Hugo Costin on the need for authenticity in creating meaningful work
Speaking to Australian writer and musician, Hugo Costin it's clear he's spent time pondering and reshaping what creating means to him. Exploring the relationship between authenticity and creating, Hugo shared his journey rediscovering his authenticity and refining his creative practices in order to create honestly, fearlessly stepping into starting something new.
Hugo was the mind behind Melbourne band Toy Boats, which gained momentum in the Australian music scene from 2010 to 2013. But in late 2014 Hugo paused. He took stock and after the dispersion of his previous group Hugo spent three years reflecting, exploring art, completed a bachelors degree in literature and creative writing, packed records with a friend and played with different musical styles before returning to the stripped back and intimate acoustic sound that began his career in 2009.
Today, Hugo is back and more ready to create than ever - launching The Astral Plane Parade with a stellar debut single: Are You A Space Invader? The Astral Plane Parade seeks to expose the extraordinary in the everyday, to give stage to the ephemeral beauty that hovers above our lives as fragile as sunlight dancing on water.
The dulcet tones and raw dream-like state of Are You A Space Invader encapsulates how someone can enter your orbit and walk with you like an otherworldly shadow. The vulnerability of both Hugo's self and the vulnerability of allowing someone to have that hold on you both come through.
The Astral Plane Parade has launched not only with music and beautifully produced video, but alongside merchandise, collaborating with designer Will Neill on original prints with poems and written words by Hugo. It's clear he's found his style and has a lot to share.
We spoke to Hugo about his new venture The Astral Plane Parade, his creative practise and challenges that come with a new journey in publishing your own art.
What does a typical morning look like when you are writing music?
I like the time in between day and night so I love watching the sun rise. I’ve been charging my phone in another room so I don’t look at it when I wake up and I honestly feel this is an underrated practice for creativity. I want to take in my life as mine and not be bombarded by the world. I’ll sit and watch the sun rise with no distractions and listen to the sounds of the world waking up. Not to sound too Byron Bay but I feel really connected to the world this way and it’s real. I’m of the belief that inspiration is divine, we don’t have any clue about where our thoughts come from and I want to be free to listen to them.
Some mornings I’ll be lucky and others I won’t but I don’t want to let lack of inspiration make me waste my day. If I don’t have a song to work on I’ll practice others, try to work on a live set or practice scales, learn other songs (super into Francoise Hardy lately) or just mess around on guitar, maybe do some free writing. I think one of the worst mistakes you can make as a creative person is to wait for inspiration. I try to hone my skills as best I can in the uninspired times so when inspiration strikes I can do my best to render it as justly as I can.
I love mornings without a phone. I try to keep mine in aeroplane mode for the first hour or so of waking so at least that time is mine. Uncluttered and clear for my own thoughts. How have your mornings changed since keeping your phone in another room?
I'm more present when I'm not distracted by this intangible world that's far away in my phone.
Do you feel the need, or drive, to constantly be publishing or creating some sort of artistic output?
Honestly, I feel like I don’t exist if I’m not working to create something.
What happens if you don’t?
You took a few years break from publishing music (publicly at least). Did you actively choose to step back and take some time off or was it a natural break?
I couldn’t wait to get more music out, but it just wasn’t coming. I had moved to the city and I’m realising now how easily influenced I was. Everyday I woke up wanting to be someone different than the day before. I’d go out and buy new clothes, get a new haircut, everything I saw I wanted to be. I realise now that it came from low self esteem. I think I wanted to be all of these things because I felt that who I was, wasn’t legitimate. Throughout this time I was making music constantly but every time I’d go to put it out, I just wouldn’t feel anything. It was like it was white noise. It wasn’t honest music.
I got to one of the lowest points I’ve been at in my life and last year I decided to move back to where I grew up. I was really punishing myself in my head. I view this punishment now as chipping away the marble to reveal the form. The form I discovered was myself, naked and accepting of it. It was only when I could view this form that I began to write songs that (at least in my opinion) had vitality.
What did you do with yourself in the time off publishing music?
I finished my BA in Literature and Creative Writing and worked a lot of different jobs. My favourite job was packing records in a warehouse with my friend, Jake.
What parts of the discovery and learning you encountered during your BA in Literature and Creative Writing fed the inspiration behind The Astral Plane Parade?
How have you grown as an artist by stepping back and taking a break to explore other interests?
It’s kind of funny, exploring other interests just lead me to become 100% focused on music. I realised it’s what brings me true happiness and I want to be respectful of that and give it the time it deserves. Any minute spent on your dream is never wasted.
How do you overcome the creative anxiety when writing and creating music?
I stopped trying to overcome it and learned to love it.
An interesting mindset, accepting it as part of the process opposed to fighting it. Can you share with us one example of a practise you use to learn to love the creative anxiety that comes with putting something you made out in the world?
To love the creative anxiety I just throw myself completely into the process and try to release the work quickly! I find spontaneity and not building every act up to be your magnum opus helps. I think if you can see the anxiety as proof of being alive then it can be used as fuel.
Did the success of Toy Boats create pressure or fear for The Astral Plane Parade? If so, how did you overcome the expectations you put on yourself to follow the same trajectory?
I’m super thankful for Toy Boats, for that time in my life and everyone involved in it. The Astral Plane Parade will always be compared to it but there’s nothing wrong with that. I think a lot of what I did in Toy Boats you will hear in The Astral Plane Parade as I release more music. I hope people who liked Toy Boats can relate to these songs too.
Something I took for granted with Toy Boats was label backing. I had a lot of fear when starting The Astral Plane Parade that I wouldn’t be able to create recordings that adequately represented the songs due to lack of label funding. In saying that, finding ways to make it happen takes you on a lot of different paths you wouldn’t otherwise take if it’s as simple as taking your band to the studio and laying down the songs. Out of necessity I’ve taught myself how to produce and record and that has really shaped the songs that you will hopefully hear soon. Besides, the harder you work at something the sweeter it is when it comes to fruition.
Where are you currently finding the inspiration for your music, or what inspired The Astral Plane Parade?
A few chance moments that come without warning to grace your life with magic. I feel it would be a shame to let them go. This inspiration doesn’t change with time, only the moments do.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Youth in Revolt at the moment. I relate to Nick Twisp way too much for my liking.
Hugo has returned to his roots, stripped back what he felt expected to portray and is listening in those quiet moments to guide his inspiration for creating his work. The hard work in reflection, honesty and re-defining what music he truly wants to create has paid off in authentic, raw music and we can't wait to see what's next.
The Astral Plane Parade has the debut single out now with an EP to follow shortly. You can follow TAPP here for shows and new music, or on Triple J Unearthed. Hugo has also created Music to drift into the sky to, my current night time routine playlist that truly takes you into the sky.