Meet: Jemma, Samuel and Jason From Jemma Freeman And The Cosmic Something

Suzi Corker

Described as “Led Zeppelin fronted by Madonna”, Jemma Freeman alongside Samuel Nicholson (bass) and Jason Ribeiro (drums) who make up the cosmic something, have been creating fantastic original rock. Their live performances are legendary, with Freeman in particular owning many a stage up and down the country. We caught up with the band to find out a little bit about them and where they are heading.

Give us a potted history of the band

Jem: I taught myself to play electric guitar from the age of 15 and since then I’ve almost always been in someones band or something of my own. I’d say the first proper band I was in was at uni as an art student where I formed a band as a dare by a housemates called The Fucks, the name was our own – the dare was making the music. We wrote 10 songs in about two weeks and that was probably the start of wanting to perform and create music in a more consistent and intentional way.

I’ve since been in Bella Union band Landshapes, where I was lucky enough to tour America, Europe and the UK. We released three studio albums and I’ve got to play alongside too many bands to count. 

A highlight is probably being the pretend drummer (I’m in girl drag so you might not recognise me) in Ezra Furhmans ‘Body was made’ video.

During a hiatus in Landshapes activity, I was trying to work out what to do next, I auditioned for bass in a few bands but it didn’t really sit right. My partner at the time encouraged me to record some of my solo songs which I did, and so the first Cosmic Something material appeared.

Since then we’ve had a few different line ups, most notably our first drummer was 80s sensation Furniture’s and world music guru Hamilton Lee! But after lockdown we’ve settled into myself Samuel Nicholson (you should very much check his music out and be prepared to be astonished) and Jason Ribeiro.

Who inspired you to start making music

Jem: Freddie Mercury – I distinctly remember watching live aid aged 3 and very definitely thinking ‘I want to be you’ .

I was brought up on pop (Madonna and wham) and rock (led Zeppelin and David Bowie) predominantly and they still remain my favourites in many ways.

It was a T-rex compilation tape that taught me how to play guitar and probably where most of my on stage posturing originates.

And the one records that inspired you artistically

Jem: Anna Calvi’s eponymous debut – I had the enormous fortune to play a show when Anna was not a huge, world famous artist, but in a dusty upstairs room in a pub in North London long since defunct. I can remember being mesmerised by her power and sensitivity. That she was tough on the guitar and wasn’t playing these flimsy parts that seemed to be the expected norm for an afab musician blew my mind. Her record gave me confidence to be myself, to sing with my full voice after years of people trying to make me sound smaller or more feminine or less proud. 

Micachu and the Shapes – Jewellery another one that blew my mind because of how creative and troublesomely amazing it is! At the time I was existing in a very inflexible 4/4 world that didn’t want to accept that the beauty in everything exists in the messy edges the untouched outcrops where incidental elements come together to create something unexpectedly wonderful. We were obsessed with this record and this band at the start of Landshapes and I’ve only grown to love it more and more as I notice how its infiltrated my psyche and approach.

If you’re trying to explain whom you sound like to someone that’s never heard you, what do you say

Jem: We’ve been told Led Zeppelin fronted by Madonna…but someone thought Cyndi Lauper fronting Fugazi was more accurate…

Either way, slightly gymnastic vocals over huge guitars and mathematically accurate but completely wild drums.

Tell us about your new album

Jem: We recorded it on a boat on the Thames, Lightship 95 in a flurry of activity, in fact we did the whole album essentially live in 3 days and this was part of that sesssion. Easy Peeler was born out of a warm up jam in a rehearsal, it’s pure unadulterated fury at brexiteers, the patriarchy, antivaxers, terfs and royalists. Exaxperation at late night online social media discourse, dressed up as debate that is actually just pessimistic, shallow, selfish bigotry. Easy Peelers are a type of fruit specially bred for the skin to be easy to remove. I like the symmetry of the name with the thin skinned critics of so called snow flake culture.

Jem: In terms of gear, I almost exclusively use Fender Jazzmasters my absolute pride and joy is a a Jazzmasters made by master luthier Philippe Dubreuille, he’s made guitars for Kevin sheilds and Robert Smith. It’s a beauty with overwound p90s.

I am an absolute pedal whore….I cannot get enough. It’s always changing but the current lineup is an OCD pedal, boss super chorus, ehx ring thing, empress super delay, ehx mellotron, JSA prototype delay, JSA the pedal that must not be named, JSA fet breaker, earthquaker devices Astral destiny, Death by Audio Reverberation machine. My amp is a Mega Boogie MK4.

Sam’s also super hot on pedals and gear again a constantly revolving selection,n

Jason uses a 90s Yamaha Maple Custom with a 1970s brass Powertone snare and a mix of Zildjian, Sabian and Istanbul cymbals.

