Tyto Alba, indie band from Denver, Colorado, add their distinct and original style to the indie rock genre, taking inspiration from their diverse influences and their passionate artistic hunger.
The foursome consists of songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Melanie Steinway, vocalist/guitarist Matt Rossi, bassist Daniel DiMarchi, and drummer Jeremy Van Zandt, whom have not been together all that long but have managed to develop a strong repertoire in a short amount of time. Tyto Alba began with their debut release, which is available for free download here, called ‘Oh Tame One’ (2015) and it got an outstanding response considering that it was self-released and promoted. Recently, the band has produced two great singles, ‘Between The Lines’, which was released January 1st 2016, and ‘Lupine Soul’, which will be released January 30th 2016, with an amazing video that was filmed and produced by singer/songwriter Melanie Steinway. We got the chance to chat with Melanie Steinway to learn more about Tyto Alba and to get more info about the two new singles and what it was like producing the bands own music video.
EP: When and how did Tyto Alba meet and decide to start making music together?
MS: Tyto banded up together in the fall of 2014. I met Matt at a singer-songwriter showcase that was overall pretty lame, except that we met each other, saw each other play, and decided that we should definitely do something musical together. I was fronting a folk band that dissolved around that time, and Matt was currently playing music with Jeremy, who is now our drummer. We recently acquired a rad new bass player named Danny, who’s been a friend of mine for some time and plays in another band with some friends of ours. Basically, I play with three goofy-ass dudes. I guess they balance out my melodrama 🙂
EP: How would you describe your sound and how do the various musical influences of each band member help to create the musical style of Tyto Alba?
MS: I guess in short terms, our music is indie-rock. It’s a great balance of influences – I come from a folk background, but also draw a lot of influence from modern bands like Sigur Ros, Daughter and This Will Destroy You. I like dramatic, emotive, cinematic music. The boys come from a bit of a rowdier background; they bring the energy and rock to the music. Everyone in this band is a songwriter of their own accord, so there’s a lot of independent creativity floating around and colliding and producing great ideas. Danny also makes electronic music in his free time, so we’re looking forward to incorporating a bit of that into our sound in the future.
EP: What is the band’s songwriting process?
MS: Our songwriting process is fairly collaborative – I’ll usually come up with a basic song structure on my own at home, often on acoustic guitar. When I bring it to the boys, the song undergoes a lot of transformation, sometimes even changing time signature. If I didn’t have their creative input, I think my songs would all end up sounding pretty much the same. As a fellow singer, Matt’s been a big influence lately in helping me develop my voice and implement new vocal melodies. When Danny first joined the band a month or so ago, him and I formed a lot of song ideas together just sitting across from each other in my living room and noodling around. It’s a really fun balance and it’s great having such creative bandmates.
EP: Tyto Alba has only been together for a little over a year now and already the band has accomplished a lot in such a short period of time. How has the band been able to progress so rapidly and have so much early success?
MS: I’m really interested in the business side of music as well as the creative side, so we’ve been a very DIY band since day one. I book shows, send out promotional emails, design posters, you name it. I’m really fortunate as a daytime illustrator/tattooist to be able to make my own schedule and leave enough free time to manage the band. I think there are a lot of really talented acts out there that don’t succeed as much as they could because they’re not familiar with how to manage their own band. There’s a lot more to a band than making great music. It’s hard to get noticed in a day and age where the internet simultaneously puts unprecedented power in the hands of the band, and also super-saturates the market because everyone is visible. I think we’re also really fortunate to have a supportive network around us. The music scene isn’t a competition (so battles-of-the-bands can go to hell), it’s about collaboration and cooperation. I’m always happy to help out my friends bands and I want to see everyone succeed, whether it’s putting them in touch with someone that can help with some exposure, or designing a poster for a friends’ release show. We’ve got a great many friends to thank for helping us get to where we are now, and we’re stoked to push the band farther along as we jump into 2016.
EP: Tyto Alba is actually the scientific name for barn owls and I get the feeling through the band’s lyrics and music that it is heavily inspired by nature and wilderness. Why has nature become such a major influence to the songwriting and image of the band?
MS: I’m pretty much exclusively to blame for that 🙂 all my life I’ve been really fascinated by the natural world, growing up watching animal documentaries, owning a myriad of pets, and doodling mythical creatures. I dream occasionally of being in the bodies of animals, running as a wolf or flying as a bird.The wild weaves itself into every aspect of my creative life, whether it’s musical or visual. To me, the natural world is this sort of unobtainable purity that we’re unfortunately at odds with as modern, developed humans. I think there’s a longing within me, as well as much of my generation, to escape the urban life and become self-sustainable somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and exist in a more simple, primal way. It’s very romanticized, but is a source of constant fascination in my life.
