It’s Been a Good Year for Mosco Rosco

A band that’s earnest, sincere, and… danceable?
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In the last year or so, J Blynn, Pete Harper, Whynot Jansveld, and Sarab Singh have co-written a single on their pal Sara Bareilles’s Grammy-nominated album, The Blessed Unrest, recorded a single with their new pal, Reggie Watts, and when we spent the day with them this summer, made their television debut on RevoltTV before headlining the Troubadour that night. Tonight, the band plays School Night at Bardot in Hollywood and on Thursday, the Slidebar in Fullerton.

If Mosco Rosco has been so busy, why haven’t you heard of them? Maybe it’s because until this summer, the quartet had spent years releasing albums and touring under the name Harper Blynn, a combination of Pete and J’s surnames. Since moving to L.A. from Brooklyn a couple years ago, Harper Blynn played local residencies at the Satellite, the Bootleg and the Hotel Cafe, but felt themselves moving into a new phase that didn’t include Harper Blynn.

“In a sense, we were born just now,” Harper says, while Singh (no relation to the author) laughs in the background: “We’re just a bunch of big babies. Sorry, Pete, it was right there.” Blynn adds that there were “associations with our other name that we weren’t interested in anymore.”

Their new name comes from a character charged with saving rock ‘n’ roll in a 1970s comic by Alan Moore (The Watchmen). Although it’s based on a decades-old comic, Mosco Rosco isn’t a parody or a throwback band. They draw on music from the late ’70s and early ’80s (especially tunes by David Bowie and Michael Jackson) when artists were making danceable tracks that had well-crafted melodies. The four of them come from disparate backgrounds and influences, but they find common ground in classic records like Off The Wall.

The funky, beat-driven brightness of their latest single “I Wanna Love You,” the collaboration with jack-of-all-trades Reggie Watts, toes the disco line in a way while still feeling modern.

“We’re not modernists, but we don’t hate things that are modern,” says Harper, who plays keys and shares guitar and vocal duties with Blynn. “The world was actually pretty nice in some ways back when there were no computers. But there were other parts of the world that were pretty fucked up. We try to take the good parts of those — the integrity, the hard work, the honesty, and put it into modern music without being retro.” It’s difficult to assign a genre to what they create.

“I used to describe our genre as ‘come to the show,’” Harper says with a smile.

“And then they still don’t know!” responds Singh.

“But if you know what something is ‘right off the bat,’” Harper says, “that means it already exists and the world doesn’t need it anymore. If you’re creating something original, it’s slightly more difficult for people to understand initially, but also, it’s immediately more necessary.”

The band’s emotional rawness may be what sets it apart even more than its danceable rock.

“With the music I’ve been thinking about for the last decade, not a lot of it’s sincere,” says Amrit Singh, host and music & culture editor of RevoltTV and Sarab’s brother. “It’s ironic, it’s detached; pick your favorite hipster adjective. If there’s anything that differentiates this band, it’s the fact that they’re sincere. It makes the music more meaningful.”

“If you’re not comfortable with being earnest in your life, then our music might make you slightly uncomfortable,” Harper says. “Not because we’re crying on stage or anything, but because we’re committed to honesty in our music. We’re not trying to help people escape anything. We’re not here to help you pretend you’re not alive.”