It’s been a roundabout path leading up to and culminating in “Telepathic,” the latest album from indie duo L’Altra, which was released this week. Since forming the band in 1999 in Chicago, and releasing an impressive catalog of material, Lindsay Anderson and Joseph Desler Costa have gone through a breakup (from each other), dealt with numerous lineup changes, and explored solo careers, before deciding to reunite and record the moody, brooding songs that would become “Telepathic.”
The clearly irrevocable bond between Desler Costa and Anderson extends past their bio and infiltrates their music as well. The two share vocal duties, and their past anguish rears its head in songs like “When the Ship Sinks” and first single “Nothing Can Tear It Apart.” Desler Costa recently offered his thoughts on the record and the difficulties in bringing it to fruition.
BLAST: Did music play a big part in your life growing up?
JOSEPH DESLER COSTA: It’s the thing that is always there for me. I wake up with it, go to bed with it, ride the subway with it. I got my first electric guitar when I was 15 years old for Christmas. It’s been an obsession (ever) since.
BLAST: Who are your major musical influences?
JDC: I was hugely influenced (through) my older brother’s New Wave tastes. I was very young but fell in love with The Cure, Love and Rockets, New Order. I think that romantic New Wave feel stayed with me. Lindsay grew up in a musical family and (sang) in choirs. She also studied classical piano. I think that’s been a huge influence on her.
BLAST: How did you meet and when/how did you begin writing music together?
JDC: Lindsay and I met on the first day of college. We have been friends and close for so long. We used to talk and listen to music constantly and it was a natural progression to start playing together. It kind of just happened on its own with no real effort. The effort came later in continuing to play music together, as it’s not always easy.
BLAST: Where did the name “L’Altra” come from?
JDC: It means “the other woman” in Italian and a number of other romance languages. It just fit our concept and I like having an apostrophe in our name.
BLAST: What are the pros and cons of being in a personal and professional relationship with someone simultaneously?
JDC: The pros are that you can say anything without filter and that you know this person completely. The cons are that you can say anything without filter and that you know this person completely.
BLAST: What made you decide to continue working together and make this record after your breakup?
JDC: We were both writing songs again and after making solo records I think we missed working together. I would think of her piano parts in songs I was working on. There was a lack in the music, so we then decided to give it a try and started working on some songs together. It all came back easily and I think the time off helped us to appreciate what each other brings to the table creatively. We also learned that it is important to have some filter when you collaborate with someone. There is a critical distance that you find. Too close is too close and too far won’t work either. We found an equilibrium.
BLAST: Is songwriting a cathartic process for you? While you were making this record, did any issues surface through the lyrics that maybe you hadn’t discussed previously?
JDC: It can be for sure, but its not like we write because we need to get something off our chests or anything. It’s just this way of communicating more abstract things and feelings. I am not ever exactly sure what a song we write is about. We focus more on creating a feel or a place, and then hope the listener finds something they can relate to inside it. As far as lyrics go, we always fight over them, and try to edit each other. That’s the only issue. I’m not sure we’ll ever work that problem out. Maybe it’s our way of working.
BLAST: Overall, “Telepathic” is very atmospheric. What type of vibe were you trying to achieve in the recording process? Would you say there’s a unifying theme to the songs?
JDC: The music we make is very intimate and we tried very hard to preserve the intimacy in the recording. It’s music written in our living rooms. We wanted the vocals to sound close, like someone whispering in your ear. We also wanted to leave a naturalness in the recording, like the creak of a drum pedal or piano keys. I think making a too perfect recording takes away the intimacy we were looking towards. Our goal is to make an “album” — by that I mean an unified group of songs that sound best when listen to together. Maybe the album is a dying format, but for us it’s essential. So yeah, I think there is a thread that runs through them all.
BLAST: What are the three albums you would take to a desert island with you?
JDC: Radiohead, “OK Computer”; The Cure, “Disintegration”; Beach House, “Teen Dream”
L’Altra’s “Telepathic” was released Tuesday. It can be purchased on iTunes.