|L'altra are a four-piece band from Chicago
that have released two albums so far: 2000's "Music Of A Sinking Occasion" and
2002's "In The Afternoon." I caught up with them shortly after they
finished "In The Afternoon," and had the chance to speak with Eben, Lindsay, and
Ken, comprising three quarters of the band. Read on to find out what they had to
indieville: When and how was L'altra formed?
Eben: Ken was a friend of the old drummer for the other band I play with, Del
Rey. They knew each other back in new hampshire. I ran into him by accident at
a Trans Am show on my first night after moving to chicago, which was in the Fall of '97,
and he mentioned that he was trying to get something together. I'm not sure if
he had already met Joe and Lindsay at that time. Anyway, I told him that if he was
looking for someone to play drums, I'd be into giving it a try. I think I was
just looking to play with as many people as possible at that point, and it seemed like a
good opportunity to play with some like-minded people.
Lindsay: The flyer! The flyer!
Ken: Lindsay is referring to the flier I hung in record stores when I first moved
here. Joe saw it and called me and then he introduced me to Lindsay, then I
introduced them to Eben, so it all sort of goes back to the flier I hung, I guess.
indieville: The "L'altra sound" is very a unique, original thing.
How would you describe it, and whom are you influenced by?
Eben: It's an interesting thing when you realize that the music you've created has an
identity of its own. I'm not sure ours is worthy of quotation marks and capital
letters, because it's really not some grand design we all sat around and planned.
It's the result of all our various influences coming together. I'm personally
influenced by other chicago bands like Tortoise, but, in terms of my drumming in this
band, I like to incorporate elements of Latin and traditional African music, which get
filtered through more modern, "post-rock" sensibilites.
indieville: How does your recording process differ from other bands' - if it does?
Eben: I think we do it pretty much the same as everyone else. We're not one
of those bands that has gobs of money to spend on studio time and gear and stuff to come
up with something insanely original through hours and hours of experimentation. We
pretty much write the music, and then put it on tape as a band, though we do like to use
effects and electronics if it can be done tastefully.
Lindsay: I'm not sure what other bands do. There are many recording options.
indieville: Was there any difference between recording "Music Of A Sinking
Occasion" and "In The Afternoon"? Did you feel any more pressure
while creating "In The Afternoon"? Or was there more freedom?
Eben: I think we were more comfortable recording this record because of the experience
of doing the last one. We all had issues with the last recording which we were
careful not to let happen with this one, which improved the overall quality of the
recording. I think it helps that we had a really great engineer this time in Jeremy
Lemos, who's done some Jim O'Rourke and other Drag City stuff.
Lindsay: Neither pressure nor freedom.
indieville: As for lyrics, where do the words for your music tend to come
from? Are they based on personal experiences, or are they just random? Could
you give us an example?
Eben: No answer on this one.
Lindsay: Personal experience, images, daylight, books, travel.
Ken: The vocals to me are all about Joe and Lindsay, and I've come to know both quite
well over the years, I can read alot into what's going on in their personal lives at these
times when I listen to what they are singing about.
indieville: Where does the name "L'altra" come from? In fact, where
does the title "In The Afternoon" come from?
Eben: As the drummer, I often end up being left out of these discussions, but it
usually doesn't bother me because Joe and Lindsay especially seem to have an overall
aesthetic that informs their decisions, which I think both stems from and compliments the
music. In both the band title and the album title, those were things that weren't really
collectively generated, but agreed upon by all as appropriate and complimentary to what we
want to do with the band.
Lindsay "In The Afternoon" was the name of a short film I made with some
friends (Film Club 2000). The title, written by Devin McCrate, seemed to work well
with Joe's photography, while much of the writing, recording and thinking was done in the
afternoon. It's interesting how frequently the expression is used.
Ken: L'altra is the Italian word for "the other", the feminine version.
Joe came up with the name, as he's Italian. I don't know anything about this film
club stuff, but I do know that Joe asked me how I felt about the record being called
"In The Afternoon". I thought it went well with the artwork.
indieville: "Music Of A Sinking Occasion" got a lot of good press.
Do you read the reviews of your music, and, if so, what are your opinions?
Eben: I honestly didn't expect that record to get the critical attention that it did,
but I'm not complaining. I defintely want to read reviews of our music, because it
gives you some persepctive on what you're doing and how it's being perceived by other
people. At the same time though, you've got to realize that it's just one person's
opinion and it can be harmful to take it too seriously, whether it's a bad or good review.
Lindsay: I read some reviews. I was surprised at the response.
indieville: What are your thoughts on the merging of electronic music with indie
rock? Do you consider this a good thing or something to be avoided?
Eben: I think that any type of music can incorporate aspects of any other type of music
if it's done tastefully and with artistry. I've always tried to incorporate a lot of
different elements into my playing, and I think on this record you can hear a significant
electronic aspect. I think live we'll be doing a lot of it as well.
Lindsay: Definitely no way should indie rock EVER be mixed with electronic music.
Ken: I think anything can be good under the right circumstances. Like some of
Steve Reich's stuff could be quite boring if executed differently, as an example. I
don't know what Lindsay's talking about though, Hood, for example, are a prime example of
a group with indie roots that are now using electronic songwriting techniques within their
music, and pulling it off extremely well (and she loves the Hood records, so...?).
indieville: If you could have "In The Afternoon" translated into any
language, what would it be?
Eben: Spanish. There's a part in the middle of the song "Certainty," on
the new album, that we used to joke around with in practice with me reciting the words in
a heavy, sultry spanish accent. Unfortunately, it didn't make the final cut....
Lindsay: Its own.
indieville: Have you got any interesting stories for us? Please??
Eben: For some reason, I find it impossible to be interesting or funny on cue.
It's like when you're hanging out with someone and you say, "So, what do you want to
talk about?" The conversation instantly comes to an abrupt halt.
indieville: Okay then, what are your favourite colours?
Eben: Earth tones. Brown, green... stuff like that.
Lindsay: It's always changing.
indieville: A man walks down the street, carrying a large box with a question mark
on it in one hand, and 200 dollars in the other. He stops all of you and says,
"You may take either the money, or the contents of this mystery box."
Which do you choose??
Eben: That depends. Are we talking $200 American dollars or Canadian?
Lindsay: The mystery box.
indieville: What makes you smile most?
Eben: Every time I think about the New England Patriots winning the super bowl.
Weird, I know, but I can't help it. I like football.
Ken: Nature, my girlfriend, music, and babies.
indieville: So, what are L'altra's future plans?
Eben: Well, we have practice on Tuesday, but after that, it could be anything. I
suppose we'll play some shows to celebrate the record being released. After that,
Ken: Who knows?? I'm leaving the group to move to Portland so...
To learn more about L'altra, visit www.laltra.com
or the label website at www.aesthetics-usa.com.
Indieville has reviewed both their albums. The "Music of a Sinking
Occasion" review is here, and the
"In The Afternoon" review is here.