James recently took the time to answer some burning questions of mine, as well as allowing us the opportunity to premiere a brand new track off of The Coyote. We here at SKoA are pleased to premiere the song "Endless Build Into Nothing," an engrossing acoustic guitar-driven number perfectly represents the sound Mesita has honed in on over the past few years. Give the song a listen below, and after the jump you can read my full interview with the Denver-based musician. The Coyote is available now via Mesita's Bandcamp, and will see a physical release tomorrow.
Adrian: Now, first of all, for those who aren’t familiar with Mesita, tell us how it came to be. What are the origins of the Mesita project, and what urged you to create Mesita, and where did the name itself come from? Mesita is a community in Costilla County in the far south of Colorado, is it not?
James: Mesita has always been me alone recording in a basement or room or apartment. The music is all multi-tracked into Audacity, usually just sitting next to the computer with a mic or two and a guitar. I’ve been playing around with recording for a while, and Mesita became sort of the push to start really concentrating on it. The name Mesita comes from the first album Cherry Blossoms back in 2008, which was mostly recorded for fun, not much pressure... tried to loosen up and not concentrate that much on sound quality or lyrics (and man, that shows), and have fun with it. It was written about a camping trip my friends and I took to the Great Sand Dunes, located in the San Luis Valley, where Mesita, Colorado is. The name Mesita just fit with the project at the time and that was the most important thing. One word, three syllables, it just stuck around ever since.
A: Tell me about your personal history and how it has affected your music. What musicians are you influenced by (of note, I can’t help but compare you to the earlier work of Bon Iver), and how has the area you grew up in affected the ways that you interpret and create music?
J: Radiohead for sure. and the Black Keys. They were my favorite bands back in high school. I was blown away by the Black Keys after seeing them on Conan, and went to Media Play the next day to buy Thickfreakness. I absolutely love The Sea & Cake. and Destroyer. Rubies is my favorite album, ever I think... Ever since I heard it back in 2006, I’ve played it so many damn times. Surprised that disc hasn’t melted permanently into my car’s CD player... All of those during senior year of high school, and Jay Dee. I’d never heard anything like Donuts. It was such an exciting time with the internet, too. I had all this new music right at my fingertips, all this new access to become inspired by all sorts of incredible artists. Deerhoof is another one, such an incredible group. Most fun I’ve ever had at a live show for sure. And especially inspired by their attitude with music. Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born for sure...The Walkmen’s You & Me hit hard the summer of 2008. Had the opportunity to stay in NY for the first time in my life, and that album was the soundtrack. Wandering around, in the subways, through the parks, across bridges with every song sounding so right it was painful. One of those albums that will be sticking with me the rest of my life.
A: Cherry Blossoms and No Worries were your first EPs, which were released in 2008 and 2009, respectively. It is clear when listening to them both that you were playing around with different styles and techniques in order to find a sound that worked for you. Tell me about this process, and how has it been honed over the past 3 or 4 years with the release of Living/Breathing EP and Here’s To Nowhere?
J: I’ve been recording in a similar way since the first release back in 2008, just with a focus on multi-tracking in Audacity. The learning comes with each release, looking back on what worked and what to improve on. I was in college back in ‘08 and ‘09 for audio engineering, and so I picked up some valuable knowledge during that time. It just helped clear up some things I was definitely botching with production. The Living/Breathing EP was tracked in an apartment in Seattle, and not a great sounding room. Here’s To Nowhere was going for a minimalist, clean, quick in-and-out listen, light and a constant level throughout the whole album without anything to derail the listen from song to song. Same-y on purpose. Kind of a vacation album. Sort of one to put on and calmly drift through. This time around, the album was made with sort of the opposite philosophy, more adventurous, taking more time with certain ideas, and longer tracks that break into different directions, and a lot more exploration. Come on in and stay a while...
A: It becomes clear when listening to your music that nature holds a great deal of importance to you. Describe this relationship you have with nature, and how does it play into your music, whether it is lyrically, instrumentally or emotionally?
J: Nature has always been a part of my life. I grew up in Colorado, right up against the foothills. All sorts of outdoor activities all around. Hiking trails you can walk to, rivers you can bike to, ski resorts an hour drive away... I go camping with friends, or hiking. You’re just surrounded by it out there, it’s hard not to be inspired from it. It’s always been a part of my life so it’s always been an influence on this music.
A: Your latest LP The Coyote is finally out digitally, with a physical release soon to follow. What can you tell me about this album, the origins of the album, the recording process, and the meaning behind the vibrant 12-track effort?
J: Pretty much this whole thing has been recorded down in Austin. Had an opportunity to live in a house with two of my best friends from back home, so I took it. "The Front Range" was recorded back in Colorado late last summer, the rest in Austin. It was all recorded in Audacity with an inexpensive pre-amp and budget mics. I have this small walk-in closet where I ended up stashing my drum kit and tracking in. It initially began a lot more stripped down, but after getting so frustrated with how thin everything was sounding, I just kept layering and layering out of frustration. The album was going to be messy no matter what, so might as well go for that direction and capture as much of it as possible...
