Following its successful debut in 2014, Manchester’s Cosmosis returns with an international line-up of alternative music and arts. Now Then caught up with half of the Cosmosis collective to talk about their love of psychedelia, the mechanics of DIY festival organisation and what we should expect from Cosmosis #2.

How did you get involved in Cosmosis?

Liam: We’ve been running a club night called Remake Remodel for over four years. It’s on every Monday at Soup Kitchen and at Ruby Lounge on the first Saturday of every month. Our friends Greg and Matt started putting on gigs with Interstellar Overdrive. We’re club promoters and they’re gig promoters so it seemed like a match made in heaven. They know all about the bookings and things like backlines and tech specs. We’re good at promoting and art direction. It works really well for all of us.

Cosmosis is quite early in the season. Why did you pick March?

Liam: [Laughing] It’s Greg’s birthday in March. Then Matt said, “March is a good time. When I was a kid the weather was quite nice.” Last year it was great, so fingers crossed. The outdoor stage is under cover, so it can still be used if the weather is bad.

Viki: Also, there is nothing else on in March, so we don’t have to compete with other events.

You describe yourself as an ‘Alternative Festival of Psychedelic Music and Arts’. What is psych?

Liam: [Laughs] We had this debate about what it is. Essentially, it’s just good music. It’s all rock’n’roll really. I think Liverpool Psych Fest has really helped to get the word out in this country. It’s a great festival and a great representation of the breadth of the psych spectrum. People tend to instantly associate psych with the 60s, but there is a lot more to it. It can organically melt into many genres and styles.

Why do you think the psych scene is undergoing such a big renaissance at the moment?

Liam: From my point of view there was a bit of a dip. There was nothing really going on in terms of good guitar music. The band scene went all commercial. In terms of resurgence, it’s a snowball effect with bands like Temples and international events like Liverpool Psych Fest. People say ‘guitar music’s dead’, but interesting music has always been there. Just because it’s not in the charts it doesn’t mean it’s not there. You’ve just got to find those bands.

Viki: I think adverts and revival of the 60s imagery in fashion also had an effect.

What do you think attracts people to the psych scene?

Viki: The visual aspect is so colourful.

Liam: It’s all about the community in a sense. When you go to psych gigs it’s always the same people. In the end you get to know everybody. You know all your friends are going to be there. Same people would definitely go to Austin, Liverpool, Cosmosis, all around Europe. It’s like a subculture, a real community.

Where do you see Cosmosis in this scene?

Liam: We’re more of a brand than things like Manchester Psych Fest. Remake Remodel is really branded. We have a shop in Afflecks and we like to a have strong visual identity. We like to brand things. It would have been too easy just to call it Psych Fest and put 20 bands on. We didn’t want to do it like that. At the same time we’re not corporate, a real DIY festival.

Viki: We wanted it to be about arts as well as music. We have people doing art installations. Last year I bought a lot of oil projectors, but this year I thought I’d get other people involved. Upstairs there is a room that’s completely white, so all those oil projections will look pretty special. For me, Antwerp Mansion is also pretty special. It’s a huge house party in a really unique space. Everyone’s talking to everyone. You’ve got old sofas everywhere, lots of antique things all around the place. The green room has pictures of the royal family. It has a strange vibe that works well for psych. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in Manchester we could do it.

Liam: There is no other venue, and having the outside area helps a lot. It creates that festival vibe. We’re not just expecting people to be inside watching the bands. We have a venue with character, stalls and art installations. We wanted it to be more than just bands, so you get your money’s worth.

How do you pick your bands?

Liam: It often depends on who’s touring and who’s in the country. Say, for instance, we wanted Black Angels, but they’re not touring and they cost a lot of money to fly over. We have to fit it within budget. The capacity of Antwerp Mansion is only 600, which isn’t a lot. The line-up we’ve got is great for such a small capacity. In general, Greg and Matt curate the line-up, but Viki and I have input. They know agents, so they go out and book bands. They run it with Interstellar Overdrive.

Viki: It used to be a lot harder, but now there seem to be a lot more American bands coming over here. We didn’t want it to be all British bands. We wanted Cosmosis to have a global feel to reflect the fact it’s a very international scene.

Who would you recommend on this year’s line up?

Liam: The Black Ryder, of course. They haven’t played Manchester before and are only doing four UK dates, so it’s going to be pretty special.

Viki: I would really recommend a band called Moon. They’re from London and played for us last year. Also, Test Pilot.

Liam: We really like Saint Agnes. It’s just great riffs and sexy rock’n’roll music.

Are there any Manchester bands?

Liam: Purple Heart Parade, O>L>A. Matt’s band, Enemies Eyes, are playing. Interstellar Overdrive’s Brahma-Loka are playing.

This year you have some serious cult names like The Black Ryder. How do you manage to pay bands?

Liam: We sell tickets in our shop in Afflecks, in Antwerp Mansion and online, so we just pay from that. All the other ticket sales are just cash on the day but, like all festivals, we need money upfront to pay for our expenses.

Viki: Yes, last year we had people saying, “You must be absolutely loaded,” but they don’t realise that one band could cost four grand. Even just putting up a marquee costs a lot of money.

Liam: [Laughs] if you’re doing it for money – no way! Absolutely no way. It would be nice to make money, but it’s not that profitable. It’s a good thing to do. That’s why we’re doing it.

Should we expect Cosmosis 2016?

Viki: We love it and we’ll do it again in the future. For me it’s as much about getting local artists involved and making new friends.

Liam: It can be quite stressful, but we manage by keeping it all organic. Viki does our design, I DJ and do promotion, Matt and Greg book bands. [Pauses] but we have to go on a bigger scale. Much bigger scale!

Cosmosis is taking place at Antwerp Mansion on Saturday 14 March.
For tickets and full line-up information go to 
antwerpmansion.com/buy-tickets.asp?id=766
Remake Remodel can be found on Mondays at Soup Kitchen and first Saturday of the month at The Ruby Lounge.
Interstellar Overdrive is a Manchester-based independent label and promoter with a taste for psych, garage and shoegaze.
interstellaroverdrivemcr.wordpress.com
facebook.com/pages/Remake-Remodel/165354960165150

Anastasia Connor