Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Victor: I’m Victor. I’m 17-years old, living in the suburbs of Illinois about five minutes away from Chicago. I was supposed to be going back to school, I’d be a senior this year, but I ended up convincing my mom to let me take online classes. So, I’m going to get my GED and go on tour. Right now, I’m really focusing on music.
Q: When did you start making music?
Victor: Probably about this time around last year.
Really? Wow, that’s not that long.
Victor: Yeah, it’s really not. A lot of people think I’ve been around for longer, but I really just started last summer. I started by making trap beats for my friends at church. They’d come over, and we’d have freestyles to my beats. Then, not long after that, I started making my own production.
Q: Did you play instruments growing up?
Victor: Yeah, my dad is a mariachi. He plays the trumpet, so I kind of had that in my family. My uncle was the worship leader at church, so I picked up guitar from him. I also tried teaching myself how to play the keyboard. I’m still working on that.
Q: What’s your creative process? Melodies first, beat first, lyrics?
Victor: I’ll usually hum different melodies and record myself. I really like using the voice memos app on my phone. I’ll just record melodies whenever I think of them. I feel like sometimes people have a process where they sit down and start writing songs, but for me they just kind of hit me. If I get inspired by a story that I’m listening to or maybe if I just finish watching a movie, I’ll just end up writing a song about it our being inspired by it. It’s random spurts of creativity.
Q: For the backing track and production, does that come quickly?
Victor: So, I’ll start making a melody, like I said. From there, I’ll start adding drums. It’s all layers. So, I’ll just layer a bunch of stuff together and see what sounds good. That’s kind of how it goes. I work on Ableton. On there, I’ll add drums, little synths, maybe some harmonies. I just make sure it all sounds cohesive and full. I really like a rich sound, so that’s what I try to go for.
Q: Are your songs inspired by stories from your life?
Victor: Yeah, so for “Tinder Song”, I was listening to my friend, Andrea. She was talking to me about her Tinder date. In Chicago, we have the Loop which is our transportation system. It’s very easy to get around. So, Andrea was going on this date with a boy from Tinder, and he ended up being late by like an hour because he got lost on the train. It’s kind of like, how do you get lost on The Loop? It’s the easiest train in Chicago. After that, she was really upset and ended up blocking him. I decided I’d make a song about it, and she was like, “Alright.” So, I made the song in about an hour and sent it to her. She was like, “Wow, this song slaps.” So, I decided to put it up. And yeah, that’s kind of how that song was made.
Q: What’s the hardest part of song-writing?
Victor: Oh man, song writing is so hard. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to lyrics. It’s just so complicated writing something that you want people to resonate with. Maybe you’re like, people won’t feel this or maybe it’ll feel awkward. A lot of it is taking risks but making sure it sounds cohesive. I like to jump around a lot and do different things with my lyrics. On my newer songs, my lyrics are a bit more complex. On my older songs, they’re very teenage heartbreak— sort of generic. But now, I’m definitely branching out and experimenting with different rhyme patterns.
Q: What’s your opinion on the term “bedroom pop”? I know it’s a controversial label for some artists in that community.
Victor: I’m one of the anti-“bedroom pop” people in the community. I understand where people come from when they call it bedroom pop. It is bedroom music because a lot of us to produce this stuff in our rooms. We don’t have access to better, industry standard equipment. For me, I started off with a really shitty PC, and it would literally crash every few hours. I’d have to just save my project over and over to make sure my project wasn’t lost. I’ve actually lost so many songs because of that. It really is a struggle. We don’t have a lot of money. We’re starving artists, literally. It’s hard for us to get access to better equipment, so it’s hard for us to polish our sound, to make it sound like a clean radio mix. So, when people try to label it as bedroom pop, it kind of upsets me because this is a real struggle I’m going through, and people just treat it as a genre. Where as, I wish people would treat it as, “Oh, he’s just making regular music and it’s good” instead of, “Oh, he’s making music from it’s bedroom and it’s a cute little thing.” I just think that bedroom producers should get more credit rather than turning it all into one genre. We’re still out here making really good music, probably better music than the radio. It feels disrespectful to me at least even if I can see where they’re coming from with the label.
Q: Would you change the quality of your sound if you had access to industry standard equipment, or is it part of your style?
Victor: I’d definitely change it. I’ve never stepped into a studio, but if I had the opportunity I definitely would.
Q: Are you mixing all of your own stuff?
Victor: Yeah, I’ve always mixed and mastered all of my own stuff. All the production is done by me on my laptop. I started off with FL Studio because Ableton ran too slowly on my PC. My friend gave me his login credentials, and that’s when I started making my first beats. The thing is, recording vocals on FL Studio is a nightmare. I’d have to export the beat then place the beat in Audacity and record my vocals on there. It was a really lengthy process. But, now I’m using Ableton.
Q: How did you start learning those skills? Was it just a lot of trial and error?
Victor: Trial and error, definitely. A lot of YouTube tutorials— shout out YouTube— because it’s what everyone goes on if you want to learn something.
Q: Do you think that streaming platforms and social media help self-made artists?
