- Words Stephanie Bergvelt-Vassileiou
- Photography Amir Hossain
Boy Pablo is a true force to be reckoned with in the DIY, alternative pop space. His debut album - 'Wachito Rico' is a hybrid conceptual and semi-autobiographical record tracing the ebbs and flows of the titular character’s love story.
Boy Pablo has established himself as much more than an internet poster child.
The Chilean–Norwegian internet sensation, aged just 21, has taken the internet by storm and boasts over 500 million streams to date, along with a big following worldwide.
While his career initially took off in 2017 with the viral, outsider-pop anthem “Everytime”, Boy Pablo’s Nicolas Muńoz has since honed a cohesive, creative vision. Today, Boy Pablo is a true force to be reckoned with in the DIY, alternative pop space.
His debut album ‘Wachito Rico’ arrived today alongside a visual album – narrated by Tiger King’s Rick Kirkham. Taking its title from a Chilean expression ‘Wachito Rico’ translates to fondness for a “handsome boy”, Pablo’s debut LP is a hybrid conceptual and semi-autobiographical record; tracing the ebbs and flows of the titular character’s love story, while threading this narrative through with Pablo’s own experiences as a young man. Throughout, the identities of Wachito Rico and the real-life Nicolas Muñoz are blurred into one curious, indistinguishable whole which is – unmistakably – all Boy Pablo’s own.
Musically the project takes as much inspiration from cinema and Pablo’s love for 60s pop as it does his Latin-American background (plus childhood indie heroes like Blink 182); extremely bright musically, but lyrically quite wistful and melancholic. His ultimate inspiration is the rather guerrilla ethos of early Tyler, The Creator.
The rollout to his highly anticipated debut album has seen Boy Pablo rapidly expanding his audience on the back of singles ‘Hey Girl” and ‘Honey’, as well as their serialized music videos telling the tale of ‘Wachito Rico’: Wachito is the title character of the album, and Pablo’s curly-haired alter ego.
‘Wachito Rico’, elevates Boy Pablo’s particular brand of woozily, feel-good romantic indie-pop, which is as infused with sun-kissed 60s melodies and nods to Muñoz’s Latin-American background as his lyrical mix of heartache with humour, ennui with serenity It’s this coming-of-age theme which is explored on Boy Pablo’s debut album as a whole.
Even on darker subject matters like ‘Rest Up’ (digging deeper into issues of mental health, and loneliness), Boy Pablo’s signature and singularly-positive touch is immediately recognisable.
Boy Pablo’s an old soul despite it all but works in a really forward-thinking way. The viral “Everytime” video which was a total accident looks right at the epicentre of that bedroom-pop movement, which he feels like a next candidate to break out from.
We delved further into Boy Pablo’s musical influences, working with his family and his upcoming tour in 2021 which he’s looking forward to playing his latest album IRL.
Your upcoming album ‘Wachito Rico’. Aka ‘Handsome Boy’ is both wistful, melancholic and has a real feel-good vibe to it. Firstly, what can you tell us about the project overall?
I started working on the album over a year ago, a couple of songs I made two years ago when we were on tour in the US. I really wanted to make this album a little bit different from my first two EP’s I released. I kept on feeling like I was making the same type of songs as before, so I asked my brother & brother in law to join in on the production/songwriting side of the album.
We were writing together in August last year and were finishing off every demo I had, to see where things were going and to see how the album felt as a whole. We actually started recording the full album back in my studio here in Norway in January. It took around four weeks in total to finish the entire album. It was a lot of work, we had to rerecord a couple of things because I wanted everything to be perfect.
Whilst quarantined with my manager we spent around three weeks coming up with the initial concept of ‘Wachito Rico’. It’s there where we decided that Rico was going to be a character. We watched A LOT of Wes Anderson movies along with Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre for inspiration. We then made our own little story about this young boy who falls in love and, tries to figure out his life, love life etc. When we had all our ideas nailed down, we contacted the video director for the music videos and that was that!
