It’s a rainy Friday afternoon in Davis and Pablo is sitting at a table just inside Mishka’s Café, a nervous smile crinkling his eyes. In contrast, the Sacramento native’s music is as spare and haunting as the desert. “I found that a lot of the sounds I was making sounded really dry and sparse. They didn’t sound full and wet and… living.”
Having visited the desert a lot in recent years, he has formed a special connection with it. “I feel like there’s a lot of beauty in the harshness of the desert and in the heat. It just makes you miserable a lot of times. But I felt like that was what [my songs] sounded like… Like these things that were really dry and brittle but also, kind of there. [laughs] That was the craziest thing I ever said!”
Pablo got into music when his sister fell in love with Blink-182 and started learning to play guitar. Since she was doing it, he decided he wanted to as well. When she heard him playing, she encouraged him to continue, even admitting he was better than she was.
Buoyed by this, Pablo played music throughout high school and college, through a succession of bands going through several different names. After going to college in Santa Cruz, he moved back to the Sacramento area and settled in Davis for the art scene. He has released two albums online in the last year, Sundowners and Loma Prieta. Now he says, he’s really invested in being a better musician, which he finds “hard but fun.”
These are not his first albums but both have a thematic cohesion that his previous work lack. Before, he says, his records were bunch of songs grouped all together and thrown on CD. But his new works have very specific thoughts and feelings attached to them in a “single thread.” The difference, he says, is like a concept album versus a compilation.
Pablo makes his own albums, enjoying the aesthetic aspect of creating them himself. The costs are low, and he doesn’t owe anybody but himself this way. He also finds it easier to distribute and sell for whatever people are willing to pay. Since they usually don’t want to pay, keeping the costs low is imperative. He says it’s not too bad since it tends to cost under a dollar to make each one. Of course, he continues, if someone wanted to help him make them, he wouldn’t mind.
Because of this, people who recorded their own songs, such as the Microphones, inspire him. But old jazz singers like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Mississippi John Hurt, whose voices are rough around the edges and have a distinctive character, influence his singing style. “Everyone listens to Bob Dylan and they go ‘Man, that guy sounds like shit,’ and then after a while they get kind of used to it.” In the spirit of that, he tries to make his music as raw and real as possible. “I don’t want to sound like it’s perfected,” he says.
Pablo only feels like he’s well versed in playing the guitar. But on his albums he does all his instrumentation, using drums, bass, trumpet, and piano to create the sounds he wants. Since he no longer plays with a band, recreating his recorded work usually is a little tough. “I always try to keep it more open … I’m always available to play a show by myself but if there are other people who are willing to play with me [I won’t turn them down].” In his upcoming Valentine’s Day show, two other musicians will accompany him. They will be backing him with percussion and vocals. When he plays electric he uses a loop guitar pedal to replicate some of the effects in his recorded tracks.
He prefers not to limit his work by defining it in a genre. “When I think about music, it’s been less genre based and more an attraction to feelings.” Some songs, he says, just have a certain magnetism that transcend their subject matter or categorization. “It’s really elusive and hard to pin down … but there’s something that you hear, almost within the first couple notes and you know that it’s something bigger than just [a] song.”
Pablo’s albums Sundowners and Loma Prieta are on sale on his Bandcamp page. He will be playing a Valentine’s Day show at Third Space in Davis this coming Friday. Tube will see you there.
Pictures by Ryan Stewart