INTERVIEW BY: John Peterson
PHOTO BY: Santo Donia
Contrary to popular belief, Carly Cosgrove isn’t a singer named Carly. They’re a three-piece Philly band made up of Lucas Naylor (vocals, guitar), Tyler Kramer (drums), and Helen Barsz (bass). Before formally releasing any music, they made their name as a can’t miss live show, drawing crowds with their unmatched energy and stellar songwriting. Self-dubbed, “nostalgiacore,” Carly Cosgrove blends a variety of influences to create music that taps into the emotional center of life and growth. As bandmates, they inspire each other to take creative leaps. As best friends, they trust each other to be honest and loving. No one knows what it is yet, but they’re planning something big, so keep your eyes peeled for new content. In the meantime, catch them at a live show in Philly or on tour. I met up with the trio at their 10/1/21 show with Elephant Jake, Gloss, and kinda alright at the Ukie Club, where they showed me what Carly Cosgrove is all about.
John: First off, if you had one sentence describe who and what Carly Cosgrove is, what would it be?
Helen: I would use the phrase best friends to start, who love each other and create beautiful noise?
Tyler: Aw, that’s a good question. One sentence to describe this band?
Driver: Hey! Am I allowed to park here?
Tyler and Helen: *literally in sync* I think so!
Helen: You should include that.
Tyler: I think best friends who love each other and make noise is fairly accurate because that is exactly what we do and are.
Helen: I’ll take it.
Tyler: Runnin’ to the bank with that one.
John: When did you realize that music was something you wanted to pursue?
Helen: I have kind of thought about this because that’s what I do. In third grade, I decided that I never wanted to go to college because I viewed it as optional school and I already hated school. And then I saw School of Rock and I was like, “Well that seems cool. That seems way better than going to college.” That’s what I thought when I was a little kid, and honestly not much has changed.
Tyler: I’m like the opposite of Helen. I didn’t really want to be a musician. I’ve been in many bands that were unsuccessful, and I never wanted to do it for real until we started coming up with a lot of art that I really believed in. Once we were able to get to certain points it made me realize that this is something I really want to do.
Lucas: Weirdly enough, music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
Helen: Who would’ve guessed.
Lucas: My parents would tell me stories about me begging them for piano lessons when I was three years old. Of course, I don’t remember any of this. I think the whole time I knew I wanted to pursue music, I never really knew how, though—and I still don’t know how—but I’m really grateful to this band as a huge beacon, a sign being like “Hey, you’re going in the right direction.”
Helen: I like that.
Lucas: Are you gonna take it to the bank?
Tyler: All of it. Moneybags.
John: So, all of your songs are obviously quotes from iCarly and Drake and Josh. What’s the importance of TV to your music and growing up in general? Did you have any other favorite shows?
Tyler: Aw man, that’s really good because I feel like TV isn’t necessarily important to the music in the sense of coming up with it, but it’s important to what shaped us. At the end of the day, we grew up where TV shows—specifically Nickelodeon—were a huge part. Do you remember in the summer when they used to be like, “Oh, today we’re not gonna play any shows. Go outside and play,” and that shit was ass. I would say that the media we consumed, especially TV—you can’t have the music without that. I think by naming all the songs the way we do is kind of showing that. While it did start as a joke, the reason we have these songs is because of TV.
Lucas: And so much of the way I write now is based in nostalgia. I will look back on my childhood to inform my present and my adulthood. As a kid in elementary school, in the morning I would watch a little channel called MTVU, which was like MTV for colleges. So, all the bands and artists that were popular in the college rock and pop circle would get airplay with videos on MTVU. And because I knew it existed, I thought I was so cool. But they were playing like Linkin Park.
I guess I kind of still look back on that time. You know those old adage posters that were like in your gymnasium when you were in elementary school? The ones that said stuff like, “Shoot for the moon, if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” or “Make an effort not an excuse.” I’ve been taking more from stuff like that on cue from the fact that we started this band and jokingly called ourselves “nostalgiacore.” It got me thinking: everyone makes biblical allusions or Greek mythology allusions, why can’t we make allusions to the media that we’re consuming now?
Tyler: To answer the other question of what other shows we like, I mean bro, Nickelodeon, Disney, all that shit. I think Victorious—if it wasn’t Drake and Josh and iCarly—we really like Victorious.
