As far as ambitious and honest musicians go, Cosmonaut is one of the most raw acts to come out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His acoustic driven, singer-songwriter tunes might not be the kind of music that the industry demands right now, but Cosmonaut’s music absolutely demands to be heard.
Cosmonaut is the moniker used by 23-year-old Sean Marus to showcase his music. “There’s something romantic about the imagery of an ill-prepared and petrified Russian being jettisoned into space all alone during the Nuclear Age. That’s sort of how I feel about creating music on my own: I feel like I’m not quite where I want to be as a musician, and it’s a little terrifying to be a solo artist and to share something so personal with other people. The name marks my musical approach: ‘I don’t know how ready I am for this, but here it goes,'” said Marus about his use of Cosmonaut as a name.
Marus, who has been writing fully formed songs for about eight years started Cosmonaut about a year ago with the idea of “Grand Ambassador,” an album tracing the history and spirit of Milwaukee, along with Marus’ personal relationship with the city.
“I didn’t grow up in a huge cultural hub like New York City and I didn’t grow up in the boondocks. So, unlike others, I can’t write about either of those things. Milwaukee is always kind of the butt of a joke and never really taken seriously, but I think it’s generally a really beautiful city and I wanted to pay tribute to it,” stated Marus about Milwaukee’s role in his life and music.
It was initially this concept, an album focused around Milwaukee, that drew my attention to Cosmonaut. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, so it has a very personal spot in my own heart, as well. Like Marus said, Milwaukee has never been the focus of music quite like Los Angeles, New York, or even Chicago are, but Milwaukee has an incredible and dark history surrounding it that deserves to be written about.
One fan of Cosmonaut, Tommy Miller agreed, “Sean has spent the majority of his life growing up in, and soaking up the atmosphere of Milwaukee; so he’s been able to take his life experiences, feelings, and emotions he has felt from life in Milwaukee and channel that into the making of his music.”
Cosmonaut has since scrapped the idea of “Grand Ambassador,” but let me know that his favorite songs from the project have survived, and are tentatively going to appear on the upcoming Cosmonaut record. My personal favorite from the ‘Grand Ambassador’ sessions that I hope makes the cut on Cosmonaut’s debut album is a gem called “Ghost Writings.“
“There’s something romantic about the imagery of an ill-prepared and petrified Russian being jettisoned into space all alone during the Nuclear Age. That’s sort of how I feel about creating music on my own.”
Cosmonaut has been playing shows in the Milwaukee area for about a year from various locations, from bars to trendy art galleries. Marus has always been able to pull in quite a crowd, including many regulars that continuously come back for Marus’ somber songs.
“Each show of his is better than the previous, and that growth in the quality of his musicianship keeps me coming back for more. Whether it’s his vocals, guitar play, or a new instrument he introduces to his music, I am continually blown away by his ability to light up a show,” said Miller about what keeps him coming back to Cosmonaut shows.
Cosmonaut pulls influences from artists all across the board. Influences that you can hear in his music from the early days are Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, and Conor Oberst. Skip ahead a few years to Marus’ EP, “The Screening Room,” and you will hear inspiration from John Frusciante, former guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“Recently, I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Sufjan Stevens, Father John Misty, the Mountain Goats, and other assorted hipster fodder. I’m not sure how much he’s directly inspired my sound, but I also want to shout out Omar Rodriguez-Lopez; he was one of the first artists that inspired me to be more fearless in making music, which has been my main focus with Cosmonaut.”
Many of these influences also come through in Cosmonaut’s lyric writing, and that is very apparent to his fans. “I often refer to him as ‘The Golden Goose’ of lyric-writing, and there were times when he just felt like he couldn’t write good lyrics to save his life. Instead of giving up, however, he would spend hours on end just writing lyrics until he had a breakthrough,” said Miller.
However, ‘assorted hipster fodder’ is not the only place Marus draws inspiration from. Marus said that anything raw and urgent grabs his attention, even if they are outside the genre of music Cosmonaut makes, some of the most recent cases being noise-rap groups.
“clipping., Death Grips, and Run the Jewels are a few acts that have really inspired me recently, but don’t have a direct correlation with the end product. Like clipping.’s new album “Splendor & Misery” is one of the gutsiest albums I have ever heard in my life and Death Grips is, in my opinion, the most innovative band this side of Radiohead in the 21st Century,” said Marus.
“I often refer to him as ‘The Golden Goose’ of lyric-writing.”
Although Marus is constantly inspired by other artists and always coming up with new ideas, lately he has had some difficulty finding the time to devote to writing and performing as Cosmonaut with a relatively new full-time job.
“Working 40 hours per week takes some of the energy that you would have otherwise funneled into creating art. Similarly, working makes your time more valuable and taking a bunch of time to record and perform isn’t always possible,” said Marus.
“He has never given up, only gotten better, and that has resulted in the musician we see today,” stated Miller.
Even though Cosmonaut may be at a temporary halt, there is no sign of throwing in the towel. Marus still has plenty of stories of tell, whether the world is listening or not.
Be sure to check out Cosmonaut: