Cosmo Jarvis Isn't a Gay Pirate. He Just Plays One in His Amazing New Video!

Cosmo Jarvis

The past twelve months have seen quite a few gay-inclusive and gay-themed videos from artists ranging from Lady Gaga to P!nk to Kylie Minogue to Ozomatli. But it’s probably safe to say we haven’t seen anything like “Gay Pirates” from UK singer Cosmo Jarvis.

Not only is the subject matter of "Gay Pirates" wildly different from any of the songs from the above artists, but Jarvis also plays the part of the gay pirate in his own video. In addition, he conceived of the video’s concept, and directed and filmed it himself.

While the twenty-one-year old Jarvis – who also writes, acts and makes movies – was actually born in the U.S., most Americans are probably unfamiliar with him despite the fact that he has made something of a splash in the UK where he has already generated a fair bit of buzz as a singer.

That might be about to change with the release of the video for “Gay Pirates” as not only have a number of U.S. sites including posted the song, but British actor Stephen Fry recently tweeted the video out to his users.

AfterElton talked with Jarvis about how a straight guy came up with the idea for the song, his frustration with gay stereotypes and much more.

AfterElton: How did you come up with the idea of writing a song about gay pirates?

Cosmo Jarvis: You know the stereotype of pirates — these gruff dudes who can take anything, they live on maggot-infested biscuits in the middle of the sea, they whip each other, they’re really tough guys.

So if one in ten guys today is gay, then one in ten guys back then must have been gay, so I was just thinking there must have been gay pirates, although pirates were very tolerant toward homosexuals for the most part. But if you did end up on a boat in the middle of the ocean and you can’t run anywhere and everybody is totally against the idea of you having a partner on the boat, I felt that it was the worst thing that could happen to somebody who was gay.

(All photos from "Gay Pirates" courtesy of Robin Hillier)

AE: So you were trying to make a particular point by using pirates?

CJ: The way that men are perceived to go about attaining what they need to attain is something that a lot of people here don’t think gay men are capable of. And that’s why there is the whole “gay men are wimpy thing” going on. People are always thinking that all gay men are more feminine and I was just thinking, like, all it is just the way a straight guy would look at a woman and all the things that would go with that and how they would do anything to save that woman if anything bad was going to happen to her if they loved her. All it is is that, just applied to another man.

AE: Talk about doing the song as a sea shanty.

CJ: Some people here [in the UK] can’t think about that [gay people] because it grosses them out or … they just write off gay people. They just don’t bother thinking about what might be going on in the head of a gay person.

So the music is presented the way it is so if it’s played in a bar and there is somebody in the bar who likes the music and gets into it because it’s a sea shanty and you can get people stomping around. The idea was that people in the audience might be the people who think like that [that being gay is bad] and might get into the music before they get into the story of the song so that before they know it they are dancing around and they are being enthusiastic about the song and then when they realize what it’s about, they have no excuse not to continue dancing with the same enthusiasm.

AE: I love that idea. That’s wonderful. It’s very subversive.

CJ: It’s happened. You get the hordes of teenage guys, drinking beer, stomping around, singing the chorus of the song. It’s a good thing for me to hear them singing it because they’re singing about this guy who’s endured terrible hardships, and they’re singing it like it was any other song about love that people would sing. I just wanted to write something with the same compassion and the same style of writing, and the same honesty, but it was just about a gay dude.

It makes their love even more committed, I guess, and I wanted it to be sung as if was sort of like a historical document. So I sort of wrote it as a guy who loved Sebastian and might be writing it in a diary. And maybe this piece of parchment washed up on a beach somewhere, and it was this guy’s story. And he’s talking about another guy. And it just comes to me, and I’m just singing it and sharing the story. I mean I wrote it, but I’m singing as if it just came to me and it’s a well known story.

AE: You play one of the two gay pirates in the video, and while that shouldn't be a big deal in 2010, I can see a lot of other musicians at the point you are in your career not doing it, or their management saying maybe you shouldn't do that. You're kissing the guy up on the stage. Did you ever think twice about it?