Victor: It’s very helpful. I really like how kids my age can use Instagram and pop in a few months. It’s just crazy because I think if I never had access to Twitter and Instagram or even just little forums, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now. I think the power of community on the internet is really important. I was in a BROCKHAMPTON group chat a few months back, and that’s where my friends found my music. It’s cool because you have all these little group chats, and everyone shares new music with each other. I think it’s very empowering.
Q: Do you feel like there’s a tight digital or even in-person community within the artists in your genre?
Victor: Oh yeah, definitely. We’re all in the loop with each other, supporting each other, and rooting each other on. I think there’s a very healthy connection between artists. There’s a ton of underground artists who aren’t as popular as bigger ones. For example, I’m not on the same level as Cuco or Omar Apollo yet, but it’s nice that they still support me and that I still support them. It’s a really healthy environment, especially with the Latino artists all helping each other out.
Q: So, how did you meet Omar and Cuco?
Victor: Well, I would listen to Omar back in the SoundCloud days. He had this EP that he ended up taking down, but I really loved it. I ended up meeting him in January of this year. We were at this party in Chicago. It all started because Cuco had retweeted my song, so we connected. Cuco was in Chicago, so I asked if he wanted to hang out. I met him at his hotel, and we ended up going to this party with a bunch of artists, and Omar Apollo was there. We all just kind of connected from there, got each other’s numbers, and have been talking ever since.
Q: Do you feel like their music has influenced your sound at all?
Victor: Definitely. I love the way Omar runs his stuff. It’s a very clean aesthetic. I like how he’s refined his sound. It sounds really good— almost commercial— but you still feel the authenticity of his sound in there. Cuco has definitely inspired me.
Q: You have Mexican-American roots. Could you talk about your relationship with your heritage and how it influences your music, if at all?
Victor: I grew up on the South West side of Chicago. I grew up very poor. Even now, we still struggle with rent. I think every Mexican boy’s dream is to help their parents and provide for their family. So, I think that has pushed me through a lot of things. It’s definitely pushed me forward to work on more music and to focus on it. I get discouraged a lot, but people like my mom keep me going. I’m very in touch with my heritage and my family. I always want to make sure there’s food on the table and that my mom’s not busting her ass at a job. Now that I’m making money off of my streams and shows, I’m paying her bills. That’s really cool. Mexican-Americans don’t have a lot of the privileges that other people have.
Q: That’s amazing, especially that you’ve built yourself as an artist in just one year. You mentioned you’ll be going on tour. What are the details of that?
Victor: I’m touring with Cautious Clay. I’m super excited. I’ve never really traveled a lot because of money. So, it’s really cool that I get to travel this year. I’m seeing a lot of new stuff that I’ve never seen before.
Q: When you perform live, do you use the backing tracks you’ve already made or do you have live instruments?
Victor: For my first few performances, I used my uncle’s drum pad or backing tracks, but for the tour I have a band so the instruments will be live.
Q: When it comes to visuals for your songs, you’ve posted one for “Tinder Song” and one for “Each Other”. The style of the “Each Other” visual almost felt like peering into someone’s head and seeing all of these random thoughts going on. What was the inspiration for the concept?
Victor: The “Each Other” video was made by me and my friends Lisette and Brody. The original concept was to be in a barber shop, but overall we just wanted to make a goofy, child-like video. We shot the barber shop scene by just kind of asking this barber shop if we could film in there. It was weird because I had the cameras on me and there were people in the background getting their haircuts just looking at what was going on. Then we ended up going to a university to use a green screen set-up. We brought a bunch of props like weights, face masks, guitars, a ladder, and other stuff. They just recorded me in front of a green screen doing different things. I wanted it to be nostalgic, playful, and vibrant. If you see the colors, they’re very bright. We added the cartoons to add the nostalgia in there. I just thought it’d be appealing visually and sonically.
Q: Now that you’re building a bigger following, do you ever feel pressured to put out more music faster or to change your sound?
Victor: That’s literally what I’m going through right now. It’s so hard. I feel like within the year, this stuff just hit me so fast. It shouldn’t be about money or people watching you, but I do have eyes on me and some of those eyes are really important. There’s always this voice in the back of my head saying, “You can’t disappoint. You have to make something really good. Your next song has to be a hit.” Then, the pressure of playlisting is huge. Basically, if your song doesn’t get added to a playlist, it doesn’t do well on streaming which means less money and less listeners. It’s a pressure on me because I want to make the best music that I can make, that what I put out next is different but still good. It’s a mixture of wanting to please people but also having to prioritize yourself and make sure that you’re content with the content that you’re making.
Q: Are there any other artists that influence your sound aside from Cuco and Omar Apollo?
Victor: I think everyone in the community right now is a huge Frank Ocean fan, so Frank Ocean definitely. Also, Toro y Moi. Aside from that, I’ve been listening to Mitski a lot. I’ve had Mitski on repeat. Choker is an underground artist I’m into. He’s literally underground. He’s on Twitter and Instagram but literally never active.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Victor: Wow, that’s crazy. I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow. 5 years from now, if I wanted to be anywhere, it’d probably be on Cuco’s level. I really like that he’s out here doing events that support the lives of immigrant children. It’s good to give back, so I definitely want to be helping out a lot. A headliner tour would be cool, but I just want to help kids with little to no resources. I know I struggled with that growing up, so I want to give back and help kids that don’t have a lot so that they can work on their art and feel like there’s no restrictions on what they can do.