Singer-songwriter and producer Dexter Tortoriello has worked with everyone from Kali Uchis to Lil Yachty and Martin Garrix, but he makes his most important work alone -- as Houses.
The project has been relatively dormant for the past five or so years, but in September, Houses finally released a follow-up to 2013's apocalyptic "A Quiet Darkness."
Where that album positioned Houses as a duo -- Tortoriello and his partner Megan Messina toiling away in abandoned houses and schools together -- the "Drugstore Heaven" EP represents a decidedly more individual effort.
Thanks in part to Tortoriello's acquired experience as a pop and hip-hop producer and songwriter, the songs are more accessible but equally as introspective -- as if he's perfected the art of maintaining personal autonomy without sacrificing communalism.
It's what makes his relationship to the internet so interesting, considering "all of the record deals [he] signed were through Twitter."
According to Tortoriello, with whom I spoke over the phone last week, he's learned to compartmentalize his internet usage pretty heavily so he can still maintain meaningful connections there. He's had a similar approach to both his creative process and also his personal life.
Growing up in Chicago, he was largely "in the world of punk rock" and noise, which he credits with giving him "more of a blue collar approach to making music."
"I've gotten good at compartmentalizing a lot of my influences," Tortoriello said.
"I feel like an amateur in the pop and hip-hop worlds," he added.
As a result, Tortoriello likes to screw around with "tried and true tenets of genres."
"Once you know 'em, you can toy around with them more," he said.
Tortoriello lives near Joshua Tree now -- just far enough from Los Angeles to get away from the crowds, but close enough to maintain those meaningful connections. He also still keeps in touch with his close friends from Chicago, even if it is another world away.
Five years later, Tortoriello's Houses may be a bit more compartmentalized, but the doors open a bit wider now, too.
Rutger Ansley Rosenborg has been with NBC SoundDiego since 2016. Find out more here.