Me As a Pilot: My live show is like watching How I Met Your Mother on really cheap whiskey

Me As a Pilot: My live show is like watching How I Met Your Mother on really cheap whiskey
Photo by Megan Asmus

One of the risky things about releasing an album at the end of the year is that it will get lost in the shuffle of year-end lists, but this is something that Minneapolis artist Nick Costa, aka Me As a Pilot, is not concerned about. Although he self-recorded and performs a lot of the parts himself on his newest album, Quarrels, the performer closes out his year on an enticing note. With Quarrels, Nick concocts an album of near-perfect pace with divine construction, delightful lyrics, and sweet intent.

Gimme Noise spoke with Costa before his album release at the Triple Rock on the long road that went into making his record.

Where did the name Me as a Pilot come from? Why have a name for a solo project? I've been playing in way too many bands around the area for years. This is the only project that I am the sole writer for. So, in that sense, the name is kind of self-explanatory. It's me kind of calling the shots, and taking the most direction. The reason I chose to have a moniker was kind of for multiple reasons. One being that there are a million different "singer/songwriters" out there, and I don't feel like I should be lumped into that category. Not that I'm better or worse than anybody described in that way, but I feel that singer/songwriter thing is so restricted. Where as if people assume that it's a band, it leaves the door open to a lot more possibilities musically. I like the idea of kind of being able to do whatever I want.

You've been writing music for a long time now. How do you feel you've grown in those eight years as a musician? Has your music matured?

It has definitely matured. At least, I hope to hell it has. I mean, the stuff I wrote when I was 15 is borderline unlistenable. Really cheesy, high school stuff. Not to mention at that age, you're always kind of trying to emulate somebody or something. At this stage of my life, I kind of try to draw influences but still try to keep it very true to myself. Not to mention I used to write maybe a song or two a month. These days, I try to write a few songs a week. If I don't, I kind of feel like I'm being lazy. If you write that many songs, after a while you're bound to kind of go "oh...I haven't done THAT before."

You said you recorded Quarrels in your studio basement. Was that a necessity or do you prefer to work by yourself? Yes and no. It was kind of more of a financial necessity at first. Seeing that this is more of a "solo" project, I was kind of the only one contributing financially. Not to mention I usually work during the evenings, and it's really hard to get into an actual studio. I had recorded an EP previous to this record in my living room by myself and thought "What the hell?"  Working by yourself definitely has its benefits. I feel like I really got to make these recordings exactly the way I wanted them to be without restrictions of time and money. It was extremely stress free, and I feel that it shows in these recordings. Plus, on my days off I could wear pajamas all day. It ruled. What was the writing process like for this album?Well, that's kind of hard to say. I didn't really sit down and say, "Okay, I'm going to write this album." I just wrote a shit ton of songs and kind of found which ones went together. I'm also in a band called The Person & the People, so I had to decide which songs would go towards that group, and which songs would go on the Me As a Pilot record. It was actually really hard to do. In the end I just picked 10 songs that worked together, and about 20 songs towards the other band. There's even some left over for the future.

Did you play all of the instruments and do backing vocals yourself?

I didn't. I played a lot of instruments on the record, but not all of them. All of the other musicians on this record added things I never would have thought of. In some cases I feel like it made the record ten times better. I did do all of the vocals however.

Ever want to work with others?

Absolutely. There's a lot that you can do by yourself, and you can feel very satisfied. However, whenever I work with other people, I really learn from them. It's really cool to be able to feed off of one another as they throw ideas out there. For this record, I really tried to let each musician do whatever they wanted to do. I hate being told what to do for recording. It just kind of makes me say, "Why don't you just do it yourself?" Which is irrational in a sense, but it really can be frustrating. I tried to keep the vibes as low-stress as possible.

Any favorite tracks off Quarrels and why? Any songs you think will stand the test of time?

That's kind of hard to say. I really like "December," and the last two songs "Long, Long Gone" and "All Shook Up." Sam Sanford, who is also in The Person & the People, and I just made a bunch of weird noises for those songs and drank beer. It was some of the most fun I had making the record. But I hear a lot of people like the song "Gold." That's a lot more of a pop song.

How did you meet Knol Tate and Kerri O'Halloran, and how did you come to choosing them to work on your album?

Knol and I officially met when I was working with my buddy Adam who has a project called Expatriate. I sang and played a little bit of guitar on his record, which Knol produced. I showed up with a pound of coffee, and we talked punk music for a while and became fast friends. He also did a bunch of stuff for Dan Mariska that I absolutely love. The dude knows his shit. He made my amateur recordings sound listenable. 

Kerri and I go way back, but we started hanging out regularly when I lived with her brother Chris, who is in a band called Taj Raj. She'd come over all the time, and eventually started bringing over pieces of art that she had done. Most of them were inspired by Wes Anderson films, which I absolutely love. Actually, for my birthday she painted me a picture of Link (from Zelda) and Batman fighting. It's the coolest thing in the fucking world. I was blown away by how original her pieces were, and asked her right away if she'd do the art for the record. She absolutely nailed it. I couldn't be happier with how the art turned out.

Do you prefer being a studio musician or a live performer?

If I had to pick one, probably studio musician. You can take your time, and sometimes you can just have way too much fun playing with tones, and weird noises and effects. But that's a tough question. When you play live, there's this type of energy that you just don't get in the studio. It feels so awesome and unique every time. Plus, you usually get free beer at shows. That's always nice. 

What can we expect to see at your album release show?

It's always a mystery to me. I guess my live show is kind of like watching Slayer on acid, except instead of Slayer, it's just watching "How I Met Your Mother" and instead of acid it's just really cheap whiskey. It's gonna be neat.

Me As a Pilot will release Quarrels at the Triple Rock Social Club on Thursday, December 27, 2012 with Dan Mariska & The Boys Choir, Chris Shotliff and The Hardest Part, Danny Morrison.
18+, $5, 8 pm

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