Hands-On Learning

Nashville rocker Daniel Pujol talks about the DIY approach and challenging himself

click to enlarge When writing and recording, Daniel Pujol forces himself into “an uncomfortable place.”
When writing and recording, Daniel Pujol forces himself into “an uncomfortable place.”

D

aniel Pujol is a restless, uncommonly curious guy. The rural Tennessee native who now calls Nashville home has immersed himself in a whirlwind of activity since debuting his slanted Rock & Roll outfit Pujol in 2010, writing, recording and touring at a pace foreign to all but the most committed of DIY obsessives.

Pujol has dropped two full-length records (2012’s United States of Being and 2014’s Kludge) and a flurry of singles, EPs, one-offs and other endeavors (including a two-year stint writing poetry for the Nashville Scene), all informed in one way or another by his academic background (he has a master’s degree in Global Affairs) and his endless need to create.

Pujol’s latest project, the EP Kisses, features three spoken-word tracks backed by what sounds like atmospheric guitar noodling from Robert Fripp, plus five new songs, the best of which are reminiscent of Elvis Costello’s Power Pop masterpiece This Year’s Model.


CityBeat recently connected with Pujol via phone to discuss his DIY tendencies, his need to evolve creatively and his theories behind the rise of Donald Trump, the latter of which couldn’t be relayed here due to space constraints, but included a 10-minute discussion of the “post-welfare de-evolution in America” and the Power Resource Theory.

CityBeat: I noticed that your Facebook page lists your musical genre as “Southern Gothic Rock.” Do you see that as a serious descriptor of what you do?

Daniel Pujol: It’s being a little cheeky. But why not? My mother’s a fish. There’s a lot of dark humor. There is some Lady Chablis in all of this. My favorite hour to record is midnight. My favorite studio is in the Garden of Good and Evil. You know, it’s a joke, but maybe it has some substance to it.

CB: A couple of the songs on the EP sound like early ’80s Elvis Costello, especially your singing on “Sleepy Doni” and “Only Like.” Was that something you were thinking about as a touchstone when you were writing the songs?

DP: You’re not the first person who has said that! But no, I wasn’t thinking about that at all. Maybe it’s the gear — I don’t really know a lot about Elvis Costello; people say that I would like it — but we used an outboard vocal compressor that was like a ’70s or ’80s tube compressor. A lot of people have said that the texture from that mic makes it sound like Elvis Costello. But I think the only Elvis Costello album I really know about is probably — what’s like the starter Elvis Costello record? My Aim Is True?

CB: Yeah, that’s his first record. I read that you recorded Kisses in your basement. How did that influence the process?

DP: It dramatically simplified it and made it a lot faster. It also made it a lot less expensive, because the way recording technology is now, you can drive behind a business, grab some pallets, go to a hardware store and get a roll of carpet, staple some carpet to those pallets, set them up in your basement and then all of the sudden you have baffling (for microphones), everything. You make sure no one is playing too loud and then hit “record” on a tape machine after you set your levels. And then download (recording software) Logic and dump everything onto your computer.

CB: I noticed you released Kisses through something called Bartertown Co-Op. What is that?

DP: It’s just a little imprint, a logo, basically a cooperative I put together with some people I play music with in town. We play in each other’s bands and help each other get recordings done. There are no contracts, there is no publishing — it is just bartering skills between people so everybody can get the stuff that they want done done. One guy is a better engineer than the other guy is, so he can be the engineer, and the other guy who is not a good engineer can be a drummer.

CB: Will the next full-length be through (indie label) Saddle Creek Records again?

DP: Putting out the EP by myself was hard. I would prefer to do it with someone like Saddle Creek, because once you start touring on something while you’re putting it out, it’s really difficult. If you look at my tour history — the record came out at the end of November, and I stayed home in November to make sure all of the manufacturing was done, all the assembly was done, everyone had everything they were supposed to have, and that was just for an EP. I don’t know if one person can be in charge of an entire LP campaign.

CB: Unless you just release it digitally and don’t have a physical object to worry about.

DP: But that wouldn’t be any fun. I like the physical thing. I like doing the artwork and having the object separate from myself and out of my head. It actually exists. It turned 18 and moved out of the house, and now it’s in charge of its own life.

CB: You’ve been writing and recording for a while now. How has your process changed over the years? Does it get any easier?

DP: It’s the same in the sense that every time I write a new batch, I try to (learn) a new skill alongside it, to where it’s equally difficult in terms of musicianship. Whenever I start writing I usually try to force myself into an uncomfortable place where it’s a bit of a challenge, and through the process of me writing and finishing something it makes me a little bit better at the craft of things. So it’s probably a similar level of difficulty just because I’m always sort of trying to push my envelope or take it somewhere I haven’t done yet.


PUJOL plays Friday at MOTR Pub with Bummers Eve. More info: motrpub.com.


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