Houses is the dreamy electro-pop duo of Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina, who met when they were coworkers at an apple store and ended up quitting their jobs and moving to Hawaii to live off the land. While in Hawaii, they worked on music and art, laying the groundwork for the album that would become “All Night,” one of my recent favorites. Learn more about this awesome duo in the interview below, and be sure to check them out online here.
Where were you when you wrote your first song, and what was it about?
Dexter: I was 14 when I wrote my first real song. I wrote it on the guitar after a friend of mine died. It was only like two chords and I think I used the word rhapsody in it. I wrote it in my bedroom on an acoustic guitar and I’m sure I thought I thought it sounded like an Elliot Smith song, but it probably sounded more like a Beat Happening song.
If your music was a place, where would it be?
Dexter: Well, our songs are places in a weird kind of way. We use a lot of samples that we record ourselves, so our records are sort of sound collections from different places we’ve been. All Night; for instance, has a lot of samples that I recorded while we were living in Hawaii, and sounds that I pulled out of video I shot out there. I like to think that the sounds carry their own feelings with them into the songs, and that it translates to the listeners in a way that might add something special to the music.
Tell me a little bit about your time in Hawaii.
Dexter: We lived out there for a while helping out on this property. We found a woman who needed some help taking care of her home and land, and she agreed to let us use a small cabin that she had vacant. We mostly helped keep up with the gardens and the rain collection, as the place was fully off grid. There was a span of about 20 days where our host went on vacation and we were sort of free to do whatever we wanted and only had a few things to keep up with. We both got really into our own projects, mine being music and Megan’s being this awesome stop motion video of a lamb being grown out of a cotton plant. The entire experience was unbelievable and it’s still something I think about on a daily basis. It was like living on a different planet with amazing food.
Megan I read that you’re also an artist, what kind of work do you do?
Megan: I’m in the middle of illustrating my own graphic novel right now, I’m also really excited about being able to incorporate an oil painting I did into our upcoming album artwork.
Where do you draw inspiration for your music?
Dexter: Most of the time the music is inspired by different personal experiences that I find interesting. The lyrics have always been autobiographical in a sense, but our next album is a bit of a concept album, which was foreign to me. Even with a heavy storyline and concept, it’s all representative of something I personally know, so it doesn’t just feel phony. I’ve always thought that concept albums seemed contrived, as a lot of them seem like ‘hey, this is a cool story. Let’s make music about it’, whereas we wanted to create something deeply emotional that existed through a fictional story. Something more metaphorical than just fictional. I don’t know.
If you guys weren’t making music as Houses, what would you be doing?
Megan: I’d like to think we were back in Hawaii, living simply, pursuing writing and art in one form or another.
Dexter: Yeah, what Megan said. I also sometimes like to think that I’d learn to build furniture. Like retro-futurist desks made of steel and hickory and stuff like that.
What sort of music do you listen to? What’s on your ipod right now?
Megan: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Dexter: I listen to all sorts of things. Working in the music industry, I spent a lot of time keeping up with the newest of the new, but that got really tiring and kind of depressing when you realize how mediocre most of the music is. I’m listening to The Flamingos – ‘Till The End Of Time’ as I write this right now. They really get to me, you know? I wish I could sing as well as any of them could. I’d never stop singing if that were the case.
How would you describe your personal style?
Megan: Simple and comfortable.
Dexter: Also pretty simple. There was a time in my life (a year in high school) where I fell into a bad trend and have regretted ever since. I vowed to do my best to dress in a way that wouldn’t require years of shame after I grew out of it. That pretty much leaves me with white t-shirts and jeans, but I’ll venture into anything that seems timeless. Certain things just never get old.
What are guys working on at the moment? What’s next for Houses?
Dexter: We just finished up a new full length that we’re insanely happy with. We got the opportunity to go out to Sonic Ranch studios out in El Paso to track everything, and it was amazing. We showed up right after Beach House had just gotten done recording their latest album and used all the gear they used (in hopes that some of their magic rubbed off on it), and right after we left, Animal Collective was showing up to record their new album. It was a crazy experience. Next up, we tour Europe for a minute and then move ourselves out to Los Angeles.
Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
Megan: I spent some time working at an orphanage and farming macadamia nuts in Mexico.
Dexter: I once quit a job after listening to the Desaparecidos album ‘Read Music, Speak Spanish’ on a lunch break. I’ve actually quit a few jobs for that reason. That album has always made me feel like I should burn my money and remove myself from society completely.