BACKSTAGE: Smashing Satellites
While scouring the Internet, we came across the band Smashing Satellites and couldn't help but notice their unique style. We were immediately intrigued by their unique sound and wanted to find out more about their music. According to the band’s bio, “Smashing Satellites is truly the living, breathing story of a musician and human being striving to connect people to each other once again in the face of technology.” The creator and sole core member of the band, Sal Costa, phoned into us from Canada to give us the answers we desired, explain why he prefers to have their genre remain ambiguous, and we even got a couple of shocking tour stories that involved a mayor of a major city.
Labeling Men: Tell us how you formulated the idea for Smashing Satellites.
Sal Costa: The band really started as just a project with myself in the studio. I had no band members, it was just me and a producer in LA for about six months, just being as creative as possible, no time limit to make a record. I was only working on it when I felt inspired, so I would wake up every morning, go to Malibu and hang out by the beach in the morning, and in the afternoon, go over to the studio. If I had anything, any cool ideas or concepts, I'd work on them. Sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for a whole day, and it was a really cool experience just making a record by myself, and the first time I made a record without a band. I got to wear many different hats and produce and write and also be a multi-instrumentalist on the record.
L.M: So you did everything on the record?
S.C: Basically, yup! Between myself and the producer I was working with, we pretty much did everything. Any instruments that we couldn't play between the two of us, we would chart out what we wanted the session musicians to play, and they would come in and play it. For example, I love sympathy sounds and I wanted to get a real string section on a lot of the songs and I'm not a violin player and I don't play a lot of those types of instruments. I play a little bit of cello, but I really wanted a quartet to come in and play these classical parts that were on some of the recordings. We would just chart out exactly what we wanted them to play and they would go and play it out.
L.M: Describe your sound to us. We were listening to your stuff earlier and thought it was really cool, but we didn't know how to label it.
S.C: Well, it’s kind of funny that you brought that up. A bunch of people have asked me, “I really like this record, but what would you consider it genre wise?” I guess my whole idea behind Smashing Satellites sonically, making this record, is that I didn't want it to fit in a box. I've been in many projects before where it had to have a label on it and had to be called something in order for it to have any type of success. People fear what they don't know. So if they can't call it a rock band or an alternative band or a pop band, they don't know how to promote it, thus why you see a lot of artists making records that are very genre-specific. The industry is so used to having something they can put a name on and they know how to put it through a machine with all the other pop records or rock records or alternative records, where they can guarantee some type of successful model. With this record, I wanted to make music that came from my heart and that I loved and was hearing in my head. I don't like sitting in boxes, I never have, and I wanted to just create music. I don't even know what to call it aside from music that I've been hearing in my head and translated into recordings.
L.M: Tell us about your single, "Hounds.”
S.C: Funny enough, it’s actually not the first single, but the first video we put out. Simply, we put it out before we put out a single because I thought it was the quirkiest song on the EP and I wanted that to establish the tone of the entire record. So it’s not going to be the first single, but first video, the first piece of music that people hear.
L.M: Promotional material?
S.C: Yes, exactly!
L.M: So you chose it due strictly on the quirkiness?
S.C: It was the most quirky, it had a really cool story about how it was created, and I wanted it to establish the tone of what the band was going to be.
L.M: Our website is also about style, and we were looking at some pictures and we think you have a very unique sense of style. Describe that to us.
S.C: I grew up with a lot of different influences, both musically and stylistically. I have two older sisters, 9 and 11 years older than me, and when I was a little kid they were very much part of the grunge era. So I had one sister who just was a total grunge girl - bomber jacket, Doc Martens, her bedroom was completely black and had all these really cool torn up clothes - and then I had my eldest sister, who was a classical pianist who was much more proper. Then I had my mom who was really into artists like Michael Jackson and the BeeGees. So I really started to fall in love with everything that I saw that they were so passionate about. I would watch these videos of the BeeGees and I would see these amazing suits that they were wearing in the 60s and 70s. I'd be so inspired by how cool and classy they looked. I always thought that they could hang out at Studio 54, but they are cool enough and well put together enough to have tea with the Queen, and I always thought that was very interesting. I guess stylistically, I would fall in love with stuff like that, but then I'd look to Kurt Cobain, a simplicity to his look as well. Torn up jeans and a shirt, nut he just wore it in such a way that was inspiring to me. I guess my style overall is a combination of everything I was seeing myself.
L.M: That's great!
S.C: I love the 1930s as well. I just love how you could have been a shoe salesman, but you'd have this type of stature to your wardrobe. I love the suits and shoes. The 1930s, the 1970s and the 1990s are where I'm at musically and stylistically as well.
L.M: So do you think that music and style go hand in hand?
