Seattle's own '60s-fed, garage-rock, she-surfer band Tea Cozies have a new video for the song "Cosmic Osmo" off their Bang Up EP. The imagery is hard, bizarre, and ultra-clear, while the music is stoic and drifting above. There's an ambiguous darkness and a mystery to the scenes. Veins bulge, a worm pulses out of a bloody, broken test tube. It's unsettling and ugly, but you can't look away. A dead, bald, silver man on a gurney bleeds from a slit in his forehead. A woman in a red sequined dress dances next to him. You can't see her face, but you're bracing for more worms to emerge. It's wrong, yet attractive somehow (spoiler: There are goats). Directors Nik Perleros and Ty Migota successfully hinge on quick-cutting, slo-mo perversity—their sordid shots leave you both turned off and on. In musical news, the Cozies' Jessi Reed, Brady Harvey, and Jeff Anderson will now be joined by Kithkin's Ian McCutcheon on drums. The four are at work on a new album. Jessi, Brady, and Nik spoke. I thought about worms.
What are y'all going for with the video? It's a doozy. B: We want the viewer to say, "WTF was that? And why is it so beautiful? But WTF was that?"
J: It was time to do something seriously fucking weird, and Nik was our guy.
Where did you pull the look and feel from? N: Our aesthetic was inspired by (1) the mood of the song itself: dreamy, retro, nostalgic, eerie, longing, cold, and vast. Death is a big part of the song. (2) The work of Barcelona audiovisual group CANADA. (3) Contemporary art photographers such as Jeff Wall, Stephen Shore, Kourtney Roy, and Nazif Topcuoglu. (4) Freud's concept of the uncanny, where something can be familiar yet foreign at the same time, resulting in the feeling of uncomfortably strange or uncomfortably familiar.
What's a "Cosmic Osmo"? J: Our friend David Doyle gave us his Wi-Fi router, and his password was "Cosmic Osmo." We thought it was rad, so we stole it for a song title. The song is not about the wireless router, or the old Mac game.
Let's start with the opening scene: A priest-man wearing a dress and a gas mask baptizes a woman in strange makeup by pouring aqua milk liquid in her face. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? B: It's an initiation rite into ROCK.
Is the aqua milk supposed to be semen/milk from the gods? He's pouring life in her face? We're all alive? Why is he wearing a gas mask? B: It's Nilbog milk, obvs, from the movie Troll 2. Nilbog is goblin backward. And he's just a germaphobe.
N: It is absolutely a baptism or a submission. Later in the video, three men pass glasses of the same fluid and are suddenly transformed. They drank the punch; they submitted. It could be life, it could be death, but it is transformative. Thought I do like this semen from the gods idea.
Then there are pills and a Girl Scout uniform. What's the worm-on-the-broken-test-tube shot about? There's blood and a toy dog. Where did y'all get the worm? What drug should I be on to understand? B: The worm was yanked from the sidewalk in Portland. He worked later that afternoon as an unpaid intern [laughs].
N: The worm was not harmed during filming and was released after we shot the scene. This scene echoes the video's cycle of submission-endurance-catharsis.
There are farm animals. Where did you get them? Can I get a goat story? B: We crowdsourced the goats. We asked for one and got THREE. The internet is an amazing place.
N: The goats came from Liz Clark at Boise Creek Boer Goats. They lacked the ability to take direction, though they possessed incredible improvisational skills. They would gravitate toward the harp as Shawnmarie played, eventually nestling up beside it. They love music, apparently. So we captured that. They also poop a lot and frequently. We tried not to capture that.
One of the video's themes seems to be the primal attraction to the dark, to the mysterious. Being turned on by fear, and by that which is wrong. It also helps when that wrongness is dancing in a slinky red dress. Why are people attracted to darkness? B: When you constantly suppress your urges in order to fit in with the status quo, pretty soon you're gonna bust like a volcano. So yeah, I could see how that might be a turn-on for some people.
J: It's a pervy nightmare.
N: Since we aren't giving the viewer a narrative to follow, our aim is to give the viewer a feeling. At best, the video triggers a self-reflection. "Cosmic Osmo" will hopefully elicit many things from different viewers. It was certainly made in part due to my own primal and cerebral attraction to the dark and mysterious [laughs].
There seems to be a lot of pain: Faces ache, veins pop, someone is slapped, someone rams their head into a wall. Are y'all into the ol' S&M? N: Pain was never our explicit intention. I'd say that imagery represents the endurance portion of the video [laughs].
B: We don't kick and tell.
How did the content of the song inform the content of the video? Did the lyrics find their way into the shots? J: I wanted Nik and Ty to come up with a concept without knowing what the song was about. I thought it would be more interesting, and I was genuinely curious to see what they would do with it.
N: No specific lyrics are represented—the content was inspired by the impressions the song gave Ty and I. Mortality and memory. Also, in the video we strived to create imagery as specific as the lyrics: "Tops of whiskey canteens. Balm of tigers." These images are of distinct memories—Jessi's, specifically—and once mentioned, they are then abruptly replaced by a new memory, connected or not. Our video operates similarly, with quick, transient images.
And the dead-wedding scene. Help me. And whose bruise is that? B: The dead-wedding scene was maybe the coldest I've been in years. It was filmed in Portland in January.
N: The bathtub scene where our coproducer Jess Grant reveals her massive bruise was made up on the spot. We had to use her red Jacuzzi. When stuck, we'd look at photographs, listen to the song, or just play with the actors until we discovered something.
What's the weirdest part of the video for you? For me, it's the worms. J: The very first scene we shot. It was early in the morning, and Susan [Perleros] and I were at the dinner table acting as man and wife. I was drinking coffee and getting baby oil applied to my face while watching the costume designer wrap a fur caveman diaper around Nik. He gyrated, shook his sticks, and made Tim Allen–worthy grunt sounds. That, or making out with a foam mannequin head.
Talk about the Thanksgiving-mounted-knife scene. J: That's a real knife I was holding an inch or so from Brady's neck, and due to the angle I was lying on the table, I couldn't see my hand at all. My arm fell asleep after about 10 minutes of holding still, and I was worried I was accidentally going to stab Brady in the face.
How many times did you pour the aqua milk in Joanna's face for the baptism shot? N: We had only one chance to get a perfect pour onto Joanna's beautifully airbrushed face. We were at the Washington Park amphitheater in Portland, in February, and it was raining pretty hard when we filmed. Everyone involved was soaking wet and cold. My last words to Joanna before I began pouring the milk were "Whatever happens, don't move." Halfway through the shot, Joanna began choking on the milk. I was essentially waterboarding her, but she endured in stillness through the entire jug of milk, like a boss.
Then Snow White wakes up on an altar of light, and she's gasping for air. Was she dead? Did the space priest sacrifice her? N: This scene is a re-creation of a painting I love by Albert Von Keller. In our version, a deceased bride is lying down, surrounded by her bridesmaids, the groom, an angel, and a priest. Suddenly the bride awakens, though no one notices. This scene drives home the phase of catharsis that ends the video.
Welcome to the orgasmic, aqua nebula, Snow White! Now smoke some hash and drink this aqua ox milk—we're going to play Galaga all night long. B: We will destroy you in Galaga.