13 Apr KOSTKA RETURNS WITH THE VAST, EVOLVED SOUND OF “MOTIONS”
In our hyper-speed world of produce-and-consume-as-much-as-you-can, “resting” is often forced to take a backseat—or thrown out of the vehicle entirely—as we navigate through life. Many of us clench our teeth and the steering wheel, white-knuckled, as blurs in the shapes of our family, friends, and colleagues pass by just as swiftly as the days in the week. But, speed isn’t so daring when everybody’s doing it. What’s daring today is slowing down long enough to take a break. (A twenty-minute power nap? A day of self-care? An unplugged wilderness retreat?) Rest can give you something that momentum can’t: the s p a c e to reflect. That space can change things. Maybe we’re not producing MORE, but we’re producing something SUPERIOR. Something that stems from our growth. Growth we couldn’t have had unless we stopped for a spell.
Michigan-based indie singer-songwriter Kostka dared to slow down. And in that creative cushion of time, his writing and his sound evolved in epic ways. While we were already fans of his music before (peep our last interview with him), this newest single “Motions” has us feeling tongue-tied and tapping “repeat”. Sonically, the song possesses something of a hard-hitting ’90s alternative vibe—that’s been upgraded with the type of lustrous, unapologetic vocals only a refreshed Kostka could deliver. The thrilling rush of “Motions” is quite in contrast to the tender, acoustic tracks we were treated to on Kostka’s year-old Far From Near EP. If you’ve been craving a larger, fuller sound, this one’s for you. (Listen now.)
Kudos to the band and the whole recording team. Kostka’s voice really comes out of the music and grips you. It almost feels like he’s right next to you belting out the lyrics. While poetically penned, the story is one we can all relate to. The non-transferable task of sifting through our emotions and struggling to express or hide them—all while feeling watched by the ones around us. Here’s a few of my favorite lyrics: “Tracking all your time, falling apart for the good that never follows through. Cancel all your plans like everyone needs to know,” and, “You try your very best but the pit in your stomach shows to admirable people. But you can’t get it out. They step back watching you.”
From first listen, we knew we needed to do more than just talk about “Motions”. We had to talk to Kostka himself to learn all about his past year and the developments that led him to write and record such a powerful track. We hope you enjoy the interaction as much as we did.
The conversation from our interview is chronicled below in a pure Q & A format.
Q & A:
We want to know all about your new single, “Motions”. Can you tell us what it means to you and what the writing process was like?
Kostka: I’m excited “Motions” is out now. It’s been almost a year since I put something out, and it feels great to do it again. “Motions” definitely wasn’t like the first song in the set of new songs I started to write. I was in a different mood when I began writing this one. I think this was the first time I felt like, okay, I can capture whatever I am definitely feeling. I wrote the lyrics at 2 a.m. For me, inspiration either hits or it doesn’t. Usually, I’ll work on something for about an hour. If nothing really sticks, I’ll take an extended break to rest and reflect on what I can accomplish tomorrow.
“Motions” poured out within a half-hour. And that was just the first go of it. I took it to rehearsal and we started running through it. That’s where it truly formed—with everyone. “Motions” captures every little bit of feeling that you have—the good and the bad—and the people that witness those feelings all collide at once. Sometimes it’s dangerous and sometimes it’s beautiful.
What was it like recording “Motions” in studio? Can you tell us a little something about each musician / creative involved?
Kostka: While “Motions” is definitely a Kostka song, I’m very fortunate to have a team and a band that helps me form my songs into something MORE. It’s a much bigger picture than I can initially see when I pen a song. Chris Tanner, who recorded my last EP, is in full band Kostka as well. He played a lot of the lead parts in “Motions”, including electric guitar. Those are some of my favorite parts, since they add so much more mood to the song. I think that’s when I truly fell in love with “Motions”—when Chris contributed his perspective. (I played acoustic guitar on the track.) Dave Daniele, who plays bass, also brought so much to the table by rounding off the whole song. Dave’s clean ideas help us shape the music on a much deeper level. (While David Beuthin, our drummer, wasn’t in studio with us for “Motions”, he keeps us steady and together during our live performances and practices. I admire his solid drum skills and his ability to switch over to guitar to front his band Vital Sea.)
