Jon “Cosmo” Kagan is a hip-hop artist and producer. He’s released four EPs, three remix albums and one LP. He’s a solo artist and was once a of the group Kyosi.
His latest effort “All Inclusive,” a concept album taking place in a “utopian resort called the Getaway Hotel,” comes out of his new group Oriole Sol. A New York City based trio, Oriole Sol consists of Revi Roza on vocals and guitar, Omar Walker on bass and guitar and Cosmo (Jon Kagan) as emcee. Oriole Sol has a diverse music style that ranges everywhere from house, electronic, Latin jazz, blues and reggae.
Cosmo and I sat down the other day for 5 questions (Ok, six again) to chat beat making, writing songs about elevators and the benefits of recording a concept album.
1. Can you tell me a little bit about the formation of Oriole Sol?
Jon “Cosmo” Kagan: After graduating college it got to a point where I had enough beats where I was working on 6 different albums. Instead of instrumental tracks just sitting on my laptop, I had a few that were similar in their musical timbre and sonic feel. This lead to an ‘exotic hotel’ folder. I was hearing Revi’s voice on a lot of the tracks.
I always thought it would be cool to do a record with her where I can highlight her singing over something most of her fans aren’t used to. Throughout college she sang with the Rozatones which had a live big band feel. I was always a fan of theirs and got my dance on during their live show. That being said, I always wanted to take her voice a bit away from the funk genre and show her versatility. Although I rap and make beats, I don’t consider myself a musician. I have a really unorthodox approach to songwriting and wanted to see how that could coexist with Revi.
I sent her some of the tracks and she dug. Omar was already working with me on my own record, the Kyosi project along with this anonymous electronic joint. Since Omar was already at my house frequently I figured why not bring him along. Thus, the trio was formed.
2. What kind of vibe were you going for with the album? It seems like there are so many different musical styles infused.
Cosmo: There’s definitely a lot of different genres. All three of us are very different artists and have different musical sensibilities. We wanted to use that to our advantage.
Revi has a great ear for soul, folk, funk, and jazz. Omar actually studied Tuba at Ithaca College. Even though he laid bass for most of the album, he’s actually really focused on jazz guitar. The goal of this record was to have fun and just not care about expectations or rules.
For anyone who knows my solo stuff as Cosmo, it’s more on the emotive cathartic side. Along with the anonymous electronic project with Omar which is dark – I think for my own psychological health I needed to make something happy and laid back. What’s happier and laid back than an exotic hotel? Revi and Omar were feeling the concept so we turned it into a concept album.
3. How did you go about recording a concept album?
Cosmo: We wanted the album to feel seasonal. The first tracks I had ready were the skeleton for this lobby, outdoor hotel vibe. Although that description is very subjective I guess based off our mutual personal politics we were able to insinuate that idea.
From there we started writing songs really fast. We figured why not the track list be a fictitious itinerary? The three of us worked really well together. I love Revi and Omar – those two are like my brother and sister at this point. We’re able to communicate ideas really well and have a lot of fun working on music together.
With my record digging and rendering of samples along with their live instrumentation we hoped the listener could get a good mix of soul and digital. I think electronic music can be stagnant at times becomes it’s too perfect.
DJ’ing has become the new guitar. Thankfully Omar and Revi are more talented than I am and were able to bring each track to a whole new level.
4. Did you already have the beats ready or did you need to create them on the spot?
Cosmo: For this record, it mostly started with me. I’d do some sample work, layer with keys, do the drum, and since I’m also into the ambient genre – I’d layer with some atmospheric stuff. Then they would make the songs sound a million times better with through live instruments and Revi’s singing. There a few exceptions:
Drink You Up – Omar was over and we wanted to test this microphone. Neither of us can sing, but we were in a hyper mood. He laid this smooth guitar piece. We built the rest of the track around that. Then we started doing the ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ that you hear on the song. During the break after Revi’s 1st verse, you should hear our singing debut. That initially started as a joke and today when we hear it, it’s hard for Omar and I not to laugh. But Revi dug it, and no one has said anything bad about that part since the release.
Sometimes joking around can result in serious work.
Departure – Revi came over and just laid that riff. Then I started to do my thing. When I sent it to her I don’t think she expected we’d ever use that riff for the project. Luckily she dug.
5. What are some benefits/difficulties to trying a project like this?
Cosmo: The benefit is that you don’t care. I really try to make music now like I’m the only person who is ever going to hear it. Tonedeff (QN5 Music) gave me that advice.
You naturally start expressing yourself more honestly. I’ve always been big on concept records so for me it’s not too difficult. I love albums that feel cohesive, like an experience. A lot of my favorite albums are concept albums.
If there was another benefit it’s that a concept album allows you to explore your creativity in a way you might have not approached before. I can’t answer for Omar and Revi but if there was any difficulty it would be trying to keep a straight face when you’re writing a verse taking the persona of an elevator.
6. What’s next? Concerts? Tour? Another album?
Cosmo: Our awesome fans #Feather FAM got us 300 likes on our Facebook page.
As promised, we’re letting them vote on which artist they want us to cover, Lana del ray, Fleetwood Mac, Janet Jackson or REM.
You can vote on the Facebook page. Once voting is done we’ll do the cover(s). We’re also now trying to grow the team. Don’t think we’ll be a trio for much longer as we have some plans in the works so you may see Oriole Sol bring in some new members real soon. Once that happens we’ll start getting a live show ready.
As far as new record, I think we’re all itching already to start another one. For now it’s practice time. I got to go back to the drawing board with emceeing. After an indie pop record, two electronic projects, and this – I got to be a little selfish and go back to my first love. But at the rate we make music, you may hear from us real soon.
To listen to “All Inclusive” press play below: