The poppier project of sometime singer-songwriter Josh Sampson is Alto Alta, the project is less concerned with ways of the guitar slinging acoustic journeyman, and more about things that slap. With a sound self-described as ‘liberated’, ‘Islands’ is the first in a string of singles planned for the next couple of months. “Alto Alta is about enjoyment - both in the making and the listening”.
‘Islands’ certainly does take into account all things that slap, with influence from classic rock songs, 90’s euro-trash and reggaeton, Alto Alta brings big vibes. A pop banger that sounds similar to the likes of Despacito and other reggaeton tracks, Sampson takes this sound and makes it feel more raw and heartfelt with some extra Aussie twang.
‘Islands’ was mixed by Tony Espie (The Avalanches, Cut Copy), with David Walker adding a bit of finesse on mastering. The track itself was completely self produced, so from the man himself, here are the 5 tracks that influenced the making of ‘Islands’:
1. The Sign – Ace of Base
A classic of euro faux-reggae, a hugely underappreciated subgenre, which also includes classics like All That She Wants and Mr. President’s Coco Jamboo. The beat in the chorus was my tribute to these high watermarks of 90s pop.
2. Kokomo – The Beach Boys
Aruba, Jamaica…Bali, Ko Samui. You get the drift.
I lifted the place naming idea straight out of this Beach Boys track, which is probably my favourite track of theirs, along with Don’t Worry Baby.
When I wrote Islands, I was in quite a dark place, feeling trapped by circumstances. I’d moved over to Canberra for work, far from majestic Perth where I was born and raised, and where my fam is, and my path forward was murky and not all that appealing. The place, the cold, and the job were all getting me down at times.
Anyway, though the wilderness, I had a good friend, Kyle, who definitely helped alleviate my general malaise. I’m not really sure how it started, but in Canberra there’s this bar called Kokomos with this strong fake tropical energy. If you look on the menu it actually says ‘that tropical feeling!’
Kyle and I developed a strange loyalty to this place, and their flashy tiki cocktails. This good time feeling then got name-associated with the song Kokomo, which we played incessantly, usually while drinking. So I guess after thousands of spins of Kokomo, it was only natural that the spirit of this hit record found its way into my own self-expression.
3. Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark
This classic by the Boss taught me that you don’t have to have a pretty voice to make a pop record.
4. Cuando Tu Quieras – J Balvin
I love reggaeton, this track, and the whole Vibras album by J Balvin is fantastic. Vibras introduced me to a bunch of new sounds and led me down a beautiful rabbit hole through latin music and then into dancehall and later afrobeat. This opened up my world musically, and you can hear some of that in the percussion arrangements I use in Islands.
5. Your Love – The Outfield
Lush 80s guitars, man. Hit the chorus at 0:45 and you’ll know what I mean.
The next single from Alto Alta is a self produced duet where he takes a backseat on lead vocals, letting Emi Versteegen take the reins. There's also a music video in the works, set for release this summer, keep an eye out.