Scott Brill-Lehn is the vocalist for local band Alta, whose second CD, Unfamiliar, was released July 27. Brill-Lehn, 19, is a music and journalism major at Sacramento City College, and he fronts a group that has performed roughly 50 shows in the past year. The band’s next performance is September 5 at The Boardwalk, 9426 Greenback Lane in Orangevale.
How was the band first formed?
The band was first conceptualized by myself and our guitarist, Christian Salisbury, in 1999 and came further along with the addition of guitarist Michael Georgia a year later, but the band didn’t come to its true current form until July of 2002 when we brought in Brad Cacciatore on bass and Mike Ruiz on drums. It just seemed to fit. We all gel really well and are able to groove together and make beautiful music.
Where did the name ‘Alta’ come from?
The name didn’t really come from anywhere special. Michael Georgia saw the word ‘alta’ on the Spanish section of the instruction booklet of a heater, and we all thought it was a solid name: no frills, no fluff—just a good, solid name for a good, solid band, which we strive to be.
Really? It came off instructions from a heater?
Yeah, we were installing a heater in a new apartment, and the word just happened to be there. It means “above” or “higher” in Spanish, but to us, it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just a solid name.
How does the songwriting process work? Who’s the brain of the operation?
We have taken some different approaches to songwriting, but the basic objective has always been the same: Write songs that are solid all the way through and not necessarily remembered for one catch phrase but for the journey you are part of when you listen to them. Michael Georgia is the main brains of the operation, but we are all able to get our ideas across during the writing process.
Which typically comes first, lyrics or music?
It really depends on the song. Sometimes, I will write lyrics and put a melody to it, and we will write the music around it. And other times, Mike will have ideas on the guitar, and I will lay lyrics and vocal melody over the top of that.
For those of us who won’t ever experience it, what’s it like being on stage in front of a large crowd?
Playing live is the best part of being a musician for me. The energy that you get from sharing your creations with other people and affecting their lives with those creations is unlike anything else you can experience. It’s definitely an intense rush every time for me, no matter how many people we are playing for.
So, what’s next?
No one can really know what the future will hold, especially in the music world. You can’t really predict what will be popular in five or 10 years. We are just going to keep doing what we do best: Write good music, share with as many people possible and have a lot of fun doing it.
If you weren’t singing, where would you be right now?
If I wasn’t singing, I would probably be somewhere in the music-journalism profession. I have always been a natural story writer, and what better to write about than the subject I love most?
What’s the new CD like? How does it compare with the first?
I’d really call this our first CD. It’s a mixture of older songs re-recorded and newer songs that we wrote over the last year. The difference between Unfamiliar and the first EP is quite a bit, to say the least. The songs, the band as a whole and each of us as individual players are tighter than the first CD. It’s just, all around, a better effort. The production on the CD is much nicer sounding than the first, since we recorded the new one in an actual professional studio as opposed to a guy’s apartment.
What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to the group?
One time, we got booked at this club in Alameda, which is near Oakland, and we booked it through this kind of shady character, which turned out to be a bad idea. Plus, we didn’t call the venue before we went down there, which was also bad. When we got there, they said we weren’t playing there. They didn’t know who we were. So, we ended up wasting a ton of gas and food and energy to go down there, and really, it was for no reason.
How has the band grown since you first started out?
When we first started, the songs were really bad. They were sloppy, unorganized and just really bad, which is what happens to most bands starting out. Since then, we’ve become a much, much more solid band.
Do strangers ever recognize you? What do they say to you?
That does happen occasionally, especially at other bands’ shows. They’re just usually nice people who like the band and want to show the love.