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A Rooftop Conversation with Boy Pablo

Photo by Alyssa Ruiz

Boy Pablo is an indie music group based in Norway, led by singer and songwriter Nicolas Muñoz. The group has been releasing music for over 6 years now and since then, they have hit a grand total of 3.4 million monthly streamers on Spotify. Their song ‘Everytime’ recently hit a new milestone; since its release, the song has accumulated over 100 million streams.

I, alongside Alyssa Ruiz, KAMP’s Entertainment Director, got the opportunity to interview Nico of Boy Pablo before the group’s show at The Van Buren in Phoenix this past November. The environment in which we met embodied the true, fun spirit of the group. We sat in mismatched chairs on a rooftop deck with Yerba Mate in hand and turf installed beneath our feet. We were able to watch as cheering fans lined the streets for hours leading up until the doors opened. The interview, which we had initially planned to last around 20 minutes, went an hour overtime as Nico, Alyssa and I learned more about each other and asked questions, starting with “why music?”

BP: I didn’t have any other goals. Except for that, basically, I wanted to be a soccer player. But I figured that I wasn’t good enough. And I thought I wasn’t good enough for this either. I just gave it a shot. I remember in high school, my mom used to ask me like, ‘what are you gonna do after high school?’ I was not ready to go to university or college or anything… and I didn’t want to. And then like, she asked me so many times that I started saying ‘I’m gonna be a superstar.’ She got mad. She was like ‘no, you gotta study’ and I would say ‘no, I’m gonna pursue music.’ Luckily, it was like… super lucky that I get to do this right now.

AR: Do you have any one person, or artist even, that’s like your inspiration? Someone where you think ‘I want to be like them’?

BP: When I started making music, I think everyone that makes the same kind of music as I wants to be like Mac DeMarco. Like, everybody listens to Mac DeMarco. But, now, I don’t know. I feel like I’ve been stuck with the same role models for awhile now, and I’m kind of trying to look somewhere else. So right now, I don’t have that one person. Basically, maybe… no one. I try to come up with this shit myself.

GL: What was the process behind your recent EPs? BP: I put up some EPs after my album and it’s basically just like mood EPs. So, I have one called Dancing By Myself that includes like all the dancey songs from my album and a demo from one of the songs from the album. And, I don’t know, it was basically that we saw a lot of major artists do it, and then my label was like, "fuck it! Let’s do it." So, we tried it. And it actually gave a boost to a lot of the songs. So I guess it worked!

GL: I know you’ve been touring those songs. What’s been your favorite song to perform? BP: I like when I don’t have my guitar on me, when I can move around freely, so probably “Honey,” one of the songs from Wachito Rico. Probably because like, I don’t have to wear the guitar and I can go up to people on the stage and shit.

Photo by Alyssa Ruiz

When discussing Nico’s style, he brought up his fellow musician and friend, Omar Banos, who goes by the stage name of Cuco. Since we interviewed Nico, Boy Pablo has released a single with Cuco, titled “La Novela.” Since its February release, the song has already accumulated over 2 million streams worldwide. Nico joked about the difference between his tour outfits, which he chooses himself, versus Cuco’s eccentric, specially designed outfits. He went on to talk about how his recent Los Angeles performance with this friend was one of his favorite shows yet.

BP: [Cuco] is one of my very good friends… I did a show with him in LA like a week ago.

GL: How was that? BP: Really, really fun. He’s such a nice guy. We share some fans so like people were giving us so much love. It was so, so fun.

Continuing the conversation about fashion, Alyssa asked about the band’s tour merch, which featured a primary color scheme with accents of the album’s signature purple color.

AR: Do you get to design your own merch? Or, do you have a say in it? BP: Oh yeah! Yeah yeah yeah. I do it with Fabio, my creative director of the project. We’ve been doing it from the start, just like super-DIY, trying to make like anything that we think is funny or like colors we like and color combinations. That’s another thing that I wouldn’t like anybody else to do for me. I like to be in control of how it looks. It’s very DIY… we did the merch for this tour maybe a month before… very last minute. But it worked out!

At the point we met, the band had been touring North America for around three weeks, but the group has been performing since 2016.

