For Just Costa, music is just the ticket — to their own sonic theme park.
“We call it Just Costa Land,” quips Jesse Just Costa, who leads the Montreal outfit with older sibling Juliana. “It’s like this: We want to bring the sense of an amusement park to our music. The excitement, the enthusiasm, the joie de vivre, the willingness to be happy and grateful and positive and live life to the extreme; that’s what we’re trying to construct.”
Between them, they have all the building blocks they need. And more. First and foremost are their vocals: Hers clear, supple and sweetly flowing, his lightly sanded, laid-back and breezy. Together they blend, harmonize and interact with the effortless grace, earthy beauty and near-telepathic communication of siblings who finish each other’s sentences. Then, of course there are the songs: Richly melodic, lyrically life-affirming, emotionally upbeat and — most crucially — undeniably and irresistibly groovy. Laced and graced with Jesse’s tastefully articulate guitar work, meticulously crafted from an amalgam of contemporary R&B, soul, funk, pop and more, their tracks can hold their own on a playlist next to hits from Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson and Khalid.
It’s the sort of supernatural blend of style, skill and substance that takes a lifetime to achieve. Which is about how long the Just Costas have been making music together. “We’ve always had music in the family,” Juliana explains. “Our parents are both musicians. Our dad was a professional musician. He’s Brazilian and classically trained — he plays a bunch of instruments. He played a lot of Brazilian jazz and popular music. And our mom plays piano and flute. And we always had a lot of musicians coming through the house, so we soaked up a lot of music from a very young age. Our parents introduced us to everything from Pat Metheny, Simply Red and Guns N’ Roses to Carole King and Crosby Stills and Nash. Plus we spent half of every year in Mexico, so we also heard a lot of Latin music. It was a sweet deal.”
But the road to Just Costa Land was still long and winding. By age 13, guitar prodigy Jesse was taking Montreal’s rock scene by storm, playing lead and fronting his own outfit. Meanwhile, Juliana had begun a solo career as an acoustic singer-songwriter. The turning point came a few years ago, when she was heading to Vancouver to record. Jesse decided to tag along, and in need of material, they began to write together for the sessions. The magic was instant. “We weren’t just putting catchphrases over standard chords; we were writing these intricate, meaningful songs,” Jesse recalls. “That really solidified things. That’s when we really hit the ground running together.”
They haven’t slowed. Since joining forces (and fittingly combining their parents’ surnames for their handle), they’ve more than made up for any lost time. They’ve appeared on talent show La Voix (The Voice), played over 400 shows — including a 16-date tour of Italy — performed at festivals and conferences (including the MUZ showcase in Montreal, where they took home a trio of people’s choice awards), released one album and are midway through writing and recording a new full-length. More focused and ambitious, their newer material takes full advantage of their creative kinship and shared vision — while also acknowledging their different musical backgrounds and skill sets. “One of our greatest strengths in working together is how varied our individual strengths are,” Jesse explains. “I know where Juliana has me beat, and where she might be able to handle a situation twice as well, and I feel like she knows the same about me. So that’s where the lines get drawn.”
As if on cue, she picks up the thread: “For the most part, Jesse has a real knack for melody and chords, and groove as well. So he’ll put something down and we can play off that. And I really like to write lyrics, so we’ll play off of each other. We work together really well in that sense. Other times, I’ll have a really simple kind of idea on the guitar and I can always count on Jesse to spice it up. It’s always good to have a partner in any venture, and there’s no better partner than family. We are really connected — we’re also best friends — and we really do see it as a big blessing. We’re not scared to push each other. And by bringing the best out of each other, we’ve reached some really cool and unique places songwriting-wise that we might not have found. And we feel we have something really special we can bring to people.”
That gift in a nutshell: Love. “I break down life into two really simple things: doing what you love and doing it with the people that you love,” Jesse says. “That’s really where the magic comes from. That’s when the highs start getting higher and the lows don’t feel so bad. That’s what we have, and that’s what we want to share with people. Really, we want to light up every room that we go into. I feel such an energy and positivity inside of me and so much gratitude for everything I have. We want to bring that to ourselves and to bring other people with us. We want … ”
Naturally, Juliana finishes his thought: “We want to take everybody along for the ride.”
The destination? Just Costa Land, of course. Enjoy the trip and get ready to groove.
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