New York-based four-piece altopalo is comprised of four friends that met at NYU, bonding over a shared love of similar music. Separately, the group’s members have been kicking around the New York scene for a while in a variety of projects. Together, the band has turned the heads of fans and critics alike with a string of sleek, forward-thinking R&B singles off their debut record Frozenthere, out 9/12 via Samedi Records
Ahead of their show at Elsewhere on 9/15, the band took the time to answer a few of our questions and, in an act of kindness that we didn’t know we needed, curate a playlist of their favorite formative 2005 jams. Check out both below.
You have all individually been involved in making music in the New York scene for a while, how did altopalo’s formation come about?
Dillon: The story of altopalo coming together is one of my favorites, and I think speaks true to the way we create, perform, and interact with each other. Jesse, Rahm, and I became friends during our first two years at NYU through classes and similar friend circles that we found ourselves in. At the top of 2013, Jesse and I found ourselves again (we did this about once a month) trying to form some type of band///project. We both were into Flying Lotus, Little Dragon and stuff like that at the time, and he brought up Rahm as a person of interest. We continued to hang out later on that year, when a mutual friend of ours needed a band to perform some covers with her for a NYU Arts Festival thingy. I believe she initially wanted Jesse to play bass, but he couldn’t. She and Mike were friends, but none of us knew him at all, and he was brought in to play bass or guitar, but since Jesse couldn’t bass, Mike did it instead. We had our first rehearsal in my dorm room, with me on drums, Rahm on keys and Mike killing it on the bass, and I was mad impressed with his ear. He then picked up and played a guitar that was laying around (subsequently shredding and blowing our minds) and I was like “shit, mike should just play guitar on this gig, lets find another bass player.” Then as if the universe heard us, Jesse was able to do the gig!!! We played the show, and something truly magical was born. Maybe it was the shots of Sailor Jerry’s we did before the show, but I think that was the most fun we had playing music with people since we had moved to NYC to go to school. Very spiritual. After that we finished the school year and entered the summer becoming really close friends through sharing music and hanging out (getting drunk). Eventually we became the backing band for Kiah Victoria and Topaz Jones and others who are both doing really well right now. We started to realize that if we were hanging out and performing with each other this much, we might as well start our own band with our own music as a means to get out our own creativity and not doing that at the expense of playing with other people. It was then in the fall of 2013 that altopalo was born.
The music video for “Terra” is incredibly cinematic, and your lyric video for “Blur” ties into the song’s technological theme. Is an accompanying visual aesthetic important to altopalo’s recorded material and live shows?
Mike: visuals are very important to us, heightening and enlivening the imaginative and emotional universe of the music. we’ve been interested in live projections and lighting design since we first formed as a band, and continue to be super inspired by other artist’s compelling visuals and how they link into live performance. we have teamed up with incredibly talented animators in the past (colin marchon and zack handler) for the music videos that accompanied our older material, in addition to collaborating with patrick golan on our video for “terra.” we’ve had a lot of fun playing shows that have been lighting-designed by our talented friend dom chang, who works under the moniker patchbae. we find that lighting design that follows the music heightens the immersive nature of the shows we play, allowing audiences to sink into the musical world we’re staging.
Prior to entering the songwriting process for your upcoming record Frozenthere, was the sound the band was going for already decided upon, or did the album reveal itself as it was being written?
Jesse: Discovering “the sound” of frozenthere was a labor of love. in Winter of 2016, we locked ourselves in our Northern Indiana recording den and wrote and recorded what we thought would be a five song EP. We were working with a large folder of handheld recordings from improvisations we stumbled into during rehearsals and shows, trimming them down to their essence, and developing them around that core idea (we still do this). We went as far as to get one of the songs mastered as a single, then we all took a step back and decided that all of the songs should be scrapped except mono, and we needed to reapproach the music to make it more mature and less bombastic. We obviously never released that EP, but that step was integral for us to discover the patience and space that makes our music feel ernest and meaningful to us. frozenthere is essentially made of songs created in the image of mono- not that we have a formula, but when we ended up with the happy accident that seperated mono from the rest of the old songs, we realized that sound is worth spelunking in a deeper and wider way. Fun fact: A very primitive version of (head in a) cloche was also on the early EP titled as affidavit, but it is virtually unrecognizable from its relinquished form.
Some of your tracks serve as commentary on the increasingly-present role of technology in music. What are your thoughts on the increasingly present influence of technology in both the creation and consumption of music
Rahm: I’ve been saving up the last 3 years for this new experimental operation operation that turns your nose into two USB hubs. You can’t charge your phone with them yet but you can download content directly to your brain box. And with the 5G extension I’ll never have to look outside the content stream into some semblance of my real life because CONTENT IS LIFE CONTENT IS FREEDOM ALL HAIL THE CONTENT *writhes on floor of the apple store*
Interview by Nina Donoghue
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