Andre Costello is our local artist spotlight for the month of March 2013. Andre is a former member of the now defunct The Slant, a band we have featured a few times. Since the band's demise, Andre has been keeping busy with his new new project recently releasing an EP entitled Summer's Best. Andre answered our normal range of questions explaining what he has been up to including opening for Atlas Sound (Bradford Cox) and R. Ring (Kelley Deal), his views on the Pgh music scene and how this project defers from The Slant.
You were in The Slant, one of my favorite local artists before you broke up. What have you been doing since?
Ever since The Slant, I’ve been diligently deconstructing walls and building new ones as I see fit. l laid the foundation for the “new structure” (Outer Spaces EP) and now the place is coming together quite nicely. By the end of last year, I got the first floor up (Costello and the Cool Minors LP). I just drywalled the entire thing and painted it with colors I had lying around in the basement and bought some new ones, too (Summer’s Best EP).
This past year, I did this small run of shows with Sun For Moon who’s been an M.I.A. backup singer, former Slant-mate Polar Scoüt, The Building (with Anthony LaMarca, drummer for St. Vincent), Nat Baldwin (of Dirty Projectors) and other Pittsburgh-based artists on Wild Kindness Records including S. Neary and Little Tired Press. It was a 3-day tour including Pittsburgh, Brooklyn and Youngstown. The tour raised money for a Youngstown non-profit named G.E.M.S., pushing a great compilation CD called “Sunshine Off The Tracks” that included tracks from record labels like Lefse, K Records, Misra, and my own, Wild Kindness.
2012 was a great year for me. I opened up for Atlas Sound, the solo project of Bradford Cox of Deerhunter, at Penn State University which was an absolute honor. “Walkabout,” the collab between him and Noah Lennox better known as Panda Bear, has been an inspiration to me as I settle into adulthood and further my artistic career. So, yeah... it was a great night. Very surreal. It was the night that Joe Paterno passed away.
I also opened for Kelley Deal and her project R. Ring at Cedar’s Lounge in Youngstown. She’s awesome! She sounds as good as ever, and is in fact, identical to her twin sister Kim. Interesting fact: Kelley’s tuner pedal still has a piece of masking tape on it that says “Breeders.” I’m sure she’ll leave that on there for the big reunion at that All Tomorrow’s Parties festival.
In December, I released my “Summer’s Best” EP and did a “two-off,” performing it and my “Costello and the Cool Minors” LP in their entireties for two nights only. I paired the set with a video projection, making the show more of a multimedia art piece than the usual setup of a band playing in a corner. The venues I selected for this performance had the atmosphere appropriate for an intimate experience without the typical barroom distractions or chatter. It’s important to consider the venue when deciding what the set will be. Luckily, I have an assortment of songs that can be fitting to both environments.
Anyways, I’ve been busy.
How has this venture differed from The Slant?
With this project, I’m the maestro. I write the songs and direct the musicians in my ensemble. The recordings are entirely my songs and are my arrangements. This is very different from The Slant, where it was more of a collective. We kind of tossed the reign of alpha back and forth but ultimately got frustrated by it. We were too young to realize what was happening. In hindsight, it’s clear that it was simply too many cooks in the kitchen. We were too immature to realize it at the time, which ultimately ended in a falling out. By then, the best thing for us to do was to split off and exercise our abilities with side projects. For me, it has been liberating and has really improved my self-worth. By the way, we’ve since made amends and are happy to still hear through the grapevine that even now people are discovering songs in The Slant’s catalogue. Actually, Zach’s anthem, “Pennsylvania!” has become somewhat of a hit on YouTube.
You have been around the Pgh music scene now for years. How has it changed? Positive v. negative?
Well, from what I hear, there was a time about ten years ago, where just about all the local music that people supported was bar bands playing cover songs. In the short span that I’ve been involved, it seems as though the local music community has multiplied almost exponentially. It’s great. People are getting out, seeing music, being a part of something.
On the other hand, sometimes it feels like it might be oversaturated. I mean, it’s kind of silly to even give a band a name if it only exists for seven minutes in someone’s basement on a Thursday, but I guess thats “art” for you. I respect it, but Facebook is my go-to tool for promotion. I play one show a month on average and I feel like a jerk when sending an invitation to one of my shows, because there are punks out there sending out three invites a day to “Ragefist-Fest” at “So and So’s house,” featuring twenty-six of the Burgh’s most unknown noise bands. At the same time, I’ve been to these gatherings and have enjoyed myself, so it’s not all bad. Noise can be sweet. Texture is fantastic and important to whatever your medium is, but I’m a structure kind of person. The world needs people to push things to that point of artistic questionability. Moderation is key. Anyhow... all in all, I love the Pittsburgh music scene. The Facebook thing is really my only gripe today.
Do you find it easier? more difficult?
Like Dylan said “you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone.” For me, I started swimming a while ago and I haven’t stopped. So, I’m doing just fine. The key is making meaningful connections with real people, and while you’re at it, help each other out. It’s a community, not so much a scene, if you view it from the perspective of within.
At this point in your musical career, what are you attempting to accomplish? What would be a goal?
Well, like most musicians, whether they admit it or not, I want people to like me. I want them to relate to my expressions through the songs I sing. My goal is to develop a presence elsewhere.
To do this, I imagine touring with a notable national act is a viable option and as the days go by and I meet more like-minded individuals, this will fall into place.
I’m also working on a short film to be paired with “Summer’s Best”. I just played a show in Youngstown and this one girl kept saying, “Brooklyn, Brooklyn, vinyl, vinyl, vinyl.” So I’m thinking of Brooklyn ...and vinyl. I’m certainly not moving to Brooklyn anytime soon, but I’m looking to set up a show with Anthony LaMarca and one of his many projects and of course... to put something on vinyl.
Do you feel its more difficult to make it in a regional environment musically?
More difficult than what? Every real musician starts out in a regional setting. Once an individual stops viewing obstacles as difficult and realizes that they are actually opportunities, it’s easy to rise above, take what you’re dealt, and work with what you have, making the best of it.
What would be your key to any success in this area?
A realization that networking isn’t something you should consciously do. At least, at this point, for me, it’s not. If one maintains any kind of social presence, meets people, supports peers and is sincere, real connections will be made and good things will happen.