Interview: Daniel Ruiz

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel Ruiz, a super rad artist making music out of Barcelona, Spain. I had a wonderful time chatting with Daniel about his influences, his writing process and specific life events that inspired his work. His music has an emotional element to it which I could not ignore.

Alisa: So, I was listening to your music this morning (I listened to Blackout Drunk Dream and I Can’t Believe My Luck) and I really loved the emotion your lyrics portray. Would you say that you’re in touch with your emotions, or that anything has inspired those lyrics?

Daniel: I usually have a hard time figuring out what my emotions are and how they work. I try to be in touch with them, but I don’t always know how to successfully manage them, and I think that my writing helps me a bit with that. I write a lot about the night life (I Can’t Believe My Luck is a good example of that), so that could be considered an inspiration, I guess.

I think that my lyrics tend to be in the storytelling way of writing, but I never stopped to think about the connection between them and my feelings.

Alisa: Ah, I ask because to me the lyrics felt emotionally flushed out, so it’s interesting to hear you say that. Would you say that you tell full stories with your music?

Daniel: Actually, I wouldn’t describe them as “full”. I realized that my lyrics were getting longer and longer with time as I tried to give them more depth, to the point that they wouldn’t fit in a song anymore, so when a lyric gets out of control now I just turn it into prose and make a short story.

Alisa: Very nice. Do your life experiences inspire these short stories?

Daniel: There’s a fictional component to it for sure, and there are stories that are 100% made up.

I always prioritize the story to the truth, except in cases where the truth is enough of a story to be told.

Alisa: Do you prefer certain stories, or do you just let them flow?

Daniel: I let them flow, but I’m aware that there are certain “constant themes” to them, both the stories and the characters. But I feel like trying to guide a story to a certain point is the first step to fucking up. I think that you have to let her dictate the direction and just try and rise to the challenge that is writing it in a compelling way and a way that you feel you can identify.

Alisa: That’s a more complex way of songwriting than I’m used to hearing. Did any other artists inspire the way you create your music?

Daniel: For sure. Tom Waits, Lou Reed, The Doors, Morphine, for example, and even though they are not musicians, authors like Bukowski, Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson and Orwell. I love music that has a literary component to it.

Alisa: Do you think that those musicians and authors inspired you to make music, or was that a personal decision?

Daniel: I started playing at 17 with some friends, so I think that came later. The musicians and authors that I listed earlier on helped me go deeper, I think.

Alisa: Did playing with your friends just start out as a hobby, then?

Daniel: Yep, we did it just because.

Music took the spotlight of my life when I got sick. I got diagnosed with cancer at the age of 20. I’m fine now, but that basically changed my priorities completely… Destroyed my life and created a new one.

Alisa: Wow, that is a life changing event. Where did music fall in your post-cancer list of priorities and why?

Daniel: At the top. 99% of the time I’m either playing or thinking about it. It just was the only thing that made sense.

Alisa: Obviously, you changed through this event, I mean who wouldn’t? Did your sound change with you?

Daniel: I mean, before releasing music as Daniel Ruiz, I released a few albums as Weinf. It just got darker.

Alisa: I can’t imagine your music wouldn’t come out darker after that. How would you describe your sound now?

Daniel: Tough one… Drunk music for flamingos.

However dark or inebriated, Daniel’s unique take on songwriting and his focus on storytelling has made for some very special music.

Check out Daniel on Bandcamp, give him a follow on Twitter, and listen to his latest singles on Spotify. His new EP will be dropping later this summer. 

“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.” — Sagan

The Lost Interview of Time Robb

Time Robb is an alternative folk artist from Australia serving up some fuzzy lo-fi darkness infused with elements of grunge, dope, and existential angst.

While abroad I became enamored with Robb’s late night number, Daffodil. So, I reached out and interviewed the man.

It was the finest interview I had conducted to date. I was elated.

We talked of the creative process, philosophical matters, and heartache. It was fucking beautiful.

However, the heartless bitch of procrastination reared her ugly head and there the interview sat in my phone for about eight months as I gallivanted across seven countries. Then one night as I sat pounding beers, the unthinkable happened. My phone slipped from my fingertips and met its fate.

I tried everything to resuscitate the poor thing, but the SIM card had been destroyed. The interview was lost. Here is what ensued:

Jesse: Hey man, I’ve got some shit news. The phone I used for our interview is no more. I thought I’d be able to retrieve it, but no luck. Super bummed.

Robb: Oh man what a hilarious series of misfortune. I had the messages on my phone still but I just got a new phone and sold my old one yesterday afternoon!

