altopalo, “excited to freak people out in a very short amount of time.” (4/28 at Brooklyn Bowl w/ Covet)

“I feel like with math rock audiences, you can kind of throw a lot at them and it’s fun to see how they react to stuff,” says Mike Haldeman,...

“I feel like with math rock audiences, you can kind of throw a lot at them and it’s fun to see how they react to stuff,” says Mike Haldeman, guitarist of altopalo, an experimental, indie-electronic quartet of veteran NYC studio and touring musicians.  Last week, altopalo kicked off a tour opening for formerly alluded to math rockers Covet and experimental rocker Scarypoolparty.  “I’m excited to freak people out in a very short amount of time.  We’re pretty different from Covet and Scarypoolparty, and I think playing first is a fun place to be sometimes, because people are gonna be seeing you, having no idea what to expect,” he adds.

I’m chatting with the guys of altopalo – consisting of Haldeman, lead singer Rahm Silverglade, bassist Jesse Bielenberg, and drummer Dillon Treacy – via a videochat, from their new tour van, which they just picked up in Redwood City, outside of San Francisco.  Dillon furthers Mike’s sentiment, saying that he’s quite excited about the rather quick set that altopalo will be doing to open each show.  “Last time we did a tour, we would have like a 45-minute set.  This one, we’re the first of three.  It’ll be quick, hit it and quit it, thirty-minute set,” he tells me, before going on to say that by the time they play our own Brooklyn Bowl on April 28th, they’ll have this set totally down: “I feel like by that time, we’ll be hella efficient with what we need to do, and I kinda like the idea of just coming in, playing, and then dipping.”

This January altopalo released a six-song Audiotree session, which Dillon tells me he feels perfectly captures the sound and energy of the band: “The Audiotree session we did in Chicago, I think that’s the best version of a live thing that we have, because everything’s like dialed-in sound wise and shit, and you could hear everything.  And most venues aren’t conducive to the amount of sounds we want to have a lot of the time.”  However, the band tells me that they’re happy to play the wide variety of spaces in which they regularly find themselves – including electronic dance places, rock bars, and everything in-between – with Rahm joking that he’s a fan of “large, concrete rooms,” and, “small, wooden rooms.,” and Dillon adding, “We also all got our start playing shitty venues in New York City.”  Jesse even goes on to tell me that these changes in setting are much of what makes touring fun: “Every room has merit.  That’s what makes a tour, and live music in general, pretty exciting.  Like, you can play as close to the same set as you can, but it will always be a different sonic and energetic experience.”

altopalo have been touring behind their third studio LP, frenemy, which dropped last September on Nettwerk, and which Endless Crate characterized as, “A sonically-soothing breath of fresh air, a joy ride that jostles from dark and introspective ballads to dance-worthy jams, blending genres ranging from pop to ambient, electronic, and alternative R&B into a musical journey that documents the band’s decade-long friendship.”  In discussing the touring the band has done since then, Mike tells me that the best part of it all is figuring out how to make the new songs work and fit into their live set.

“When we were going through and learning all this music and trying to figure out how to play a lot of the newer stuff live, it was a fun challenge to really try to dive into some of the more specific sounding songs.  We tried to play ‘starfish in low tide’ live, and it doesn’t really seem like it should be a live song really at all, but we figured it out and made it work, and it felt really great, and we were closing shows with that.  That was probably my favorite thing to surprise people with, because we would play one of the loudest and most intense songs in the set, and then immediately drop down into this barely existing, really, really quiet, really heartfelt thing.”

Considering the experimental amalgam that is altopalo’s own sounds, I’m curious what kinds of music it is that brings these four musicians together, and Jesse admits that it has gotten harder to pinpoint over the years: “We used to have the answer down.  When we started, we were all kind of geeking out over…  St. Vincent, James Blake, Hiatus Kaiyote, Little Dragon, Kimbra, Disclosure.  It was like a huge moment when we were all young and impressionable and we got really into this stuff together, and then we started making our own music.”  However, he tells me that, with their decade-long friendship and established relationship as a band, they spend less and less time thinking about that stuff these days.

“I feel like lately we’ve all been on these other journeys, where we go farther into our own path, and then bring that back.  So, it’s not necessarily a shared influence.  It’s more like a stew of four people’s influences.  And that’s kind of the sound that we’ve gotten to now.  Instead of us all being influenced by the same thing, it becomes just whatever the intersection of those very different things are.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.