Alice Ivy interviews Boy Pablo about his debut album, Norwegian snacks and their mutual love of synths

Boy Pablo

Norwegian/Chilean multi-instrumentalist boy pablo (Nicolas Pablo Muñoz) has had a meteoric rise over the last few years. His music first came to widespread attention with the video for his viral 2017 single ‘Everytime’, which was followed up with an eagerly anticipated debut EP titled Soy Pablo in 2018. Across seven tracks, he unveiled his artistic identity as one which creates heartfelt, emotive bedroom-pop sounds, rooted in nostalgic but still entirely future-facing in its authentic approach.

Fast forward to 2020, and he has now shared his debut album, Wachito Rico. An extrapolation of the sounds we first heard from him in 2018, Wachito Rico is a fittingly ambitious step up for boy pablo as he further explores his formative lush bedroom-pop, but with the refined edge of a global superstar-in-waiting. It’s the same still romantic, woozy, indie pop we first fell in love with, but instead of coming from someone much more firmly on his feet. Armed with the vast experience he’s acquired over the last few years, Wachito Rico explores the overarching theme of young love and the English translation of the album title which is a Chilean expression meaning “handsome boy”. Stepping into this kind of alter-ego, boy pablo takes his listeners on a journey as the main character, through the highs and lows of his love life and the happy-go-lucky attitude he exudes even when the chips are down. Rooted in his own personal experiences and inspired by his own positive outlook on life, boy pablo infuses his own stories in with that of Wachito Rico to create something simultaneously personal and universal, all while sounding impeccable in its indie-pop stylings.

In his own words, boy pablo said, “This album has been incredibly important for me. Myself, my brother Esteban and my brother-in-law Erik put in so many hours that I don’t think I could count them. Long nights, early mornings and exhausted days have been a big part of the process as have all the energetic and uplifting days where Erik and Esteban really brought out the best of me in the studio. I’ve loved and hated the record, laughed so hard it hurt and cried through some tough parts of the writing, recording and post-production process. I’m so proud and satisfied with the record and I hope that whoever is reading this gets the same kick of excitement and the same feeling of peace that I have when I listen to it.”

With Wachito Rico now out in the world, we wanted to dive in a bit deeper with boy pablo and get to know him a bit better. However, instead of our usual interview style, we recruited fellow boy pablo fan, ARIA-nominated artist and Purple Sneakers favourite Alice Ivy to do the honours for us. Chatting on Zoom via Melbourne and Norway respectively, Alice Ivy and boy pablo get to know each other, talk about their shared and different processes and shed some light on their hometowns. Take a read below!

Alice Ivy: Where are you at the moment?

Boy Pablo: I’m at home, in Bergen, in Norway.

AI: Okay, cool. Sick. I’ve never been to Norway before. That is absolutely number one on my list one day, though. I’ve only heard beautiful things of the country. Definitely on the list.

BP: What have you heard about Norway?

Oh, that it’s beautiful! I know that it’s beautiful and I’d like to go one day, but yeah. Obviously, we’re all going through a pandemic right now, which is pretty nuts that the whole world is affected by it. What’s a typical day looking like for you? Has your routine changed much? Are you still in lockdown down in Norway, or are you free to leave the house?

Yeah. It’s not as bad as other countries. We don’t have lockdown anymore. We actually got over lockdown in May or June.

Oh, whoa! Okay. That’s a long time ago.

Yeah! So my daily routine. I can basically do whatever I want, as long as I keep a metre distance to other people and don’t hug them. Probably the only thing that’s changed is that I can’t go to concerts or do concerts anymore. That’s a no go. I mean, they are allowing artists to do concerts with a maximum 150 people.

Wow. That sounds outer worldly for me right now!

Really? How are things over there?

I’m in stage four lockdowns right now, so in Melbourne, where we can only leave the house once to exercise for one hour a day and you can’t leave within a five kilometre radius from your house.

Holy crap.

It’s really hectic, like shows, no one can go to work. The only people that can work are essential workers which is like hospitals and grocery stores and that sort of stuff. I’ve been in lockdown for two months. And so you’re saying “150-people shows,” I’m like, “What is this?” Outer worldly for me!

Damn. Oh, shit, I didn’t know. Holy crap!

You know how you were saying, yeah, obviously, the one metre rule and no hugging anyone? Every time I watch a movie these days and people hug, I’m always like *heavy breathing* Are you writing music? Obviously, you’ve got your record finished, but are you in a creative space, or are you just hanging out?

No. I didn’t expect myself to be in a creative space, but I am.

