Talks to Eoghan Lyng
"I'm a Beatles fan," Ed Cosens begins. "Most musicians claim to be fans of The Beatles, and I do like John Lennon. There's some solo Lennon going on in my album, a lot of emotion going on. I was the bassist in Reverend and The Makers, but I changed guitar sometime in about 2012. Promoted to an extra two strings. Jon, who is the singer and lyricist of the Reverend, would identify more as a Lennon, but in my more natural position as a musician, I would probably identify more with McCartney. He was a definite influence as a bassist, and always made his bass lines, chords and melodies interesting. A lot of rhythm and blues of the time was pretty simple, so he went a bit outside of that box. And he's left handed, just like I am!"
Cosens, a Sheffield born songwriter and raconteur, is here to discuss Fortunes Favour, an album he has written outside Reverendand the Maker’s rock oriented universe. Expertly produced, the songs are laced with an emotional sophistication more commonly heard in Lennon’s oeuvre, but with a technical proficiency found an eponymous McCartney album. The comparison isn’t mere window dressing on our part-Cosens has the ability to record a solo album entirely sans autres.
"I toyed with the idea of producing the album myself," Cosens beams. "Dave Sanderson was the main producer, but I knew what I wanted it to sound like. Dave's a great engineer, and helped produce the last Reverend album. We all play different roles, and this way I could focus on playing in the studio. I had a guy called Adam Crofts on drums, and Joe Carnall, who sings for a band called Milburn, played bass. I basically played everything else, which is either arrogant, or it's an inability to hand over control [chuckles]."
The Beatles’ shadow hangs over the album (Cosens shares a Northern aesthete with The Liverpool Four), but chameleon like in ambition and resolve, the album veers from liturgical numbers ‘The River’ and ‘Come on In’ to something a little more soulful.
"I'm very much into soul, and Northern Soul. I used to run a funk and soul night here in Sheffield. That was when I was a little bit younger, and we called it Defunkt. My wife and I used to run it-we served soda streams and cocktails- but we started a few years too early. It was before the current Northern Soul Revival, so it never really took off [chuckles]. But I'm big into soul, and I love to put on a record on the dance floor. Kevin Rowland is a big soul fan, and that Searching for the Young Soul Rebels album is a great album."
Cosens, who has shared a stage with titans Jon McClure and Alex Turner, has witnessed Sheffield shift from industrial town to music town. The album, rich with detail, plasters the listeners with many of the failings that counter their minds on a detailed, daily basis.
"’Pantomime’ was written a little before the pandemic. It was about a relationship- a friend relationship-about someone I used to be in a band with. He decided he was better off without me. He obviously wasn't, as he ended up in Tescos, and I'm lucky to enjoy the modest career that I have.
Cosens stops for a second. "There's no real ill well or bitterness on my part. It's just something that's been going on over the years, and I thought I'd like to nullify that particular side to me. That was why I decided to commit it to tape. Part of the appeal of the album is that a lot of it is about friendships and relationships... that you get to understand when you live through a bit of your life. 'Last To Know' was a slightly older song, and one I recorded with Reverend and The Makers, but it has a nice resonance and fits in well with the narrative of the album. It was about a friend of mine, who has since bounced back and married, but it was about his difficulties with love. He found out the hard way, and the song, I suppose, was an ode to that time. "
Coloured with fire, fever and feistiness, the album delivers a ballast scarcely on a work steeped with such contemplation. The title track explodes with a thunder emanating from the gut and the drum pedal, while ‘On The Run’ -soaked in ambient textures and soundscapes- sounds like something cut from a solo Alex Turner piece.
"I love the Submarine soundtrack," Cosens says, his smile evident from the way he describes the album. "It's underrated. No, underrated is the wrong word. It's not celebrated enough, and it' definitely a good observation that you see that in 'On The Run' It's got that late Beatley vibe, swirly piano thing."
"It's difficult not to be influenced by your peers," Cosens continues. "I've known Alex for years, and we were in a band together. He must have been sixteen, seventeen, and he took on the role of rhythm guitarist. Then, Arctic Monkeys took off and ...It was amazing to see someone that you knew do so well. I'm still good friends with Alex, and I like the other guys- Jamie and Matt-as well."
Seated between The Beatles and Arctic Monkeys came Echo & The Bunnymen, a triumphant Northern four piece espousing acidic wit amongst the meditative textures that shaped their sound. ‘If’ , Cosens’ lead single and most accomplished recording, shapes itself in a vocabulary that may well have come out of Ian McCulloch’s mouth. With it’s crisp, clear conscience and burning guitar sound, the single is every bit as good as the influences that form Cosens’ wheelhouse.
"The sound wasn't intentional when we were recording it, but Joe, the bass player, said, 'There's a feel of Echo & The Bunnymen to this track.' So, we went with that. They're a brilliant, brilliant band. Reverend happened to be in Parr Studios in Liverpool, and Echo & The Bunnymen occupied another room. Coldplay recorded some of their early albums there. Unfortunately, they're one of the studios closing at the moment."
The interview momentarily sours, and we get the sense that Cosens aches to hear the thoughts, once his most dear and personal, sung back to him by a paying audience of some description. "Yeah, absolutely live performances," Cosens sighs. "It's one of the things I get most out of being a musician, playing my material to live audiences. This might be the longest period I've gone without playing a 'gig'. It's been a weird time. Started playing at thirteen, fourteen: mates parties, then local pubs, that sort of thing. I've done some online streamed things, but this has been the longest without a gig. I've been doing a lot of D.I.Y stuff at home. We've had a lot of gigs cancelled with Reverend, and they can't be rescheduled. There's a lot of people who depend on this, people who work in the less glamorous side to the industry. The 'Save Our Venues' movement is shining a light on the crews who do a lot of work on the gigs, them being the people who jump from one tour to the next. I mean, there are a lot of fat cats out there..I think Van Morrison is pretty comfortable for himself! But this period has really made me realise how much I miss playing live.Hopefully, next year we can play the album, when things are a bit more normal and the vaccine has come out, and hopefully not too many people will be affected."
But Cosens, like the rest of us, lives in the present, and the album-sharply written, performed and produced- echoes with poise, promise and presence. "I wrote this intentionally as an album," Cosens effuses, with deserved pride. "As in, it was purposefully started as an album. So much today is disposable..the world of Twitter..but this was an album written about life experiences. It's about people falling in and out of love, and maybe they can recognize parts of themselves on the album."