Helen: Those shows are also tied to our specific, weird, millennial, Gen Z, cross generation age. We’re just a weird group. Obviously, the shows are super popular, but it’s really niche to that age group.
John: Besides Miranda Cosgrove, what are your inspirations for your music?
Lucas: Um, Yu-Gi-Oh.
Tyler and Helen: Yu-Gi-Oh?
Lucas: *laughing* No, to be honest, a lot of it was informed by my immediate environment. I came into Philadelphia and I was really excited about the bands and the shows that were happening here. I had always wanted to be a part of a bigger music community and I had always wanted to be a part of this underground scene that we have that’s so expansive and gorgeous and awesome. I had helicopter parents so I couldn’t really go to basement shows until I got to college. I would go to these shows and see these bands—and they’re all killin’—but none of it spoke to me in the way I was looking for, so I kind of made it. A lot of my guitar playing was informed by this band called Weather box from San Diego, California. As well as Bloc Party, Tera Melos, and Manchester Orchestra. I wanted something that had a lot of energy but also had a pretty solid and introspective emotional core too. I listen to everything, and so do Helen and Tyler. So, when we write, we write with the substance of this rich tradition of music that comes from everywhere around us.
John: You release your debut EP, Woah, Just Take It Easy Man., in 2019. What was it like to show that to the world? Do you have a favorite song from that project?
Tyler: I mean, that was cool because we started playing shows like a year before that came out. We played a good amount of shows before we released anything—before we had social media—because again, we were never necessarily planning on doing anything with this. But finally putting that out was nice because we went from being a band that is fun to watch live, and that you know if you’re drunk, you’re going to have a great time, to being a band that you can enjoy when you’re driving in your car or just listening to music at home.
I think we all have a different answer for our favorite song. Mine, personally, is “You Ate My Enchilada!” because that’s the only song on that record that I wrote. It has a special place for me.
Helen: I think mine’s also “Enchiladas.”
It was really cool to put out the EP because when we dropped it and then played our EP release show, the crowd response was crazier than we ever anticipated. There were like 200 people in one shitty North Philly basement. It was amazing to see how much people cared about the art so quickly.
Tyler: Lucas, what would you say is your favorite song?
Lucas: Um, my favorite song to this day is still “Liar (I Ain’t Callin’ You a Truther)” because it was kind of my sales pitch to them.
Tyler: That song was 70% percent written before we joined the band.
Lucas: Basically, I was a first-year at Temple. I got pretty close to someone over the span of a week and then just stopped talking to them entirely and I fell ill over it. I missed the Eagles Superbowl parade and I wrote new lyrics to a riff I already had and that I really loved. I showed them and was like, “Hey, I believe in this. Do you believe in this?” And I think you do.
Helen: Well, we went with it and here we are. I think it worked out.
John: Took it to the bank.
Tyler and Helen. Took it to the bank!
John: My favorite song that you guys have done is “Freddie Benson.” What went into the musical and emotional process of making that?
Tyler: We wrote that one for a while.
Helen: Yeah, it was cooking for a good bit. We had that initial riff and just kind of came up with other shit and were like, “this goes well.” It was a while ago, Lucas would remember better
Lucas: I don’t think I’ve ever told the story about what this songs about. Might as well. It’s time. A couple years ago, there was a period of time where I found myself starting friendships with people and then catching feelings and then feeling guilty for feeling that way. Feeling like I was doing them a disservice as a friend. So that song is about coming to terms with those things and choosing friendship over those feelings. I wanted to write something where I could make a promise to my friends that I would still do right by them as friends. And I think that I’m at a point where I have fulfilled the promise that I made to those people.
Tyler: In terms of the music, we wanted to do something different for sure. That’s where that intro comes from. We didn’t have anything like that. We didn’t hear anything like that.
John: You performed at the DIY Superbowl in July, which was also organized by 4333. What’s it like working with them?
Helen: They’re great. Jayce is fucking awesome. I’ve known Jayce for a while: from back when they were looking at that house in Glassboro. It’s really cool to blow up with a homie like that and to now see Jayce doing crazy cool shit in the city. 4333 is pretty much running Philly right now and to see them blossom from just a basement venue in New Jersey to the biggest booker in Philly and to have that longstanding relationship is really cool.