S.C: Oh yeah, 100%. You can hear somebody play a song and watch them play a song and it can change your feeling on the music. I feel that if I listen to a BeeGees song, like "More Than a Woman" or "Saturday Night Fever,” and they were wearing lumberjack outfits, it wouldn't have as cool of a vibe to me as the way it was presented with their just amazing outfits. So I think that music and style completely go together. It can change your perception of an artist because the person singing the song is delivering it you in a much cooler way if they really have a unique style. And also, style to me is very creative. I like to create a lot of my own wardrobe and piece things myself together, make some of my own garments. To me it’s just as much of a creative process as making music, and I feel that people fall in love with the artist as a look as much as they do the music. And the biggest artists in the world to ever exist - Madonna, Elvis, Michael Jackson - if they did not have that look that pulls you into them, they probably wouldn't have had as much success just with their music alone.
S.C: They are fashion icons as well.
L.M: So does what you wear on stage differ from your day-to-day life?
S.C: Yeah. I could say that I kind of am always thinking about what I'm wearing because I love fashion so much, but my day-to-day life is almost a more toned down version of what I would wear on stage.
L.M: Well, what are some of your favorite brands to wear?
S.C: That's a tough question. I'm really, really skinny and I have a very hard time fitting into men’s clothing. If I can find a waist that fits me, the pant legs are so big that I look like MC Hammer!
S.C: Actually, it’s kind of funny. I buy women's clothing because they fit me well .I'm not an elitist when it comes to brands, like, "Oh, it’s Georgio Armani,” not like that. I can go into a thrift shop and find the beauty in an item that is two dollars but looks really cool. So I've never been a brand whore, I just like cool unique pieces and I still find them all the time. I'll go back to my parents house when I'm not on tour and my sister’s room is still intact, and I'll find all these little interesting pieces that she had from 20-30 years ago, before I was even born and I'll take those. My uncle passed away when my mom was younger and she still has a lot things from the 60s and 70s, and he had a similar build to me. I'll see these little pieces that I like and I'll pick them out. I'm more of that type of guy in terms of some cool pants that I like to wear. I really like TopShop UK, they have some really cool items that I've managed to find.
L.M: So to clarify, are you based in Canada, originally from Canada (since you mentioned LA)?
S.C: I am based in Toronto. Actually was born and raised in Toronto, but I've spent a lot of time in LA because of music essentially.
L.M: Who do you think has better fashion, Canadians or Americans?
S.C: Ahhh...That's a tough question. I'd have to say the US solely for New York. I think that New York has a pretty good grasp on fashion. I would have to say Los Angeles as well, so I'd have to say the US.
L.M: We know you've worked with other bands before; do you have any crazy tour experiences you can share with us?
S.C: Oh, tons! We were on tour a few years ago - this was on another project that I was in. I'm always a pretty clean living person; I'm a vegan, very health conscience, but that’s pretty rare when you're in bands. There are drugs and alcohol that circulate in the scene. We were on tour during the summer and we were celebrating on the bus somewhere in the US and there were a bunch of people on our bus. You know, there was a lot of alcohol, a lot of people smoking dope on the bus, and I guess there were cops in the neighborhood that saw a ton of smoke coming out of our bus. They were like, What the hell is going on?," and as they got closer, they smelled what was there. They let themselves on the bus and they threatened to arrest the entire band, and as they were about to do so, the promoter of the show venue somehow saw the police surround us. So he actually called up the mayor of the city that we were in and woke up the mayor at night, and the mayor drove down to the scene and as they essentially were going to take us away and arrest us, the mayor was like, "You cannot do this, you have to let them go,” and they did.
L.M: Oh my god, that is crazy!
S.C: Yeah! We also had our bus flip in Boise, Idaho on the highway. After we got pulled out of a ditch, we were at a fire station and the police decided to search our bus and they actually broke into our safe which had our mercy money from the night before and essentially extorted it and took all of our money. So we have some crazy stories.
L.M: Wow, that is very unexpected! Last but not least, what should we expect from you and the record?
S.C: This entire record was birthed on a certain timeline of my life where I had some immense highs and really intense lows, and I tapped into that really positive and negative energy. This music and this record is kind of my journal of that point in time. So, I could just say that there is a lot of honesty in the record. I feel like it’s exactly how I wanted it to turn out, more truth from this project through and through.
L.M: Are you going to go on tour anytime soon?
S.C: Yup! Actually right now, next month, we are embarking on a cross-Canada alternative with one of my favorite bands growing up called Moist. Then we are heading over to Detroit after that tour for a pretty big show with Bush and Our Lady Peace. And then we'll be looking at some cross-USA dates in 2015.
L.M: That sounds great, thank you very much!
You can check out their website at smashingsatellites.com to find their latest Canadian and USA tour dates
Interview by Nisim Frank