In the second instalment of our ‘New York City Diaries’ we visit Brooklyn-based musician Pecas in home studio. It’s a balmy afternoon as we sit and discuss what it means to be an artist in these trying times, her love of Japanese disco, aliens, and recent explorations in painting gone horribly wrong…
If your music were a place what would it look like?
It depends on the album, the EP ‘After Dark’ would be an empty disco hall from New York in the 70s. Where it’s a dark rainy night, and you wonder into this venue alone, and the music is playing and you are there dancing by yourself.
The stuff I am working on now I think would also have the same isolating feeling but it might be on a different planet. I’ve been obsessed with aliens lately, I don’t know what it is. But I think it’s this retro future vibe that’s happening. I think Solange is doing that too. I’m experimenting with a lot of sounds that have old synths. So yeah, I would say the place would be a different planet or maybe just an alternate reality to the one we are in now – where everything sort of looks the same, like, you are still in Brooklyn but there is something slightly off. Maybe the people aren’t real people, or perhaps they are aliens.
Which synths are you using?
I’m using a prophet right now and a DX7. But actually I bought the DX7 off Craigslist & then my friend gave me a bunch of plugins from Arturia that sound so much better than the actual DX7. So that’s what I’ve been playing with. There’s a Juno as well but I haven’t played with that yet.
You were born in Spain before immigrating to America… What’s one of your earliest memories from Spain?
When I was living there I was really close to my grandmother – my mum’s mum. And every summer we would go down south for vacation to this place called Benidorm. So it would be me and my cousin, my oldest cousin, Carol, and my grandparents. It’s a time that I think back to and idolize as the golden years of my childhood.
The place that we used to stay at was a hotel across the street from the beach, and I don’t know if this is a European thing or something, but the hotel was like ‘the place to be’ if you were searching for entertainment at night. They would have shows and dance there every night. So we would go to the beach during the day and then at night we’d go to this hotel, where they would put on these elaborate shows with everyone dressed up and performing. There was this one time when they had the neighborhood kids dress up and be a part of the performance. So I remember dressing up as some sort of flower with my cousin and us being shoved on stage with a bunch of other kids. I was terrified because I didn’t know I was going up on stage and then all of a sudden I’m part of this thing that I’ve been seeing every night.
But after 9/11 happened my mum actually didn’t want me to fly back to Spain, so that summer was the last summer I was there. It’s been over 10, maybe even 15 years now.
What’s been inspiring you lately?
A lot of different things. I’m sort of in the phase now where I’m trying to consolidate and see if any of them mean one thing. So for example, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be an artist in the United States right now… Because there is just a lot happening politically & is it my role to talk about that or not? But there is some kind of collective consciousness feeling where noone really knows what’s happening, or how to get out of it. It’s this weird sense of wanting to instore hope in a way but you also don’t know the answers. From my perspective, a lot of the arts have been commercialized or capitalized, so it kind of all feeds into the thing that you are against. So that’s all been on my mind a lot – how do you remain a critically conscious artist – because if you want to do this as a living, you have to sort of play the game. I think a lot of the time, as soon as you become a commercial viable entity, you are instantly losing that battle in a way. So how do you become a commercial success and retain your beliefs and self?
I read this book recently called “Capitalist Realism” and it’s about the phase of post-capitalism where the symbol becomes more important than the product. And I’m not trying to be like an arsehole in saying this, I’m just saying that it happens sometimes that how you present yourself becomes more important than what you are actually giving. So that has been on my mind and has been inspiring me. But also I’ve been thinking a lot about how to just relate to other people interpersonally. What does it mean to be in relationships romantically or otherwise. And how that business of things is so self-centered but you also want to be giving at the same time. So that balance is what I’ve been writing a lot about in recent times… How can I be a loving person and also sustain myself in the way that I need to sustain myself. I guess it’s all wrapped up and part of the same battle.
Personally, I think that the role of the artist today is to give people hope in whatever way that might be… My message is to encourage people to find what you want to do and a way to do it – instead of following past patterns, like, for example, of my parents generation… So finding a way of being a role model in terms of presenting an alternative way of living.
On your last album you said that there was Japanese disco influences, so we were wondering if you’ve been to Japan and what interests you about that part of the world?
Yes I love Japan but I’ve never been and really want to go. Pecas had a few other incarnations before the After Dark EP came about. One night with my former band we were playing at the Knitting Factory and after our set the DJ played this Japanese disco album from the 70s. It was something about that album that me and my drummer were like, omg, what is this…?!?! and that’s when it dawned on him that we should make a disco album! My response at the time was, ‘yeah right… that’s so corny! Who would do that?!’ But then the idea just sort of stuck with me… and that summer I started writing really corny disco songs just on Garageband or on my iPhone. But some of them turned into songs that would be on the album. They were watered down from disco and turned into what is there now. ‘Girl Wonder’ is one of the ones that started off as a more upbeat real disco track and we ended up slowing it down and made it more vibey.
What’s one surprising thing that maybe not a lot of people know about you?
I guess one thing is that most people here don’t know that I’m from Spain. Another is that I studied economics in college and I was pretty good at it. I was the president of the economics honorary society. Me and Mick Jagger, apparently (laughs) But I feel like that should make me more much more business savvy than I am. I also worked in a consulting firm for a year and a half after college.
What’s one question that you get asked a lot that you wish people would stop asking you?
People always ask me what genre my music is and I just never know what to say… I really don’t know.
I came up with gothanova recently. I don’t think that’s a thing though (laughs)
What’s a small thing that you bought that gave you a lot of joy?
Well this isn’t something that I bought but it was my birthday recently and my friend gave me one of those umbrellas that are hats. I LOVE it. It’s just like a rainbow umbrella hat and I don’t know exactly why but that brought me a lot of joy. It also rains a lot in New York, and I’m also quite pale, so it comes in really handy. (laughs)
When is your perfect time of day?
My perfect time of day is right before the sun sets in spring, especially if it’s rained before you get this kinda misty feeling and cool pink, bluleish colors. It’s very vaporwave.
What relaxes you the most?
Chamomile tea. Candles. I wish I had a cat. Cats relax me. I’m a cat person for sure.
Chamomile tea. Red wine. Cats.
What’s the funniest Instagram account that you follow?
Lili Hayes – she’s 70, I think she’s from Mexico, and her whole Instagram account is shot by her son. She has a very, very thick accent & she is just ranting and yelling at her son for most of her Instagram. She’s so so so funny. I actually asked her son for an autographed picture of her for my birthday and he said that he’d send one but I haven’t got it yet. But she’s like my Instagram idol – I freakin’ love her! She has a lot of followers now too. She’s definitely Instagram famous! (laughs)
What talent do you not have but would like to have?
I really would like to be able to paint or draw stuff. I’m trying to develop that skill but I’m just so impressed when people can do visual art. I can do graphic design stuff because the elements are already kind of there and you just need to put them together. But drawing from scratch, it just amazes me people who can do that. I tried to paint a few weeks ago and it’s really funny how horrendously that turned out. But I’m going to keep trying because that’s a skill I definitely would like to have. Also, telepathy, time travel. Super powers. Yeah I want all those.
What do your parents think about you making music and being a musician?
Ahh… they don’t quite understand it. They’re like, oh that’s just a thing that’s a hobby. But I also make money doing video editing. Assistant editing and stuff like that which makes more money and is slightly more stable because you’re on a project for a few months. But even that to them they don’t understand it. So I try to explain that it’s a freelance thing, you do it and then it’s done. And they just don’t understand that way of working. So then the music thing is even harder to explain.