After hard times hit Tortoriello in many forms, he and Messina decided to move to a remote town in Hawaii and just start over. Once there, they lived in sustainable housing, worked for their meals, drank rainwater and used candle light at night to save their solar power for Tortoriello’s laptop so he could work on music. The lush, peaceful music he created was threaded with these experiences. After a few months, Tortoriello and Messina had to return to Chicago where they released a few songs as Houses and were instantly picked up by Lefse Records. Houses released All Night, an album filled with delicate orchestration and playful ambient tones that hide stories in lyrics and emotion in each layer of music.
On the verge of an international tour, LoudLoopPress.com was able to catch up with Tortoriello and talk to him about All Night and his time in Hawaii.
LLP: Tell me about your musical style and what would you like for people to feel when they listen to it? Tortoriello: Well, a lot of it was written from the hours of midnight to 4 a.m. So, it’s really meant to be transcending, kind of taking yourself out for a little bit. Some of the songs don’t have lyrics; they just loop and build on themselves. I really feed on that from other bands like Eluvium and Stars of the Lid. You can kind of just be at peace and just relax. And all the lyrics are really subdued. They have meaning to me, but they aren’t very descript. A lot of them really aren’t telling you exactly what’s going on and that’s how I wanted it to be. It’s mostly meant to put people in a state of peace where they can manage their thoughts. That’s what it did for me. It gave me some time to relax and compartmentalize my thoughts and everything that was currently going on in my life. LLP: Why did you guys choose to go to Hawaii? Tortoriello: Well, you live in Chicago and you know that the winters are pretty unforgiving. And Megan hadn’t been that many places and I had spent most of my adolescence hopping around from place to place like California and Utah. But, I’d never been off the continent and we wanted to find somewhere warm and we’re both very remote kind of people. I don’t like going into the city and being around a lot of people. And Hawaii has the Big Island, and it’s actually called the Big Island and it’s this crazy awesome place. It’s remote and there are not a lot of people and the people who are there are living in these tin, shanty houses. It’s just a cool place. We did some research online, and we found a lady who would house us and feed us for five hours of work a day for her. It was a pretty easy decision. My style of music before was slow, bummer music. And once I got out there, there was just so much stuff going on out there, like beautiful art and music. And unlike Chicago in the winter, everything is bright green, it rains all the time and every flower is a crazy neon color and all the birds are cool looking. It was a nice breath of fresh air. I learned a lot about my way of life in Chicago. It gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I was currently doing, which was really nothing. Before we left, I didn’t have a job, I just wasn’t doing anything. And we went to Hawai’i and a lot of people where we were living they worked for themselves. They had their own farms and grew or made their own things and most of them don’t have to go work a job because there really isn’t that much work to be had out there, like actual 9 to 5 work. It gave me a lot of hope that some day I could get to a point where I could be self sustaining, eating the food that I grow, drinking rain water and not consuming as much. There’s a huge amount of people out there that their consumption is so small as far as what they are using. You come back here and people are eating McDonalds and throwing their bags on the ground. LLP: Was it hard to come back to Chicago? Tortoriello: Oh, yeah. It was really hard. I was shell shocked when I came back. I mean, I drove a car a couple times out there, but for the most part we just hitchhiked everywhere we needed to go. It was weird coming back here and not having to walk or hitchhike 8 miles to the nearest convenient store to get a pop or something. And it just made me feel lazy, I get back here and everything is in front of me. I could leave my water running as long as I want and not worry about diminishing the supply. It was tough. [caption id="attachment_16077" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Photo by Drew Reynolds"][/caption] LLP: Other than Hawaii, other than the situation you were in, what influenced the album All Night? Tortoriello: New beginnings, I guess. I spent a lot of my time, even before I met Megan, alone sitting in my bedroom. Then, I met her and we started doing all these great things together and my life just changed positively in so many ways. And that has a lot to do with it. As far as other musicians go, Eluvium and Stars of the Lid, they’re two huge influences on the music. But, it was kind of like more of a lack of influence. I had been doing this other music that had been really heavily influenced by all these funk musicians. When I tried to write a song, I would have been listening to Nick Drake or Two Weeks or something and would be like, “Man, Nick Drake is good, I should just be Nick Drake.” But, then I knew that wasn’t going to work out, I had to do something new. And then I found out that there were a bunch of other people doing it, that whole Kill Wave moment. We got lumped into that pretty early on. But it was interesting, it was cool. I had never heard a lot of the bands I was getting compared to. It was neat that there was already interest for this kind of music out there. LLP: Where are you going to go for the next album? Tortoriello We’re kind of starting work on an EP that’s just some really different stuff that doesn’t sound like All Night, just for fun. The plan is to buy some land somewhere in Utah or Arizona or somewhere, we haven’t decided yet. And my goal is to build an underground bomb shelter and then just spend my time in there recording an album. It would just be a couple of beds and a recording studio. There are these people that live in these underground bomb shelters and missile silos and they are just really beautiful. When you look at the land on top there’s jut a little square hatch door, no house. You just climb down and you have your own space and I think that would be really cool. And that’s long term. For now, we’re just going to hang around Chicago and do a tour and do as much as we can with our time. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ HOUSES