In Session: River Costa

ALBANY – Oftentimes, bands and artists will spend an album’s worth of material exploring a range of styles and influences, and in other instances, they’re able to get out a nice and cohesive blending of flavors in just a short amount of time. The latter is not only true for River Costa with her latest EP, Mallely’s Lonely Time On Makeout Point, which came out on January 14th, but it serves as a great example. The short EP gives a bountiful taste of grunge, punk, and ambiently dreamy, yet assertive, pop vibes. In what was only three songs, it’s likely this album will leave many wanting for more.

It was my pleasure to get a chance to talk with River over the weekend. What follows is our conversation. To support the artist, please follow the link at the end of the article!

Lucas Garrett: Thank you, River, for taking the time tonight to sit down and talk. I’m really digging the new album; it has a really interesting album name. Why don’t you tell us a bit about that?

River Costa: Thank you for asking me to talk and thank you for the compliment! Mallely’s Lonely Time on Makeout Point is kind of a joke title. It has to do with something that was said a few years ago about going to “make out point;” some lookout spot like people did back in the fifties, if you will.

LG: Right.

RC: I was having a lonely time at make out point. I wasn’t dating anybody; I didn’t have a boyfriend. The name Mallely meant a lot to me, because there’s this awesome band called Le Butcherettes. They have a song called, “My Mallely.” The lyrics are, “You’re all alone, yet free/your heart is soft yet strong and beautiful…” At the same time that I was having a lonely time on “make out point,” I was also having a really tough time in my life.

I had lost a couple of family members; a really close loved one of mine was having major surgery. It felt like everyone close in my life was suddenly going away. When I heard “My Mallely” live, it was so empowering to me. My heart was so soft with this grief and I was alone. Yet, here was this woman screaming to me: “You’re all alone, yet free/your heart is soft yet strong…” So, Mallely’s Lonely Time on Makeout Point is kind of an autobiographical look at what was going on in my life when I wrote the songs on the EP.

I like my EP and album titles – my project titles – to be longer than the song titles. I like the project titles to be the titles to a book; the song titles are more like chapters. They’re shorter and less descriptive.

LG: That’s a good way of putting it – I can totally see that. This EP isn’t that long, but I will say you put a lot of different styles on only three songs. It’s really a great piece of work.

RC: Thank you.

LG: I’m really impressed by it.

RC: Thank you so much.

LG: So, I gotta ask, and I could be way off-base… The last song, “Look,” you mention Tarantino; you mention Lara Croft and Tombraider. Is there a reference to David Lynch in there, or am I just hearing that? Because, you mention blue velvet, and the music itself sounds very “Blue Velvet-y”…

RC: Whoo! That actually was not intentional but I love that take on it. That’s really interesting to hear that was another reference to an outside listener that I didn’t intend to have there.

LG: Yeah, I really enjoyed that track – and that album – but that track had a very Julee Cruise type, Angelo Badalamenti vibe to it and I loved it.

RC: Thank you!

LG: So, why don’t we talk about some of your influences? Who do you like to listen to and who inspires you, musically?

RC: I am obsessed with Lana del Rey. I love everything that she is doing and has done – even her unreleased tracks that she’s done under different names. I think her lyrics are so descriptive and poetic. Courtney Love, from Hole, is the reason I started playing guitar. If you listen to the SoundCloud EP that I dropped back when I was in college in 2014, that is a little bit different, stylistically. I feel even my singing takes on a bit of Courtney Love’s tone.

As for this EP, there’s a band called Broncho that I was inspired by – especially for the song, “Copy Cat.” Their song “Taj Mahal” inspired me. “Look” was definitely Lana del Rey. I also take influence from the random indie band that I’ll listen to once a month; maybe the one song from them that I really love.

LG: Well, the whole thing is really well put together. The arrangements are interesting; a lot of it is very minimalistic but it also engages the listener very well.

RC: Thank you. I was hoping that’d be the case because it is a short project. It’s funny how much work and thought went into it, just to have those ten to fifteen minutes of music.

LG: Do you have plans to release more music in support of this EP?

RC: Absolutely! Just because I don’t post on social media that I’m working on something; I’m almost always working on something. I’m a big believer in moving silently; I’ll just drop the track when it’s finished. I have about five songs in the works, right now. I’m trying to decide if I want to release the five songs as another small EP; just keep doing that – these mini projects that signify different chapters in my life. Or, if I want to wait a while and release this bigger, longer album. I feel like I’m too impatient for that, and I’m really big on my music reflecting where I’m at in my life. It’s very much like a musical diary, for me. If those five songs are all I have to say about that person; that time frame; that situation, then why would I lump it together with five other tracks that don’t anything to do with that person or situation?

