Getting to know c.Kostra – lo-fi, R&B karaoke


We had the opportunity to catch up with Ryan Olcott aka c.Kostra via phone this past weekend. c.Kostra’s new album “now i feel it”  is the latest release from Twin Cities based Pytch Records and the release show is this Friday, December 2nd at The Icehouse.

From the moment our conversation began it’s clear c.Kostra is an extremely bright and gifted individual. It’s evident he possesses a deep knowledge of both music and the technology and processes behind it. This of course makes sense for someone with such diverse resume, which includes everything from musician to producer to booker and now founder of his own label, but it was fun to chat with someone so bright and so passionate about what they do. Olcott chatted through our roughly 30-minute interview with a sound of excitement and enthusiasm in his voice. Excited about this project, excited about Minneapolis and excited about the future of this music scene. Which if this debut album is any indicator,  it seems c.Kostra and Pytch Records will undoubtedly have a very special role in the future of the Minneapolis music scene.

I ask c.Kostra to describe his music to someone who has never heard of him or this project. “Lo-fi karaoke R&B…or that’s probably the simplest way to describe it,” he says. “Now i feel it” is a complex album, with many layers, “it’s hard to break it down” he goes on. But he concludes that lo-fi karaoke R&B is the best way to describe it because this album really does seem to pull from so many different places musically. c.Kostra, again Ryan Olcott, has a quite the musical background. But he says this is probably the funnest project he’s worked on. “It’s definitely experimental,” but he “really wanted to please himself on this project,” he says. And the result is something special. “now i feel it” is familiar and foreign all in the same breath.

We talked about this a little bit – how something can possess a sound that is both familiar and foreign. A lot of what c.Kostra is doing is playing with different elements of music that people have heard before and can relate to, but then making it into something new (or unmaking it). He describes it as tapping into a musical memory and messing with it a little bit. Messing with it to make them say, “where have I heard this before?” Or “I don’t know what this is, but I like it.” Olcott says this project sort of has that sound like of an old cassette tape that has been rolling around the floor of your car for years. When you pop that tape in it has a weathered, distorted sound, but it didn’t always sound like that. There’s a movement today and kids today are actually discovering this sound with old tapes. c.Kostra is taking that naturally occurring sound from old cassettes and bringing it the next level. c.Kostra, along with his team at Pytch Records, are really pioneering this new sound for Minneapolis. Minneapolis hasn’t really had one distinctive sound in years (if ever), but rather a collection of sounds. c.Kostra talks about this sound and movement and the idea of iconizing this sound and making it his own, but also something that others can get around.  And again, one listen to “now i feel it” and we can only hope Minneapolis hops on board with this sound because it’s addicting. 

I asked him about that process of making this sound. He said people would laugh if they saw some of the things he did to create the sounds on this album. Without giving away too much of the mystery, Olcott talks about recording this album. Messing around with cassette tapes, modifying and rewiring keyboards and drum machines and building his own tape machines. Olcott has dealt with high-fi music, but this lo-fi sound was definitely had more experimental for him it seemed. Olcott goes on to say that some of this album was even recorded with a vocoder app his brother made, that he was beta-testing (I try not to freak out over how rad that is). As Olcott spoke of this recording process I had swirly, colorful images in my head of Willy Wonka working away on his everlasting gobstopper hidden away in his Chocolate Factory. I wanted more of a glimpse into the magical world of recording with c.Kostra but at the same didn’t want to ruin the mystery. And regardless, with both Willy Wonka and c.Kostra, the finished product is delicious.

I ask how Olcott feels c.Kostra (and Pytch Records) has been received so far. He talks about a slew of shows he’s been playing. “We just want to play in front of a lot of different audiences that feel like would get it and identify with it,” which is exactly what they’ve been doing. From electronic dance crowds to R&B crowds and everything in between. Olcott talks about one particular moment after a show where people came up and told them they sounded like My Bloody Valentine and R&B. That really seemed to be a special moment artistically for c.Kostra because those people really got it. We talk about the influence My Bloody Valentine has had on this c.Kostra project. Olcott explains how My Bloody Valentine makes way for Boards of Canada and those chillwavey sounds to even more recent artists like Washed out, Toro y Moi and Ariel Pink. I resist my urge to keep asking more about Olcott’s musical influence and favorite artists to keep the conversation moving along, although c.Kostra definitely seems like a dude you could just sit around and talk music for hours with over a beer or a strong ass cup of coffee.

In regards to Pytch Records he speaks with a cautious optimism when I ask about their journey so far. Since their founding late last year/early this year, Olcott says it’s been a lot of legwork and sort of a grassroots movement. They are working on establishing themselves in Minneapolis. Olcott speaks of minor roadblocks and minor victories they’ve faced along the way. But I think this is what is most captivating about their story. Pytch Records seems to be a group of self-made artists. They’re working hard day in and day out, and the product is nuggets of gold like “now i feel it.”

Rewinding a bit I was curious about the inception of Pytch Records. Why now? Why this year? Why the timing? The way Olcott told the story was that he had been working on Garrison Grouse’s record (now fellow Pytch Record artist) and Garrison encouraged him to start his own label. “I thought about it, and I’m not a business guy, but the more I thought about it, I was like I should do this. Garrison got me all charged up and I was like, I’m older now and  I can do this,” Olcott says. Again, I think that is something that jumps out about Olcott and Pytch Records is they are hardworking artists with so many unique experiences coming together and making music that is just fun. Yes, it’s complex, yes it’s deep, but at the end of the day it’s fun. “Now i feel it” is an album you can throw on while pregaming a night out with friends, but at the same time it’s an album you can put on at the end of long night out while you indulge in a light night slice of shitty pizza from Toppers.

Olcott goes on to describe “cohesive, but screwy” as the magic point they are striving for in their music. It’s something people can listen to and dance along to. But sort of stop and be like “what the fuck?” and then keep dancing. Olcott also works at the Kitty Cat Klub and he talks about that as almost one big research project he gets to do every night. “I see different bands every night, usually three a night. I learned a shit ton about what people respond to, smile to, dance to.” And c.Kostra’s music is just that. It’s dancey, it’s weird, it’s fun.

So what can we expect from c.Kostra and Pytch Records in 2017? “Hopefully touring and taking it out the cities,” Olcott says. “Might have another record done, might have another person on the roster,” he goes on. Olcott was working on another record “when the Pytch thing came up,” so he has almost another whole record complete. Which we can’t wait for, if it’s anything like what we’ve seen from c.Kostra  so far.

And what can we expect at The Icehouse on Friday? “Lots of fun, party music, lots of great artists.” The lineup includes Solid Gold, 68 Degrees (Mark Ritsema of Suzie), Zina and DJ Devata Daun, which Olcott says are a mix of throw back but postmodern. Olcott says he hopes it’s crowd of good people who want to see cool new stuff. Which is what Pytch Records seems to be all about. It’s a new sound for Minneapolis, but building on all the great music and vibes that already exist in this city. Again, c.Kostra is optimistic about the show on Friday, “It’s gonna be threshold pushing, we’re gonna make it a party for sure. It’s not just friends of friends. But music you want to have a good time to, and dance to.” So if this sounds like your idea of a good time (um, how can it not) then grab your tickets and come down and party with c.Kostra at The Icehouse this Friday.

Photo Cred: c.Kostra Official Facebook