Jesse: Ahh fuck, are you serious?

Quite a coincidence… But to numb the pain I will now play for you Robb’s latest release, a fare-thee-well of sorts bleeding with ruminations of heartbreak. Here is, “So Long, Marie”.

“Yeah she knows that I don’t play the game and even if i did I’d still be calling her name.” – Time Robb

“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.” — Sagan

Interview: Mason Brown [Destination Space Station]

I got a chance to chat with Mason Brown, frontman for the St. Louis-based indie rock bandDestination Space Station. Here is the highly stimulating transcript of our conversation. Enjoy.

Jesse: So, what exactly inspired Destination Space Station?

Mason: I suppose quite a few things, though lyrically we tend to emit back some sort of amalgam between science and politics. Musically, we all have pretty similar tastes and were heavily influenced by bands like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Boards of Canada, Tycho and many others.

Jesse: Can you elaborate on this lyrical amalgam between science and politics? Where are we headed?

Mason: In the near term, anyone’s guess is as good as mine as to where we’re headed. I am a bit of an optimist though, so I tend to believe that we’ll probably continue to move in a more progressive direction. However, we could obviously just as easily see the growth of massive police states as technology advances, like in our song “The Afternoon”; but hopefully not [laughs]. As far as the distant future, assuming that we don’t somehow destroy ourselves or are wiped out by an asteroid or some virus, it seems like most of the patterns and behaviors of humanity will probably stay relatively the same over time. That is, as long as we continue to need to eat, sleep, breathe, feel emotions, feel pain, etc. and not become mostly machine or have some other somewhat depressing form of existence. Our first album (Nomadic) touched on this a bit; it had a narrative arc ending in a possible distant future where the Earth will have to be abandoned before the Sun expands and becomes a Red Giant in 5 billion years or so. The first half of the album’s lyrics are mostly written around observing the human condition in various ways like how politicians or any of us can behave when we feel secure as part of a group or belief system, how everyone and everything will eventually be forgotten, war, is religion inherently dangerous, our attempts to make sense of society, are we able to reach outside of what most people perceive as reality and somehow learn from it or are those glimpses actually illusions, and so on. The first seven songs could apply to any time period but starting with “To Ganymede” the period is set as the surface of the Sun has now expanded out past Venus and we’ve launched countless robots to mine and build gigantic structures capable of housing various forms of life on places like Ganymede, Europa, Io, Callisto, Enceladus and Titan; populating each of them with some of the plant and animal species that still remain in existence on Earth and the long ago terra-formed Mars. “Resident” then tells the story of a girl who chooses to die with the Earth rather than be taken by the last massive ship to leave the planet, which she witnesses as it departs. All of the life on Earth has now died in “Nature Gets Its Way” and we ended the album with “All You Can”, as human beings continue to push and spread throughout the Universe for as long as they can. So I guess that’s one possibility of where we’re headed, but who knows.

Jesse: Genius! Sad and depressing—yet simultaneously beautiful. This would make for an epic film. So, what sent you down this path—that is, writing possibly prophetic songs set far in the future? Walk us through your creative process.

Mason: Thanks, yeah beautifully depressing could almost be our motto if we had one. All three of us are interested in the same subjects, and they’re typically ones that tend to look rather gray when ultimately trying to make some sense of them. In terms of my actual writing process, I almost always begin the same way; with a guitar or piano part, to which I create a rough vocal pattern. Then either a line will emerge while “singing” (which is really closer to humming or mumbling) the rough vocal pattern, that I’ll then write around, or a general feeling provoked by the combined parts will evoke certain images in my head; guiding the lyrics. I believe Alex writes in a similar way, and we’ve actually written lyrics to each other’s base instrument parts on a few songs; but usually it’s whoever it is that writes the initial guitar or piano part, also writes the lyrics. From there, after any changes are made to the overall song structure and the bones of it are recorded, we’ll then layer on the additional instruments until none of us think anything else is needed. Finally, once all of the songs on the album are recorded, I’ll start mixing and later master.

Jesse: Well, life isn’t black and white so I feel having a gray perspective is realistic at the very least. Anyway, we’ve sort of jumped ahead of ourselves discussing existential and creative matters. So, let’s back up a bit. What is Destination Space Station’s lineup, instruments of choice, and where are y’all from?

Mason: Our lineup is Alex Beaven (vocals, guitar, synth/piano, bass), Jim Hughes (drums, bass, guitar) and myself (vocals, guitar, synth/piano, bass); and we’re all originally from St. Louis, Missouri.