How did you know you wanted to become a musician?
I’ve always been into music my whole life. I started playing music when I was really young, playing the guitar, drums etc.
I ended up studying music at boarding school, It was there where I learned how to play the piano and initially started making music, it’s also where I met all my bandmates. My plan from there was always to make it as a musician one way or another!
Music has clearly always been a huge part of who you are – where did this creative side of you come from?
My whole family has always been into music. My brothers have always made music too and they’ve been a huge inspiration for me. I started making music when I was 13. But at that time, I made a lot of punk music because I was really into Blink 182. Then when I was like 14/15, I started to get into indie pop, indie rock kind of music. So that was when I started making that kind of music, which felt a bit more like me.
What would you say is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself as an artist?
That’s a good question. That I need time, I’m a slow thinker and I process things slowly. When making songs I can have an idea today, then write it down and finish it next year. A couple of the songs, I wrote two years ago, and now they’re finally coming out! I basically like to take my time and I don’t like rushing anything just to get something out. I’m a perfectionist.
If you could describe your sound in three words what would they be?
Happy, Relaxed and Melancholic.
Musically your previous projects seem to have taken inspiration from your love of cinema, 60s pop along with your Latin-American background. Lyrically it’s wistful and melancholic. How important is it to fuse your reality within your craft?
That’s been really challenging for me actually. Music is a universal language and people interpret things differently. I put my soul into the music itself, not necessarily the lyrics. The music has always been, really heartfelt, but lyric-wise I’m still working on that. Working on becoming more personal and saying what I actually feel and bringing in my everyday experiences into my lyrics. That’s what I’ve been trying to do with this album. It’s been a challenge because I don’t want to put my life out on display. I’m trying to write it in a smart way where I can feel comfortable. There’s definitely a couple of really personal songs on this album.
Can you talk through the more personal tracks on the album?
I released my single “Rest Up” back in August alongside a B Side “People” and those songs are about anxiety, insomnia and loneliness. I’ve been struggling a little bit with anxiety over the last couple of years with a lot going on, a lot of stress and that has affected my nights etc. “People” is a song about how I felt when I was 14 because I had really shitty friends back then! I wrote that song a long time ago, I don’t know why I didn’t release it earlier. Those two songs are very personal to me.
Your past couple music videos have been narrated by Rick Kirkham from Tiger King – how did this come about?
Was really spontaneous actually. My manager Fabio and I wanted to have a narrating voice to the videos like Wes Anderson does. We were thinking who could do this? Who has the right tone of voice for this? Then Fabio was like ‘what about that Tiger King guy?’. The director was also super positive about it, so we emailed him, he said that he wanted to do anything that’s wasn’t Tiger King. And that’s how we got him on board!
Since releasing your debut EP ‘Hey Girl; how have you grown personally?
I’m much more confident within myself. I was 17/18 when I released my first EP, there’s a lot of changes from when you’re 18 to 21. And from when your 21 to 25, and so on. So, I guess I’m still growing but I like to think, that I’ve become more confident about the choices I make. I’ve also learnt how to cope with stress and stressful situations better. I’m happy that I’m continuing to improve on those two areas because it’s helped me a lot personally. I think I’ve also got a lot better at dealing with FOMO. On tour I’m a really relaxed dude I don’t go to parties after the show. All the guys in the band go out and have a drink and come back late to the hotel, I always like to just relax afterwards. But it also was like, Damn, I wish I was out there with those guys! I’ve therefore learnt to be more confident with the choices I make and to just relax!
You run your own label out of Norway with your brother and brother in law. How does it feel to be on this journey with your family and friends?
So much fun! It’s amazing working with my brother and brother in law, Eric and Esteban. They brought something new to my writing and production. We tried a lot of different things for example, I’m using a piano for the first time in a record. We also worked with a Chilean Norwegian guy who mixed and mastered the album alongside my brother in law Eric.