We recorded the song with Ray Jeffrey at Rancho Recordo, a studio and creative space nestled in the woods of Fenton, Michigan. We closed ourselves off from the outside—forgetting about it entirely—and only focused on the music. That was the best part. Being inside this house with a recording studio to do work. You don’t even realize it’s a 12-hour day when you love doing what you do. We had so much fun with the whole process.
I believe “Motions” was the second song we cranked out that weekend. I ended up going back in studio that Monday to knock out the vocals. We were all tired but also so pumped to complete the song. I had a really good feeling about it. When tracking vocals, we decided on a couple different ideas as we were pressing “record”. The outcome is truly amazing. “Motions” has a greater sound and is capable of filling larger venues.
This experience was very different from recording the Far From Near EP. I’m starting to truly understand my identity as a musician and set that aside from who I am as a person. Rancho Recordo is a bigger studio and there were more hands in on the song. There’s me, but then there’s also everyone else who contributes what they have to the group and to the music, and I’m super fortunate for that. I’m starting to understand the value of teamwork and have a vision of where this can go.
Is “Motions” the first of several new singles coming our way and/or will the track be part of a new EP?
Kostka: I’m still figuring that out. There’s definite plans to get back in studio this spring and summer. Originally, I had stated, “I’m recording a new record” online, but then I went back and edited it to “recording new music.” Really, I’m trying to avoid putting the unnecessary pressure of an album on myself. Some may not agree with that, but that’s what I’m thinking. I’m focused on recording quality songs that people will love, enjoy, and be able to connect with.
Expect to hear new music, regardless. I have many songs in the bank, and I have many more to work on. These days, there are so many different ways to go about releasing new music, both through digital platforms and by pressing hard copies. I may go the traditional way and I may not. Right now, I want to focus on being a better writer and moving forward as an artist like an artist should.
How does “Motions” and your new, unreleased music compare to the sound we heard in your last EP, Far From Near?
Kostka: Maturity. You’re going to hear elevated quality in song and sound. There’s a big difference between what I’ve put out in the past and what I’m putting out at present. It’s progress. That was then. This is now. And this is where I’m at right now as an artist. It’s a different sound, and there’s a different mood and tone to what I’m doing now compared with then. This growth is based off of the sounds we’re discovering in studio, the influences I’ve been gathering, who I am as a writer and musician, and the people I’ve been playing with.
My influences and music taste have really expanded. Chris, Dave, and David all have slightly differing tastes, and I’ve learned a lot from them. When you listen to the new songs, you’ll be able to hear that evolution in the music and in the tone of the vocals. Ray Jeffrey is such a great person, and there’s so much I admire about him. Whereas other producers and engineers might resort to digitally correcting the vocals, Ray can find the imperfections in a voice and use them really well. Chris also pointed that out to me in studio. Before, I’d get very uncomfortable with some of the imperfections I might hear in my voice. Yet—when we recorded with Ray and I listened back later—I realized, this works WELL with the song. It’s very natural. Ray does a really great job of capturing those imperfections and then using them in a really special way.
What have you been up to since we spoke last year?
Kostka: I’ve gained a lot of perspective and spent some time watching other artists. The last year has been a huge learning lesson for me in terms of personal relationships and friendships. I’ve been able to find my inner peace as well as express certain emotions in different ways than I had before. There’s been a lot of soul searching here as well as simply living and not taking anything too seriously. I’m embracing life and learning how to handle it.
Have you visited any new, inspiring places either while on the road or at home in Michigan?
Kostka: I haven’t been on tour in over a year, which is scary. However, I’m going to be changing that up pretty soon. I’ll be going out of state, even if it’s just for a four-day tour or a little longer. Being on the road is a really good time to reflect. Personal trips—without my guitar—I haven’t done very often. Usually when I travel, it’s for music.
