Q&A: Josh Ostrander, the front man of Mondo Cozmo

A&E sat down with Josh Ostrander, the man behind Mondo Cozmo, to talk music, touring and that name.

Katie Lauer

When it comes to the world of music, Mondo Cozmo is making quite the entrance. Front man Josh Ostrander and his backing band, Illinois, have multiple festival performances under their belt, as well as a hit single, “Shine.”

A&E chatted with Ostrander before his set at Bonnaroo last Thursday, offering a sample of Minnesota nice before the band stops by First Avenue in Minneapolis on Aug. 5.

This is your first “later” show in a festival lineup. How does that feel?

We’ve been really blessed, being able to get a bunch of festivals. I can’t believe it. We’re a newer band, so we’re getting the [midday] slots. To actually get a night slot … we’ve hit a bullseye.

With only a few singles out, how does the set list look?

I just finished up the record, and it comes out in August. We’re playing pretty much the bulk of the record right now. It’s really great to gauge the reaction before it comes out.

How does it feel to already have a hit single (with “Shine”) before the album release?

It’s actually really cool. I was able to do the album [with] this great gauge from people. They’re really responding to honest lyrics. It was almost like market research on how I was going to do my record.

My friends call “Shine” the “Jesus song.” What are your thoughts on that?

That’s funny, and I’m not really that religious. In one of my favorite movies, “Cool Hand Luke,” after [a character’s] mom passes away he sits there and plays this song called “Plastic Jesus.” It’s just my favorite moment ever. When I first wrote the line, “Stick with me Jesus,” I was trying to get that sense and that vibe.

I hear a bit of Bob Dylan when I listen to the track. Is he an inspiration at all?

When I started seeing reviews I was like “Why are they saying that?” I don’t get it. He’s like the greatest songwriter of all-time and has an awesome voice, so I’ll take it.

As a solo recording artist, how do live shows work for you?

I’m essentially a solo artist who hired a band. I just happened to hire the greatest band of all time without knowing it.

When we first started this, we didn’t know how much touring we were going to do. We played a couple shows in L.A. and sold them all out. We booked every festival and now we’re doing a headlining tour in the fall.

I was terrified because I’ve been in bands my whole life — it’s very much a brotherhood. But I picked some really great dudes, and we have this really great bond together. The scariest thing turned out to be my favorite thing.

What would you say to someone who’s thinking of heading to your show at First Avenue?

If you come see Mondo Cozmo, you’re going to see a band just playing our heart out. It’s something to see because we leave it all on the stage. Whether there are two people there or 20 thousand, we are bringing it.

What’s your favorite part of touring?

No matter what’s going on in my day, I go on stage and start playing these tunes and it just goes away. It’s like meditation.

Where did “Mondo Cozmo” come from?

Oh, the name? My dog’s name is Cozmo.

And the Mondo?

John Waters had a movie called “Mondo Trasho,” and I was like, “That sounds cool.” So I just took “Mondo” and put “Cozmo” there.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity