"That blip blip sound that starts the album is our impression of a homing beacon or some kind of sonar/radar location system," altopalo say of the opening to their new album. "It’s kind of a crude piece of symbolism but to us, it sounded like being lost or being deep underwater looking for signs of life: 'Where the hell am I' or 'Is Anybody out there?' or 'Please someone help I could really use some Pringles' or anything else Tom Hanks might say at the beginning of the good part of Cast Away."
On farawayfromeveryoneyouknow, the Brooklyn-based experimental pop troupe's second album, have put together a collection of songs that explore every mood you might be experiencing in quarantine, from relentless, pent-up energy ("headlock") to the loss of love ("letdown"). Bass lines are reversed, voices are pitched in different directions, and percussion is smashed into other sounds to create unfamiliar new modes.
In advance of the album's release tomorrow via Samedi (April 24), read their track-by-track guide to the record below.
"am i am"
Rahm: I told myself I was going to sleep outside but when I got to the spot in the park I’d scoped out there was a blue light coming from what looked like a phone, like someone had taken my spot. Or I guess I was the intruder and I was about to take their spot. In either case I was terrified for no reason and thought they might eat me so I went back to my cushy heated apartment and felt and whatever the opposite of brave is.
Keywords: camo, benefactor, dreamlife, loser
Jesse: The old adage “life is short” is for when you’re feeling hopeful and grateful. Moods come and go like the tides, but just as often when the suffering takes the reins, you can’t even imagine living for what, 60, 70 more years? What on earth could possibly sooth the seemingly limitless anguish that surrounds us? We didn’t know that’s what this song was about until most of the instrumental was recorded. This was one of the quickest ones to flow out of our Indiana sessions.
Keywords: my, my, my, my, my
Dillon: "mud" was the first complete song we wrote after the release of frozenthere. During our writing sessions, I went to go out and get some Jimmy Johns and came back to Mike, Rahm, and Jesse playing the main motif in unison. I sat down, ate my sandwich and said to myself, “I can listen to this forever.” Which I did. After we laid down some drums to the OG motif, there was a certain excitement about this song that we felt and knew this was the right direction for our new batch of songs to follow.
Keywords: checkoffachore, stuckinthemud, awf efjjjf iiewl
Rahm: When a huge relationship comes to an end it’s like your planet has abandoned you. It’s just not your planet anymore. It’s a cold alien rock, spinning through space in the dead of January. Try to drive it off. Pringles help, maybe.
Keywords: safeway, farawayfromeveryoneyouowe, everythingthat’severhappenedsincetheuniversebegan
Jesse: I do a decent amount of free writing, and for many months at the end of 2018 I was being encouraged to start taking antidepressants, and it ended up being one of the few things I could write / even really think about- this concept of “being better” and “finding a solution” etc. I started taking an SSRI in January of 2019 and after a while I noticed it having a pretty positive influence on my daily life. Even though fundamentally I struggle with some imaginary guilt for relying on a mood-altering substance, I realized I was writing a love song to my new meds, and it all came out pretty simply after that.
Keywords: rose, lexapro, splitthedif, colored lens, clarinet
Jesse: Out of a free improvisation, we isolated this baritone guitar part, which was recorded in mono with an ambient loop in the background. We loved how it sounded but wanted to be able to isolate the parts. We recreated the vibe of the original improvisation, and kept adding our feelings to it. It lives in the same sort of world made up of frantic and fantastic despair that also houses "am i am," "party song," the other lubs, and "letdown." Kinda all of them, actually, now that I think of it.
Keywords: punchmeintheface, ricochet, beggar, banker
Dillon: This song needs to be in a sex scene.
Keywords: milesaway, seeyouatall, HEY, runninaway, uh huh
Mike: Dejected, depressed, delusional, you wander an abstract landscape of fantasy and fiction, projecting unreality in front of you to lens the reality you’d rather not be looking at. It's easier to imagine yourself stealing a tank and throwing a party with a boozy fountain on the lawn, instead of picturing where you’ll be waking up, the morning after packing your things and heading out. Running from your shit isn't exactly shaping up to be the party you thought it was going to be, eh? There are some beautiful things in here, though, like Jesse’s string arrangement, an upright bass orchestra created layer-by-layer over the course of a cold evening, while the radiators and space heaters blasted between takes and we warmed our hands in front of their tiny fans. A small squeaking sound plays through the entire song, which comes from a cherished voice memo I made of a mouse-deterrent device that makes me sigh wistfully every time I hear it.