GL: What’s like a funny thing, or an unexpected thing, that’s happened on tour? BP: I tell this one story and it’s actually true. It’s a story from when I toured Asia in 2018, my first Asian tour ever. My tour manager used to be a friend of mine, Fabio, that’s like a year older than me, we were like 19 or 20. We went to Indonesia, thinking that everything was good and in order with the Visa’s and stuff. And when we came to Indonesia, we did our soundcheck and everything and it was successful. But then the police come to the venue. We were like, ‘what the hell are the police doing here?” Fabio went out to talk to them and suddenly, he comes in and says ‘uhh guys, I need your passports.’ We were like, ‘um, okay… what’s happening?’ And he didn’t say anything, just to not stress us out. And then he figured out that the arranger of the whole festival had faked our Visa’s to come in and play. And we were like, ‘what the hell? That’s not fine. That’s not okay.’ But they couldn’t punish us directly. They would like, deport us the morning after. So we did the concert as planned. We were done at 3:00 in the morning. At 7:00 in the morning, we had to get up and go to the Department of Immigration and they asked us all these questions like we were criminals. They escorted us to the fricking airport, and then… well, one thing I left out is that we have a friend from Indonesia that went to college with Fabio and his dad is like some kind of minister in Indonesia. And he knows the President. So like, they’re really close. We got to the airport and [our friend] called his dad, who called the President, and then like the assistant of the President called Fabio and said, ‘sorry for all this. We’re gonna fix it.’ And then they escorted us through the security thing. They originally had a stamp on our passports that said ‘deported’ and then they took all our passports in again and canceled that… which was super stressful because we were flying to Bangkok, in Thailand, originally at like 10:00 AM, but they took so long so we got to Thailand at like 8:00, like an hour before going on stage. We didn’t do our soundcheck or anything. And then I think we spent like 12 hours in Thailand before going to Manila, in The Philippines. So that’s a very unexpected thing to happen.

GL: How did that show end up going? BP: We did good! All those shows were good. Long story, but yeah.

Photo by Alyssa Ruiz

AR: Do you have any major goals for yourself right now? Or, do you feel like you’re at where you saw yourself being at when you were younger.

BP: I had one goal. And it was before I started this project at all. And I said it as a joke to begin with. That was playing at Coachella. And I did it! In 2019. So I’m trying to find out where my next goal is.

GL: Play there again! BP: Yeah! I wanna play there again. I’m between staying where I’m at right now or like going hard to the next level. Like, that means going maybe to a major label. I’m a control freak when it comes to my projects. So, I’m not sure if I wanna do that. I don’t know. It could be cool to like try it out and see how far I can come. But, I don’t know. It’s really hard. You know, I’m 22. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with my life. Yet.

GL: You’ve already done a good job at making a name for yourself.

BP: I mean, that was my main goal really. Just making a name for myself. But, I don’t know. My label right now is saying that maybe we should push this to the next level and see how far we can go. Maybe like really, really get stuck in the American music market and stuff. But that means I might have to move here and, you know, I wouldn’t move here without my family. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t know yet.

GL: And you’re still young. You have time.

BP: Yeah, I do. But like, my label is kind of like, ‘if we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backwards.’

GL: I mean, if you’re at a good level, you might as well stick there, you know? BP [laughing]: I don’t know. So, I guess my answer is, I don’t know.

GL: So do you record and everything back home?

BP: Yeah. Basically, yeah. I started recording my stuff in my bedroom. I started with Logic, one of the very simple music programs. And then my brother-in-law stepped in and like helped me. And then my brother stepped in and helped me more. We’ve been a team all along. Like, recording all the EPs and the album. I know that a lot of people try to make me work with other producers and other artists but I feel comfortable where I am right now. We’re a good team. And also we have this amazing engineer that lives in Bergen too. I don’t like changes too much.

Photo by Alyssa Ruiz

AR: Apple juice or orange juice? BP: Orange juice! AR: Really? BP: Yeah… I think so. Like, when you get up and you make a sandwich, you don’t want anything sweet.

GL: But pulp or no pulp?

