Interview: Pacifico

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On their recent tour stop in Buffalo, we had a chance to talk with Matthew Schwartz of Louisiana-based Rock band Pacifico.

Pacifico as a band/collective has been around for several years. Can you give us a quick timeline on the evolution of Pacifco from 1999 to 2017?

Pacifico started as a side project in 1999 with my original drummer Joel Walker. It then became our main band. We started as a 3-piece, then grew to a 4 piece, and finally a 5 piece. I moved from lead vocals and guitar to just singing, swinging my mic around and dancing. Through all those years we demoed songs and did showcases for labels. Ultimately, the band broke up and they left me with the name and the songs. I had a small label out of Portland named Allalom approach me about compiling and releasing the then unreleased demos as well as recording new material. When tackling what to do about the future of the band I took cues from bands like Gorillaz and Bright Eyes, and decided to run the band as a collective allowing each person involved to choose their level of commitment and to add their own creative touch. Allalom folded and rather than to look for a new label I decided to record, produce, and release my albums on my own.

In what ways has the band changed over the years?

Other than personnel changes and becoming a collective, Pacifico has tried to write, record and release music that thematically works together for each album but changes sonically each time. For instance, the first song we recorded was pop-punk meets rockabilly and the last song we recorded (and just put out) is 80s synth-pop meets 90s garage rock meets indie pop.

Many artists have great backstories to how they become involved in music. What led to Matthew Schwartz becoming a musician/songwriter?

As far back as I can remember, I have always made up my own songs. It started with me singing to myself, moved to me writing instrumental pieces on the piano in our house. When I was 14, I found my dad’s acoustic guitar in the garage and finally turned into writing pop songs on guitar. So I have always felt like music picked me and not the other way around. Pacifico happened because a friend believed in me and encouraged me to share my music.

Your Twitter description reads “Pacifico is an Idea. A collection of musician from all over the world making good music”. What does genre mean to you, in the context of your collective?

Genre is always the hardest & weirdest thing to say. Everyone always asks what you sound like, and I don’t ever know. I started thinking about bands I sound like, and back peddle from that to find out what they call themselves. I would like to look upon my career and see Pacifico’s music spanning many genres much like Beck or Elvis Costello, where every album can have a distinct genre. I never set out to write a song in a specific genre or style, but rather let the song find itself.

Do you feel the collective ideology allows for a more personal touch to your music?

I definitely think it makes it better. For me, an album is a snapshot of a certain time in my life and the people involved in the recording are an integral part of that time. It certainly starts out as very personal but it would be incomplete without the hand and heart of each involved collaborator.

You’ve recently self-released your latest full-length Everest. What kind of early feedback have you received from you fans & your peers?

The response that we have received has been overwhelmingly positive. It was quite a leap for me musically. I kinda took a hard left on this one. I tried to do something I’ve never done before, and it was a bit hard. It’s refreshing to hear that people are understanding the vision we had for this project.

What artists have inspired you for this most recent album?

A ton! The guy I collaborated with (Ronnie Martin), I listened to a lot of this stuff. Joy Electric, Foxglove Hunt, The Brothers Martin, Sex Bo-bomb, Silverchair, Superdrag, New Order, Muse, Queen, Blur, Pixies, Starflyer 59, Beatles, Manchester Orchestra, Foo Fighters, 2 Door Cinema Club, The Strokes, Tom Petty, Beach Boys, and probably even more. It really runs the gamut of sounds.

On your two previous albums, you collaborated with Jason Martin (Starflyer 59), Steven Dial (Project 86), Sam West (Stavesacre), and Jesse Sprinkle (Poor Old Lu). On Everest, you’ve collaborate with Ronnie Martin (Joy Electric) for his analog synth skills. Is it pure coincidence that these artists are all Tooth & Nail alumni, or is there a bigger story to these relationships?

Kinda coincidental. You like Tooth & Nail? For Thin Skin the label I was on asked me who I wanted to record with and one of my favorite artists is Jason Martin from Starflyer 59, so I contacted him and he agreed to work with me. He put together the band with Steven Dial and Sam West. Probably my favorite drummer is Jesse Sprinkle, and we became friends and have always wanted to work together. So when I started working on Without Heroes, I asked him if he would like to play drums on it and to my luck he said yes. Ronnie Martin used to manage Pacifico in the early days and always wanted to collaborate with us. It wasn’t until Everest that I had a project that was perfectly suited for his talents. I grew up listening to Tooth & Nail bands and when Pacifico became a collective it only made sense to include my friends and heroes.

You can certainly hear the Ronnie Martin/Joy Electric-esque vibe in several songs on Everest

It was really weird. I sent him the track, it had bass/guitar/drums recorded live to a click. I had to mail him the track in the mail. He’s old school, he won’t do anything over the computer. He did all his stuff on his own, and then sent it back to me. The first time we listened to it mixed after he sent us, I wasn’t really sure how it would work> I could kinda see it, but my wife and drummer weren’t really able to see how it would work. But yeah, I love it. He’s really really good! He has a great sense of melody.

Everest took over 3 and a half years, 5 studios and 12 musicians to create. What led to such a long album writing cycle?

The short answer – money and time. The long answer – It’s expensive to do an album. I find that it’s easier on scheduling and my pocket to do a patchwork recording style. I contact the people that I want to be a part of the project and then try to organize the best and easiest way for them to be involved. I originally wanted to work in the same space as Ronnie, but we quickly learned that wouldn’t happen. That usually results in several studios and takes more time.

As a lyricist, do you believe in a blatant (straightforward) or eloquent (metaphorical) approach in your music?

I hate writing lyrics. But I know that they are an important part to a perfect song. I personally prefer to write about real issues but in an ambiguous way so the listener can apply it to their life more easily. For Everest, I wanted to push that even a little further by making the lyrics even more poetic so I contacted the published poet and teacher Vincent Cellucci to pen these lines down together.

When it comes down to your songwriting process, what usually comes first: the melody or the lyrical content?

Definitely the melody. A lot of these songs were actually written while my wife Ava was getting ready to go out somewhere. I’d be sitting on the couch or bed waiting for her. I’d quickly make something up, and either write it down or record a quick demo on my phone/iPad. I won’t even touch lyrics until the song is completely finished, written, and arranged. Usually the lyrics are written around whichever words I sing through stream of consciousness when writing the melody. I pick the ones I like and discern what the song is about.

You’ve been part of the music industry for over almost two decades. If you could go back and tell your younger self something, what would that be?

Yeah, don’t do it! Haha! I would tell young me to always be true to myself and to my music and not try to be anything or anyone that I’m not. Don’t go chasing waterfalls!

Your last few albums have been self-released. Do you find a lot more artists are going the independent/DIY route, rather than joining a record label these days? Do you see this a profitable avenue for emerging artists?

My choice to self-release music is more out of necessity. I got tired of putting my art and vision on hold and wait for someone to invest in me, so I invested in myself. I think its great that it is a more accessible method for artist to pursue now. I certainly think the most profitable way to do music would be one with the least amount of hands in the bank.

What do you consider to be one significant positive aspect of the music industry, as well as one significant negative aspect of the music industry?

Positive aspect – there are no rules and you can do music any way you want. Negative aspect – it seems like less and less people care about new and original content.

Thank you for taking time to sit down with DigiSpun today. Any final words/thoughts?

Thank you so much for having me and for giving us independent artists a voice. Hopefully some of your readers will be able to catch us on our tour and enjoy our new album Everest.

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Canadian with passion form music, technology, and social issues.

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