Jesse: Cool. So, do y’all have anything in the works?

Mason: Yeah, we’re actually in the process of recording a new 11-12 song album at the moment; it’ll probably be released sometime around the middle of 2018.

Jesse: Will it follow in your previous albums footsteps of possible prophetic sci-fi? Or will you be taking a new direction?

Mason: It’ll still pretty much continue down the same general path; certainly drifting at least a bit into the realm of science fiction. But I wouldn’t want to give too much away, for the sake of suspense


Jesse: Alright then I’ll stop prying. Well hey Mason, this has been great. Interesting to say the least. But before we part ways, would you like to impart any words of wisdom, or advise to the human race to ensure its survival?

Mason: Thanks Jesse, great interview. I guess I would probably just ask humanity to save as much as we can, for as long we can. After all, the existence of life in itself is baffling. Made from atoms, consisting of mostly empty space that were born with the death of stars and the birth of our Universe; coalescing into single cells to eventually evolve into beings that can now analyze themselves along with the spacetime that they somehow inhabit. I can’t help but feel that after everything that has needed to occur to get to this point, it would be quite a shame if the story of humanity was to end with our own self-destruction. Perhaps it’s a future that we deserve in some ways, but I’d like to think that we’ll struggle until the condition of Universe itself leaves us with no other choice but to die.

Jesse: Fucking beautifully depressing.

Follow Destination Space Station on Facebook.


Take a listen to them on Spotify.

“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.” — Sagan

Interview: Alex Cuervo [Hostal Riviera]

I got a chance to chat with Alex Cuervo, lead singer and guitarist for the psychedelic rock band — Hostal Riviera.

They just dropped their latest album, Notions. Check it out:

Jesse: Alright, to start things off—tell us a little bit about yourself and your latest album, Notions.

Alex: Well, my name is Alexander Cuervo, first generation Mexican American. I grew up on the San Diego-Tijuana border along with my brother, Marko. We moved up to Portland in 2013 to get away from the socal life we’d been surrounded with our whole lives. We found some peace amongst the trees but still felt the need to dig back to our roots. That’s when we met Colin and decided to start Hostal Riviera, aiming for a tone that represents “smoking a joint on a Mexican beach”. We mostly just fucked around town, just trying to play gigs for beer money. Come summer 2016 I reconnect with my buddy Alex Fulton, from a local band called Motorcoat. Well I hear that he’s doing recordings in his basement with some really sweet gear our buddy Lou from LA was stashing with him. So I hit him up and sign Hostal up for the winter time. Well winter time we quit playing gigs and we start recording—after like 4 months in we finish recording as a 3 piece and start mixing. Between the rough winter and not exactly digging the sound, I’m about ready to rip all my hair out. So I dropped the project for like a month, then after listening to some Pink Floyd I realize. We need keys. Matias jumps in, joins the band, bangs out his parts in like 2 sessions. Mix, master and bam. We’ve got Notions now.

Jesse: Well, I think you’ve found your sound man, it’s fuckin’ sick—and “smoking a joint on a Mexican beach” couldn’t sum up your sound any better. Now, take us through a typical songwriting/recording session. Your creative process.

Alex: Thanks man, I appreciate it, we have a great time doing it. Well, our creative process is pretty simple, we have one rule. We only call each other out if it sounds like shit. I basically show up with a song I write, usually fresh out of a breakup. I start playing it and the guys jam along. Eventually we memorize it and it becomes a song. Recording is easy for us, we live track the backbone then overdub some extra shimmer and vocals. No metronome, no fancy studio, we just play off each others vibe.

Jesse: [Laughs] I’d imagine breakups have been responsible for more songs than just about anything else. So, what’re you guys up to now? Is a new album in the works?

Alex: Yeah you know, if I’m ever feeling some writers block, I just go on and sabotage my love life. It usually has good results. Right now we’re playing gigs around town, trying to promote Notions. Our next project is a 6 song medley that we’re going to try and record all in one take, it’s still in writing stages but come winter time we’ll be back in the studio.

Jesse: I hope none of you’re future lovers reads this. But, keep doing what you’re doing—it’s working. Anyway, let’s back up a little bit. How and why did you get into music in the first place?

Alexander: Music has always been the most important thing in my life. As far as I can remember It’s always just been around me. As a kid I took piano, played recorder in school. Then at 8 years old my great grandmother gifted me my first guitar. Since then I’ve never let it go.

Jesse: Very cool. And what inspired you to actually start cutting records?

Alex: Isn’t that what you just end up doing as a band? I don’t know, it was time for a record, plus I heard they can put your ashes on a vinyl record. I think that would be pretty cool.