That’s amazing!

When I finish an EP, or now an album, I usually, I’m tired of it. And I need some time to build myself some creativity.

Totally.

But this time I’m making songs already for my next album, I guess.

That is so amazing.

Yeah, actually, it is! It’s a really good feeling. And also writing for and producing some stuff for other friends and artists.

I kind of feel like I’ve sort of been half-half there. Obviously, I’m working from home now, and so I’ve had to move all my studio stuff home and I actually feel like I’m more productive being at home because I feel like I write better when I’m not in my normal environment. I just released a record, and that record was literally written, me with no sleep, in sessions with other artists and stuff like that. Running on four hours’ sleep and being like, “Yeah. Let’s do this!”

That’s heavy! Congrats, by the way.

Thank you so much. I feel like I’ve aged so much, though, in the past two years writing this record. I feel like I am now a lot older and more mature, which is, I guess, good too. But your record’s coming out! Obviously the record’s completed, but how has it been with the thought of going through an album campaign during a pandemic? Have you had to overcome any hurdles? For example, shooting music videos for me, all my music videos, plans had to change. Have you gone through any of that kind of stuff?

Yeah, a little bit. I’ve never released an album before, so I don’t know how it is to release an album when it’s not a pandemic going on. Obviously, it sucks that we couldn’t do summer shows here in Europe when we had released three songs now. We had scheduled 12 concerts during the summer, but it also gave us time to think a little bit more about music videos and plan everything that comes with that. The first video, actually, we were a little bit nervous because it involved a lot of people. We were lucky because two or three days before shooting it, they were like, “Okay, you can now go from 20 people being together in public to 50.” So it didn’t change much about that, but it has changed with the music videos that aren’t out yet because we haven’t made them. That’s because there are these two guys from England that we want them to direct the next three videos. Yeah, it’s hard because yeah, you’re not supposed to-

Because they’re in the UK, yeah.

So that has been kind of hard to plan, but we have a plan and we hope that it goes through. Yeah, but other than that, not much. I haven’t noticed much of anything that could be a difference compared to not being in a pandemic.

Yeah, what you said, you haven’t gone through putting out a record before. Putting out a record is so stressful anyway. It can be stressful. It’s such a weird situation to be putting out a record, so putting out records in general. Pandemic, no pandemic it’s weird, so! [Laughs]

Totally. [Laughs]

Have you actually ever been to Australia before?

Never. We have talked about it so many times, but we just haven’t because the timing was not right, or we had another tour going on, or any of that. Yeah, it sucks. We really want to go, though. It’s a beautiful place to be.

So when people say “Australia,” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

[Laughs] I don’t know, but spiders and sharks? [Laughs]

[Laughs] I had a bet that there was an 80% chance of you saying that! Yeah, that’s so funny. I mean they do exist, but yeah. You just learn. It’s so funny. My family is German, so every time I ask them that question, they kind of, they’re like, “Yeah, snakes and spiders” and stuff. It’s so funny, with everyone here it’s, “Yeah, they exist. But you just don’t go into the bush. You don’t go into the bushes. You don’t go into that long grass.” That’s just what you don’t do. It’s just normal life! [Laughs]

[Laughs] Yeah. I can imagine, but how often do people get bit by a snake or a spider or anything? Is it that not common?

I mean, sure, but, I’m in Melbourne. So do you know much about Melbourne?

No, not much.

I reckon Melbourne is probably Australia’s music capital. There’s some Melbourne-Sydney beef. I would say that Melbourne is fully music capital. I love this place. I will never move, but because it’s very south of Australia, there are spiders, but where I live, I live next to a park and there’s a creek. I know there are snakes in the park, but I don’t think anyone really gets bitten a lot. Anyway, up north, that’s where it’s hotter and there are snakes about. Yeah, people do get bitten. But, hey! On your music, honestly, every time I listen to your music I can’t help but smile. It’s so sweet and so colorful and lush and the soundscapes are beautiful. It’s like I’m in sonic heaven right now. Everything you put out, it’s dope.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

But then also, the lyrical content can be pretty sad sometimes, and so it’s bittersweet. I was just curious, how do you go about songwriting? How do you start a song? Is it just you in a room just playing guitar? How do you progress from a song like that, into a full studio song, a fully realised song?

It depends. It’s really different from song to song. For example, the last single, ‘Rest Up’. The first thing I wrote was, actually, the whole instrumental part.

And that was a few years ago, too, right?