A: This album also marked a turning point in your career, in that your hard work and efforts are paying off and a great deal of attention has been given to the Mesita project. What can you attribute this to? And what are your thoughts and feelings about this release and the attention it is receiving?
J: Especially since I don’t play out much, there wouldn’t be anyone listening to this music if it weren’t for the consideration and support of the people and sites sharing it and spreading the word. I’ve been sending out music to people as Mesita since 2008, and have written every message, for better or worse, without a PR person or management. I’m pretty crap at it too, so I have a tremendous appreciation for those that read the terrible e-mails I write and still take a listen, and then take the time and effort to post the music. Because of them, I’ve had a good opportunity to keep releasing it. I try my best to make sure they know how much the support means. But the people at the sites just post it without asking for anything in return. They just enjoy sharing the music that they enjoy, and I’m so grateful for them.
A: The Coyote also marks a point in your career in the sense that, from my observation, you have taken everything you’ve learned and fiddled with over the years and finally honed in on a style that is wholly yours, wholly unique. What are your thoughts regarding the album and the sound that you have produced?
J: It’s all sort of been just taking a shot at it and learning from it, again and again. Nothing I’ve done came out sounding quite how I wanted it, but it’s gotten easier to keep going with it and learn from those mistakes, almost be thankful for them. I’m recording on pretty much the same equipment I’ve been since 2009, but all the lessons and new techniques to pick up along the way are helping me clean up and advance it. This album was just about trying to put some personality back into the stuff I was making, take some chances and see where it ended up. There was a point where I just stopped trying so hard and started having fun messing around with what was there.
A: Now that the album is released, digitally as of this moment, what are your future intentions? Will you get right back to working on more material, and is there a possibility of touring, whether it is short term or long term?
J: There are a bunch of other songs waiting in the wings right now. A few I wrote for this album that didn’t fit. Some songs from this album have been around since I started out. I’m writing new songs now, too. Trying to give myself an honest break, but also eager to continue on with what I’ve been doing. There are four different versions of the song "Search For Meaning." A short acoustic version that it started out as, a long sort of funky soul version. Also had one that sounded a lot more quiet and sparse, sounded like an entirely different song. It might even end up on a future release. I’m hoping to have at least another EP of new stuff by the end of the year. I like having one album a year. That span of time feels right. I’ll also try to get out of my comfort zone and play live, maybe this summer. If it starts working on that front, finally get together at least a small tour or something. But that all depends on where it goes from here.
A: Today, we are also premiering a brand new track from The Coyote, titled "Endless Build Into Nothing." Describe this song to me? What is the meaning behind it?
J: I tried to make this song soft and subtle, really build on it and drop parts out, make it flow as a long track. It meanders and sort of winds back similar to how it began, but changed. After the four tracks before it, I wanted this song to breathe a bit more and change the pace up as the album finished, but still feel a little unsettled until the closing track could wrap it all up. It touches on trying so hard for something or someone, that struggle starts to blur everything together, and it feels like the same thing over and over again. It loses its value, you want to give up, losing faith in everything, it all starts to become meaningless. This track is about the struggle to avoid falling in, or to snap yourself out of it and keep on after loss, for yourself and the good people around you. Slap yourself out of it, go help some other people and stop feeling so damn sorry for yourself.
A: Being a bedroom artist, what advice can you give to other musicians, specifically those who are creating music from their bedrooms?
J: The advice I have to give others is the same I try to give myself daily and often struggle to follow. Make the music you want to be making. You’ll end up happier and better off in the future. Find honesty in tradition and excitement in experimentation, but stay grounded. Don’t get bummed if ignored by the popular tastemakers of the moment, and be thankful for the ones taking the time to listen to you. And don’t be tempted to change up your style to suit the overcooked trends being sold at the moment, either. Take ownership in your work, keep listeners on their feet, don’t let yourself become trapped by categorization. Have fun, stay honest with it. Avoid gimmicks. Trust yourself. Be weary of those who try to take control of your music away from you. Be cautious. Avoid those who promise success, and keep in mind why you’re making music in the first place.
The business around music has and will continue to be shady territory. Be patient with your growth. Keep it yours and keep it to a natural progression. Think long term with it, and keep working at it. If you’re uninspired, press record, see what comes out at the moment. It might turn into a solid idea, and if not, use it as practice. Just get your ideas down. Make something fun, or emotional, or abrasive, or therapeutic. Make people think, make people dance. Make it interesting and make it your own. Enjoy it or hate it, but feel something from it. Try out a new instrument, or dip into a different style. Learn something from anything you listen to. Maybe it’s what a performer is singing, how the vocals sound, the instrumentation, the production, the way the snare hits, the sound of the room, the melodies, rhythms, etc... Get something down and build from it. And be thankful for every single individual that listens to what you create, no matter if you ask them to or not, and for every opportunity that you have to continue creating it. And if you have love for music, you’re doing it right.