CJ: No. No way. Why would you? Nobody would think twice about kissing a girl. I'd be a shit actor if I was going to get up there and think twice about it. I have to tell their love story some way or another.

It doesn't bother me. I've never been shy about that kind of stuff. I'm not gay, but growing up we had this game called Gay Man Chicken, where two guys face each other, and go to kiss, to make out seriously, and whoever wimps out first is the one with the problem about being a homosexual. The guy who does it doesn't have a problem with his sexuality, because it's just kissing a guy. So it was just not a big deal.

The only person who really had a problem with it was my mum. She was worried people would think I was gay. I said, "Lovely. Why would you worry if people think you're gay? If people think you're gay, so what?" A lot of people think somebody is gay just because of the way they carry themselves, the way they act, they way they talk, and the fact is, you never know who's gay and you never know who's straight. It doesn't even matter. It's completely irrelevant. It's just like I like chicken or I don't like chicken. It's no big deal.

AE: Even though the song has been out for a while, the video just came out. What can you tell me about it?

CJ: My manager liked the song when I wrote it, but I have a lot of songs, like a few hundred, and I had this one album out. This song was just kind of sitting around doing nothing and finally it became time to put together a second album, so I re-recorded it and made it better, and then they said it was going to be a single, so I wrote a treatment for a video. It took so long to organize a video because I did it all myself. I refuse to work with a producer while I’m directing.

The truth is if I did hire a producer, the video would never have looked like that. It’s one shot, the whole video and I insisted it be one shot because it was supposed to be like a theater performance, like a pantomime. And I wanted it be a realistic point of view, as if a member of the audience was watching. We did it like three weeks ago in two days. Rehearsed one day and shot it the second day and I took the best take. We did like fifty takes and it was a nightmare. But it was really good and it was a lot of fun.

But I really didn’t want it to be like really camp, you know, because it’s too easy with a song like “Gay Pirates” to make a video that was really kind of humoring stereotypes that are around today about gay people. It would be too easy to slap a load of pink on a pirate. Whatever the video was going to be, I wanted it be something that spoke for itself in its honesty about the way the characters were feeling about each other and wasn’t tainted with any kind of bullshit that is spoken and thought today about gay people. I wanted it be like that rather than “Hey, look at these dumb gay pirates that I made.”

I’m sure that’s what people wanted in the beginning, but I kept arguing and eventually they did it my way.

AE: What’s the reaction been like? I know Stephen Fry tweeted the video to his followers.

CJ: People were really excited to see it and people who were fans of me already were really glad to see it because I’ve been playing it live for a long time and they wanted to see it and they really liked it. And then this whole Stephen Fry thing happened. And I got told by my friend’s mother who kind of keeps track of my stuff on the internet – she’s amazing, she lives a couple of towns away from me – and she rung me up and said “Stephen Fry just tweeted this thing” and I was like “Jesus Christ!”

Mostly I was just honored that Stephen Fry watched it because he’s a great actor and he saw me acting and people I know acting and for him to say that he liked it was pretty awesome.

AE: The lyrics of the song are pretty dark because the pirates end up dying, but between the shanty aspect of it and the video, you still make it come across with a happy ending. The guys are up on stage at the end and they kiss. Was it important to you to have a happy ending, and how did you come up with that final ending?

CJ: I knew I wanted it to be like a reincarnation. We had a lot of discussions about the ending. It did evolve since I first wrote it on paper. Initially, we were going to drown then come back on stage as if we were reincarnated. And that's kind of what happened, except it becomes sort of a metaphor, I guess.

The gay pirates are off the stage. [The other pirates think,] "We got rid of the gays, they're dead, the problem is done with. We can carry on." And then they come back on stage, and they're pretty happy with themselves. For whatever reason, they're just back. They show off together what they have. They're proud, and they get on, and you look at the captain's face, and he's afraid. And the point is, when they kiss, the pirates think, "After all that, after all that hate and all that bullshit, but it's still going to carry on. If they can get in front of us and just kiss, then maybe we should let this go."

I didn't want it to be like, "Oh, the pirates died." I couldn't have that. I didn't want that to happen. You can't change people just by hating them. That's kind of the point.

.To learn more about Cosmo visit him at

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