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Interview with Cufi and Cosmo of El Pus

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At The Couch Sessions, a month or two back, I posted about an up and coming band called El Pus. After listening to their album Hoodlum Rock: Vol. 1 non-stop for about five weeks, I decided to try and get in touch with them for an interview. If you get a chance, check these guys out. Their fun and upbeat music will brighten your day and bring a smile to your face. Cufi and Cosmo, the lead vocals, guitars and the essential starters of the band, were more than happy to oblige my request.

How did y’all get into music?

Cufi: I think that everyone in this band has been into music almost their whole lives…we all either had solo aspirations, or were in other bands and groups before we came together as El Pus. Cosmo and I have been in groups together for almost 10 years, everything from hip hop to playing bass and guitar in punk bands, we just fused it all to create El Pus. Woodchuck had a record out before as a solo rap artist before he started playing bass. CJ has been writing music and playing guitar since he was a kid, and Young Pete has been playing drums almost his whole life, so I don’t think any of us have ever not been into music.

Cosmo: I got into music out of my love for music. At an early age coming into the knowledge of music and growing an appreciation for music, I wanted a vehicle to buy as much music as I could.

The backstory to how El Pus became a rock band is really great. How did you come together in the first place?

Cufi: Basically the first El Pus album was just me and Cosmo (it’s out in Japan on EMI, but never came out in the US), and we had just been doing music and stuff for years. Cosmo and I used to rap together and make beats, then basically, when our sampler got stolen, it forced us to find a new direction. Since we both played guitar and bass a little, we decided to add a drummer and make it a 3 piece band….we’d just play riffs and then rap over it. That really ended up being an exciting direction, so we stuck with it. Later on, we added CJ, Pete, and Chuck because we were having a hard time playing AND rapping and still having an interesting live stage show. Once we added the fellas, it just became a machine…that’s where we are now… a 5 piece band, and now me and Cosmo have the freedom of either JUST being vocalists, or playing our instruments, it’s the best of everything, and the guys are such better musicians than us, it just makes everything come together nicely and takes the music to the next level.

How did you come up with the name El Pus?

Cufi: Our little punk band was called A.S. Octopussy, and at the time we were signed to Speech from Arrested Development, who had just become a born-again Christian. He really had problem shopping a band with the word ‘pussy’ in the name, so we just kinda came up with “El Pus” as a nickname until we could really come up with a “real” name for the band. We just never came up with a “real” name, so El Pus stuck….

Who or what are some of your influences, musically and/or otherwise?

Cufi: Everybody in the band has different influences, period. I think that when Cosmo and I were trying to define what the band would be, though…we were looking at just classic hip-hop and also the kinda punk/grunge music that we were into at the time, so when we were creating our direction, I think we had everything from Nirvana to Public Enemy in mind…we grew up on hip hop strictly, but you know, I think we both got bored and started listening to rock…at some point, we started to learn to play guitars and basses, just for fun, and the hip-hop never left us, but punk riffs were the easiest to play!! So it was natural to play two chords and then rhyme over it….that’s how it started, we grew as writers and made it a little more interesting, but that’s how our influences turned into this band…

Cosmo: Musically, my biggest influences are Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Nirvana, Too Short, The Last Poets, Ultramagnetic MCs, De La Soul, Outkast, and Prince to name a few. Personally, I would say, Bob Marley, Bruce Lee, Mohammed Ali, and Harry Belafonte.

How do you define your music?

Cufi: Today, I’d say that our band is a alternative/punk band that creates music from a hip-hop perspective. But tomorrow, I would probably say something totally different. We just do what we feel like doing, so you never know what it’s going to be…hopefully we don’t have to define it, we can just let it breathe and be what it’s gonna be.

Cosmo: Musical Darwinism – forever changing, constantly evolving….little by little.

How did the song “Suburb Thuggin” come about?

Cufi: Wow. When we got our advance from the record deal, I bought a house outside of Atlanta, and I was all comfy, thinking that I was in a “good” neighborhood. Then I started seeing graffitti and shit on walls around my way, and you know, at the mall I’d see these kids that were really acting super-ghetto, and it was the burbs!! I just thought it was funny and sad and ridiculous, ’cause I grew up in a pretty foul situation, where dudes really were getting shot over shoes and coats, shit like that. I just really wondered what would happen if these suburb tough guys were to get dropped into a REAL hood situation, how it would turn out, or if they’d think it was such a fun lifestyle then… So you know…the song just came out of that feeling. I’ve seen dudes laid out in puddles of blood, and there’s nothing cute about it, so I wrote that song as kind of a cautionary tale, ’cause I’d hate for these guys to either really start TRYING to be that real with it, OR to run into someone that is that real and get their feelings hurt…

The video for “Suburb Thuggin” is hilarious. Who directed it? Did you have any say in the video concept?

