Q&A: Producer Pomo talks staying inspired after winning the Juno award for best electronic album
While last year saw a slew of musicians breakthrough into the mainstream spotlight, Canadian producer David Pimentel had possibly the quietest, but most successful year of his career. As the rest of the world continued to run per usual, the producer from British Columbia helped write some of 2016’s biggest hits and picked up a Juno award along the way.
Pimentel, better known by his stage name, Pomo, produced Anderson .Paak’s hit “Am I Wrong” along with the Mac Miller and .Paak collaboration, “Dang!” Later that year, Pomo won a Juno for the best electronic album in Canada of 2016. Pomo released his first single of 2017 last month with the track “Fall Together. The song features British singer Harrison Brome, who will be accompanying Pomo on his upcoming national tour. The two will be making a stop at Holocene in Portland on May 10.
The Emerald spoke with Pomo ahead of his show in Portland. This article has been lightly edited for clarity.
Read the Emerald’s interview with rapper Oddisee here.
Emerald: You kicked off the “Fall Together” tour in your hometown of Vancouver, B.C., last month. How’d that show go?
Pomo: That show was awesome. It was kinda like unique show because we did it with a full band, but yea it was really fun.
E: Is adding live instruments to your live performances something you like to do regularly? What do you think the presence of live instruments adds to your performances?
Pomo: I think watching a band play live is more entertaining and people get more out of seeing a live band work together. It’s also kinda fun to see the songs that you know interpreted by a band. I noticed that when I do shows with a live band the [crowd’s] energy is always really high. So it’s always something that’s really fun to do.
E: Are you going to have the full band tour for you for the remainder of the tour?
Pomo: It’s going to be a duo, me and Danny McKinnon (guitar) But we also have more stuff. I’m bringing more keys and we both have SPD drum pads.
E: When you record your music do you use any live instruments?
Pomo: It’s kind of a mix. I start with an idea pretty much straight up on the computer because it’s to get my ideas down. Then when the song develops and I think it’s turning out to be a good song, we’ll start to add shit. We’ll start to add guitar or maybe record a couple percussion things and then add them in after. I find that recording stuff and then adding it in after gives a new life to the beat. It also helps it not sound so digital and ‘in the box’ computer kind of thing. [Live instruments] just add character. It’s an easy way to make it your own.
E: For years there was a movement away from using live instruments in the electronic music genre, but recently there’s been a trend of DJs reverting back to having instruments in their recorded music. Do you think this trend is signalling a resurgence of live instruments being used in your style of music?
Pomo: 100 percent. That’s exactly it. I’ve noticed the same thing. Now everyone can DJ and I feel like once things get to a point where everybody can do them it’s not as interesting. It’s not as exciting anymore. Whereas I feel like a few years ago there was more ‘mystery’ around DJing and around playing live electronic stuff, but now the ‘mystery’ is kind of uncovered. So I feel like people are looking to the next thing that’s exciting and live instruments is something that you can’t fake. You either can play it or you can’t. So it gives you an edge if you can do it. I feel like people are definitely trying to do that to bring up their live sets.
E: You’ve opened for Anderson .Paak in the past and now you’re headlining your own tour. Does your approach change depending on if you’re the opener to a show or the main act?
Pomo: It definitely changes. The thing with opening is you have to base your set around the rest of the performances, so you have to keep it fairly straightforward and simple. It’s not your show so you don’t get as much time for a soundcheck. You essentially have to make space for the headliner When you’re the headliner, you have more freedom and a wider range of things you can do. We’re definitely thinking about that when we prepare for the show by trying to make it more interesting and step it up a bit.
E: Not a lot of producers go on tour. Why do you decide to perform your music live?
Pomo: It’s kind of always what I’ve done. I used to play in a lot of bands and we always did shows since we were like 14 years old. I started taking music more seriously when I started playing in bands. It just kinda made sense. When Pomo started I was DJing after our band’s sets.
