Entertainment, Interviews

L’Altra’s Joseph Costa On ‘Telepathic’


Chicago based Indie Pop band L’Altra are returning with their highly anticipated fourth studio album Telepathic, due out later this month.

Set to play SXSW this week and take New York by storm in some upcoming spring tour dates, they will be unleashing in Telepathic what we feel is one of the most gorgeously layered albums of the year so far …

For over a decade now, Joseph Desler Costa and Lindsay Anderson have waged through the various ups and downs that so often come hand in hand when a musician opts for the artistic route over the daily doldrums of life. Several line-up changes, break-ups and make-ups, and a six year hiatus following their equally critically acclaimed album Different Days all lead to a welcomed reunion of the dark and stormy partnership.

Last year, the duo once again emerged from their respective corners to write and record their brightest effort to date where their take on Indie Pop resonates as a gentle wash of hushed guitar, rolling piano, subtle electronics, measured rhythm, synths and strings; all supporting Lindsay and Joe’s call and response vocal musings. Telepathic finds the band refining their baroque balladry and expanding their signature Wurlitzer and guitar foundation with collaborators such as Charles Rumback (Colorlist, Via Tania), Josh Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv, Sons of Magdalene), Josh Abrams (Bonnie Prince Billy) and Marc Hellner (Pulseprogramming).

ACED spoke with half of the founding duo, songwriter/singer/guitarist Joseph Desler Costa about reuniting with his musical partner, working on Telepathic and adjusting with the various changes in today’s indie music scene.

ACED: After so many years, with your experiences with one another, and your time apart with solo endeavors, how did all that lend itself to the process of making this album?

COSTA: What we did was Lindsay and I each had a solo record come out in 2007, and we continued to do other stuff. I’m a photographer and an artist so I was kind of doing that for a while as well in that period. And then you know honestly I was writing new songs and was always hearing her in them. I felt like my solo record had a lack in it.

It’s really natural for us to work together, so we talked about it and decided to try doing it again. Our creative relationship is difficult. We don’t get along all the time but somehow we find a middle way and it works. I know all the other musicians that work with us, we drive them all crazy when they’re around us.

But I think we compliment each other musically in a really good way. I think things I do tends to be slightly more robotic, more electronic and I think the thing that Lindsay does is kind of come  from a rootsier kind of country side. On this album we were really able to integrate those two things that each of us do well.

ACED: Do you think it’s because it is so apart of your process to disagree and find a middle ground that there’s such an emphasis on the whole ‘ex-lover’s’ thing?

COSTA: I don’t know. I think that’s focus that other people want to talk about. We certainly don’t like to talk about it anymore. I think it’s because of the kind of intimate music that we make that people will always be attracted to that part of our story. The music is intimate and it can feel very personal.

The publicists always want to put it in. It is part of our story. But our relationship has shifted and in a weird way it’s like a way to continue to be together but not actually be together. Does that make sense? Our artistic relationship is not something we want to give up. Music has been the way to stay together. It sounds really sick and demented, but it’s not. It’s this weird way in which we’re able to relate to each other. It works for us. I know it drives our significant others crazy sometimes.

ACED: Can you tell me about the various collaborators on Telepathic and what they brought to the table?

COSTA: The drummer we worked with is Charles Rumback. He’s actually our touring drummer. He’s a Chicago based guy; a jazz composer. He comes from that side. He plays in a group called Colorlist and Via Tania and he’s just a great Chicago musician. He’s probably one of the most gigging musicians I know. Josh Abrams played bass on the album and he plays with Bonnie Prince Billy and he’s just an amazing upright player. We always work with a guy called Josh Eustis who’s in a band called Telefon Tel Aviv. He played a lot of the synth parts on the album and did a little bit of production. He’s been behind the scenes with us forever. Lindsay sings on the Telefon records.

It was a very collaborative effort. We had a lot of people. Those are the ones that come to mind. Being in Chicago – I live in Brooklyn sometimes – there are just so many groups of people who are willing to collaborate and I think it’s helped grow our music to a better place.

ACED: You live in Brooklyn, what do you think about the scene going on there?

COSTA: Yeah I moved there last year. I think there’s a lot of great stuff going on. But I think there’s stuff where everything sounds a lot alike all of a sudden, which I guess means it will eventually change and shift else where. For a time it was amazing …

ACED: Does it seem like there are a lot more laptops on stage now instead of live instruments?

COSTA: On our last album, we played it with sequencers and electronics live and the backlash to that experience, touring that way … with this new album, we’re going to be using all live musicians. As a person who plays instruments it’s way more rewarding to sit down and see what two people can do weaving instruments together and producing sounds that you can’t get with a sequencer. There isn’t anything wrong with them, but I’ve done both and on a personal level, for the amount of work I have to go through to go on tour and stuff, I need to get something out of it. Connecting with other people in an audience is much easier when you’re actually playing.

ACED: You’ve been doing this for a while, before the Internet and social media played such a big role in connecting to new audiences, how are you finding the process of promoting this album?

COSTA: It’s funny, this was our fourth album. The first one came in 2001 or something, it’s changed immensely. The amount of time we spend doing things for social media is crazy. It’s become like this huge distraction in a way. For an artist, it can create this weird kind of anxiety. You’re constantly like: ‘oh, I gotta check my stats for today!” You know? I don’t want to sound like an old fart or anything, but it was kind of alright when there wasn’t the Internet stuff so much. I don’t need access to know how many fans I have all the time. At the same time, on the other hand it also created all these opportunities for us to tour in Japan, or go to Europe quite a bit. It’s a double edged sword.

ACED: Is there any band or artist that’s under the radar you’d strongly encourage your fans to give a listen?

COSTA: I heard this record by this guy called The Singleman Affair. It’s a Chicago artist, and he was actually on the Creation Records label for a while. Looking back, I’ve recently fell in love with Graham Parsons. It’s country, but it’s something more too. I read Keith Richards’ biography and he mentions him a lot, so I went out and bought his record and it’s great. He’s a guy that was an important country music song writer and he died of heroin and so they won’t let him in the country music hall of fame. I would reccomend checking out his record, it’s called GP.

L’Altra, back from a whirlwind trip to Japan, have returned to the US for select dates in NYC and in Austin, TX at this week’s SXSW Festival. Telepathic is due out March 29th with Acuarela Discos.


Check out the video for “Nothing Can Tear It Apart”


L’Altra @ SXSW 2011
Wed, Mar 16 1:00 AM
The Hideout Theatre (617 Congress Ave)

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“About as professional as a troupe of monkeys trying to play instruments.” Writer. Editor. Music enthusiast. (kAY-rock)