EP: The band just released it’s latest single ‘Between The Lines’ on January 1st, 2016 recorded at Coupe Studios in Boulder Colorado. What influenced the lyrics and music of ‘Between The Lines’? What was the recording experience like at Coupe Studios?
MS: Oh gosh, talking about lyrics…so hard. Like most songwriters, much of my lyrical content is influenced by my relationships with the people around me. It’s a constant struggle to bridge the gap between people. Much of the song is me musing on the effort of trying to maintain and strengthen a relationship that might not be meant to work out. The verse speaks about being selectively ignorant of troubling things happening around you, and not inferring from observation. The chorus is my reaction to this experience.
On the other hand, recording at Coupe was an awesome experience for all of us. Personally, it was my first time recording in a professional studio. Our engineer, Kyle Smith, was such a talented and kind person, he was a pleasure to work with. I was a bit unprepared for how exhausting it can be to work in a studio, and the level of patience you need to produce something as polished as these songs. It’s worth it for the final product.
EP: The bands second single ‘Lupine Soul’ will be released January 30th 2016 and will feature a miraculous music video filmed and produced by (yourself) Melanie Steinway singer/songwriter/guitarist of Tyto Alba. The video for ‘Lupine Soul’ has some amazing footage. What can fans expect from ‘Lupine Soul’ and the new video? What was it like filming and producing your own music video for ‘Lupine Soul’? Any interesting behind the scenes stories you can tell us?
MS: ‘Lupine Soul’ is a great example of the band’s natural influences. This song, like ‘Between the Lines’, speaks of the disconnect often present between me and important people around me. Everyone longs to be heard and understood, but it seems to be more and more difficult in an age so ruled by non-personal communication. Empathy is declining and people don’t look each other in the eye as much as they used to. I think a lot of younger people are struggling with feelings of isolation, while constantly wired-in and digitally connected to the world. You an I, interviewer and interviewee, will never see each other’s face or hear one another’s voice. It’s sort of ironic, and very sad to me.
Much of the concept behind ‘Lupine Soul’s music video formulated as I was collecting footage and working on the video. I filmed at the local butterfly pavilion and at a couple aquariums. My friends were shot over the course of a month or so in my living room, where I had a sort of silly set up with a black sheet pinned to the wall and a hanging lightbulb that, miraculously, no one ever walked into and broke. The bridge sequence set on the beach was actually a really spontaneous idea while I was vacationing in Cancun with my family. I knew I wanted something different to happen in the video besides the animal footage and shots of my friends, so the new setting was very serendipitous. Throughout the video, I overlay friends with elements of nature, like fire, trees or jellyfish. The beach sequence features someone very dear to me – my sister. Had to do a bit of convincing to get my sister to run into the water fully clothed, and we had to get it in one take. She wasn’t super happy about it. Her running into the ocean sort of symbolizes that final attempt at connection. Human and Nature. One ecosystem to another. Water and the ocean also represent purity to me, which ties in to my two cousins very zealously bouncing around amongst the trees during the second half of the instrumental section. Overall, it’s a very personal project that ended up taking WAY more of my time than I had originally anticipated, but I learned so much and really enjoyed the entire process.
EP: You are also responsible for all art-work related to the band as well as being the main songwriter. What drives you to be involved in so many aspects of the band?
MS: Honestly, how could I not be involved in all these aspects of the project? I love every element of it. I pretty much jump at any opportunity to make a show poster. I wish we could have like, 10 different t-shirt designs. It’s branding at its most fun. I think having both look and sound stem from the same place forms a natural cohesion as well. I guess I can’t help but spew creativity everywhere. It’s just too much fun.
EP: The band has already played some great shows with bands like Widowspeak, Boy & Bear, and Mimicking Birds to name a few…What’s up next for Tyto Alba? Shows? Tour? Upcoming EP?
MS: We’re planning on doing with a mini SXSW tour in March that we’re really looking forward to. Hopefully a longer summer tour will happen as well. At some point we’d like to release a 10″, but we’ll need to record a few more tracks, and we’re really immersed in the songwriting process right now. Our release show on the 30th is the next big thing coming up – we’ll have the music video being projected all night and we’re playing with two killer local bands – Space Suits for Indians and the Still Tide.