Cufi: We received a lot of treatments for the video, and didn’t like any of them, so we decided to write one ourselves , so the video you see is actually based on our treatment. We basically brought that concept and storyline to the table. The video director, Brad Furman, really pulled it together and added a lot of the comedy elements and vignettes, and we shot it in one day out in LA… A lot of people respond to that video. I wish we had more of a budget so we could’ve done it bigger, but we’re glad that we were able to translate the message of the song into a video. And using comedy helped it not feel too threatening, which helps people accept the message better without being offended, so we’re happy about it.

While most of your music is fun and lighthearted (so to speak), you do have messages that you are getting across in many of your songs. Do you consider yourselves political musicians?

Cufi: We’re all smart guys with a lot to say, and a lot of opinions about the world and what’s going on around us, but sometimes, you don’t need impose those opinions on people. Even if you do, sometimes it’s just best to do it in a laid back way, instead of getting all Rage Against the Machine with it… So are we political musicians, yeah, probably, but I don’t think that El Pus is a political “band”. But you never know…we want to be free to do whatever, so you’ll never know.

Cosmo: No. Although we may speak on certain topics, we don’t generally use our music as a vehicle for political themes. If the music propels us to a platform that we can speak out on certain issues, we may do so, but we don’t want to preach in songs. But, you know, with Darwinism, you never know what turn the music will take.

Any current plans or projects? Is Hoodlum Rock Vol. 2 in the works?

Cufi: We’re just trying to make sure that people get to hear Hoodlum Rock Vol. 1 right now!! We worked really hard on this CD, and unfortunately, it’s not being promoted the way we’d like, so we’re out on the road and grinding, shaking hands and kissing babies, because we think that this is a great album that deserves to be heard. So that’s what we’re concentrating on right now. We’re always working on new material, but I don’t think we’ll revisit the Hoodlum Rock concept (for another album) for a long time…

Cosmo: Constantly writing and coming up with themes for future songs, but the main focus is trying to break the current album…..grind, grind, grind!

Where do you see yourselves in the next five or ten years?

Cufi: No idea. I hope we’ve sold a significant number of records by then, hopefully we’d be several albums in, and an established entity in the industry with a couple of awards, honors, and the respect of our peers. Most of all, hopefully we’ll all still be cool with each other, and having fun pushing the boundaries of creativity with our music.

Cosmo: Shit, I have no idea. I haven’t seen enough yet to know where I want to be in five or ten years. I just know I want to be there.

How was touring with Reel Big Fish?

Cufi: It was a great experience. Those are some really down to earth, cool guys that are super cool to their fans, and their fans were super cool towards us. The band and their fan base embraced us, so the tour was like summer camp. Hanging out with a bunch of cool fellas every day for several months…it was everything you’d imagine a fun rock tour should be. We hated to see it end, and hopefully, we’ll go out with them again in the future. It was a great fit.

Cosmo: The shit! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but that being our FIRST national tour, we couldn’t ask for a better one. The cats in RBF were cool as hell, the crowds were receptive everywhere we went, and the other supporting bands made it all a memorable experience. I learned a lot from RBF on many levels during that tour. They write good songs, put on a bomb show, and have a level of professionalism that can only be respected. ‘nuff respect!

In your online diary, you wrote about some memorable moments from your tour in Europe. Could you share some of those memories here?

Cufi: Wow…I think I wrote everything I could muster up on the diary. I just enjoyed Europe, the people, the culture, but not the food. I ended up losing weight over there ’cause all I could eat were french fries (chips). That was the only thing that tasted the same no matter which country we were in, so I stuck with that… The festival food was good, but once we were on our own, I was hard pressed to find things I liked.

Cosmo: Not really, it was all a blurrr for me.

So what is your “Thing Thing”?

Cufi: Whatever you want it to be, as long as you do it with confidence.

Cosmo: Freedom – to do, say, and feel what I please. Tattoos. Living life to the fullest!

What are the top five songs playing on your Ipod/MP3 player/CD player/walkman/8-Track player?

Cufi: The Quick and the Pointless – Queens of the Stone Age
N*gga Please – Jay-Z
Happiness Is a Warm Gun – The Beatles
What’s Up Now? – Proton
Arrgh, I’m a Pirate – Zolof the Rock N’ Roll Destroyer

Cosmo: Hold my Hand – Van Hunt
ITT – Fela Kuti
No Problems – Lil Scrappy
Rock with You – Michael Jackson
Last Living Souls – Gorillaz
ED/PUB:LM

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