Yeah, 2018, I think. So I wrote that, but I didn’t know what to do. Like, “What should I do with my voice on this track?” So I put it aside and waited a couple years. Now, I think it was in April, then I started making the lyrics to it, because I normally hate writing lyrics. I don’t like it.

Me neither.

It has to be done, I guess. I like to write instrumentals. I really like that. I like to experiment with different synth sounds and different ways to play the guitar. But also, sometimes I get the hook of a song, the melody and then the words, like, “Okay, this could be like that” and yeah, just arrange the lyrics in my head and then make the rest of the song. Also, it could be based on a drum beat, yeah.

Do you produce in Ableton Live, or Logic, or Pro Tools, or?

Logic. That’s where I get all my ideas out.

So you kind of do this at home, and then do you go into a studio to track everything again? Are the synths and everything, and all the sounds are generally stuff that you’ve recorded by yourself?

Depends.If it’s a shitty demo, I usually record everything again. [Laughs] But the things that sound good in the demo, sometimes the feeling of a demo is better than the feeling on a track. It’s really weird. So the things that I get that feeling [from] in a demo I like to keep, and then rerecord everything that doesn’t have to do with that feeling. For this album I got a lot of help from my brother-in-law and my brother. They both work with music, so they help me both write and produce this stuff.

Fully in the family. That’s so cool! What’s your synth collection like?

Honestly I use almost only plug-ins. I love Keyscape, Analog Lab. I used a lot of Analog Lab, really, and Keyscape for this album, I think.

A lot of the synth sounds and everything, they sound honestly so good. Really nice and lush and I’m a sucker for that stuff!

Do you have analog synths?

I have a little setup here, so I got MS-20, but I just bought a Mellotron that arrived.

Ooh!!

Oh my God. Have you ever messed with one of these before?

Yeah, I did in a music store. Oh, it was brilliant!

I’m so excited. It literally came today, and I am so excited just to try all the string stuff. You get your chord progression down and then you just put some strings on the Mellotron down and everything just sounds so good. So I’m so excited!

Everything sounds good with the Mellotron!

Maybe you should get yourself one as a “I’ve put out my first record. I deserve a Mellotron.”

Yeah, maybe I will!

I totally get that having things in the box, though. It makes sense because if you’re traveling and stuff like that, being able to use soft synths, I feel, they’re so much handier and sounds great.

It takes time to find the right ones, though, but yeah.

Totally. But then you find them and then you’re like, “This is my safe place. I know what I’m doing now.” What’s one Norwegian artist that we should be listening to right now?

Oh, there’s a lot.

You can name three, if you want!

The first one is the band of the one that mixes my music. His band is called Young Dreams. I love their music. Their last album is a masterpiece. They didn’t get even nominated for a Norwegian GRAMMY. I don’t know what happened there and I don’t know why people aren’t listening to this because it’s so beautiful.

I’m going to check that out!

Yeah, definitely should. Two, I always say this one, Sondre Lerche. Have you heard about him? He just put out an album called Patience. It’s weird in a fairytale kind of way and also in a poppy kind of way. So yeah, it’s a really weird mix, but it’s really nice. And the last one I want to mention is a friend of mine. He’s called Jimi Somewhere. He makes a lot of cool music.

I’m going to check that shit out. I have so much more time listening to music now in lockdown. Hey, but you’ve also won a Norwegian Grammy, so that’s dope! “What can I say? Yes, I did!” You’re from Bergen, Norway. What’s your go-to late night snack? If you had to pick, recommend a late night snack in your hometown, where would you go?

A kind of restaurant kind of thing, or?

Yeah, anything. If you went to a show. Remember shows? Remember when we used to go to shows? You went to a show, you had a great time. And you’re like, “Okay, let’s get something to eat. I’m so hungry!” Where would you go?

Yeah, that’s a good question because there aren’t a lot of restaurants open at night.

Do you have Uber Eats? Is that what you do?

No, we don’t. We don’t. It sucks, but I guess I’m a fan of just a sandwich or something. So I will go to this 7-11 kind of thing, and just get a panini.

What kind of panini are we talking about, though?

It’s with salami and cheese. That’s the best one. And a Pepsi or Coke or something.

I do want to say, though, I want to shout out the air horns at the 2.27 mark in Dance Baby. The boo-boo-boo-boo. Every time I’m just like, “Those air horns slap!” [Laughs]

[Laughs] Thank you so much. You’re the first person to comment on those air horns!

Wachito Rico is out now via 777 Music. Buy/stream here.

Interview by Alice Ivy
Introduction by Emma Jones
Image: Fabio-Enzo

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Just a Robyn stan who loves going to the club.