Q&A’s: altopalo + The Colourful Writer + ‘farawayfromeveryoneyouknow’

Interview by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer

Press Release at end of interview with thanks to twnty three

With times as strange as they currently are. With no live music. With isolation. With lock downs. With no socialising. I have felt, like many of us, a little lost. A little faded. A little down and out. One of the biggest things helping me keep my head above water is my music. In my line of work, I am blessed that I get to discover new music as it is served up fresh to me via emails and press releases from my hardworking friends in PR. The music world has taken a sharp jolt with the forced yielding of live music. No gigs. No music festivals. Live stream yeah, but it’s not the same.

My heart healed a little when I heard of altopalo. My heart sung when I put in my bright pink earphones one night once my children were in bed and listened to altopalo‘s music. Or should I say, their art; their magic. Suddenly I was whisked away into another realm. Suddenly I felt as though I had really discovered something I could resonate with on all new levels. Suddenly I was hooked. altopalo, you now have a piece of my music loving heart.

Today, altopalo have released their new album, ‘farawayfromeveryoneyouknow’.

Please. Before you read this, head over to your music platform of choice and listen to/ download/ purchase altopalo‘s ‘farawayfromeveryoneyouknow’. I promise you, you will be taken on a journey that you’ll want to take again and again. Tune in and read their responses to my questions. I could not think of a better way to spend a Friday night at home. Enjoy.

‘farawayfromeveryoneyouknow’ by altopalo is out now via Samedi Records
buy/stream it here.

So, let us start with talking about your new music! You have just released three stunning new singles, honey, am I am and nocturne. I am struggling to put into words how much these songs resonate with me. Can you tell me a little about each song? What they are about, what inspired them, what they mean to you?  

Mike: Hey! Thank you so much. That means a lot to us that you’re connecting to the music like that!

Rahm: Blushing/preening/warmed. I must admit this is a hefty task. Maybe someone else will take a longer approach but I will go for one-worders: 
honey – love and SSRIs
am i am – manchild
nocturne – bedtime

Mike: Letdown: a fairytale crisis, everyones stuck in a tower behind a wall somewhere
Mud: quicksand can be a luxurious mudbath. 
Longlife: vertigo but sideways but its time giving you vertigo and also youre bummed and taking a walk
lub: the fucking depths
Lub ii: beggar or bankerParty song: emotional trauma induced fantasy journey. Stole a tank.
Hail (lub iii): GROWING. UP (?).

Jesse: Hahahaha yea essentially. hail is feeling like you are tiny, and have a lot of obstacles to overcome, and you’re desperate for some life experience, regardless of whether it’s good or bad, then you just keep on living.

Mike: Powerlines: This is a song about FOMO and fossil fuels and feathers and other F-words. And you can dance to it.
Funny thoughts: friends recording music together and also eating and also loving. 
Of shaddow: breaking down. 
Headlock: wrestling with a sibling over Xbox controller
Now that you’re here: spotify auto play prevention mechanism

The songs come from your new album, ‘farawayfromeveryoneyouknow’ set for release on April 24. Tell me about the album! Where did the title come from? Is there a track that you would say is your favourite or one that really stands out for you? The album title and song titles are all in lowercase, is there a meaning or symbolism behind that? Who recorded/produced/ worked on the album? Who created the artwork? How excited and eager are you to unleash the new album into the world?  

Mike: The title is a misheard lyrics on the record — on the song “lub,” rahm sings “farawayfromeveryoneyouOWE” really quickly with an upward-arcing melody. We twisted it a bit to become the album title. This was months before any of the coronavirus / social distancing / end of the world vibes descended upon us. A certain central yearning feeling connects a lot of the songs on this record, a feeling that tries like a tiny light in the darkness to extend through one’s being “far away” from things you love, to create some kind of connection, to create something meaningful, against the vast meaninglessness of it all. With our tiny lights, we shout “take THAT” at the dark void of being far that can feel really endless. 

Mikes favourite tracks: (in order of appearance) amiam, longlife, mud, lub, honey, lub ii, letdown, party song, hail (lub iii), powerlines, funny thoughts (…), nocturne, of shaddow, headlock, now that you’re here (…).

The album title and song titles being lowercase aren’t that meaningful. Its maybe a collective attempt to take ourselves a little less seriously. We’ve always been into lowercasing our titles. 

We recorded / produced / worked on the album together as a band, in its entirety! It was mastered by Antony at RedRedPaw Mastering. The album and single artwork, along with the sleeve design and liner note formatting, was done by Jackson Bernard (IG: @felon_degenerate). We’re SO excited to release the new album into the world! Its been a long time coming, and we’re really amped to share this new work with everyone. It feels very timely and fresh, and important for times that have forced transitions, introspection, isolation, and unexpected distancing upon us.  

