Paul Hernandez is a lover boy—not an audacious casanova, but a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic who simply falls in love too fast, poeticizing the women who make him stumble headfirst into desire and devotion. From hitting a million streams on Spotify to dropping his debut EP Pastel and playing Tropicalia—the quintessential music festival for LA’s most committed indieheads—Hernandez’s 2018 has been as dreamy as his music itself. At sundown in Exposition Park, the 24-year-old artist ponders his early beginnings, defying expectations, and being a proud cheeseball. He performs his first headlining show at the Echo tonight. This interview by Sydney Sweeney." /> L.A. Record


December 10th, 2018 | Interviews

photography by maximilian ho

Katzù Oso: My family was always really accepting of the whole ‘embracing your feelings’ thing—my dad would always play love songs around the house, and that’s what I grew up with. But random people would always tell me stuff about my music being too ‘soft’—and it sucks cuz it kind of brings you down. Like … I enjoy making it and you just shouldn’t listen to it. If I were in high school still, I would take criticism a lot worse and it would have gotten to me. I’d be getting triggered all the time. But now that I’m older, I’m just doing me and you don’t have to like it. But writing love songs comes most naturally to me. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic—that’s just me. I tend to fall in love too quickly and it’s kind of fucked up, because I write songs for people … and then I’m like, ‘Wow, I really wrote a song for this person…’
And then you’re like, ‘Well, damn—that’s over.’
Katzù Oso: ‘Well, she fucked me over and now I’m here, and I have to perform these songs that I wrote about this girl.’ But I’m comfortable with my feelings, and I’ll just act like I’m singing about another girl!
Do you approach songwriting as a way to help you process your emotions?
Katzù Oso: I feel like in the moment, I put myself in the place where I’m most happy with that person, and I try to write as if I’m there with them in the moment. So yeah, it’s always different. When it comes to writing lyrics, I’ll just have the song on loop and I’ll try to set the vibe—dim the lights.
What would you consider the perfect vibe or atmosphere for listening to Pastel?
Katzù Oso: Traveling. With the windows down, along the coast with someone that you care for.
What would the record smell like?
Katzù Oso: Roses.
What’s up with you and flowers?
Katzù Oso: I don’t know! I’ve always just loved floral patterns and flowers. I remember the first song I ever wrote, I was a freshman in high school and it was called ‘Flower Dress.’ And the line was so cheesy: ‘That flower dress really makes you bloom.’ I’ve just always felt so attracted to them.
I know people have told you that your music has impacted them and helped them cope with their own life experiences—what’s one album that you think specifically influenced Pastel in that way?
Katzù Oso: I was listening to Lonerism back to back. It’s one of my all-time favorite albums. I felt like that’s what inspired me to do it myself because Kevin Parker does everything on his own. Back when it first dropped in 2012, I was in my feels throughout the whole thing.
What was it like for you to make the transition from being part of a band to doing everything yourself?
Katzù Oso: I was listening to a lot of Neon Indian and Toro y Moi, so I feel like that funky synthpop kind of vibe was what I really wanted to capture. I just love dancing in the crowd when they’re performing music like that. And when we were performing my stuff live, in the beginning we were like, ‘How are we gonna do this?’ Because there’s just so many things going on. But we made it work, so I think that was the most difficult part when it came to execution. There was one time when I performed with a backing track, but I’ve always had the band with me since. In the beginning we left out two synths, but now we have two more, so it’s come together nicely. Even to this day though, it’s funny when I pull up to a show because I have like, four people on synths. And it’s awkward as fuck.
How do you feel about producing your own music now? What’s changed since you first started?
Katzù Oso: Back in high school, I thought producing was so hard—I was like, ‘Well, there’s that guy to do it.’ Until I started learning by myself and experimenting with shit, then I realize it’s not as hard as it looks and that anyone can do it. I like having full control over my music because I hate people telling me, ‘take that out,’ or ‘shorten this.’ I hate getting told what to do, pretty much, but I love working with people who are open to new ideas and trying stuff out rather than being closed off and having a ‘no’ mentality. I always go to my band, and Gil, who plays synth for me—he also mixes and masters my music. I ask him, ‘How about we do this, or this?’ Or I send it to my manager, like, ‘Hey, dude, what should I change?’ I like having feedback.
Did you have to kill any of your darlings while finalizing the EP?
Katzù Oso: Yeah—I had a lot of songs that didn’t make it. It was almost going to be an album, but I was like, ‘I’ll stick with the EP and save the others for a future project.’ My favorite is ‘Pastel’ though, even though it was the last one and it just came out of nowhere. I usually make the beat first—I try to create something really catchy that’ll get stuck in your head, and then lyrics come at the end. I try to get the main instrumentation first. But the order of the lyrics will come to me differently every time. For ‘Sophie,’ I thought of the chorus while I was just driving. I had it playing, and for some reason the whole ‘making love in the back seat of your car,’ came into my head, you know? And I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is cool.’ So when I got home I recorded it into Ableton and I showed it to my friend and we mixed and mastered it. I feel like I think of so many verses and choruses in my car, because I spend so much time driving to and from work—just traveling in general. I’ll be playing my instrumentals and thinking about what words to put with them. It sucks because sometimes I’ll think of a cool verse, and I’ll bring out my Notes app on my phone, trying to type while I’m driving, like, ‘Fuck, I’m gonna lose it!’ That’s the worst part.
You should put it in your voice recorder!
Katzù Oso: I should. But that’s the thing though—I don’t want to go back and listen to it. I’m like, ‘Fuck no!’ But when I have the song and I play the chords just on guitar, I do play a voiceover and I just freestyle. And later I pick at it, then cut it and fit it together. It’s like a puzzle.
Do you stick to your first draft of lyrics or does the final project read differently?
Katzù Oso: I stick to what I say in the moment. Like certain words I’ll usually keep, but then I alter the way I fit it into the instrumentation—because sometimes you can have something written but it’s not going to fit the way you want it to. So you have to take out some words, add some. I usually do that at the end.
What’s the most powerful thing you’ve had a fan express to you?
Katzù Oso: It was at a recent show—the Young Love show in San Francisco, I had some girl give me a letter and a sticker of a drawing that she made of me, and she wrote a story on how much she loves ‘Cherry Love.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, she really wrote all of this for me.’ Just knowing that she did that—that she took time out of her day and was thinking about me—it meant a lot. It’s crazy. It warms my heart.


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