February 8, 2018

Jonathan and Michael Rosen are brothers based in Los Angeles, and also the group Cones. Jonathan is an acclaimed hand-drawn animator. Michael is a commercial/film composer and experimental sound artist. Prior to starting Cones, the brothers played in the backing band for Eleanor Friedberger (of the Fiery Furnaces), helping to write and tour on her latest record "New View." While on tour, Jonathan and Michael conceptualized a new project. One that would fuse Jonathan’s pop sensibilities with Michael’s lush soundscapes and key-heavy orchestration, one that would rely on an entire lifetime of brotherhood – sounds that Jonathan could draw and images that Michael could hear.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I’m Jonathan and I’m the singer and guitarist of the band Cones. Michael is my brother, and he plays keys and co-produces the project. We’re from San Francisco but we live in Los Angeles now. I am an animator and I hand-draw our music videos. Michael is a composer. We play basketball together, sometimes one-on-one, and I usually win but sometimes he beats me.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? We’re deep into the process of recording what will presumably be an LP. We’re working on about 11 songs at the moment, mostly at our friend Adam Gunther’s studio. We’ll be touring in the spring, so for the time being we are very focused on finishing these songs. Once they’re finished, I’ll start to think about making the next animation for one or two of these tracks.

What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other musicians are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? One challenge that a lot of musicians these days face is to maximize the potential of their material. As we all know, attention spans are not what they used to be, which means that releasing a full length album doesn’t always fulfill the potential of every song. A lot of artists have been releasing singles here and there, or EPs, spreading out the content over a period of time so that every song gets its moment. So far that’s what Cones has tried to do, through our single releases via Canvasback and Dangerbird Records. However, an LP still feels like a holy grail to me – it’s such a definitive statement, and it’s something I am very excited to achieve. Basically, deciding on the right way to release material can often be challenging. But having songs to release in and of itself is a beautiful thing, so it’s a good challenge.

How has living in Los Angeles affected your music? We moved to LA from New York. In New York we were playing in some other bands, practicing in a tiny windowless box. One of the biggest draws of coming to LA was the spaciousness. I could actually move my body while practicing, which was way more liberating than I’d even imagined. Also, there’s a very open-minded and supportive community of musicians out here. We had no trouble finding gifted freaks to play and record with.

If you had to explain your music to a stranger, what would you say? The feeling of lying in the grass with a baseball hat covering your face and staring into the sun through one of the little hat holes.

What kinds of music/what musicians are influencing your work right now? Recently I’ve been really into a group called The Blue Nile. And Lucinda Williams. And listening to a steady flow of Big Star.

What was the last show you went to that stuck out to you? I saw Thee Oh Sees a few months ago. I’ve seen them a bunch of times, but it had been a few years. I spent most of the show in “the pit” and I had forgotten how soul-stirring that can be. The network of support underneath all of the chaos is just a very cool thing.

Top 3 favorite or most visited websites and why? This is Michael now, Jonathan’s brother. I’m a pianist and producer, for the record.

I spend a lot of time on looking for good deals on gear. I recently started a studio with my friends Pat Jones (engineer for Washed Out and Toro Y Moi) and Dent May (of Dent May), so I’m constantly on the lookout.

I check everyday. It’s a baseball blog for the San Francisco Giants. I love baseball.

I check Rotten Tomatoes pretty often. Gotta know what you’re getting into…

What is your snack/beverage of choice when recording? Depends on the track, and what time it is. Sparkling water is always good. Green tea. I don’t like to snack too much while recording, but I’m down with some chips and salsa, humus, some chocolate. Probably whatever you would see in a green room. If the mood calls for it though, some whiskey and/or beer.

How did your interest in music begin? I started playing piano when I was 6. I was always drawn to music, but started to really get into it when I started composing short classical pieces at around 11. I had a really great teacher/mentor at the time that encouraged me to explore music creatively, not just as an academic process or pedagogy.

What do you want a listener to walk away with after hearing your music? I want a listener to feel like they experienced something unique. Of course our music draws on influences and references, and that will always be heard, but we make a serious effort to extend ourselves, to not be lazy, never to cut corners. So I would hope that our music gives people a feeling that they haven’t quite experienced before, however subtle.

What are you really excited about right now? I’m really excited about finishing our new recordings in the next month and going on tour in March.

Most embarrassing moment on stage? My most embarrassing moment on stage was during a classical piano recital. I was probably around 15, and playing a piece by Bach in front of a room of people who would definitely recognize a mistake. Things were going fine, and halfway through the performance I pretty much forgot who I was, where I was, etc. I paused for a few seconds, and just walked out of the room.

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your music? It’s been an exciting year for us. We’ve gotten some really great feedback, especially given how young the project is. Honestly, any reaction we get is sort of the best. Just people reacting to your music in general is a blessing.