Tyler: No disrespect to anyone else, but Jayce is fostering something special in the city. Yes, he has shows like the DIY Superbowl that really pop off. And then he has shows that also pop off that aren’t big bands in our scene, that are playing their third show or playing their ninth show and don’t even have merch yet. And I think that’s equally as cool because, at the end of the day, everyone’s there at some point. If there’s no one to put on those shows, there’s no forward momentum. I think Jayce is definitely fostering this show culture that focuses on the advancements of bands rather than just showing up and having a good time. It’s nice seeing house shows charging ten dollars for bands instead of five. It’s nice that artists are getting paid what they’re worth now, and the only person I see doing it is Jayce so props to him.
John: Do you guys have a favorite band in Philly right now?
Tyler: I think so.
Lucas: We don’t wanna play favorites, though.
Tyler: I really like kinda alright and Gloss. That’s why we asked them to be on this show. We wanted to pick bands we fucked with. I think they’re killing it. For some reason they’re not super famous—I don’t really understand it—but I think Gloss is the most different sound that there is right now and kinda alright are some of the most talented individuals I’ve ever met and have such a unique style of math rock.
Helen: For sure. Humilitarian is also doing really cool shit.
Lucas: There are so many bands. All of these bands have impacted me on a truly emotional level and I love them very much. Shoutout Rally Point. Shoutout Splender. Shoutout Sam Silbert. Shoutout 22° Halo. Shoutout Glenn Matthews. Shoutout janna. Twin Beds. Mechanical Canine. We are very lucky to have been making music in this city. The way that it’s small enough that you can meet everyone and create a community is really special. I don’t know any other place like this.
Tyler: That’s an amazing dog. It’s wearing a T-shirt.
John: Sometimes you perform acoustic versions of your songs, including the Cemetery Sessions in 2020 and a live show this year. What inspired you to perform these alternate versions and how is acoustic different from electric?
Lucas: Part of it is the thought process behind the songs. A good song is a good song regardless of its context. I look back at a lot of jazz standards from the 40s and 50s—a lot of showtunes—where people would take those and do crazy things with them to the point where their unrecognizable but the substance of the thing is still there. So, we’ve tried to challenge ourselves by reimagining these songs in different contexts to see if they still hold up as songs. We feel like the best art can be interpreted, can be reimagined.
Tyler: In terms of what it means to us, though: we love it. We feel that our acoustic set is really cool because it’s almost like watching a different band. The playstyle is a lot different. The songs sound almost unrecognizable except the lyrics. We’re a big fan of it. We have a lot more acoustic stuff coming.
John: It’s really dope to see an upright bass. That’s always awesome.
Tyler: Yeah, that is just too cool.
Lucas: The best part is putting it in the car.
Helen: I’d rather carry around that than an amp that’s super compact and heavy as fuck.
Tyler: That’s also just like a cheat code. When the double bass comes out you can’t go wrong.
Helen: It doesn’t even have to sound good. People see it. And they start drooling.
John: How do you think you’ve changed since this project started?
Helen: Like as people? As musicians?
Tyler: Like a band?
John: However you want to take it. It’s been a crazy past couple of years.
Tyler: I’ll go first. This is an answer that’s both me and music. When I joined this band, it was not a serious thing. I was playing house shows when I was very young and I kind of got burnt out for a while. I started playing them again with these two and I just wanted an excuse to hang with my friends, get fucked up, vibe out, listen to some cool new music in the city. I think as the band has gone and as we’ve written more things it helped me personally find out what I felt was important. We have all had some pretty big life changes happen since we’ve known each other and since we’ve been playing in this band. Having this band as a rock, a place to go to when shit is rough or when shit is really good, has helped a lot in my own personal development.
Helen: Yeah, I would definitely agree with all of that. It’s really cool to see each of us grow as people. I remember around the time of the EP coming out, looking at the way our friendships had grown. We had gotten so close at that time—really started to become best best friends. I’ve never had friends as amazing as these guys, honestly. In a way, they taught me what friendship is—not on some corny shit, but what having a good friend is really like and how to be a good friend beyond just the hanging out bullshit. Genuine human connection in its purest form.