I did recently get out California (San Francisco and Larkspur). That was the first time I felt like I had had a vacation in years. Not having to worry about a damn thing for a while was nice. Other than that, my friend has a motorcycle, and sometimes we’ll take rides together to get out of town.
I’m really looking forward to getting back on the road and playing shows. It’s not like me to be off the road for more than a year, but the West coast trip was a great trip for me mentally.
I love catching you play live on Instagram! Has your experience with social media been completely positive or have you witnessed any dark sides to it?
Kostka: The only time I use social media is for music and interaction. My experiences have all been positive. I still hate that you have to pay to expose something you post to Facebook in order to reach “x” amount of people. Also, I use Snapchat less than I used to. I’m starting to use Twitter more, but the whole Instagram Live feature IS pretty awesome. I’ve only gone live a couple of times. When you caught me playing, I was practicing guitar and just decided to hop on. It was never really planned out.
I follow other artists that go live on Instagram the first Monday of every month to play new songs. They really make an event out of it. In my opinion, I feel like Instagram is the most effective social media platform right now. I hope it stays that way. Instagram and Instagram stories seem to reach more people.
You have to use social media in different, creative ways so you stand out. Web content is huge, too, and staying active on all of your accounts—by posting images and videos—keeps people interested and involved.
I’m still intrigued by the emerging house show scene you introduced us to in our last interview. Have you played any house shows recently? Are there any other cool, new-to-you venues we should know about?
Kostka: I have not gone to any house shows lately, but I’m supposed to be playing one in Akron in a few weeks. I mean, house shows are a thing. Like any other show, I suppose, but it’s just a different vibe and a good setting to just really hang out and connect with unique people.
I live in Bay City. Saginaw is a town about twenty minutes away with a great venue called Counter Culture that really supports the arts. Ben Champagne and Curtis Dalton, who run the venue, have done nothing but amazing things for Saginaw and the surrounding areas. Props to them! Other than that, there’s Excellency Music Festival in Bay City on August 4th.
Do you have any upcoming shows planned? And, if so, will they feature acoustic Kostka or full band Kostka?
Kostka: On Sunday, April 15th I’m playing at Counter Culture with Vital Sea (who is also from Bay City), Small Talks, and a couple of other bands. I’m excited to relay that my performance will be full band Kostka, and we’ll for certain be playing “Motions” at the show. I’ll try to get one of my friends to record some footage from the performance, so we can share it on social media. I’ll be announcing other shows soon, too.
What artists are currently in heavy rotation for you?
Kostka: Phoebe Bridgers is an excellent singer-songwriter from California. Julien Baker. This band called Soccer Mommy. Vital Sea and Michigander, two local bands who are doing huge things. There’s a lot of awesome music I’ve been getting into.*
*When we interviewed Kostka last year, we created a special Spotify playlist, MMM: Kostka, to capture what he was listening to as well as the four tracks from his Far From Near EP. We’ve refreshed that already awesome PL to include “Motions” as well as a number of other new songs that Kostka currently can’t get enough of. (Yeah, you should check it out.)
Can you hint at when we can expect the next release?
Kostka: I’m hoping it will only be a couple more months until my next song release.
Would you like to thank and / or draw our attention to anyone?
Kostka: I want to thank the people that continue to follow what I’m doing and stay engaged and interested in my music. That means the world to me. I want to thank the guys that I play with: Chris Tanner, Dave Daniele, and David Beuthin. They help me learn so much as a musician. I give them so much credit and they deserve it, because they really help this whole thing come alive.
And family and friends, and people that are active and doing what they love. It’s inspiring on so many levels. People that conduct great interviews like yourself—it’s much appreciated. It’s a great reminder that doing what you love is a beautiful thing. I hope other people understand that it’s important to support each other. We should care about each other’s art.
Connect with Kostka:
Listen to “Motions”:
Listen to what Kostka is listening to (our exclusive playlist):
Spotify Playlist MMM: Kostka)
Read our recent, full-length interview with Kostka:
“Indie Acoustic Singer-Songwriter Kostka Captivates With New EP, Far From Near”