by Fabiola Feyt
Photo by Martin Levi
Translation by Kevin Vaughn
When my WUBA editor Kevin lent me number 347 of Pablo Malaurie´s debut soloist album, El Festival del Beso, something magical happened. Excuse me for being moved so easily but, in times like these, that someone hands you a physical album, and that said album is made by hand out of cardboard (each one made specially for you and numbered) with a painting by William Bouguereau painted onto the cover, it’s something that catches me a little off guard, and makes me think back to my adolescence when one hour of internet cost 6 pesos and I exchanged copied cds with some girls that were fanatics of No Doubt.
Before I got started cooking, I put on the disc. That voice so unique to Pablo Malaurie filled the kitchen with alliterations, whines, little boys and little girls, names, mysteries, and little pieces of everyday life.
This little ten song jewel was released in 2009 “a little backwards”, according to its author, who was previously a member of Mataplantas, that band that won a big place in the heart of the Porteño scene. Mataplantas split up and, with El Festival del Beso under his wings, Malaurie took charge of a new project called Juglar Anónimo. His music caught the interest of French filmmaker Vincent Moon, who during his short time in Argentina filmed Malaurie for his project La Blogotheque (watch the video here) and opened the gates for a series of unexpected events. A trip to Romania to compose the soundtrack and act in Loverboy, the film by Catalin Mitulescu that was selected to play at last year´s Cannes Film Festival; opening for Devendra Banhart last April; the release of a Japanese edition of his disc; and an upcoming trip to NYC where he will host three lovely concerts, road trip anyone ?
So, one mandarin and apple pie later, Pablo Malaurie, the 32 year old fan of Tom Waits, the 1950s and Jim Jarmusch movies, sat down to talk with us about everything that´s happened in the last year.
How did the Japanese version of your album happen ?
Pablo Malaurie: After seeing the video on La Blogotheque, a man named Yusuke Nagai wrote me on myspace asking for two copies of the album and an Argentine newspaper just to see what it looked like. He told me he had an art gallery, and that he like to have me to play and have the album edited there. A really good dialogue emerged that turned into the beginning of a new label – LOW VOL – to record El Festival del Beso. Honestly I´m really happy with the results, he had a very specific vision that corresponded to what we do here.
El Festival del Beso didn´t just transcend the borders of the continent but also of your own language…
PM: Yeah, it´s really awesome because producing that disc was extremely introverted, underground and very home made. We decided to make it with cardboard, my name is hardly noticeable, some parts barely legible. I thought about it like a little piece of cardboard floating out in the ocean that has arrived from a long journey, and it made me think that the disc is very powerful, it was made very backwards, but ended up flying on its own.
Why did you start playing solo under the name Juglar Anónimo (anonymous traveling performer) ?
PM: When songs began appearing I self-imposed this idea of inventing a personality. And I remembered all of these poems that they made me memorize in elementary school, a lot that were by Juglar Anónimo. So I thought if I use the name Juglar Anónimo than all the poems are mine! (laughs) It was a big joke. But really, the songs don´t have a very clear temporal reference. I imagined myself as a traveling performer that travels all over spreading his message – a word, a song, whatever comes out – and this trip takes so many hundreds of years that when he finally arrives, his message becomes modern because of how old it is. I had a lot of fun with that idea. I kept taking it to a new dimension.
Do you think that your appearance on La Blogotheque was what got all of these other projects started ?
PM: Yeah, everything that happened because of this video was so shocking. But you know, if you do something with out asking for anything in return, anything that comes back to you is a surprise, you know ? In this case the surprises were too good, super mysterious.
How did everything go in Romania, composing the soundtrack and acting in Loverboy ?
PM: The screenwriter was looking for something with Beirut in La Blogotheque and stumbled onto my video. He wrote me and told me that they were about to film a movie, and they wanted me to do the soundtrack, and later on they told me they wanted me to act. They asked me if I was free to travel, and I flew to Romania in a second. It was a trip that one kind of longs for: traveling to a distant and strange place, being contracted to compose music. When all of that happened I took a lot for me to understand why I received such an opportunity, but I just had to convince myself that I was necessary to the movie in some way. It was a really introspective trip, 50 days in a place where you don´t understand anything.
What did that experience mean to you on a musical level and on a personal one ?
PM: It was incredible. Composing a sound track was something I´d never done before, it was this thing that I was really enthusiastic and scared about at the same time. They also asked me for songs in Romanian which sort of complicated things (laughs).
On a personal level, right now I feel a little Romanian. Everything was so strong, so many things came together at once. A new job, shooting, tons of new people and friendships, and in the middle of all that, me all alone struggling, but enjoying everything. That´s the story I´m trying to tell in Romanza, the documentary I´m editing.
How did the documentary get started ?
PM: When they were talking to me about the trip, I asked them to lend me a camera because I was also interested in filming something there. Actually I´m putting together all of that material with music that was left out of the movie and I´m working on something, something that I have thought out as a DVD and projection.
Did you ever imagine that Loverboy would make it to Cannes ?
PM: I knew that the movie had something very special, but obviously that´s not enough, lots and lots of people have to see it before it gets selected. I was so happy to hear that it had been chosen. I did everything possible to go, seeing if I could find someone to cover the trip, but it never happened (laughs).
There is an article in La Nación, the journalist asks “What do Malaurie´s songs sound like ?” What would your answer be ?
PM: Mmm..I can´t think of anything particularly. Lots of things really, actually, things that need to be changed. I want to see what would happen if I change one rhythm or try a different instrument. The truth is, I´m trying to see if I can still get more out of it, if the songs can still take me to new places.
Another good thing that´s happened to you this year is that you played last April with Devendra Banhart when he came to Buenos Aires.
PM: Yeah ! From what I was told is that they gave him a list of people he might like to open, he heard my stuff and chose me. It was great to play with him, and that they were two dates that were really different for me. The first night everything happened so fast, we were all running around really stressed out. The second night I went out with the electric guitar, I wanted to do something different, and it turned out much more relaxed, more put together.
Before that you presented three Thursdays in a row, La Gran Noche de Malaurie, what kind of balance would you like to maintain ?
PM: This was the first year that I played a lot of dates that weren´t proposed by me. That was a great time for me but I decided to do that series of shows because I honestly needed to show what I could do. I wanted to really put on a display: play the banjo, the ukelele, the acoustic guitar, the electric, the piano, so I had to invent everything. I feel like those three nights made me grow a lot, they helped me position myself, sort of force me to take the position of the lead singer. And it was great a lot of friends came to play. It was all really incredible.
Besides the documentary, what other things are floating around in Malaurie´s universe ?
PM: I´ve already got a new album. Well, at least the songs. I don´t have any intention of recording it yet, there is still a lot to do with El Festival del Beso. I suppose around next March I could start recording it.
There is also the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York on the 6th of July. It´s been a while that I´ve wanted to play there and there is this girl there that is a huge fan of the album that helped me get to NYC. I´m trying to close some other dates but nothing is confirmed yet.
And this Monday (the 20th of June) you´ll be playing at Festival Ciudad Emergente, what are your anticipations ?
PM: It´s going to be awesome because I´m playing in a chapel and it´s been a while since I´ve wanted to play in a place like that. I´m going to play some songs from the album and some other ones that haven´t been recorded yet and I hope that they come out good enough that we can arrange to play in the chapel once a month. I hope that the guy in charge of the chapel is reading this !
If it´s a chapel then the responsible one is God, they see he´s omnipresent !
PM: Are you saying that I should sit down with God and propose the idea ? Or that right now he heard us and is going to propose something to me ? Or that this is going to be the series of my life, Jesus !