BP: Pulp.

GL [laughing]: Noooo! I have to go now.

AR: Pack it up!

BP: You don’t like pulp?! GL: Noooo… it’s like hairy.

BP: That’s the healthy thing in an orange though!

GL: It’s gross. I’ll eat an orange but if I’m drinking juice, I don’t want orange hair in it.

BP: No, I get you. I didn’t used to like it. But then my mom used to buy only orange juice with pulp. So I had to.

AR: Maybe it’s like a maturing thing.

GL: When we turn 22. It’s like, midnight on your 22nd birthday and you’re like, “oh… wait a minute…”

AR: “This kinda hits.” GL: I’ll have to try it and keep you posted.

BP: But a real unpopular opinion? Beer sucks. It tastes like shit. I haven’t tasted it with alcohol, actually. I don’t drink. At all. But I had a sip once, from a friend. I was so grossed out. How can people actually like it? It’s like liquid bread.

AR: Grayson, do you have any hot takes?

GL: Any good hot takes… hmm. I’ve always hated the baby Yoda stuff.

BP: Why?!

GL: I don’t think it’s funny.

BP: No no no, it’s not funny. It’s cute.

GL: I don’t know. Whenever that came out, and everybody was like, “oh my god! Baby Yoda is so cute,” and I’d see like stuffed animals at Target and stuff, I’d be like… “I hate you.” AR: Are you a Star Wars fan? GL: Yeah!

BP: You are? Have you seen them? GL: I have!

BP: You have? I haven’t.

AR: Have you seen Star Trek?

BP: Nope.

AR: I haven’t even seen Star Trek.

GL: What’s like your favorite… well I don’t even have an answer to this. But what’s your favorite movie? BP: Favorite movie? I have two. The first is Nacho Libre. I saw it when I was like 8 and I laughed my ass off.

AR: It’s comedy gold.

BP: And… Batman: The Dark Knight. The Joker? Heath Ledger? He’s the best. I also like Napoleon Dynamite. What’s your favorite TV show? GL: I never have an answer to that either. But I like New Girl.

BP: New Girl? Yeah. GL: Oh actually… I take that back. My two favorite shows of all time, and New Girl is third, are Bojack Horseman

BP: Bojack Horseman! Okay! I haven’t seen that. I’ve seen just a couple episodes.

GL: It’s so good. And the episodes are so short which is good because I get so distracted so easily if you can’t already tell. But the episodes are short and none of them really matter to the plot of the show. So I just watch them and think like, “that’s funny!” And then I go to bed. Gravity Falls is the other one. What about you guys? BP: The Office. I had seen like some episodes here and there but I started watching from the beginning this summer and I’m on the final episode now. I haven’t seen it yet. It’s such a good show.

GL: You’re gonna watch it and then go on stage crying.

BP [laughing]: I love it. Breaking Bad too.

GL: I don’t have the attention span for that show.

BP: I get that. But it gets better! It’s the only show I’ve seen ever where the episodes just keep getting better for every episode.

GL: I hate when you start watching something and it gets worse. And then you don’t wanna watch it anymore. Even with The Office, when Michael left, I was like…

BP: …yeah, I was bummed too. GL: Oh! I thought of my hot take. Pam and Jim were not in love. I think that they hold each other back too much. She wanted to go to art school and then she came back after like two weeks because she missed him. And then she started working at an office again. And he was like, “come back!” BP: Isn’t that love though? GL: Well, no! I think that like… she always wanted to be an artist. She went off to do what she wanted to do and then he was like, “no! Come work in this miserable office forever.”

AR [laughing]: That’s so deep. I don’t even watch this show that much but I’m like…

BP: I disagree!

GL: The first time I watched it, I was obsessed with them. I was like, “oh my god! I want that.” But now I’m like, [if I was her], “I would want to go off on my own and go to art school.” BP: Yeah, I get you. I disagree because it’s love to go back for the other person.

GL: We can agree to disagree.

All [laughing]

GL: You’re wrong! But thanks!

Photo by Alyssa Ruiz

After getting side-tracked a couple more times, the three of us eventually landed on the topic of music reviews. Nico told us that he had received a really critical review about one of his tour performances, claiming that he "tried too hard."

