“Yo-ho, Sebastian, let’s go far away/ Somewhere where the captain won’t be mad/ Yo-ho, Sebastian, I want to love you good/ We deserve much better than we’ve had.”
So sings 21-year-old singer songwriter Cosmo Jarvis in his recently-released single (and YouTube hit, at 400,000 views and counting) Gay Pirates — and perhaps the only thing more surprising than a gay love pirate shanty is the fact that its writer and performer isn’t himself gay.
Speaking to the prodigiously talented Jarvis down the line from his Devon home (“it’s a bit of a shithole,” he deadpanned), the American-born British-raised singer told the Star Observer how he came to write an unlikely tale of same-sex pirate love.
“It all started off with a mandolin, which is a very lonely instrument. Just playing it on its own, it sounds like you’re playing it in the bowels of a ship after having your heart broken.
“I realised I wanted to sing a song from the point of view of a gay man on a pirate ship, simply because a pirate ship is the perfect place for a doomed love story. Think about it — you’re totally constrained in the middle of the ocean, and everyone else on board hates you simply because you’re in love with another man.”
Occasionally tripping over his words as if his mouth was struggling to play catch-up with his overactive brain, Jarvis said he hoped ‘hiding’ the queer story in such an unlikely song would challenge listeners.
“I wanted to give it a lively, shanty feel so anyone could stamp their feet and jump around to it, before even questioning the content. Some people — some men — would probably stop dancing if they knew what it was about,” he said.
“Ultimately, I wanted to present the story of the two men with dignity and respect. It would be too easy to make it a gimmick, and I wanted to make it an honest story of struggle between two gay people on a pirate ship.”
The accompanying video garnered the track, and Jarvis, a new level of attention. He plays one of the gay pirates, with a friend (“my mate Dave, from the next town across”) playing his lover Sebastian.
The pair are tortured and bullied by the other pirates on the ship before being forced to walk the plank. They reunite in death, sharing one prolonged, passionate kiss while their tormentors look on.
“I struck on the idea to show it all like an old stage performance, like you’re watching Romeo and Juliet,” Jarvis, who also directed the video, said.
“I wrote the treatment, and when people saw there’d be kissing, they’d say ‘You can’t do that, everyone’s gonna think you’re gay’. I said, ‘Big deal. If they think I’m gay, it means I did a good acting job’. ”
For Jarvis, the kiss was an integral part of ending this story of doomed love on an uplifting (or, at the very least, bittersweet) note.
“I do show them walking the plank in the video, but I then thought it was important to have them reincarnated, to have their spirits come back, so they could share their kiss in front of the crew. They had to share that kiss in front of everyone, and then be left alone in peace.”
With the video being reposted on gay blogs worldwide, Jarvis and his pirate love interest ‘Dave’ recently made a sequel of sorts, a 10-minute film that reimagines them as a bickering gay New York couple, trying to get through a tense Valentine’s Day dinner.
“Originally, my manager wanted me to make some sort of a cheesy thank you video for people paying attention to Gay Pirates: ‘Hey guys, this is Cosmo Jarvis, thanks so much for your support.’ No fucking way am I doing that,” he cackled.
“So I wrote that script and got Dave around to shoot it. I thought it’d be funnier and worth a hell of a lot more to people than just a cheesy thank you.”
One person who surely did deserve a thanks was actor and comedian Stephen Fry, who tweeted the video to his 2.5 million followers, immediately sending its hits sky high.
“I grew up watching him, so for me and all my cast and crew in the video, to think that he actually saw something we’d worked so hard on was amazing.
“After he tweeted it and it went kind of nuts for a while, I wrote him a simple email saying ‘thank you’ — and that my friend’s mum Wendy would like an autograph!”
info: Gay Pirates is out now on iTunes. Cosmo’s second album Is The World Strange or Am I Strange? is due for release later this year. Visit www.cosmojarvis.com