LG: Right. I don’t know how you feel about this, but, as a musician myself, I feel like there’s this race against the clock for people who are out there listening to your stuff. In my opinion, the longer you wait to put out new material… it’s almost better to release as soon as you can. I’ve found if you pause for a while, then people tend to gloss over it. It’s really an unfortunate commentary, I feel. How do you feel about that type of thing?

RC: I agree. I think that’s a really good point. It’s easier for bigger artists like Lana del Rey, or Frank Ocean – someone just introduced me to him, recently. When was the last time he released an album?

LG: Right.

RC: It’s been a few years, yet people are still discovering him; still listening to his older music. I think when you’re a smaller artist it’s harder to keep that momentum up between projects. On the one hand, you do want to strike while the iron’s hot and you have people’s attention. On the other hand, when I’m talking with my engineer about what I’m going to release next, he’s saying that you should give projects time to breathe. I think it’s a balance, and that for smaller artists we have less of that rest time in-between. I agree with you – it’s important to get projects out sooner rather than later.

I had that happen. I released an EP called, I Am With You, Always. Until The End Of The World, in 2017. Then, I didn’t release anything until “Copy Cat,” that single, in 2020. It took until 2021 for me to release Mallely’s Lonely Time

LG: I feel a lot of us “indie artists,” what we end up doing is looking at a proverbial wall and throwing random darts at it. “Did that work?”

RC: Hahaha!

LG: I’m like, “Why did that work?” You know what I mean?

RC: Yeah, absolutely. I started recording with Tim Lynch at the Recording Company in Esperance, New York, in 2019. I met him in August of 2019 and worked from then through March of 2020 on “Copy Cat” – which ended up being on my EP – as well as five other songs. I had them in my back pocket for a couple of years. I liked them; I didn’t love them. Like you said, I was throwing stuff at the wall, “Did that stick?” “Did that work?” “What sounds good to me?”

It wasn’t until I released “Copy Cat” that I realized, “OK, I like this better stylistically. I like the lyrics.” I think I missed that time frame with the other songs; it was almost too late. The passion that I was singing about wasn’t there anymore. I decided to grab the songs I loved the most right now and work on those in order to get something else out there.

LG: I totally feel you there, definitely. It’s really weird when I have people come up to me and mention a song I released five years ago as their favorite song. I’m thinking to myself, “I hate that song.”

RC: Right?! Hahaha.

LG: I’m like, “I don’t relate to that anymore.” You know what I mean?

RC: Yeah! It’s so interesting. One of my really great friends from college always says his favorite song off my old EP is “Dark Church.” And, I’m like, “It is? That’s the one? You mean you don’t love the one I love?” It’s really interesting how people resonate with different songs because the one you put on your project that you think is going to be like, “Oh, this is the kicker. People are going to love it; they’re going to be blown away,” that’s not always the one that resonates with everyone…

LG: Yeah, it’s so wild – to me – when that happens. So, I really like this EP that you just put out. What are your upcoming plans?

RC: Last summer I sang out quite a few times. People were asking me if I had merch, which was fun. But, unfortunately, I didn’t. I’ve spent a lot of time in the studio this fall and winter, recording. And, a lot of time at home writing – when the mood strikes me and I have an idea. I’m thinking this summer will pick up like it did last year. I’m hoping to have hard copies of my EP – a CD if people listen to CDs anymore. I think there’s something about a tangible copy. It’ll be special to sing the songs live, this time around because people will know what I hear in my head when I play acoustically.

I’m going to keep working with Tim on the songs I’ve been recording. Like I said, there’s about five right now and I don’t know if there’ll be more than that, or if that’ll be its own little project. That’s what I’m chipping away at right now.

LG: That’s awesome. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about before we wrap this up? The floor is yours.

RC: Well, like I said… Don’t underestimate me: if I’m not posting it’s because I’m busy cooking something up. Hahaha. I’ll let everybody know when there’s something to know about. In the meantime, don’t worry ‘cause I’m working on it!

LG: I can’t wait to hear what you’ve got in store for us!

RC: Thank you so much again for having this talk tonight!

LG: Thank you very much for taking the time!

RC: You’re welcome.

LG: Have a goodnight!

RC: You too. Thanks, Lucas.


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