GL: [Critics] are gonna find something negative to say about anything.

BP: You can ALWAYS find something negative. And it’s like, up to the person. Like if the person isn’t into my music and they review it, it’s like…

AR: Why even go if you know you’re not gonna like it? BP: I feel like reviews are kind of a weird thing. I get it, but it’s so subjective. You never get an objective perspective on it. GL: I mean, you never will. Everyone has different opinions on that kind of stuff.

AR: Especially with music.

BP: Music is like the least objective thing in the world.

AR: Unless you’re literally looking at it from a music theory perspective.

BP: Oh, fuck that!

AR: You’d have to be like, “this is exactly how it sounds” and do like… an analysis of it.

BP: I mean, if the people play trash, or they don’t try to engage with the audience, you can write a bad review because of that. But if it’s just like, because of the music? Or the lighting? AR: It’s all personal style. How can you write like, “this sounds bad!” Like maybe it just sounds bad to you…

Every now and then throughout the interview, our conversation would be interrupted by commotion from the line down below us.

GL: I can’t believe people are lining up already.

BP: I think like, the US crowds are so hardcore.

As we said this, a car drove past. When the driver saw us on the roof of the building, they beeped their horn. We waved at the people waiting outside and they immediately started cheering. At this point, it was around 1:15 PM. The show wouldn’t begin until 8:00 PM.

BP [yelling from the roof]: You guys are in line already?! Thank you!

Still standing on the roof, Niko made small talk with the fans. I looked around and saw a bunch of phones being held up, recording the interactions. The energy from the fans was unreal considering that they had been waiting outside for hours, and would have to wait even longer before the doors opened. The dedication was extremely impressive and I could tell it felt very rewarding for Niko. “See you guys inside!” He yelled with a smile on his face.

BP: But, yeah. US crowds are so hardcore. People stand in line for hours! It’s so fricking crazy. You don’t see that in Norway… at all. AR: Even if it’s General Admission? People don’t fight to get to the front or anything? BP: Nah. People are too polite. But maybe for like, a Beyoncé concert. Or Justin Bieber. Like, Bieber went to Norway in 2011 I think. People went crazy. They made kind of an island for him. Like, a stage on an island. And people could see from a distance. And people brought floating boats just to get closer to the stage. It was kind of cool! But it was so fricking crazy. A lot of people got hurt. But that was the craziest thing that happened. I feel like here, it’s like way worse. You have to be such a big fan to [wait] like that. It must mean the world to you.

Throughout the interview, Nico remained extremely humble and at this point I realized how genuine it really was. He asked me about the biggest celebrity I had gotten to speak with, and when I replied and said it was him, he seemed both shocked and honored. Despite years of success, he was still surprised by my response, as well as the number of fans lining up outside the door. He then changed his question and asked about the most famous musician we’ve seen in concert.

GL: I’ve seen Taylor Swift a couple of times and that was huge.

BP: Nice… that’s so cool. Taylor is so cool.

GL: I love her! AR: It’s crazy how long her career is. It’s insane.

BP: Have you seen her documentary? On Netflix? Miss Americana. It was so good. I really like it. I feel bad for her, but at the same time, she’s so cool.

AR: Would you ever want to be that big? Where you like, have to leave your house in a suitcase? BP [laughing]: I don’t know… I don’t think anybody wants that. You want to be that big as an artist but you don’t want to do all that. It’s so stressful always being on the move and always looking out for anybody who can recognize you and all that shit. I don’t think anyone wants that. But it’s just a part of the gig. GL: Does that happen a lot? Where people recognize you when you go out? BP: It depends on where I am. When I started blowing up, and we were in LA, I would get stopped like every hour. Yeah, like once every hour. It would happen anywhere in LA, too. It was kind of crazy. But now, I feel like it’s not that much.

GL: That’s probably nice.

BP: It is nice! Because like, I want to meet people when I want to. Like, after the concerts or like we did here. But not when I’m out shopping or I’m out eating. Some people don’t understand that celebrities are just like them. I don’t think any of them would like to be bugged every time you eat or walk on the street.