Lucas: As far as where we started as to where we are now: trust is a big thing. I am a pretty insecure person, to be honest. I’m used to doing the self-sabotage thing and I’m used to feeling perpetually like an outsider. Meeting Ty and Helen is the first time where I feel like I have a group of people where I fit in and am accepted and belong somewhere. I don’t have to guess what they’re thinking. It also could just be natural maturation, but if they’re yelling at me, I know they don’t hate me—and that doesn’t happen very often.
Helen: It’s out of love.
Lucas: I’ve never known people and gotten the privilege of being friends with people who are so driven and so supportive and so honest and so helpful and so kind. Y’all have shown me a different kind of love from anyone else.
Tyler: You too, bud.
Helen: Yeah, we feel the same.
Tyler: I hope that answered the question.
John: Yes, it did. You’re gonna make me cry at the interview.
Tyler: We’ve had interviews before where it’s like, “How’d you guys meet?” “What’s the name of the band?”
Helen: You’re doing great, buddy.
Lucas: “So, you’re iCarly themed?” I love it when people think that we’re a singer. Just one person.
Tyler: Oh my god and that this is Carly? *gestures to Helen*
Helen: Yeah, people think that I am a singular Carly Cosgrove.
Tyler: This is Carly and the Cosgroves.
Lucas: I feel like people get surprised when I sing. Another fun fact: Helen cannot sing.
Helen: Yeah, I cannot sing. I’ve been playing bass in bands since I was in 5th grade and my entire life people have been like “Why don’t you sing, why don’t you sing?” Just because I’m a girl and people always love a female vocalist. And it’s really fucking annoying because even if I could sing, that’s still misogynistic, but I literally am tone deaf so it couldn’t even happen anyway. No one ever says this to Tyler.
Lucas: The next person who asks Helen to sing—I want them to sit shotgun in Helen’s car while she sings along to—
Tyler: *laughing* Yes! That is their punishment.
Helen: To “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson.
Lucas: No, to what you bump. That one Citizen album, over and over again.
Helen: To “Sleep” by Citizen.
Lucas: I heard the alternate version of “Fight Beat” like five times in two hours.
Tyler: One my favorite parts of being in this band is getting to hear Helen sing. She always does when we’re driving and it’s always a good time.
Lucas: Sometimes we sing along together.
Tyler: If you could call it that.
Lucas: It’s exclusively to Lil Nas X.
Helen: OH, dude that one part in “Call Me By Your Name,” we fucking slam it. *singing* “I wanna sell what you’re buying.” Dude, we go so hard. “I wanna feel your ass in Hawaii.”
Lucas: “Shoot a child…”
Tyler: “…in your mouth,” bro.
Helen: “Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m ridin’.” Which is so funny to me because like, I don’t know I’m a lesbian. *laughing* It doesn’t really make sense.
Tyler: There is no applicable part of that. You cannot relate at all.
Lucas: As of today, October 1st, 2021, Lil Nas X posted on Twitter that there is a KIDZ BOP version of “MONTERO” being made. I wonder what they’re going to change the lyrics to.
Tyler: Dude, I think you should be on the track and sing it verbatum.
John: I’m ready for Carly and the Cosgroves, the cover band. Maybe not even a cover band, just like carpool karaoke. What are you most excited about for the future of Carly Cosgrove?
Lucas: We can’t tell you.
Tyler: The thing we’re most excited about is—during Covid, we were lucky enough to meet some really cool people, some people that have influence and see something in us. Unfortunately, we’re not able to go into specifics, but they were able to provide us with some opportunities that I don’t think we would’ve gotten otherwise. So, we just have some things coming that we are extremely proud of and have been working on for the past two years.
Lucas: We just finished something that we’re really excited about.
Tyler: Unfortunately, we can’t talk too much about it, but we’re most excited about the people we’re working with. That’s big for us right now.
Lucas: We’re excited to play shows, hopefully. We’ll play one tonight!
Tyler: This tour, obviously. The Knuckle Puck Tour.
Lucas: Shoutout Elephant Jake. My closing remarks are: I hope people care about what we’re doing. I’m glad people care about what we’re doing tonight. I’m glad you care enough about what we’re doing to interview us.
Lucas: At the end of the day, I’m so thankful.
Helen: We’re all just happy to be here and just wanna keep doing what we love.