Who is Pablo and why should we be like him?
“Pablo is our good friend from Chile. He is very enthusiastic about everything he does: partying; juggling; drinking; eating; working and probably even sleeping. If you met him, you’d realise why we had to name our band after him. Life is just so much more laid back and fun when you are Pablo. So everybody should try to be like him.”
To American ears an obvious, admittedly superficial, first reference is Weezer. How much of your direct musical influence can be traced to American “power pop”?
“There’s a big American influence on our music. I love bands like Weezer, Fountains of Wayne, Ben Kweller and Grandaddy and those bands have had a huge impact on us. When I was in my teens, I remember seeing one of Weezer’s videos and thinking that there were no pretenses about it at all: they were just four normal looking guys playing simple but interesting music and just having fun and not taking themselves too seriously. I think American bands were really great at that in the 90s.
I do feel that I need to mention that there are strong Scottish and British influences in what we do too. It’s maybe less obvious on first listen but bands like Teenage Fanclub and Belle and Sebastian have been really important in shaping our sound.”
What exactly is ‘power pop’? Would you even place yourself in a particular category?
“We pretty much just call ourselves ‘power pop’ because it sounds cool. I think that adding the word ‘power’ in front of anything always makes things sound a million times better. It’s like pop music but even more powerful. But with great power pop comes great responsibility so we understand that we need to be careful not to hurt anybody when we make music.”
If you did have to stick a post-it on the outside of the record how would you fill it in?
“‘Punk rock for nerds’.”
My first exposure to BLP was ‘I Can’t Dance’ from last year’s ‘Songs for the Land of the Rising Sun’ charity compilation. Have you collaborated or played with any of the other artists that contributed?
“We’ve shared festival stages with a few of those bands such as Light Guides, Kitty the Lion and Randolph’s Leap. Randolph’s Leap have a good name because there’s a place called Randolph’s Leap quite near my house. We’re actually good friends with Inspector Tapehead but we’ve never really worked with any of those bands in a musical sense. We’d love to in the future though. If any of the bands that contributed to that compilation are reading this and want to work with us, please let us know!”
I woke up with ‘Oh, Emily’ in my head. This is pretty remarkable considering I had not listened to the record the day before. Obviously, you’re not afraid of melody, a catchy hook or an upbeat tempo. Unlike most of what I listen to, you’ve managed to bypass melancholy with apparent optimism. Could you describe your basic approach to creating a song?
“When I used to go on holiday as a child, my parents used to play a lot of classic pop music in the car and it made me feel great. So I’ve always just tried to capture the way that I felt back then in my own music. In terms of methods, I usually just come up with a melody in my head when I’m driving or in the shower and try to write everything around that. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I do stupid things like turn up the heating in my house in the winter to make it feel like summer when I write. It’s just a bit of a weird process really. My brother helps me write the songs by telling me what sounds good and bad which is much more important than you might think.”
Feeder’s ‘Emily or the Manic Street Preachers version? Incidentally; who is your Emily?
“Embarrassingly, I’ve not actually heard either of those songs before but I just looked them up on YouTube. I think I prefer the Feeder one but the Manic Street Preachers song has a cool chord progression at the end of the verse so it’s a close call.
I’m really sorry to disappoint all of the Emilys out there but my Emily doesn’t actually exist. It’s a song about friendship and trust and I just made up a person to sing those things about.”
Another Scottish record given away for free; thanks are in order. Naturally, the next question is what are you thinking? I’m glad a physical release is planned for later in the year. How difficult and expensive is a self-release these days?
“Truthfully, it’s incredibly expensive. At least it is was for us. I’d like to say we did it on a tight budget but we needed to make the best record that we could so we went all in. That’s why the album took so long to make – we had to record it in installments after we’d made some money form our respective jobs. But we’re all totally happy with the final album and I don’t think we would have been if we hadn’t done it in that way.”
We didn’t really make the choice to self release but we did make the decision to release it for free when the time came. In our minds, a free release was the best way to ensure that people would listen to the songs that we’d spent so much time and care writing and recording. Plus, in the long run, it’ll help us win any popularity contests.”
Do you have a summer festival story (either played or attended) that you could share with us? Sadly, we have to live vicariously in this regard.
“We’ve had amazing opportunities to play at some great UK festivals over the past few years. I used to go to T in the Park when I was younger so performing on the T Break stage with Be Like Pablo was a real highlight for me. I’m not much of a storyteller and most of my memories from the festivals that I’ve played at involve flyering in the rain with mud around my feet. But after flyering all weekend, it’s always really cool playing in front of the people you’ve met.”
What is the best Scottish record you’ve picked up so far this year?
“Kid Canaveral’s Shouting at Wildlife is a fantastic album. But that came out a little while ago, so I don’t know if it counts. I think they have another one coming out soon which should be cool.”
Ever since, I’ve started the blog my CD and my regrowing vinyl collection has been separated into Scottish and non-Scottish shelves. I’m not yet prepared to subdivide these into regional sections. Does geography make an impact in Scottish music? Do different types of bands tend to originate from or gravitate to either Glasgow or Edinburgh? What sorts of advantages or limitations does one inherit by hailing from the north east?
“I think that geography is a very important factor in the construction of people’s perceptions about Scottish bands. To some people, I think that where you live can contribute to what your music should sound like. It’s not something that I personally consider at all but I’ve come across a lot of people who seem to have a clear idea about what a Glasgow band, for example, should sound like. So, coming from the north east of Scotland, where there are less bands and less of an expectation about what we should sound like, might make us seem more interesting to some people. It certainly makes it easier for us to stand out. On the other hand, we pretty much live in the middle of nowhere so, as you can imagine, there are a lot of limitations. For example, we usually have to travel quite far to play and record. But it’s a big part of our identity and this part of Scotland is a really nice environment to make music. And it’s always exciting to hear some of the other great bands from our area.”
I understand that this record has taken a considerable amount of time to bring to fruition, have you given any thoughts to the follow up yet? I only ask to reassure myself that unlike so many bands discovered this past year, from this great distance, you are not in danger of imminent demise.
“I’m confident that we’ll release a second album in the future. And I’m sure we’ll start to think about writing it very soon as we’re getting bored of playing the same songs all the time! I think we’ll probably release a new single in the near future to sort of test the ground. We’re interested in taking our sound in new directions while keeping it familiar to our fans. I have some ideas but it will be interesting and exciting to see where it goes.”
I must confess that if I simply had watched all 14 episodes of Be-like-Pablo TV some of my questions may have been answered. It does raise one important point though: Highlander surely isn’t as good as the Decoy Bride is it? While it goes without asking why you don’t reference Gregory’s Girl 2 in your songs, could you recommend a few good Scottish films to us?
“Highlander is the greatest film of all time! No film can be as good. I never did get around to watching Decoy Bride but, because the bar has been set so high, I don’t think it could possibly be better than Highlander. I’m glad that you mentioned Gregory’s Girl 2 because it’s probably the second greatest film of all time. I’ll try and stick some references to that one in the next album.
But in all seriousness, I’d highly recommend Local Hero – my pick for best Scottish film of all time. I’d also recommend Restless Natives if you’ve not seen that. And Brigadoon for a laugh.”
Be sure to head to the band’s website, register and then download ‘The New Adventures’. http://www.belikepablo.com/