the things that people have been telling me are so great and nice. And I feel very supported and very happy that I did that, because it's always the scariest thing, putting it out. And once you put it out, it's not yours anymore. And it becomes kind of. It belongs to the world. And whatever the world does with it is what it is. Whatever the world says it means, it's what it means. So, yeah, I'm just happy that it's out there and that I was able to provide something that people seem to like. [00:19:13] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, that's what you want, right? That's kind of the goal, I guess, of making art, is you want to get it out of yourself. [00:19:18] TIRED COSSACK: And then I know I'm not trying to sound profound, and I'm just saying the most basic things. It's just. No, at the end of the day, that's all it is. [00:19:27] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: That is what it is for sure. Yeah. You just said a few minutes ago that you have 14 demos already underway. So this is obviously leading into more music, right? I mean, you're clearly working on new stuff in the aftermath of this album release. [00:22:58] TIRED COSSACK: Yeah. Not expecting to, honestly. It's just things pop in your head and then you're screwing around with the guitar and there's always the classic, like, okay, well, if I don't record this now, I'll probably forget it. I think this is kind of cool. So then you do it, and then all of a sudden this happened two nights ago. I was up till three in the morning when I had to work at like 830 because I needed to get this demo properly done on fucking GarageBand. It happens, but then it's cool because I get so fixated on it that I'll just be listening to this one demo for, like, a week straight. Constantly, anytime I'm listening to music, I put this demo on it because I'm like, okay, there is something here. What is it, and how can I bring it out? What can I add to it? What can I take away? It's silly, but then I start imagining other people listening to it. No one specific, even. Yeah, but just like, okay, if I heard this and never heard it before, let's pretend I never heard before, what does this sound like? And I don't know. It's just this whole process that I guess once you start doing it, it's just fun. And then you get so obsessed with it and you can't stop. And that's been music for me when I started it. I say all the time that the goals that I set at the outset were so small. And to see where I am now is so wild because I constantly am only looking at the steps in front of me or, like, the next step in front of me. So I often don't take the time to stop and look at the big picture. I probably said this in the last interview, but it's like a spiral staircase. Okay? So you feel just like you're going in circles and circles and circles, but really, when you actually finally take the time to stop and look down, you're like, holy shit, I'm really high up, and look how far I've come. [00:25:02] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Well, I guess something like releasing an album gives you an opportunity to stop and look down. [00:25:07] TIRED COSSACK: Releasing the album, the big moment of that for me was playing that album release show at the goodwill and looking out and seeing just how many people were there. Yeah. And was really cool. It made me so happy. [00:25:23] WITCHPOLICE RADIO:Well, it's. It's the beginning of 2024. Right now we're recording this. It's early January still. I guess you can call this early January. What do you have sort of in mind for 2024? Obviously, again, you're working on new songs, clearly, but do you have sort of any goals you're hoping to achieve in this year? [00:25:41] TIRED COSSACK: Yeah. Yes and no. It's hard to make goals. Things constantly come up in life. And of course, currently, you asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would probably have a different answer than today just because there's stuff I have going on, and it's like, am I going to be even able to focus on music at all to the degree that I want to? Right. In a perfect world, let's say, I would want to push as hard as I can this year in terms of I'm a real person with the debt and want to have goals in life, to be independent. Yeah, of course. So it's tough to say this is something I can do forever with this amount of commitment, but I would definitely say that a goal is to push as hard as I can this year if I'm able to. Yeah. And whatever that looks like at the end of it, I'm sure I'll be happy with it. But it's just kind of. I look at the stuff I've done and things I'm doing, and I'm like, this is cool, and I should give it its best of a chance as I can. [00:26:55] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, I guess that is one of the problems. Right. The thing about doing this show is that I talk to people who are at so many different levels of where their music thing has taken them. I've talked to people who music is their day-to-day life, and it's their job and it's what they do. Twenty-four seven. And then more often to people who have day jobs and have adult life things happening. Like what you're saying life gets in the way. You can't really say, oh, yeah, I'm going to release three albums and go on a world tour or whatever, because it's not necessarily realistic. Right. I guess it depends on who you are and where you are in your career as a musician and stuff like that. But, yeah, I get what you're saying. You obviously want to get yourself