Interview: Dexter Tortoriello Of Houses Talks Touring with Jungle, Trusting Your Instincts & Diplo Taking Chances On Him

I recently had the chance to catch up with Dexter Tortoriello of Houses on the first night of the nationwide Jungle tour.
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Dexter Tortoriello

Dexter Tortoriello

Dexter Tortoriello, the brainchild behind Houses and Dawn Golden might just be one of the most prodigious musicians today. From singing vocals for Martin Garrix to producing beats in the studio alongside Diplo, his uncanny ability to recreate the human experience through music is inspirational. Releasing Drugstore Heaven in 2018, Houses created a splash, earning the #2 slot at Sirius XM Alt Nation, Top 10 at KCRW for their lead single “Fast Talk” and a direct support slot opening for revered band Jungle on their current nationwide tour. On Drugstore Cowboy Dexter recounts his most personal experiences both the good and bad, offering listeners a very intimate look at the talented musician's life. While Houses played their first show in almost five years at the renowned San Diego Soda Bar earlier this month, the band has been releasing music for the better part of the last decade.

Eloquently fusing together organic and electronic elements, Houses delivered a dynamic and show on the first night of the Jungle tour. An amalgamation of ethereal vocals, thrilling choruses, driving rhythms, and luminous synths, Houses’ powerful, poignant, and emotional set captivated their audience. Dexter’s introspective, raw, and poetic vocals were definitely a highlight of the band’s touching performance as they performed both new songs such as “Pink Honey” featured on Drugstore Heaven as well as old favorites including the ambient and chill “Big Light.”

I had a chance to catch up with Dexter on the first night of the Jungle tour at the renowned Hollywood Palladium. Scope out this interview to find out more about Dexter and Houses, one of the most buzzworthy indie pop-rock bands of 2019. 

Your tremendous success has been a long time coming, what have the last couple of years been like?

I was recording what I thought was a Houses album for four years. I kept recording things and not liking them. I was constantly soul searching. Eventually, it just clicked and I started trusting all of the music that I liked and all of the stuff that made me want to become a musician in the first place. I eventually stopped chasing what was happening out in the world currently. It feels really good and people are really connecting with it in a way that makes me feel like it was the right decision. It’s personally very satisfying.

How did the tour with Jungle happen?

We’d just put out “Fast Talk” a couple of months ago and then they were like "you’re up for this tour with this band Jungle?" and I’m like I know them. It was a week later that they said that we’d gotten it and then we just went into full-blown rehearsal mode. It’d been like five years since we played a show. Our first show was last week in San Diego.

What has the experience been like working with Downtown Records?

It’s really good. We were sort of a sleeper band on the label for a long time. We were just making records and they weren’t super involved in everything. We then turned some of the songs and they really liked them a lot. John who runs the label has been really supportive and key in motivating. They really believe in the project. It’s a really great relationship.

Why did you name your latest EP Drugstore Heaven?

I write little pieces of lyrics all the time. I had one that said heaven is a drugstore and God is a cop. That ended up turning into “Fast Talk” that was our first single.

How do you feel about the response to “Fast Talk”?

It’s unbelievable. It’s like doing a whole new thing. We used to put out records and the radio would never play them. Some cool websites would talk about them and then some cool websites would say they were bad and that would be it. I was used to a two-month album cycle. “Fast Talk” came out almost eight months ago and it’s still on the radio. I don’t know what to make of any of it. It’s really rewarding. I’m having a really good time. It’s really fun to have my family in Chicago turn on my radio and hear it.

What advice do you have for other talented young musicians?

Just trust yourself and don’t trust anyone else. Don’t trust what’s happening in the world or the music industry. Just try to make good decisions that you’re not going to regret six or eight months from now.

What are you excited about in 2019 and beyond?

I’m really excited about this tour with Jungle. Today is the first day of the tour. It finally seems like we have momentum and will be riding the wave for the rest of the year. I’m trying to finish a record as well in the meantime.

What has your personal experience been like working with Diplo?

I signed my project Dawn Golden to Mad Decent in 2011. He (Diplo) used to drag me around to studios with huge artists and was like, “Hey, this is Dexter. He’s going to help us write songs.” He took a lot of chances for me at a time when he probably shouldn’t have.

You’ve had the opportunity to work alongside many talented artists such as Lil Yachty, Ryan Hemsworth, Martin Garrix, and others. What has that experience been like?

I’ve never met Lil Yachty before. I was working on a Major Lazer record with Diplo and eight months later I came back to him and he was like, “This is a Lil Yachty song now” and then it came out. With Ryan Hemsworth, it was super collaborative and fun. Martin Garrix literally just facetimed me from a hotel room in Miami and showed me that he had built an entire studio in a hotel room and already had lights programmed for the song we had done together. It’s different all over the place.

Houses Nationwide Tour Dates:

3/18 - Buffalo, NY @ The Tralf
3/19 - New York, NY @ Terminal 5*
3/20 - Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer*
3/21 - Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club*
3/22 - Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel*
3/23 - Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works*
3/26 - Austin, TX @ Stubb's (Indoors)
3/27 - Dallas, TX @ Three Links
3/29 - Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar

*Jungle Dates

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