You might have seen Cosmo Pyke before. Perhaps you clocked him among clouds of smoke and glitter-smeared flesh in Frank Ocean’s Nikes video.
It’s possible you spotted him in Lanvin’s glossy menswear ads for autumn/winter 2016, or Topman’s 2015 lookbook. Or, maybe, you’ve caught him at a small venue somewhere, twanging out drowsy melodies on his guitar.
Musician, skateboarder and model Cosmo David Augustus Pyke, for that is his full name, has been gigging for a few years now. Backed by drummer Eddie Amos, he plays super-chilled sets that have been known to begin with an incongruous cover of Jimi Hendrix’s version of Catfish Blues.
The buzz around Cosmo has intensified recently because he’s releasing a debut EP recorded with Fraser T Smith, who’s made hits for Adele and Sam Smith.
A week after dropping sleepy lead track Social Sites, the 18-year-old is on the phone at home in Peckham, south-east London, doing his first major interview. “It’s weird now it’s out,” he begins, in a tone as lackadaisical as his music.
“When it was just on my phone it didn’t have the same impact [on me], but now…”
Cosmo isn’t quite used to his music being available for public consumption. He’s barely even acclimatised to recording it.
“I’ve always played gigs and never really recorded anything, so now that shit’s semi-real, I guess,” he says.
He sounds uncertain, but an EP recorded with a Grammy-winning producer should fix that. Curser’s Lament, due early next year, bends his varying influences (Joni Mitchell, 9th Wonder, Mac DeMarco) into a breezy five-track introduction that could be the most interesting thing Smith’s put his name to in years.
“There are lots of tempo changes, to give it a less robotic feel,” Cosmo explains.
The pair met after Cosmo stayed behind one day at the BRIT School (he didn’t enjoy it, but “valued being treated like an adult” and “heard lots of stories about Adele”) for an A&R audition.
He played Social Sites and a cover of Easy Easy, by fellow south Londoner Archy Marshall (aka XL’s King Krule). The A&R turned out to be 70Hz’s Saul Fitton, who is also Smith’s assistant manager. Fitton was smitten, and introduced Cosmo to his boss.
“I loved that guy,” Cosmo remembers. “He plays crazy jazz guitar and was so open”.
The singer sounds totally unbothered by music biz glitz and wasn’t curious to ask about Smith’s starry collaborators (“My mum looked them up, but I just wanted to learn from him”).
He’s similarly blasé about his cameo in Frank Ocean’s video. “I got £75 for sitting around somewhere near where Masterchef is filmed. It was horrible, but Tyrone Lebon shot it so well”.
Cosmo likens the director’s cut-and-paste approach to the way he writes songs, stitching his melodies to samples (including one of his mum’s old band) in his room, usually after getting in from a night out.
He talks seriously about his music and is already wary of outside influence. “Music is the most realistic thing I could do. I’m always learning, people keep contacting me, but I don’t need anyone doing stuff for me that I can do myself”.
With Cosmo still unsigned, the requests will likely continue, but he’s not bothered. “I want to keep writing songs,” he says before hanging up. “This is life. I’m just trying to go places.”