Jesse: [Laughs] so you’re in this for the long haul. I dig. Well hey man this has been an awesome chat. To close things out, do you have any last words of wisdom for all the kids out there who don’t know what the fuck to do with their lives?

Alex: I agree man, great chat. If it wasn’t for people like you, independent music would be completely dead. So thank you. Kids, just find your jam and stick to it, no matter what, just enjoy life. This shits not about money, it’s not about likes, it’s about having a great time and loving every moment of it. At the end of the day, we’re all fucked, so just have a good fucking time.

Jesse: Beautifully said. What’s the best way to keep up with you and Hostal Riviera? Any big gigs coming up?

Alex: Well, I guess social media. And yes, we are playing a benefit show to raise some money for hurricane Harvey disaster relief September 16th at the bossanova ballroom! Really stoked for that one.

Jesse: Very cool. Well hey, thank you so much for doing this man!

Alex: Thank you.

Follow Alex and Hostal Riviera on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and of course, Bandcamp.

“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.” — Sagan

Interview: Itamar Haluts

I got a chance to chat with Itamar Halutsa singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from Tel Aviv. He released his album “Alexandra-Clyde” on July 4th, 2017.

Jesse: Itamar, I particularly enjoyed Winter Blues off your latest album. What inspired this song and the album as a whole?

Itamar: This song was inspired by some very cold weeks, but was actually written on a sunny day—I was just jamming with the guitar and it just happened. Most of the album was written while I was traveling and working in New Zealand, and was very much inspired by that. Just me and my guitar, traveling around. Alexandra and Clyde are the actual cities where I lived and worked.

Jesse: What motivated your travels and what kind of work were you doing?

Itamar: Mostly exploring myself, it was time to think about my life, where it was going, and who I was in this world. I was working in an orchard, a lot of fruit picking and some casual maintenance during the winter.

Jesse: I myself am on one of these quests as we speak [laughs]. Anyway, getting back to the music, I noticed you collaborated with several musicians on your latest album “Alexandra-Clyde”. I also noticed a couple share your last name. Who are all these musicians and how did you successfully collaborate with so many creative minds?

Itamar: Well, first, the ones that share the same last name are my father and brother, who sang background vocals in On a Train. Both are musicians, and actually the whole album was recorded by me and my father in a recording studio that he built! Second, I produced this album mainly by myself, recording and playing most of the instruments. But I knew I couldn’t do it all by myself—and on some songs I really wanted to get a live basic track, without click—so I searched for local musicians who I had good connections with. Some friends of mine have studied in music school, so most of the connections were from there. I tried to match each song with the right guests, it took a while—but now most of those guests are playing with me on live shows now, which is awesome. Good connections.

Jesse: Very, very cool man. So, what’s it like recording an album with your Dad in a recording studio he built!?

Itamar: It was a great experience. It was the first big project for both of us, so it was very exciting and very difficult. Working with family can be very frustrating at times, but most of the time it works incredibly. We’ve built some microphones and other audio gear together, and he built most of the guitars used in this album.

Jesse: You just blew my mind. So, y’all also build your own mics and your Dad builds guitars? How did you and your Dad get into all of this?

Itamar: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s great! Mainly a lot of research… I wanted to have the good old fashioned mics, and my dad has good knowledge with electronics. The DIY way is a lot cheaper than searching for vintage mics.

Jesse: Well, whatever you two built, your sound is incredible. In fact, your sound is very reminiscent of The Beatles. Which leads me to my next question—which artists have had the greatest impact on you and your music?

Itamar: Probably The Beatles, Paul Simon, Clapton, CSN, Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder and the list goes on and on…

Jesse: Cool. Could you tell us a little bit about the local music scene in Tel Aviv and what it was like growing up in Israel?

Itamar: There’s a lot of really cool stuff going on here, the thing is you can find almost everything in the local scene. A lot of very talented musicians. Growing up here was alright, although I have always loved the 60’s and 70’s music from England and the USA. There was a lot of very nice music in Israel in the 70’s as well.

Jesse: Interesting. So are you working on any future musical projects?

Itamar: Right now I’m trying to reach as many ears as I can with this album, but definitely thinking about the next one, there are a lot of new directions that I would like to explore.

Jesse: Very cool. Well hey Itamar, this has been great. Thank you so much for chatting with me and good luck my friend!

Itamar: Thanks man! It was my pleasure and it was very fun talking with you! Please keep in touch!

Keep up with Itamar Haluts on Facebook.

“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.” — Sagan