alta on honesty, earnestness and rejecting fuckery

We came for the interview, and stayed for the surprisingly powerful pep talk.

by Amy Campbell
30 October 2016, 10:30pm

Right now the Melbourne music scene is swimming with fresh acts, new names are added to ones-to-watch list weekly and people are picking up the DJ title like loose change. In a global music climate that's trying to persevere in the face of lock-out laws and club closures it's an intensely privileged situation to find ourselves in. But while opportunities can feel limitless for young acts, so can competition. With so many next-big-things, how does an artist manage to set themselves apart?

It's a reality electro duo ALTA faced four years ago when they moved to Melbourne from Tasmania. But in the time since, vocalist Hannah Lesser and producer Julius Dowson have proved they're worth the hype. Their fresh, feel-good synth see them regularly packing band rooms with loyal friends and fans.

Ahead of the release of their new EP, Sincere, and their appearance at the hallowed Sugar Mountain festival in January, we caught up with Hannah for what turned out to be a hell of a pep talk.

Hey Hannah, can you tell us a little bit about how ALTA came to be?
Julius and I are actually both from Tassie. We met playing music down there, but we moved to Melbourne around four years ago to "pursue the dream" (laughs), we felt like there were more opportunities here, Melbourne has such an incredible scene and we were really eager to be part of that. Melbourne is definitely home to us now.

The music scene is thriving, but as an artist does it ever feel crowded? There are a lot of artists producing a similar sound.
Yeah, we got here and totally felt like that! It's awesome that the scene is thriving, but it does make it harder to stand out. I know it sounds cliché, but if you've got a firm idea of what you want to sound like, and you're able to stick with it, then that'll become your thing. I'm not saying don't branch out and try new stuff, because obviously you're always going to be developing as an artist. But the thing that pulls people up a bit - and it's pulled Jules and I up before - is when you see someone else doing something cool, and you want to give it a crack yourself, even though it's totally not you. I feel like I'm preaching, "be yourself, don't listen to the haters!" But it's true. You've got to find your sound, and have the confidence to stick to it.

That's solid advice. You're about to release a new EP, Sincere. Do you see those ethos on the record?
I would say this EP is pretty honest. It's about identifying what's real and what's a fuckery, and being honest with yourself about it. I feel like there's an underlying sense of confidence in this EP, too. We know who we are now, we like taking risks and I think we've got to the point where we're not afraid to take those risks anymore. With Sincere, we were like, "this is what we want to do, so fuck it, let's take this risk and try this out." Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but sometimes if it doesn't work we kind of like that, too.

It seems like you have honesty on your mind, is it a reflection on something that's happened recently?
I think so. Things have happened with different relationships and different people. When I was writing Sincere, I kept feeling like honesty was this point of reference I would come back to. I was thinking a lot about identifying things, and how it feels good to know yourself. It became a way of expressing stuff that was happening, and I guess it just made its way into the music like that.

It sounds like you're in a very good space right now. Last question, you have Sugar Mountain coming up in January, are you psyched?
Oh, we're so pumped about that! We're pretty chuffed. A lot of the artists playing this year we really look up to, it's a bit surreal really. We're already thinking about our set (laughs), we're like eager children. We've been thinking about the songs we want to play, how we want to build it… we've got a few tricks up our sleeves.


ALTA will be playing at Melbourne's Sugar Mountain on January 21. To check out the fully, very impressive, line up head to their website. 


Text Amy Campbell
Image via ALTA