Q: How’d you get into music?
Polo: I guess when I was about 12 years old, my dad got me my first acoustic guitar. I didn’t know how to play, and I wasn’t interested at all. Then, I watched this movie called La Bamba. It’s about Ritchie Valens and how he died and his music impact in the states in the ‘50s. And I was like, oh this movie is actually really inspiring. From then on, I started listening to Buddy Holly and other 50’s pop icons. After a few years I got into Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles and got into electric guitar. I was never able to express myself through guitar fully, cause you’re just kind of playing your notes but you’re not really expressing the emotions you’re feeling fully. So, I started writing songs in the park as a personal thing. I’d bring a guitar and a notebook. Then, I posted a song on my SoundCloud and got pretty good reception on it, and that motivated me to keep going and maybe take it more seriously. So, I bought recording equipment for myself— my parents are more career oriented, and don’t see music fitting into that. In the Philippines, parents don’t support music as a career in the same way that they might in the States or the Western world.
Q: Describe your music in a few words.
Polo: You know, that’s actually the hardest thing for me to do. I guess it’s a lo-fi jazz pop or something.
Q: Your songs take on a lo-fi sound in the drum kits, synths, and vocals. Is that intentional or is it more of an effect from where you are with your production equipment?
Polo: It’s largely because of the equipment I had. I kind of had no choice but to make do. I know in the start the production wasn’t that tight, but I guess some people found it cool. I really do enjoy lo-fi music whether it’s hip hop or jazz, sort of like old things you find in your dad’s closet. So, I do intentionally put it, it’s still there. Right now, that’s sort of a part of my identity. It’s really one half intentional and one half because I have bad equipment.
Q: Through the lo-fi style, your songs create this sort of indirect connect to past times, even a sense of nostalgia. Even in your album art, you use vintage photos as a way to index past times in a sense. Can you talk about this?
Polo: With the album art, it’s really the aesthetic of it. If someone were to listen to my music, or when I was listening to my own, I was visualizing a certain image. What really popped out the most was this Polaroid 60’s/70’s scenery, coupley stuff. But also, I’m a marketing graduate so I applied some of those things into my music. I think that vintage photos and nostalgic images are very eye-catching. So, if people were to see it through a thumbnail then people might want to listen. But, I guess it fits the whole theme as well.
Q: Is your music about expressing things about yourself or appealing to a specific audience or both?
Polo: It’s definitely personal. I rarely write about things that don’t really concern me or don’t happen in my life. If some bad or sad stuff happens to me, I usually let it out through my songs. Most of my songs about heartbreak are about this girl I was with for about four years. So, it all revolved around her for a little bit.
Q: As your audience has grown do you feel like you’re pressured to communicate something different or change your style?
Polo: Definitely, the pressure is there. It actually causes me some anxiety, like oh man these people are actually listening to my music. I never really expected this, that people would listen and like it. So, there’s definitely some pressure for me to adapt and change my sound in a way, but my music is still me. I’m not trying to sell out or do something that’s not my thing. I’m not gonna ditch the guitars or the vocals or go all RnB on you.
Q: Are there specific artists you draw inspiration from? What about their music appeals to you?
Polo: To be honest, the only thing I’m really listening to right now is trap. It’s Migos and Lil Yachty, and I know it’s weird but they’re inspiring me. It’s comforting and refreshing in a way. I’ve been listening to guitar all my life, acoustic and indie stuff. I totally respect those artists— I like them—and I’m sort of in that same category. But, listening to artists in a genre that’s totally different from the things you used to listen to is rejuvenating. It gives me more inspiration and reminds me the world is not one-dimensional. I know people usually get surprised when I say I like trap, but I really do. I’ve also been into this local artist, ruru, lately. She’s awesome.
Q: Do you record all of the instruments or are you sampling?
Polo: I do everything on my own. The guitar, the vocals, the synths, the bass I record. The drums are digital— I don’t have space for a full set in my room, and my parents would not be happy about that.
Q: How long does it take for you to make a song typically?
Polo: You know, I used to just do it overnight and post it the same night. I used to be so proud of myself, I’d do it at 1am then post it at 5am. But, now that things are getting more serious the songs take me a month or two. Writing and producing everything on your own takes a while, just for one song even.
Q: Since you’ve grown, do you feel like you’re taking longer with the process because you’re more critical of yourself or is it to have a higher standard for the audience?
Polo: It’s both. The listeners have been great to me, and they deserve better music. But I think I deserve good music for myself as well. I listen to my own songs because it’s how I felt a few months ago, and I want to learn from it. If I’m listening to something bad that’s made by me, I can’t stand it. I want to take the time to digest it and make sure I’m creating something that’s worth listening to.
Q: What kind of story telling are you engaging in through music?
Polo: Music as a medium in general could be anything. For me, it’s about lost love and getting really tired of adulthood, even if I just started with it. It’s a story of being lethargic, I guess. So, music can tell different stories and they show different perspectives, but for me that’s what it is right now.
Q: You collaborated with Clairo. Can you talk a bit about what this experience was like creatively?
Polo: It was a pretty normal experience. There’s this song that I wrote, “best friend”, where I referenced Claire and one of her songs because I really loved her stuff. Then, she commented on it, we followed each other on social media, and decided to collaborate. I found out she’d been a fan of mine as well so it worked out. I sent her “how was your day” and she recorded her vocals and the outro synths and then I mixed it all. The song was written by me, but Claire definitely added her vibe to the song which was really important for the final piece. We had to get used to the time difference because I’d have to wait over night usually just to receive the files, or vice versa for her. But that’s how collaborating has gone in most cases. It took my friend Felicia and I about 6 months to finish our collaboration just because it’s hard to do it over distance.
Q: How do social media platforms help your audience grow?
Polo: I’m very grateful for SoundCloud because if that didn’t exist, this thing wouldn’t have happened at all—for me or for so many others. It’s a free platform to release your music. If there wasn’t any platform, we’d be stuck to the same main stream stuff we hear on the radio. It’s not all bad, but we want to listen to stuff that’s less main stream. I think social media is very important to market your presence. Some people are really critical of social media, but it’s really about how you use it. Just be responsible. Especially living in the Philippines, it’s a lot harder to get your music out there. Without SoundCloud, I would’ve been more confined to the local scene. If you only get your stuff out to the local scene, I feel like your ceiling of success has been stumped. That’s why before people found out about my music locally, I made sure to get it our there internationally.