Two Fridays ago, N.J. Racket hosted a show at one of our favorite spots, Stosh’s in Fairlawn, New Jersey, with the help of our good friends Mint 400 Records. The show had a little bit of everything that has come to be expected since this venue has taken off as one of the best spots in North Jersey. Electric Sensei brought the weird, Ruby Bones rocked out, Guilty Giraffe cranked up the volume, Joy Cleaner made it dance, and John Cozz got really drunk. Like my grandmother used to always say, “Blame it on the alcohol.”
Hey everyone, welcome back for another episode of N.J. Racket’s Racket Radio Podcast. Joining us for Episode #2 are two are very popular artists and personalities in the New Jersey DIY scene. Max Rauch of LKFFCT and NGHTCRWLRS is not only a great artist and performer in his own right, but is a well respected engineer who has worked with some of the best artists New Jersey has to offer, and John Cozz of John Cozz and the Squirts is everybody’s favorite anti-folk turned pop-punk, amateur filmmaker, crab leg enthusiast. In our episode, Max and Cozz talk about some of their other favorite artists in the scene, irony and sincerity in their songwriting, what their grandmothers think of their music, and how none of us have read Infinite Jest.
A few months ago, John Cozz of John Cozz and the Squirts released his latest EP, titled Have a Great Summer, or HAGS if you have so little time for him that you can’t even say three whole words and an indefinite article. In the most narcissistic move since naming the band after himself and calling the other guys “Squirt 1 & 2,” Cozz, felt the need to venture into the realm of multimedia with a film release, a film in which even less people asked for than Transformers: Last Knight (Yes, the fifth one. No, I didn’t realize they made five until just now either).
Yet, to his credit, there was one single line from the movie that really resonated with me. “Who the fuck do you think you are, John Cozz?”
Last Saturday, John Cozz hosted a release show for his new album, Salt, Pepper, Ketchup, in the basement of the Underground Skate Shop in Newark. The show featured an impressive lineup, paintings on display from local artists, homemade Taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches, and well over a hundred people packed into the basement. I’ve previously written a review for Salt, Pepper, Ketchup in which I praised John for his D.I.Y. attitude and all of the hard work he put into creating this album. It was really great to see him get the payoff he deserved with this show, so first and foremost, congratulations, John.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Sussex County, or has only passed through it, it is truly like no other place in New Jersey. You know that meme that’s like “when you think you’re from the south but you live in Pennsylvania” well it’s like that, but worse camouflage, worse pickup trucks, and nothing but mint skoal long cut everywhere. Honestly, MTV should have capitalized on this. Buckwild could have totally taken place in Sussex County and then The Jersey Shore and Buckwild could have had a cross over episode. I’d watch that shit. Anyway, sorry for that tangent, but I just felt there needed to be some context to Sussex.
Fuhgawee Hunting Club (FHC), Sussex’s unlikely surf rock band, released a four-track vinyl last month called Mirrors. The songs are fast, powerful, distinct, and full of energy. My favorite song off Mirrors is 18 Wheeler, a song that touches one of the three golden topics of song writing – driving (lovers and addiction are the other two). Unlike your standard highway songs of going on a peaceful, long drive to forget about all your troubles, frontman Joe Chegwidden sings about the fear of driving on a highway filled with 18-wheelers and thinking one of them is going to run you off the road. He screams the lyrics with such intensity. I can very vividly see him getting boxed in by a bunch of trucks on route 80 and screaming THIS COMMUTE IS KILLING ME as he tries to escape.
I met John Cozz in the first weeks of doing N.J. Racket. He was playing at SOLO(s) Project House in Newark, opening for The Randy Haze Trio. I was taken aback by his set initially. He had kind of a crazy look, which matched his crazy sound. His voice was straining as he screamed songs about transporting heroin and potholes on 21 and going to college and his grandmother swimming in the Passaic River. He sure as fuck took us all on a ride with that set, and I for one didn’t have enough bread crumbs to find my way back home. I caught him after the show and told him about the site. He quickly started digging into his backpack and pulled out a copy of his first album, Fall into Place or Pieces, in a cracked CD case packed with self-made art and a stack of stickers that read “John Cozz is a no brain little prick, Stacy!” (That’s a Fast Times at Ridgemont High reference, if anyone missed it.)