Q&A: Daniel Pujol talks PUJOL, Saddle Creek, upcoming album
Daniel Pujol of PUJOL performs on Friday night at O’Leaver’s Pub. (Photo by Johnathan Kingsbury)
PUJOL will make its first appearance here in Omaha.
The Nashville band, which has two releases out on Saddle Creek Records, hits O’Leaver’s Friday night with Omaha band The Seen. (RSVP to the Facebook event.)
I saw the band recently at South by Southwest and I loved their quick-hitting set, which sounds like pop songs set to power chords.
I called bandleader Daniel Pujol (pronounced with hard “J,” and not like ballplayer Albert Pujols) in between playing SXSW, recording and getting ready to hit the road.
Q. You’ve had a lot of band members come and go, but you’ve had the same group for awhile now, right?
A. The drummer and guitar player have been in since the end of October. The bass player jumped in at the last minute in December. Our old bass player couldn’t do this tour, and I don’t expect everyone to go broke for this, so the new bass player stepped in and he learned the set in three days.
Q. You’re doing a short run to Omaha and a few Midwest stops and then a longer run of tour dates later. Do you prefer longer or shorter tours?
A. I prefer longer because I tour manage myself and I do all the setup stuff and all that kind of stuff. Whenever it’s financially permittable, because I pay the band, I like doing longer ones because I can make one tour itinerary. I can do all the Internet stuff. I can get one oil change instead of getting two.
Later this year, we’ll be finishing a record, and then do that longer run. And we’ll start roadtesting all the new material.
Q. I knew you had some new songs. How close are you to finishing the new release?
A. Yeah. I got it basically all done. We’re waiting on stuff like overdubs.
When I started doing this, I was recording at home and I played everything. The last two things I did were in the studio and we were hiring people based off of availability. They’d go in learn the songs and then we’d hammer them out.
This time, between me and the drummer and the guitar player, we’ve built a recording space. We’ve been doing a lot of the tracking around their work schedules in this place, and we’re totally almost done.
Q. Since you did everything with session musicians for “United States of Being,” did that change how you’ve worked on future projects? Or how you’re working now?
A. Yeah, it did. “United States of Being,” I felt more like it was like being a director with method actors. It was like, “You’re riding on an elephant through a city, the wind is blowing through your hair and you’re also playing this funky bass. Go!” You know what I mean?
I got a lot of good performances out of a lot of great musicians but a lot of them weren’t in the same room.
This time, me and the drummer are engineering. It’s always the same drummer. With this one, it’s the same drummer the whole time and the same person behind the controls. It’s much more organic. It translates live easier.
It’s not like, “You’re riding an elephant” with one guy and then I’m in a different room with a different guy. You’re not the guy who would ride an elephant, but consider the thought while we figure out how to translate this into a live arrangement.
It’s much more fun. It’s less conceptual and much more fun.
Q. I imagine that it’s better to not have to do everything yourself.
A. A lot of people would think that that’s awesome to get to do that, but one person doesn’t have all the answers.
With this, musicians can play off other musicians. I can draft the part and give it to the bass player and we can play it. Suddenly, my idea becomes less conceptual and becomes functional. It’s got a little bit of clay on it.
And that’s more entertaining for me, too. Unless I’m playing everything, my idea is not going to manifest in the way that I envision it. It’s better than me trying to approximate through another person an idea that i have.
Q. You’ve put out a lot of releases in the last couple of years, and two with Saddle Creek. How did you end up with them?
A. They let me own my masters. At the time, that was a very big deal for me.
Also, they’re a real record label, and they’re good humans.
I was comfortable with them putting it out and they would assist me in being able to create it. At that time, I thought, “This is great.” A lot of smaller labels, if they want to do a contract, they want to own the masters. A lot of bigger labels, they’re gonna want to own the masters, too.
It’s good for me to have them, and I was grateful that they were understanding it. It was also my first experience of being on a real label’s roster is one where both parties have skin in the game. It feels fair.
Also, I just got kicked int he head with this: but if you played all three of them (the EP “Nasty, Brutish & Short,” the album “United States of Being” and the upcoming album) back to back, they’r linear. It’s a very linear, sort of evolving narrative. Whenever we decided to work together, that’s happened.
Q. Will this next one be with Saddle Creek then?
A. I don’t think (I can talk about) that yet.
Q. But you’re almost finished with it?
A. It keeps on being so close to being done. It’s super-close. We’re on the back end of it.
It was supposed to be a singles comp and they they said, “Do you want to make another record?” I thought that would be great.
So, we started doing it in February and something big happened in the middle of February. Then we got back from South by Southwest, and I had the flu and the drummer had the flu. Now, it’s like finishing it around people’s work schedules.
Q. Are you still in school?
A. I finished it last March and I’ve been doing this the majority of full time — the tour managing and scheduling and rehearsal. I’ve been mainly doing this since then. The band, they’re in online school or they have day jobs. I try to accommodate. Part of my job is accommodating their schedule and making their schedule accommodate my schedule.
It’s crazy. It’s a full-time job. These guys are gonna be in it for awhile. The bass player, he’s in online grad school. The drummer is a musician like me. They’ve been touring for years, and it’s the same thing with the guitarist.
When I started doing something like this, I was in graduate school and I was finding people in town who wanted to learn how to tour or how to tour manage themselves. They’d be in my band until their job wouldn’t let them go or they started their own band.
My old guitarist and bass player, they made a band called The Promised Land. They developed a really good rapport between bass and lead guitar and that turned into a good songwriting relationship.
Q. Did that drive you nuts, having to teach all those songs?
A. It’s a full-time job. The last year of my life was teaching people my songs. Over and over and over and over again.
There’s a lineup of my band that just cycled out and made their own band again. It’s cool that they offshoot and I like that and it makes living here (in Nashville) more interesting.
I’ve had to work my way up to people who are like, “I’m a touring drummer.” Before it’s people who are like, “I’ve never been in a band. I want to try it out.” Until they want to start their own band.
Just recently, in the last four months, everyone in the band is a music person. They’re not a graphic design person who can play piano. Everyone in the band, it’s what they do now. It’s not like an appendage of what they do or in between something that they do.
I’ve taught six different groups of people around the same 12 to 24 songs in the same year and a half period. Everyone plays them totally different to where it sounds totally different, too.
Q. You played some new songs at SXSW. I really liked “Circles,” and there were a couple others, too. Will they be on the next record?
A. “Circles” is gonna be on the next record. I’m super excited about that one. Every instrument in the song is supposed to imitate the feeling of spinning because it’s a song about being stuck in a thought circle. I want the music to sound like you’re in a circle.
We just did a high hat overdub on that song, and we cracked the code on some percussion stuff last night.
Then there’s “Past Without a Past,” which is about being in a fight with someone else while you’re in a fight with yourself.
And then there’s this older song called “Butterfly Knife.” (Listen/watch below.) It’s been in the live show for awhile. Before, I just put it out on a limited run 7-inch. The version that the band plays live is on this record. People were Facebooking me asking me how to buy “Butterfly Knife.” The one that’s gonna be on the record is a gelling of the (7-inch) arrangement with the live arrangement.
7" / MP3
Cassette / MP3
LP / CD / Cassette / MP3