In Conversation with Curtis Alto

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Interview by Maya-Rose Torrão

Curtis Alto are the Belgian brothers making waves with a unique EDM sound that has a special analogue twist. The brothers always bring a strong live performance with their combination of digital and analogue instrumentation and as a result have performed at Tomorrowland, We Are Electric, Parookaville, Balaton Sound, a sold out show at Belgian concert hall Vooruit and have supported massive EDM stars The Chainsmokers in Belgium Lotto Arena.

Curtis Alto used to be a trio of brothers but tragically the third member, Max, passed away earlier this year. In a Facebook post in March, the two remaining members of the group said: “The tragic news about our beloved brother and best friend Maxim left us heartbroken. We needed time to reflect. Today, we want to let you know that we will continue Curtis Alto and are motivated to do so. We will continue doing what Curtis Alto stands for and this with Max in our minds and in our hearts.

Curtis Alto have just recently branched out and created their very own label imprint, Curtis Alto Music, which is an official sublabel of acclaimed label Spinnin’ Records. Last month, the brothers brought out the first single from their new label, ‘Hold Me Close’. This new release was supported by radio legend Pete Tong in his BBC Radio 1 show and is on its way to becoming an electronic music anthem around the world.

Listen to Curtis Alto’s latest track, ‘Hold Me Close’, off their new record label, below.

We caught up with the guys from Curtis Alto and chatted about playing Tomorrowland, broken drumsticks and making music ‘human’.  

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

For us the arts are the best way to express ourselves and since we we’re young we’ve been attracted by arts such as music, design, fashion, (ancient) architecture, etc – music predominantly though! Music gives one so much freedom. We also try to combine the other arts in what we do; linking music to art work, visuals, videos,.. And that makes it even cooler!

In your own words, describe your sound.

Smooth and dreamy on the one hand but also with some raw sounds. Energetic.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

The idea comes first. When we have this general idea, we lock ourselves in the studio and work this idea out. Some sounds and ideas are more difficult than others. And sometimes it sounds different than we previously thought.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

We try to find a lot of sounds on old CD’s, by watching documentaries, or just on the internet. It’s also a matter of trying out a lot of things. We try to making the music “human”, not everything needs to be perfectly on beat. We also love to use a lot of distortion!

What’s on your current playlist?

Opa Tsupa‘Les deux guitares’. No electronic music though! That’s a song we recently have discovered; it’s such a warm and ‘back in the days’ song. The main guitar lick has been stuck in our heads for days!

Take us through a day in the studio with Curtis Alto.

We love to be in the studio, so we spend a lot of time in it! There is no typical studio day, it really depends. Messing around with sounds, recording vocals, working on our live set, etc.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

The three of us have always been very interested in creating something of our own. To bring something that has its own identity and its own feel to it. We felt like we could express all our thoughts and feelings through Curtis Alto. We were so passionate about it that it seemed to be a logical step for us.

You recently played Tomorrowland festival – That’s quite an achievement! Tell us a bit more about that experience, what was your favourite part?

One of the things we found really special was to be playing on the spot we’ve seen featured in so many pictures before. We are thankful to have had this opportunity to perform on the mainstage of Tomorrowland and to receive these reactions from the crowd.
We already knew that we would be playing there when our third brother was still with us and we were looking forward to it. He is always in our hearts and it gave a special vibe.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

For us it’s one of the best feelings to see the people react, dance and smile to our music. It’s a bond of giving a lot of energy and getting a lot of energy back.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

Just some water or soft drinks.

You’ve been travelling a lot this year in general, tell us about one of your best experiences of touring (so far).

We have received such a warm welcome everywhere we played! Like everything was so well organised and people were so friendly. Loved to play at different festivals and to meet new people

… and an experience on tour that you’d rather forget?

Our brother broke one of his drumsticks during the set and didn’t have a spare one. We saw it flying around. Fortunately it was the second last song. It was actually kind of funny to see him hitting his drums with his bare hands.

Any emerging/upcoming/unknown artists on your radar?

We heard of a new group called Tinca… Pretty cool!

What gets your creative juices flowing? What gets you in the mood to create?

We don’t have a particular ritual. We just really love what we do and that makes it easier

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

The heart of our live setup is the Nucleus controller, this gives the flexibility to adapt the tracks throughout the set. We have an electronic drum set up, a mic for our vocals and keys. We produce with Ableton.

Any side projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

We are working on a few things but main focus is definitely Curtis Alto!

Break down the news for us: what can we expect from Curtis Alto this year?

We have been working hard on our upcoming EP! ‘Hold Me Close’ was the first single of our new label Curtis Alto Music. The song is a way to express our state of mind and how we feel. It represents what Curtis Alto stands for and what we love to bring live. The other tracks will be released in the coming time!

Check out the video for Curtis Alto’s ‘Hold Me Close’ below, which features footage of the musicians live at Tomorrowland, We Are Electric and Parookaville, as well as footage of a set played from inside a massive cooling tower.

Follow Curtis Alto:
Facebook // Soundcloud // Instagram // YouTube