Your music delivers some of the most unique and emotive sounds I have heard in many moons. It makes me feel things on levels that take me out of reality and into another realm of sorts. It truly is some kind of magic. Is that what you aim for with your art/music? Is your music a spiritual thing to you?  

Rahm: Wow take that Dr. Brame. Dr. Brame was my band director. He was really into Souza and Britton and didn’t have much room for you know, today music. I recall a conversation where he kind of tried to discourage me from going into music at all. That’s what this is really all about. Proving your highschool band director wrong. … but actually I am blushing and preening and heartened and you rock socks. I guess it’s hard for me to delineate what’s a spiritual thing and what isn’t. It’s all kind of part of the same wandering confusion of existence to me. I think it’s fair to say that music is a kind of unlocking. An opening of psychological doors that are usually stubbornly shut. Like peering into an attic that hasn’t been opened since the prior owners left. Or hopping the fence to walk around some abandoned hotel, or animal refuge, or swinging into terabithia, or eating a muffin.

Jesse: I can somewhat attribute a philosophy I often ponder to a conversation the four of us had while recording “frozenthere,” when we were suffering from some pretty general fear and anxiety over the current state of the world (2015). I remember rahm sharing his take on how we were small and how nothing matters, REALLY, but things can matter to a person, and those things are worth savoring. I believe that getting lost in music and challenging each other is something we all savor, and is all meaningful to us, so it feels like it’s something, although I don’t think any of us refer to music or musical communication to be “spiritual.” I would say it’s more like a drug or some sort of habit-forming addictive substance. A term we often do use is “world-building,” referring to a song or batch of songs being a world in which a listener is inhabiting. I first remember this term when we made a breakthrough with glow from frozenthere.

When did altopalo first form? 

Mike: We first played music together in 2013. We didnt start playing our own shows of original music until well into the next year, but we spent a lot of time supporting other artists as a backing band and a squad of friendly collective collaborators. 

Who are the current band members and what roles do you play within the band? Has the band had any line-up changes over the years? Has making music together brought you closer together as friends?  

Mike: altopalo lineup has never changed. Its always been the four of us! Making music together has absolutely brought us closer as friends! Its kinda the foundation of our friendship in a lot of ways. 

Listing any / all contributions to the album:

Dillon Treacy: Drums, Percussion, Samplers, Synths, Bass, Vocals.
Jesse Bielenberg: Electric Bass, Upright Bass, Electric Guitar, Percussion, Samplers, Synths, Vocals Mike Haldeman: Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Baritone Guitar, Clarinet, Percussion, Vocals. Rahm Silverglade: Vocals, Keyboards, Samplers, Synths, Percussion, Felt Piano, Unfelt Piano

We all share engineering, mixing, composition, and arrangement democratically.

Jesse: Making music as a band has absolutely brought us closer as friends. I have begun to think of the others in the band as my siblings, more than my friends or bandmates. I really stand by that. It’s like, we can get irritated with each other and sometimes even lash out, but it’s as if we know that no strain is strenuous enough to break a connection once it’s been built. Once someone is your brother, they’re always your brother, right? Even before touring, we were extremely close and intimate and vulnerable with each other, and when on tour, you just live, work, and play together, indefinitely, so- yeah, we’ve gotten really close. 

What have you been doing to keep your creative side flowing and to keep your spirits high while in isolation? 

Mike: Working on backlogged recordings I’ve made in my studio over the past three years, recording things remotely for friends, going on runs in the south Carolina blue ridge mountain foothills, talking to cows, talking to dogs, talking to friends, cooking with my family, playing Yahtzee.

Jesse: I have been working somewhat-diligently on music of mine, as well as music from other projects while stuck at home. We have been making extra-musical content due to excess excitement for the release of the new album. I have been doing some writing and some arts and crafting. If we were all together right now, it would be just how we like it during recording times though, honestly.

I recently watched some live performances from you guys. Absolutely amazing, I hope to see you play in Brisbane, Australia one day! How are you coping with not being able to perform live right now? Once it is safe to tour again, will you tour the new album? Will you be coming to Australia?  

Rahm: I’m mostly banging my head against the water heater, to pass the time.

Mike: Its really tough not being able to play live right now. We all love sharing music with people in a live setting, its a natural space for us all to exist and communicate in. we were really sad to have to cancel our first headlining tour, but there will be more chances to perform in the future, no doubt. Who knows how long it will be? But we will be out on the road again soon, trust us, and we will absolutely be playing all of these new songs, and perhaps some from our next-next album! We would absolutely love to go to Australia! 

