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Interview: Mesita

By ; April 26, 2012 at 1:00 PM 

Beats Per Minute (Andrew Halverson): Here’s To Nowhere had this very grounded, specific sound to it, but with the new album you took a lot of big leaps in your sound. What was it like to transition between the two records and what inspired the change on The Coyote?

James Cooley (Mesita): The last album was inspired by a lot of different minimal stuff, that and just trying to make something coherent front-to-back without anything derailing it. The Coyote was inspired by not really knowing what the hell I was doing, so it became less constricted with where it could be taken. When it started, I was aiming for something quiet and subtle, clean sound and lots of space. But I was really limited by my equipment, the sound of the room, and my lack of ability as an audio engineer. It’s hard because I dream of getting these professional sounds out of these same cheap mics, but then reality hits again. I still have no idea what I’m doing. So it became really frustrating. There was a moment where I had to stop trying so hard and get back to having fun with it again. So the synths got fired up and the toy glockenspiel came out, and these songs finally started forming up.

There is definitely a visible direction that came together on The Coyote, the thematic material frequently involving feelings of youth and questioning. Was there something that pushed the record into sounding so post-teenage?

It definitely focused on growing up. This was sort of a way to look back one last time and begin really moving on from it. Some of the ideas are on the album for the main purpose of just getting them out, to now really head in the direction I’ve been wanting to. Especially “Ken Caryl.” It was put up front so that the rest could unravel behind it. Have the brighter tracks to start and grow from them as the album goes along. I’m 24, and too old to be singing like I’m still in high school.

Speaking of “Ken Caryl” being a song of dreamier proportions as opposed to the rest of the album, it’s still a standout among standouts. “Search for Meaning” and “Into the Wind” are pretty different from the norm. How did some of these “surprise” songs that made it on the album sort of come together?

Those tracks came a bit late, after struggling to figure out where they were going and how they fit with the album. “Into The Wind” was originally long and stayed at the same level, but it sounded too much like some of the other tracks and it drained the energy out. When I loosened up and started experimenting with it more again, the ideas separated into the two different halves of the song and it started working as kind of a divider for the album. “Search For Meaning” started as a short little folky acoustic interlude, but I didn’t like it. And then one night I just needed to scream my lungs out in frustration. It wasn’t very thought-out, and I thought while tracking it that it would just end up getting deleted anyway. But it seemed to work, so it stuck.

You took around three years between Cherry Blossoms and Here’s To Nowhere for a full album, while it seems you were able to dip right into The Coyote. Do you think there’s been a heavy progress to how you make music?

I’ve become a little more comfortable with how to record. Each new project brings new challenges and discoveries, a change in recording setup, different inspirations. I write a lot when wrapping up something else, so when each project finishes up, it’s already on to the next. I start to get bored with what’s there but am excited with where it can go. It’s usually near the editing stages when things trip up, just with the songs not sounding right or that desire to head in a completely different direction hitting… That point of trying to connect the initial progress to the gameplan to finish it up and find an ending. So having the weight off to start from a blank slate after the last album, that as well as knowing what pitfalls to expect and how to avoid them this time around have made it a lot easier. I still have a long way to go, but there’s learning with each release. I’m just trying to get better.

By the time The Coyote was released, nearly all the songs on the record were, in some shape or form, available elsewhere, but many of the tracks are noticeably revamped like “Onward Upward” and even “On Through The Dark.” Was this a planned method of yours while making the album?

It’s sort of the way I have to work… It always feels like something else needs to be done to a track if there’s still time to work on it. If not, it feels like time is being wasted. Like it won’t reach where it could have if I had just taken that last bit of time on it. Bad thing is, I can definitely over-cook a track that way. It’s a good way of getting nothing done. It’s when the deadlines need to be placed. That’s why releasing an album or EP is so relieving. When it’s out, it’s done, it’s there, and there’s no going back to it, even if I wanted to. I don’t feel that way about releasing single songs. It feels incomplete. It’s got to be wrapped up in a full work to feel right. It’s going back and forth, making sure all the tracks sounded right playing into each other, that there wasn’t any obvious mistake sticking out that would irritate me every time it played. So the whole album wrapped up at the same point, even if a few tracks had been released earlier. It was sitting there and deciding that I’ve done all that I wanted to do with it. That’s a hard call when you spend so much time and put yourself into it. Just to wake up the next day and have it done, no going back… To sit at a blank screen, think about where to go next, and all you can do is move forward.

You’ve kind of become an entity that’s been popping on several independent music blogs and that’s how a lot of people have latched on thanks to these song release tendencies of yours, and unlike many other artists, you seem to thrive on keeping in contact with fans on Twitter and Facebook on a very personal level. People love that sort of interaction, but how important is it to you and what do you get out of the communication?

It’s very important. I’d be absolutely nowhere without the sites and the people supporting my music. I wouldn’t have been able to make the progress I have made the last few years with both this music and my personal life. To have someone comment on my facebook, I get so psyched about that. Not only having someone listen to this music, but to get the opportunity to thank them for it one-on-one. After all they have allowed me to do, I feel a definite obligation to.

You released your last album not even three weeks ago, but you’ve already been hinting at some new stuff. What can people expect in the near future?

I’m in a whole different mindset… The Coyote had a fall/winter approach to the sound, but summer is coming, things are warming up, the situation’s changing. I have to be careful not to get ahead of myself, though. I was ready to start something new while finishing up the last one. Had a bunch of ideas, started writing new songs, was switching up the recording setup, drum kit into the garage… But it was six months of work straight and I need to catch my breath for a minute. Even if I’m mentally ready to start running again, I don’t want my legs to give out. But definitely more new music soon.

There’s definitely a balance that must be found. If songs from The Coyote were translated into live performances in the state they’re in, it would be one of the biggest-sounding events. Because of limitations, however, you play shows at a minimalist level. Would your upcoming April Sessions be a fair representation for what you would like to achieve in a live atmosphere?

I’ve haven’t figured out the live thing yet, and haven’t been able to for a number of reasons. I have really bad anxiety that stops me from even trying to book shows. Just a really bad feeling that comes preparing for a show and doesn’t leave until a while after. But how do you get better live when you don’t play out? I know not steadily touring is why a lot of labels haven’t given me a shot. And the further I go, the more I don’t want to go that route. If they don’t believe in me now, screw it, I don’t want them. I’ll go it alone. I have for years now. There’s awesome sites and blogs helping out and incredible people listening and supporting me. And I’ll keep going with it. But when it comes to playing out live, I can’t do this alone. And I’m crap at meeting people. It’s why there continues to be so much focus on recording new music, and trying to do as much with what I know. And the session stuff gives me an ability to mess around and work without much pressure, try new things out with a song and not worry about the sound, mess around a bit and have fun with it. It’s a way to give something more for the people that support this music. But with the opportunity to organize a live show how I’d imagine it, it would be a rock show, energy to the roof, loud, full-voice everything. This whole thing started more as a rock project, just got a little side-tracked the last few years. It’s where I’m heading with this music anyway, so it will be a lot easier to bring into a live show. But I can’t do this alone. I don’t want to anymore.

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