I’m so happy and privileged to be doing this with my closest friends and family. I’m so pleased we decided to do it all ourselves and start the label together. I wouldn’t be comfortable working with 10 different producers or travelling around to just make music with different people. I like to do it myself; it makes it feel more organic and natural to be working with my brother in law and my brother – they’re basically my best friends. They’re really into music themselves too. One of my best friends is my manager and my brother is actually my assistant manager and tour manager. It’s a blessing to have them on the team.
What are the main themes and messages you want to portray in your music?
I really like to express happiness in my music, I guess that’s why I’d describe my sound as happy and upbeat. I don’t like making music that makes people feel down or depressed. I went through a phase when I was 14 / 15 when I only listened to depressing music and it got me nowhere. When I started to listen to more happy/upbeat and uplifting music It changed my mindset. I think it’s important to acknowledge and talk about difficult feelings. So that’s something I’m working on, there’s a glimpse of that in my album, as well.
Your viral video for “Everytime” has captivated a growing fan base with your entrancing music videos. How does it feel to have your music out in the world and to be receiving global recognition and support?
SO WEIRD! It was so unexpected! I was ready to practice A LOT! Focus on becoming a studio musician over becoming a live musician. Then suddenly my videos are all over the internet. It was so weird and I’m incredibly grateful that people liked my music so much, I was expecting people to just go away after the first single however they stayed for the rest of my music. I didn’t really believe that people were actually liking it. I thought that maybe people were like mocking it or making fun of the videos or something. But when I realised that people genuinely liked it, I was like, holy crap, we have to do something about this!
Can you talk us through your creative process when creating new music?
I like to start off with a beat, or a melody that’s in my head. I almost never start with lyrics. Sometimes I’ll have a sentence that could be a chorus and then it just builds up from there. It really can start with anything. I’ve written a song before about dropping my friend’s guitar on the ground, it got a little bit broken, and I then had to pay for it. That really day sucked! So, I called the song ‘This Sucks’. The last song on the album is about a really tough time in my life and where I really needed a friend, and I then got that from my girlfriend. I like to make silly music that makes people smile.
And how that’s been altered due to quarantine and lockdown?
At the start of quarantine, I was with my brother because we had just been on tour together. We then went to this cabin and our parents drove down our entire home studio. We focused solely on making music. I used the time to think about the album and how best to finish it perfectly.
If you could share the top two artists that have shaped the way you saw the world and inspired you, what would they be?
The Beatles! I fell in love with their music when I was five years old, I’ve listened to them ever since. And Blink 182! I’ve always wanted to play just like Travis Barker.
Due to the current worldwide pandemic performing live / touring has taken a backseat, how has the ‘new norm’ of releasing music impacted you as an artist?
It sucks! I wish we could go on tour and tour this album cuz I think it’s gonna be really sick. Currently I’m making more music with some friends and starting a studio here in Bergen. There’s enough going on in my life apart from touring which is keeping me busy luckily.
We’ve heard you’re planning an IRL tour next year, anything you can share with us about what to expect?
It’s gonna be worth the wait! When we finally get back on that stage and play for more than 200 people it’s gonna be so sick! I want to make my shows so crazy; I want them to be uplifting and I hope people can really get out all their feelings at my concerts.
Are there any collaborations in the pipeline?
I’ve talked a little bit with Kuko. I really like his stuff, but that’s been put on hold as I’ve been focusing on finishing off the album. I’d also love to collab with Tyler, The Creator one day.
Do you have any specific criteria when thinking of working with someone?
I’d like to know the person first; I wouldn’t like to collab with just anyone. I’d like to know what kind of music they like, how they perform in the studio and how serious they are about their music etc.
Lastly, what’s next for Boy Pablo?
First thing is the live shows! They’re going to be sick. Then I want to start working on my next album, an album that I’m even more satisfied with than this one! I’m going to keep developing and writing songs along with creating strong visuals, so watch this space!
In support of his highly-anticipated debut album, Boy Pablo has also announced details of an extensive 2021 tour, covering Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, the UK, Portugal, Spain and more.
Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.boypablo.com/