Jesse: We would be well underway rehearsing for our tour right now, if it were not for COVID-19, and a lot of these songs haven’t even been conceived of in a live setting, so I am missing that challenge and that energy quite a bit right now. I want to figure out how to make these string parts work live! I miss ableton trouble shooting with Rahm. The plan is to tour the new music as soon as we can reschedule our tour dates, and hopefully keep it up, supporting old and new friends, crossing seas, the whole deal. We would love to come to Australia, and have a few friends in Melbourne whose visit is long overdue 🙂 

Your music is hard to slot into a genre – what do you call your style of music/your sound? 

Rahm: Our go-to soundcloud tags are: music for humans, experimental enough for bloggers to call “heady,” kraut rock, and pop 

Mike: Experimental pop, avant-pop, music for sad, music for joy. 

Jesse: We used to call ourselves “difficult listening” but we were definitely being defiant and stubborn. I have gotten this question a lot, and feel the most concise and digestible way of putting it would be “experimental electronic pop music”.

What inspires you to create music? And who inspires you?

Rahm: As far as who inspires us, I’m mostly inspired by Dillon, and Dillon’s inspired by Jesse, Jesse’s inspired by Mike, and Mike is inspired by me, and it just kinda goes round and round.

Mike: Exactly.

Jesse: Exactly- although, it’s not a closed loop. We all have a ridiculous amount of inspiring friends. I often reflect on how my favorite musicians are nine times out of ten someone I can call on the phone- it’s a good life.

If you were trying to explain your music to someone who had never heard you before, what would you say?

Mike: We do this a lot actually. Its really difficult. I usually (regrettably) say that we’re avant-pop or experimental-pop or something like that, but now I’m going to say that this is what friendship sounds like. 

What does music as a whole mean to you?

Mike: Music is a language — it is a way things can be expressed, shared, communicated, or otherwise externalized. It is meaningful to me because it is another way to connect to the world, and to take things from inside of you and put them somewhere others can soak them up. Its a way to share inarticulable vulnerability. It can be loud or quiet. It can be transcendentally ephemeral. 

Jesse: Exactly.

“The junk drawer in your house if it was music: bewildering and wondrous.”

“An effortless showcase of the band’s ability to melt the boundaries of their music, infusing every release with an experimental flare.”
The Line of Best Fit

A masterclass in atmospheric release, evolving with eerie synths, flourishing guitar, and commanding beats.”

“altopalo’s second album is the rich affirmation of their status as one of the most original bands working today.”
Clash Magazine

Today, enigmatic, genre-defying New York four piece altopalo release their second LP, ‘farawayfromeveryoneyouknow,’ out now via Samedi Records. Listen HERE

Veterans of the New York underground scene, the four members of altopalo – lead singer Rahm Silverglade, guitarist Mike Haldeman, bassist Jesse Bielenberg and drummer Dillon Treacy – disintegrate the boundaries of genre, folding in elements of R&B, electronica, ambient and jazz through their deconstructionist approach to guitar-driven music reminiscent of artists such as Bon IverMoses Sumney and Black Midi.

On their 2018 debut record, ‘frozenthere,’ the four-piece decontextualised their traditional instruments into atmospherics and walls of sound, earning them praise from PitchforkThe FADERBillboardConsequence of Sound and more. Grounded in their experience as well-worn session players and touring musicians, they now hone and expand upon that sound throughout ‘farawayfromeveryoneyouknow,’ opening up new avenues for their music, from the languid indie rock of lead single honey, to the deep, danceable grooves of nocturne, the chopped-up soul of lub and the gleaming, evocative intimacy of instrumental closer now that you’re here…. The band’s idiosyncratic recording process, made up of long improvisations, recorded in full before being whittled down into different loops, progressions and fragments, is likened by Treacy as altopalo creating, pulling apart and then trying to piece a jigsaw puzzle back together again. 

If ‘frozenthere’ was a record which induced introspection, their second full-length reveals a more human side to altopalo. Described by the foursome as “ruminations on a transitional period”, ‘farawayfromeveryoneyouknow’ represents something of a rebirth across its 14 tracks. Beneath the band’s prismatic experimentalism, the record deals with distinctly humanist themes of anxiety, embracing your fears and the rejection of self-care as a crude project or lifestyle brand.

To record their sophomore LP, the band decamped from their homebase of Brooklyn to a shuttered house on the edge of a frozen lake in Porter, a small town of 5000 in the northern reaches of Indiana, some 750 miles away from New York. That wintery isolation creeps into every crevice of their second album; as the band’s mangled textures of guitars and synthesizers draw the listener into their mesmerising and constantly shifting soundscapes, their music increasingly feels like an alien transmission from some far-off, icy, solitary place. ‘farawayfromeveryoneyouknow’ plays like the elusive spiral of solitude, slowly opening itself up to the listener, revealing more depths to its tricks and beauty as it morphs into different shapes, an enigma that’s trying to solve itself.

‘farawayfromeveryoneyouknow’ by altopalo is out now via Samedi Records
buy/stream it here.

Stay connected with altopalo
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With thanks to twnty three

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