After 15 years of crafting an impressive catalog of pop-tinged singer-songwriter albums and EPs, Matt Costa is offering up his most ambitious project yet with the release of his new quasi-conceptual album Santa Rosa Fangs (out May 18 on Dangerbird Records). We interviewed Costa about the characters in his new album, his between-album EPs and film score work, the influence of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska on Santa Rosa Fangs, and much more!
NoiseTrade: It’s been five years since your self-titled fourth full-length album was released. What all has transpired for you in that timeframe and what sparked the songwriting wheels for a full-length album to start up again?
Matt Costa: In that time I’ve worked up five separate EPs in the efforts to make a larger conceptual piece. Before I started Santa Rosa Fangs, I was approached to score several films, one being a documentary called Orange Sunshine. Working on the film really got me into a deeper headspace and Santa Rosa Fangs started coming together near the end of this project.
NT: Your new album Santa Rosa Fangs is not a concept album in conventional terms but it certainly has some consistent thematic threads that are interwoven throughout the piece as a whole. What’s the story behind your album’s characters and stories and how did they develop as new songs were written around them?
Costa: The song “Ritchie” is based on some of my family history. Ritchie and Tony are brothers. “Sharon” started as sort of a brain worm, as for almost two decades I repeated a phonetic sound. It dawned on me one morning that it sounded clearer when I was saying “Sharon.” And so Sharon, Ritchie, and Tony evolved as characters in Santa Rosa Fangs.
NT: Santa Rosa Fangs houses some of your most confident songwriting choices to date, including writing an upbeat rock song in a 5/4 time signature (“Real Love”) and opening and closing the album with two separate versions of the same song (“I Remember It Well”). What specifically inspired the dual-version approach to “I Remember It Well”?
Costa: The two version of “I Remember It Well” was a song cycle decision. The more melancholy version is meant as a reconciliation at the end of a meditation.
NT: I was excited to read that one of my all-time favorite albums, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, played somewhat of an influence on Santa Rosa Fangs. What are your overall thoughts on Nebraska and where do some of those inspirational connections show up in your new songs?
Costa: I love that record! I love folk music and the haunting feeling that whole album gives me. I had heard that the inspiration for Nebraska was from the group Suicide. Nebraska feels almost mythological. That was the same feeling I strove for with my record.
NT: To close things out on a fun note, I love that you’re an artist who fully embraces the EP concept, releasing seven of them since 2003. First, what do you view as the primary function or purpose of an EP (versus a single or full-length album)? Second, what are some of your favorite EPs from other artists that you’ve enjoyed over the years?
Costa: I think EPs have less pressure about them. I love all the EPs that Stereo Lab has done.