out there as much as you can. [00:27:37] TIRED COSSACK: Yeah, no, and I want to play shows, and we have some cool shows coming up. The ultimate dream is to do a tour which we're looking into right now and have already done some planning on in western Canada. [00:27:53] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Cool. [00:27:54] TIRED COSSACK: And then some other stuff in the pipeline that I wish I could confirm and say this is going to happen, but I can't. [00:28:03] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, I know what that's like. It's all good. [00:28:06] TIRED COSSACK: Not like I'm keeping it a secret either. It's just like, I don't even know if it's going to happen. [00:28:10] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Yeah, well, with something like a tour and just with sort of promoting yourself and promoting this record in general...You're trying to figure out sort of who your audience is, especially outside of Winnipeg, because in Winnipeg you have an idea. You know, the people in the bands, you've been to the venues, you know, a lot of people in the audience, you kind of have a relationship there. But if you're going to go to another city and know they've never seen you live before. They've heard songs online, whatever. How do you market this? Because, like we established at the beginning, you're very nebulous genre wise. And I mean, are you pushing the Ukrainian cultural thing more than maybe you would here because there's other people with the same background who might be interested in some of that music, or are you pushing the indie rock thing? You know what I mean? Just again, this record, one of the songs I think was the third song, is it's almost grungy, it's heavier and more distorted and louder, and it's got a big hook, too. And I could see that being like a rock radio thing versus other songs, which, again, with the janky guitars as you described them. I mean, definitely aren't that right? They're definitely way more in the indie area. So do you have an idea of how you sort of push yourself to people who don't know you. [00:29:25] TIRED COSSACK: Well? In a word, no. When I do, my process is like everything else. I usually start by asking people that know more than me a lot more, because I know. Know I'm just constantly flying blind here and figuring things out as. Yeah, you know, it's actually a good idea, maybe promoting an Edmonton show. I'll lean into the Ukrainsky a little more. Yeah, no, I think it's just for me, it's funny you mentioned first the fact that I have relationships here, and that's really what helps build here. But I find that that's also what helps build outside as well. Whether I'm asking people here who have been there and done that and have experiences that I can learn from, that I can go to and ask, or if I know people in those cities or other band members know people in those places that they've played before, that there may be a genre match there. And I think it's a blessing and a curse how all over the place the Tired Cossack music is, because on the one hand, it's tough to kind of sell yourself sometimes when people are like, what's your thing? [00:30:49] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: People want a one-word answer. [00:30:51] TIRED COSSACK: Yeah, and I can do that. I guess I'm getting better at it because I say it's shoe gaze, post punk inspired indie rock, but then I want to add a bunch more. With not-so-great folklore. [00:31:05] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: You need at least a paragraph. [00:31:07] TIRED COSSACK: Yeah. On the other hand, it really helps because we can be so malleable when it comes to playing on different bills. We'll play a show here with a couple of heavier sort of post punk bands and we can hang in there because we have that repertoire that we'll draw from or if it's kind of a softer indie show or more folky, we can do that too. We can lean into the sort of more folky genres. And I think we've done that here already a bunch. And it's fun to kind of cater to the show that you're playing. And so it can help in pitching yourself because it's like we could play with anybody almost within reason. We could play with Beth or we could play with the men's choir. [00:31:57] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Right. And those are. Yeah, those drastically different sounds, for sure. And different audiences, too. Totally different audiences for both of those. [00:32:05] TIRED COSSACK: Yeah, totally. [00:35:35] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Well, if people are hearing you for the first time on the show or maybe want to learn more about what you're up to as far as, first of all, hearing the record and upcoming shows and that kind of thing, what's the best way to find you online? [00:35:47] TIRED COSSACK: Probably on Instagram, just because that's social media I use the most. So, yeah, it's just at Tired Cossack on Instagram, that's usually where I'll go to kind of post updates or dumb pictures that I'll take throughout the day or anything like that. But yeah, no, that's the main one. [00:36:08] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: And then the album itself. I was listening on Bandcamp, but I assume it's on all the various streaming services that people use. Cool. [00:36:14] TIRED COSSACK: Yeah, it is. Yeah. Go check it out. Tell your friends. [00:36:18] WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Awesome.

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