As dusk set over the El Rey, we caught up with Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina of the band Houses – who coincidentally or not so coincidentally are touring with the musician Baths. (We were hoping they’d add Beach House to the line-up to complete the reverie.) The real-life couple, who are signed to Downtown Records, released the dreamy, atmospheric electro-synth second album A Quiet Darkness in April. Below, they chat about what as changed since their first album (which inspired by living off the grid in Hawaii) and where their favorite place to escape in Los Angeles is:
LAC: I liked that you were really able to escape to Hawaii to create the first album. But this album also exudes a feeling of escapism…. along with the idea of the desert. It has an airy feel. How do you feel there is a contrast between the escapism in the first album and second album? Or did you escape at all for the second album?
MM: Well we didn’t really escape for the second album. We sort of had to fabricate that. We didn’t really have a getaway trip, and it definitely wasn’t as pleasant as escaping to Hawaii.
DT: I think the first record got received as a really happy, upbeat album. But those songs were all written trying to recapture that spot in our lives. With our new album, the whole escapism part of it..it’s taken in a completely different way. it’s way less romantized. We really wanted it to be emersive – cinematic almost. Sonically, we used a lot of reverbs to make it sound like you are in different places.
LAC: And you recorded sounds from home?
DT: Yeah highway 10 going out east to California. We recorded there…all these sounds from houses.
LAC: Was that influenced by Bjork?? She heard records all these crazy sounds and says shes stores them within her till she uses them in her music…
DT: Haha – no. it’s similar to that but it’s less of an art thing. I just really wanted our album to sound like a film in the best way possible. I would really love to score movies; that’s my dream job. So we were able almost to create a little bit of set design, capturing different sounds, recording stomps and room reverb. Then we would build a whole song out of slammed doors and things like that.
LAC: Were there particular films you were inspired by?
DT: I was watching really crazy apocalyptic movies that I didn’t actually want our album to sound like at all. I feel like that was a good measure of what I didn’t want to do; I had this idea that we didn’t want to go over the top and make it too grandiose. To be honest, I was more into reading.
LAC: What were you reading?
DT: Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.
MM: Possum living: How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money. (haha)
LAC: How did you two meet?
(Laugh) We worked together for Apple, but at different stores. I showed up for work one day and someone had driven their car into my store and just stole everything. They said “OK, you can’t work here today.” And so they ended up sending me to his store. I was working, looked up, and saw he was just staring at me. I was thinking, “what is he staring at me for?” And he came up and shook my names and said “Hi my name is Dexter. ” He was very charming and had these big glasses…..(laugh)
LAC: There were 90 songs originally you were choosing from for this album and then you whittled it down to 11. How did that work?
MM: It was hard to do; there were so many different ideas. I am a firm believer that if you are trying to do anything with any type of art, it’s good to practice it almost every single day. I like doing that but it makes me kind of crazy. But it was important. Almost all of the songs we ended up choosing were almost all written at the very end of that period.
LAC: Favorite spot to escape to in LA?
DT: We live in Mount Washington and there’s a self-realization fellowship up there, [which is] not a full-on religion, but mostly based around yoga and chanting. I have nothing to do with the religion, but they have gardens just for meditation that are insane. There are monks. It’s really mellow.
MM: Waterfalls and bonsai…it’s beautiful.
HOUSES AT THE EL REY June 28th
BATHS AT THE EL REY June 28th
Photos and Words: Faith-Ann Young