E: Does your approach to making a beat change when you’re working with a vocalist or rapper compared to producing a purely instrumental record?
Pomo: When I work with other people I usually like to do it together with the person in the same room because you’re able to get to a point when you’re both happy. Whereas when you’re kind of doing it online and you shoot someone over a beat they’re going to judge it differently. If you do the same beat with the person and worked with them there it works better.
But basically the approach is when I work with other people I love to be in the same room and do it that way so can both get on the same page. I feel like a lot of people who work online are the type of people who have a huge beat catalog of a ton of beats. So they’ll just send the artist a huge folder and the singer will just kind of choose what they want, but that’s not really the way I work. I don’t really crank out a lot of beats. I just don’t work that way. It’s hard for me to work online and I haven’t had a huge success rate working that way.
E: It sounds like you consider yourself more of a songwriter than a beatmaker. Would you agree with that distinction?
Pomo: Yeah 100 percent. I would definitely consider myself more of a songwriter.
E: You just dropped the single “Fall together” last month. The song features UK vocalist Harrison Brome. What was it like working with him?
Pomo: That was fun. I really wanted to work with him because I heard his music and I knew we had a show together — and that show was actually booked before we ever worked together. So I was like, ‘well, we’re playing together so let me look into this guy more’ and once I did, I was like, ‘Damn, this guy’s really dope!’
He’s only 20 years old and already so talented. So we got in the studio together and worked with a couple beats. He just works at such a high level for his age. He’s really tasteful with melodies and the session just went really well because he was so easy to work with. I think we made like two other demos and then one of them ended up being one that we both liked. We both liked the “Fall Together” demo, which all started with a loop and a rough melody idea.
The thing with Harrison is that he’s so passionate—and so am I—we were going back and forth trying to get the song somewhere where we were both happy. It was kinda cool because they have definitely been a few revisions. There’s like three or four versions on my computer that sound totally different than the one that was released. It was an interesting experience, but it was really fun.
E: Is the single a precursor to a bigger project you’re planning on releasing sometime in the near future?
Pomo: It’s just the single for right now. I am going to release an album sometime this year, but right now it’s too early to say if it’s going to match up with the rest of the songs on my album. There’s definitely going to be more Harrison Brome stuff on my album.
E: Do you have a date set for the album’s release?
Pomo: I can’t say for sure when this year, but I’m hoping for this summer. Late summer would be great.
E: Last year you won the Juno award for the best electronic music album in Canada. What was the experience of winning that award like? Do you feel any pressure after winning that award?
Pomo: Winning that award was awesome. It definitely helps with opportunities that I can get and applying for grants and working with different people. So it’s been really great, but I don’t really feel any pressure because when that album came out I never thought it would go this far.
When I put out my EP “The Other Day” it was really shortly after I got signed and I wanted to just put something out to kind of as an introductory piece for me. I didn’t really treat it really ‘songwritery’ because it’s just kind of loops and beats and grooves rather than full made songs for the most of it. So in my head I was kind of like ‘this is a dope way to introduce myself, but I didn’t expect it to win a juno or anything. So I feel like by the time that happened I was kind of like ‘I can’t believe this album made it that far’ but I feel like I’ve already come a long way since then so I guess I don’t really think about [the pressure] that much. I just try to keep making the best stuff I can and just try to stay musically inspired because that’s been a hard thing for me the past couple of years. Like doing music 100 percent professionally ends up being harder to stay consistently inspired.
E: What kept you from being fully inspired?
Pomo: You know, you think back to the old days of making music, like not professionally, when you had to work eight-hour days and you’re just dying to get home to make a beat and then now I’m just trying to get out as much music as I can. So it’s hard to stay inspired. I always find my best beats are when I have a really solid idea of what I want it to sound like and what I want, but that got kind of hard recently. I feel like I’m hitting a new wave now of what I want to do and I have a good, clear picture of what kind of sound I want to go for … So I feel like I’m getting back in the zone.
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