Gimme a Break: Mesita
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Members: James Cooley
RIYL: Bon Iver, Beirut, Tame Impala
New Release: XYXY EP
Latest Single: “Kingston”
Mesita, the moniker for the solo project of Denver’s James Cooley, makes music with meaning that hits you right in the gut. Recording under the name since 2008, Mesita’s unique brand of indie rock has slowly developed into the more electronic sound present on latest EP, XYXY. The tracks on the EP are defined by keening vocals throughout and instrumentals full of sound that pop up in spurts. Even more powerful is the inspiration behind XYXY; Cooley says the EP is a collection of songs stemming from coming to terms with sexuality and being honest out in the open. Mesita took the time to answer some questions about the new EP and give insight into the project’s history.
Check out the interview and listen to "Kingston" below.
What’s the meaning behind the title XYXY?
I’ve been able to open up a lot more about being a gay musician, and the name XYXY was sort of a way to touch on it in a new way. It was sort of like, this is honest, this is who I am, but let’s change things up and bring it in a new direction. The four tracks are all informed by my sexuality and a continuing struggle with it. The second and fourth track reflect on some earlier dark internal stuff I and other people I knew were dealing with. Both about that sort of paranoia, thinking that you’re flawed somehow, born wrong, feeling absolutely trapped with no outlet to express the love you hold for someone else.
What do you think is different about your new EP, XYXY, from your previous releases?
I stopped having guitar as my go-to instrument. It would always be the first thing in, and the whole process got stale to me. It felt right to get away from it, try something new with more electronics and samples and less of the thin scratch-track sounding stuff.
What was the last piece of art (music, physical art, film, book, etc.) that really blew your mind? What effect did it have on you?
Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. I wasn’t ever a diehard fan of them, but I enjoyed a lot of stuff on Discovery back in school, and a lot of my high school friends were really into them. Hearing their new album completely blew me away, and I loved every idea they were putting into it. An album hasn’t shifted the way I think about music with such an impact in years, probably since I discovered Talk Talk back in early 2011. The type of release that brings tears to my eyes, where I go, “Yes. This is why I’m in this.” I like to think I maintain the same constant love for music. It’s my one true love ... but I drift from it sometimes. And then an album like this comes along that makes me wake back up, a bucket of cold water on my face, reassess things, recognize why I’m in love with it in the first place.
Mesita is a solo project. Have you ever considered changing that?
Mesita has always been a solo project. It’s always just been this little personal thing I had. Originally, the name was more of an alias so I could stay anonymous online to release music. I would love to work with other people, join a collective or something, collaborate with others. But it’s always felt right to keep going it alone as Mesita, as this one little pocket project that keeps constant. I’m so stubborn about it. I’m almost afraid to bring anyone else into it, lose that grip of what’s been built so far.
The sound of your music is unique (but obviously in a great way). What’s the recording process like?
The recording process has really changed since I began, but it’s always been pretty much just sitting at a computer on Audacity multi-tracking sounds on top of other sounds. I usually record all effects wet right onto the track and mix in a really destructive way, crossing my fingers that the end product isn’t somehow botched when the track’s wrapped up. Sometimes the track comes out alright. A lot of times it’s back to square one again with it.
Are you working on another full-length album? If so, any idea when it will be released?
I am. A lot of stuff I made ended up not making the cut for the XYXY EP, which was originally going to be a full-length. It felt right to move on and regather a bit. I’m still hard at work on new stuff, but we’ll see how it goes. It’s a lot of going with the flow, seeing what comes from this work at this point.
What inspires you and your music? Why?
Moving around inspires me. The inspiration just comes being in a new place with a new attitude. It gives a different set of ideas and emotions to work with, forces you outside your box, cleans off that rust.
You seem to travel a lot. Is that something critical to your music-making process or just something you enjoy?
It feels right. I like to explore, and if stuck somewhere for too long, I feel trapped and uninspired. It helps with the music making process, and it feels freeing to up and move somewhere new, a new map, new people, new life to discover.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve actually followed?
A friend of mine I met in Seattle once told me to stop apologizing for everything. It stuck. I’ve gotten better at letting things happen. I am who I am, I’ll give it my best. It’s a weight off shoulders to realize there are things out of your control, that it’s not healthy to feel terrible about every little thing that goes wrong. All you can hope to do is to trust yourself, to help others, to be honest, and to do good. And sometimes you just gotta let go a bit.
You have a good following on your social media sites and interact with many fans. Do you think it’s important to interact with fans online?
I think as a musician, the important thing is to make music and have people listen to it. I could be silent, no communication whatsoever, just posting up tracks, and I would hope people would still listen and look forward to whatever is next. I don’t pay a lot of attention to having a strong identity online. Then again, I also think it’s still hard to be without that sort of identity, without pushing it out a little bit at least. It all depends on what you are looking for. Personally though, I love to talk to people and thank them for listening to my stuff, not as a way to spread the word but to actually thank people who take the time to hear all I’ve put my effort into. That absolutely means the world to me. I love Twitter because they can message me and I can thank them right back in an honest, personal way.