AR: We were talking about that on the way here actually. We were so nervous! But then we were like, “no. He’s literally just a person.” GL: He’s our age! BP: Yeah! I’m just a random dude from Norway. It’s so random like… this meeting is very random. Like, I was thinking about this. When I meet people. If you had a camera on a person that I would meet tomorrow, someone that I don’t know, and me, for like three years. We’d just see all the things leading up to us meeting each other. It’s so weird! It’s so random.

AR: Do you ever notice specific people in the crowd? I feel like people at any concert are always like, “they're gonna notice me. They’re gonna look at me and like… fall in love.” Do you ever notice specific people? Or are you just like, “wow. This is a big crowd.”

BP [laughing]: Yeah! The people that are singing along to all of my songs. Yesterday [in Santa Cruz], there was this guy that was always on his phone. I’d rather him not using his phone. But he was looking at me and singing every song! He was pointing at me and like super hardcore. He was so into it. I was like, “hell yeah!” And also, yesterday there was this little girl. She was like maybe 4 or 5. She had made all these paintings for me. It was so nice! So cute. But I see like some people trying to stare at me and look cute.

AR: That’s so funny that you see that.

GL: We were just talking about that in the car on the way here. I remember seeing Ed Sheeran perform when I was like 12, and I thought, “he’s gonna fall in love with me!” I thought like, “I’m gonna wear my coolest outfit and he’s gonna see it.” But I was so far away. And I was in like, 4th grade. That’s funny that you see people trying to do that. It’s the “attractively bored” face. AR: Yeah, they’re like, “oh, I don’t care. I guess I like your music.” BP: It’s like they’re trying to play hard to get while the artist is really trying to do their best. GL: And they’re just like, “oh… this is good I guess.” That’s funny. I’ll try to get your attention during the show tonight.

BP: Yeah, there’s always that one guy that is always super into it. I love that.

On the other hand, there is always someone that will be on their phone the entire time, Niko told us.

GL: Well, Tyler, The Creator will call people out for that. Have you seen those videos? BP: I love that. I love when he does that.

AR [laughing]: I’d be so scared to go to one of his concerts.

BP: Tyler speaks his mind, anywhere and with everyone.

GL: Have you met him? BP: Yeah! GL: I love him, but I always say that I would be so scared to meet him. AR: That’s what I was saying! BP [showing us a photo]: Oh, I was terrified. I was terrified when I met him.

Photo via @soypablo777 on Instagram

BP: This is a flashback from two days ago. It was three years ago. It was so funny because we were at this Converse event in the Golf store in LA. And he was just like, randomly there. And he shot at me with a gun that shoots air. I don’t know what it’s called. I was like, “what the fuck?!” And then he was like, “oh!” And he recognized me! My heart was racing and I tried to keep my cool. I was just like, “yeah!” GL: You should’ve been like, “who are you?” BP [laughing]: Yeah, exactly! I had to give it a second before I realized. This is Tyler the fucking Creator. I was like, “damn! Can I get a picture with you?” He was like, “nah, I don’t do pictures anymore. I’m sorry. But you’re a cool guy though.” I was okay with that, like it was fine. But then a friend of his was like, “c’mon dude! Do a picture!” And [Tyler] was like, “okay, fine.” And we took that picture. And I got to hug him. And then he actually… this is the biggest compliment ever… he took a picture of my outfit.

We continued to talk after that, discussing everything from our favorite shoes to Niko’s hatred toward American cheese. Nico even asked if the outfit he was wearing was good enough for him to wear on stage. While our discussion topics were all over the place, Nico’s genuine personality remained constant. After the interview, Alyssa and I agreed that we felt like we had known him for years. Later that night, Nico reached out to me to thank us for talking to him and wished us safe travels back to Tucson. Since this talk, my love for the group and their music has only continued to grow. Alyssa and I entered the interview nervous to interview someone we both strongly admired. We left with not only a greater sense of admiration, but a genuine friendship with him as well.

From Left to Right: Alyssa Ruiz, Nicolas “Niko” Muñoz and Grayson Lord

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