Allie Goertz a.k.a. Cossbysweater writes some of the saddest, sweetest songs about geeky pop culture I've ever heard. While other "geeky" musical acts shoehorn obvious sci-fi references into their songs -- or simply write parodies "Weird Al"-style -- Goertz keeps each of her tunes sincere, getting to the lonely, melancholic hearts of her subjects.
Take for example her ode to Bart Simpson's sad sack best buddy Milhouse Van Houten, "Everything's Coming Up Milhouse." Despite the ironic title, she makes you feel the pain and plight of being the perpetual loser and sidekick to a cool kid. Goertz isn't hoping to hook you with her songs by igniting that nostalgic "HEY I KNOW WHAT THAT IS" part of your brain, she's actually communicating something real with her songs.
I spoke with Goertz over email about her new self-titled album, the inspiration for her music, and getting to the gooey guts of geeky, pop culture icons.
MTV Geek: When did you start making music?
Allie Goertz: I have been writing songs since I can remember. In fact, I was in a band with my cousins when we were 6 called Those Meddelin' Kids (A Scooby Doo reference my cousins didn't appreciate). The reason you haven't heard of us is because my cousin quit the band when she turned 7 to pursue a solo career. It was a tragic but necessary lesson. I started up REAL song writing in high school and performed at open mics around town. I wrote my first YouTube song "Comedians" about a year before posting it online and had only written a handful of songs. All the material on my channel is written after the subsequent one.
Geek: What made you want to write songs about pop culture and various types of nerdery?
Goertz: Like most song writers, I write about what I know. What I happen to know best is media. Books, movies, games, I understand these things and I have immense feelings about them.
Geek: Tell me about your process; does a song start with an idea, a melody, a few notes on the guitar?
Goertz: I typically start songs with a chord progression. The tone of the chords will help me know what it is I want to sing about. If the song is particularly sad sounding, I think of what characters come to mind. The melody and lyrics come simultaneously.
Geek: Why the name Cossbysweater?
Goertz: I came up with Cossbysweater after rewatching my favorite movie, "High Fidelity" (which, subsequently, is my favorite book.) [Jack Black's character] Barry says of Rob's [John Cusack] pull-over, "Rob, that's the worst f**king sweater I've ever seen! It's a Cosby sweater! A Cossbysweater!"
Geek: The thing that strikes me about your music is the fact that you write actual songs and don't use them as an excuse to make obvious "Star Wars" jokes like other "geeky" musicians. Was this a conscious decision on your part, or did the subject matter come naturally?
Goertz: Thank you so much. I'd hate for my music to come across as "nerd bait" as all the subjects are super close to my heart. I don't write to get hits (proof is in the numbers) and put an equal (if not greater) emphasis on melody as I do on lyrics.
Geek: Your songs have a melancholy feel that brings a sweet sadness (in a good way) to the stories of some of the characters (e.g. "Everything's Coming Up Milhouse"), is this a natural part of your writing? Are you digging for the sad stuff?
Goertz: Can I be honest? Perhaps obvious? All the songs are about me. I sing odes to characters who are misunderstood, lonely, full of yearning. As far as digging goes, absolutely. There's a comedic element to Milhouse, Sam Weir, Navin Johnson, and it's easy and fun for me to cut through to find these earnest feelings to sing about.
Geek: What inspired "Open Letter to Myself (Elitism)"? I think a lot of fans can learn something from it.
Goertz: Most of my songs take several weeks to months to write, but this song spilled out of me. I had realized that I am a movie snob that alienates their friends. Open Letter has three take aways:
1. Have your own opinion
2. Let people like what they like
3. Draw the line somewhere.
Taste is subjective, it's true! But are you a bad person for thinking a friend's opinions are a little insane? Absolutely not! It's fun to argue about "best" and "worst", just be gentle and loving about it.
Geek: What are your goals when you sit down to write a song?
Goertz: Some songs I write are just for me. In those instances, my goal is to pin down a feeling that I can't work out verbally or mentally. Sometimes nothing expresses a feeling better than a chord progression. I sometimes get embarrassed by plain emotions, so I disguise them with pop culture references.
Geek: What's next? Any tours/shows planned? New songs?
Goertz: I am currently writing a Jurassic Park song called "Ah Ah Ah" which will be accompanied by a music video shot at YouTube Space LA. I am also starting a mini series on YouTube called "Under the Covers" in which I sing cover songs in a pillow fort. The biggest project which I am the MOST excited for is a web series I am writing with James Urbaniak called "Look at Me".