Creating live electro, the new EP and one hell of a gear setup with Hannah and Julius from ALTA

One of the latest proponents for the electronic duo craze, Melbourne’s bangin’ double-act ALTA have just released their latest EP Sincere on October 28, and they celebrated with a Sydney show at the beefy Civic Underground.

Happily sandwiched between the morning release and their show, we caught up with both Hannah Lesser and Julius Dowson for a cheeky interview.

Illustration by Lucy Adelaide. Check her out on tumblr and Instagram.
Illustration by Lucy Adelaide. Check her out on tumblr and Instagram.

Slinging heavy electro and sporting more gear than a six piece, ALTA are pushing atmospheric live electro to newfound limits.

HAPPY: Feeling good about the EP?

HANNAH: Yeah. Well it just came out today and so far I think the response has been pretty good. We’re super happy to have it out because we’ve been working on it for such a long time, so it’s good to just share it with everyone and see if people like it.

HAPPY: Have you received much feedback since this morning?

JULIUS: Yeah, we’ve had a few responses from blogs and that kinda thing so it’s been good. Before the EP, we did a couple of singles and the first one was Plans and and we were really happy with the response on that one. It got played on community radio and Triple J and got a few features around the place so we got a good response there.

HAPPY: What are some of the sonic and lyrical inspirations behind the Sincere EP?

HANNAH: It’s a pretty honest EP from us and all of our songs have a bit of a theme and we wanted to have it really relatable and just tell stories about losing control, then regaining control again and just reassuring yourself that you’ve got this and it’s all good, and inspiration is probably…

JULIUS: Yeah, we listen to a real wide range of songs.

HANNAH: We probably have a really big artists list that influence us, but on this one in particular, with Sincere, probably MachineDrum, Jessy Lanza, Friendships, Solange when she dropped that album, I really like that. That was probably not so much for this one, but it really influenced us.

JULIUS: Before we write, we listen to heaps of different types of music but when we’re writing we actually don’t listen to that much music at all. We kinda turn it off.

HAPPY: Why is that? So you can find your own sound?

HANNAH: We have a pretty big binge before we start writing and we’re just listening to heaps of different genres, just music from all around the world, and then when we write it kinda just helps you to just sit with your sound and you feel a bit better because you feel like you’re drawing from different influences and different experiences, also just different feelings of what you feel when you listen to a song.

JULIUS: We kinda just switch over to podcasts when we’re writing, just talkback stuff.

HAPPY: Electronic duos like yourselves are huge at the moment. Any current favourites?

HANNAH: My favourite’s Friendships and Fortunes. We’re from Melbourne so they’re all Melbourne people.

JULIUS: Fishing, Habits.

HAPPY: Why do you think the duo is becoming big at the moment?

JULIUS: I think because the barrier for entry is a lot lower for producing music now than it was  ten years ago when you needed to buy all this equipment. All you need now is a laptop so there’s so many people writing music and producing music. Working in duos is just a really good way to collaborate with other people and you can work with each other, so I think that’s one of the reasons it has taken off so recently because there are actually just so many people who are producing music in their bedrooms and also working with singers and other people.

HAPPY: What draws you to electronic music?

HANNAH: I think it’s because we really like experimenting with different sounds and Jules really loves collecting gear, it’s just where our style is at. It all comes together.

JULIUS: You have such a wide palette. With electronic music and sampling, you can literally just make any sound you want.

HAPPY: Speaking of gear, what’s your setup like for tonight?

JULIUS: We’ve got a synthesizer, a drum machine, audio effects.

HANNAH: We’ve got a TR-8 and then a TC-Helicon.

JULIUS: And then three mini controllers as well, and then a computer.

HAPPY: What was the first piece of equipment you bought?

JULIUS: Probably a laptop (laughs). It would have been an AC-40 I think. We’ve literally gone through so many of them. They just break. We’re using it and it just falls apart.

HAPPY: Anything you’ve been meaning to add?

JULIUS: Well we’ve kinda maxed it out to be honest. We’ve set up a home studio back in Melbourne and we’re kinda into collecting gear so we’ve got enough. We may need to downsize a bit to be honest. We’ve got a bit too much stuff.

HANNAH: It’s just good for freshening up the writing process.

HAPPY: What are the benefits of playing a live set rather than anything pre-recorded?

HANNAH: We love playing live. We do a lot of live looping and we like a set to all mold into one, so it’s similar to a DJ set but we’re doing it live. You can really get the different emotions of the song.

HAPPY: What’s the electronic scene like in Melbourne?

HANNAH: Huge. It’s really strong. It’s super inspiring and it’s so supportive as well. I think that because it’s like that, it pushes you more as an artist. You’re constantly being inspired and influenced by your peers and be other people on the scene.

HAPPY: Are you going to be sticking to your new stuff tonight?

HANNAH: We’re going to be mixing it up. We’re going to be playing some old stuff, some stuff off the new EP and some stuff that we’ve just been writing lately.

JULIUS: We like to do that, even if it’s just for one minute or two minutes, just drop a new song that hasn’t been released that we’re working on and then guaging people’s reactions to it. Our sets are progressive and all the songs link together, so we can just drop a song in for a couple of minutes and just see the reactions from fans.

HAPPY: What has it been like working with Soothsayer?

HANNAH: Really, really, really good. They’re so supportive. We’re really thankful and lucky to be working with them.

HAPPY: Why do you feel like they’re a good fit for you?

HANNAH: When we first started talking with Soothsayer, we heard what they’re about and they heard what we’re about and it was a really organic process from there. We get each other and we know what they want from us and they know what we want from them. It’s a really good mesh.

HAPPY: If you could collab with anyone, who would it be?

HANNAH: That’s an interesting question. We should just get Wiki from Ratking on a verse.

JULIUS: Yeah, we want Wiki.

HANNAH: We want Wiki from Ratking.

HAPPY: And why’s that?

HANNAH: We’ve been following him for years and grew up with him.

HAPPY: How are you warming up for tonight’s show?

HANNAH: We’re going to be doing some serious star jumps, some squats and some high-knee rounds. Nah, we’re probably literally going to just be drinking some coffee and eating too many dumplings. You’ve got to get that balance. You’ve got to get that ying with that yang.

JULIUS: You’ve got to get that dumpling caffeine balance.

HAPPY: What song are you most looking forward to playing?

HANNAH: Probably Mess. I like Mess. It’s from the new EP. I like the ending and we just go all crazy.

JULIUS: Yeah, me too.

HAPPY: Think you’ve finally nailed ALTA’s sound?

HANNAH: We still feel like we’re working on it. It’s a tricky one because you’re always molding your sound and changing your sound just a bit through the many different things you are influenced by.

JULIUS: And through experimentation as well, because when it right together it’s a really collaborative and open process so progression is a natural progression because we’re writing together and experimenting different sounds so over a long period of time it just changes.

Sincere is out now. Next up on ALTA’s live schedule is the famous Sugar Mountain Festival. For info and ticketing, head to their website.