Keywords: delusion, coldcase, warmresolve, lalalala
Dillon: Deadass favorite song on the record. Jesse did some wild reverse bass delay shit that acts as the main motif you hear. We spent an exhaustingly long amount of time figuring out the arrangement. What are the drums, do we add a functioning bass line, does Rahm sing along with the motif, or does he have his own separate one. Queue 7 months later, and I’m like, "Fuck it, no drums." Then we took Rahm’s vocals, chopped, and glitched them up. These changes allowed Rahm to create the hauntingly beautiful melody you hear today. Lyrically it sends chills. Fucking beautiful. He also recorded it in the shower. I’m still amazed at this song.
Keywords: Packedbaginnabadmood, hold on, move on
Dillon: Some of the boys went on a hike, and came across a particularly crunchy spot of leaves. They recorded it, as one does, and we found a loop that we liked. The working title of the song was "woody" for the longest time because of the loops from the woods. The problem was…none of us could agree where beat one was in the loop. After a lengthy discussion, we settled on where beat one was. The leaves turned into the underlaying percussion throughout the song, and subsequently turned into a certified #BOP. There was also a spilled mate gourd, my personal affinity to the title because of Power Line from The Goofy Movie, knee slaps, and incessant woooooing.
Rahm: This is not the first time Mike’s love of Cheerios has compromised band productivity. Featuring neighbor’s new dog.
Keywords: barkinghisassoff, eating, fk’n
Mike: It's way passed your bedtime. You hear dad brushing his teeth and you run down the hall to ask him advice on falling asleep because you're worried about being exhausted during third grade homeroom tomorrow morning. Dad walks you back to your bedroom and sits you down, saying, “Try thinking funny thoughts…like squirrels camping or dogs running a marathon.” You take a deep breath, squeeze your eyes shut and listen to his footsteps heading back down the hall as funny thoughts fill your mind. Based on a true story.
Keywords: dadvice, insomnia, too hot, funny thoughts
Rahm: If you get either of the two Zelda references you are awarded one alto-point, which can be exchanged at your local altopalo merch stand for a sticker, or, for two points, a sock. This used to be part of "nocturne" but we snipped "nocturne" in two mostly because millennial attention spans/algorithms/who wants the sad part/no artistic integrity/yada yada.
Keywords: off, lost, macarena
Jesse: Oh boy. I think all four of us have a tendency to take music, ourselves, and our art WAY too seriously. We struggle to make sure each creation has an emphasis on sincerity, and often that can lead us to a tiresome amount of overthinking. However, when we are improvising together, we often end in this place (after we have been going for a while and feel like we have EARNED it) where we are playing something silly. We LOVE playing silly music! Somehow this one where I played a goofy guitar loop and mashed drum pads on my midi keyboard to make a kraut rock beat (also in one mono signal ;) ) felt like the right time to let people into our silly truth.
Keywords: sibling rivalry, brotherhood, indulgence, lofi, Indiana
Mike: A while ago, Rahm recieved a contact mic encased in a waxy resin as an altopalo secret santa gift (a celebrated and festive nearly-yearly tradition of ours) last year, during our recording sessions for this record. The contact mic spent a lot of time on the living room floor in front of the drum set. It didn't yield too many interesting sounds, aside from all the sounds that comprise this track. Mike played a pretty figure on his baritone guitar during a quiet moment after dinner while everyone was phoning and quieting. Jesse eventually sat down next to the contact mic with his Casio keyboard on the floor, and started fading in some beautiful clusters. Rahm, across the house, started plinking on piano. This song is what the contact mic heard. It's also strategically placed at the end of the record as a device to prevent streaming services’ autoplay function from automatically queueing up some associated acts’ sounds. It helps the listener stay a while, to reflect on whatever ride we just took them on instead of shooting them into some vaguely associated alternate landscape.
Keywords: contact mic, baritone guitar, Casio, piano, living room floor
Mike: It's worth mentioning allthesongsthatdidntmakeit, a very important chunk of dough cut from the final batch of cookies we present to you here. They’re in a lot of ways the negative space of these songs. Turns we could have taken, paths we could have walked down. You’d be surprised by the flavors of this dough. Disgusted, maybe. It's probably good that you’re not hearing it yet. That dough didn’t simply disappear however -- it sure still exists, aging in the hard drives of our Macbook Pros waiting to be touched again. That discarded dough even has names -- “hume,” “changegam,” “heheha,” “owwo,” mien,” “wayno,” “clacka,” “so that,” “cascade,” “scrone,” “floc,” “cinder,” “lulla,” and “german mermaid,” among others. Wait a second...that’s a lot of dough. Time to get back to baking.
Keywords: we've, got, more, songs.
Photo: Jackson Bernard