Where can we get hold of it

Jem: The album is available on all major streaming platforms and it’s available on limited edition grape coloured vinyl (there’s some hand drawn lyrics on lasagne sheets and some hand sewn lace curtain covers it’s out on the 25th November on Trapped Animal Records and you can pre-order it now!

Tell us how you write

Jason: Sometimes Jem will bring in a complete song or at least the main parts along with thoughts for how the drums and bass might go and we’ll knock it into shape from there. Lots of ideas come from just the three of us jamming too. We try to rehearse as often as we can and Sam always records everything to listen back to later. We nearly always get a near complete song idea from each of these sessions, in fact we definitely have enough new material for the next album once we’ve sifted through the hours of recordings..!

Jem: Yes the jamming process has been super fruitful (bad pun intended) I think that after the dessert of lockdown being allowed to make a synchronous racket in a room was an enormously cathartic and productive environment for us. Our influences and background are all quite different but somehow we seem to fit together in the most joyful illogical way. I usually pick up a guitar and just let it kind of write for me, I use off kilter tunings and I have to learn unconventional shapes to make useable chords. That way I’m less trapped in the familiar, the fretboard terrain is new and so the sequences don’t tread the usual path.

Often a phraee or something will feel resonant or sometkmes I just read what I see written on things around me. I’ve written whole songs misreading book titles wne then finding meaning and adding additional lines in to make it coherent.

I often don’t connect with my feelings very well in the moment and I’ll find years later that within a song ive managed to encapsulate an entire relationship or situation without even realising at the time.

I’ve accidentally written a breakup record i think…well in part maybe.

Some of its about Brexit and Tories and terfs and being trans.

Tell us about your live show What would be your dream gig

Jason: Would absolutely love to play a KEXP live session at their studio in Seattle and be interviewed by the wonderful Cheryl Waters..! 

Live we are energetic, chaotic and driven. I generally perform in drag, there’s nothing like subverting the male and empowering the queer gaze by thrusting your lycra clad packer in someone’s eyeline…

Jem: We use a lot of pedals and unusual melodic bass lines and rythmic guitar in quite low tunings so we create quite a full sound. I think our record is pretty representative of what we are like live, we often get comments on how much we manage to create with such an economical lineup which I think is a huge compliment.

I can’t stand bands that make no effort to perform, I am enthralled by seeing people work to share an atmosphere or a feeling – I probably take this to an exhausting extreme, but I give my whole body to the show, to the audience. I’ll do the work and I want you to come with me. When I play live I’m free, unshackled by the impossibility of everyday interaction, here we are in our own special bubble and we can make it what we want. Be who we want to be, say anything we struggle with in real life, suspend your disbelief for a moment in time and freeze frame reality.

Also dancing and playing fast- Sam is such a beautiful performer to watch, music dances through his whole being when he plays, it’s honestly magical to watch. I feel very lucky to know Sam there is a lot to learn from his virtuosic heartfelt skill and approach.

Jason is always the biggest fun to play with, if I’m ever uncertain, I can always turn to catch his eye and get the best smile or silly look that brings me back to the room and remember that this excitement is joyful. Never let him eat large meal before a show though, Jason is unique and unlike most humans after he has consumed a large quantity of food – the more he eats, the faster he plays…genuinely thought I was going to pass out after one show where he had an entire large cod and large chips a mere 15 mins before….that might have been more to do with the fact I had the equivalent (5’2″ person) portion as well though…

What can we expect from you in the near future

Jason: We just released Easy Peeler, the first single from our upcoming album due out on 25th November through our Cambridge-based label Trapped Animal. We might have a single or so to release before then as well as two album launch shows in November; 5th at The Cube in Bristol with Emily Breeze and 9th at the Lexington London with Medium Wave, Sunday Driver and The Dead Zoo

Hopefully a tour or two. We’d love to do Germany and the USA…but we’ll have to see, we just love to play! Whoever wants us we’ll come really. It’s such a joy and a pleasure 

Tell us your favourite records that’s rocking your headphones/tour bus/stereo

Jason: Really enjoyed the latest album by American jazz guitarist Julian Lage, which also stars my personal musical gods/heroes Bill Frisell and drummer Dave King from The Bad Plus. An almost unbearable quantity of talent, depth and dexterity and musicianship on this record!

Sam has also been very into this! And can’t believe Jason pipped him to the post.

Jem: Currently getting into The Wipers who I haven’t heard of before and the remix of The last goodbye featuring Bettye Lavette! On repeat forever

Find out more via the bands Facebook

Pre-order the album here

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