|BUSCABULLA’S CRUCIAL AUDIO GEAR
With their sophisticated, bi-lingual synthpop, full of texture and pretty melodies, Puerto Rican duo Buscabulla – now Brooklyn residents – conquered The Deli NYC’s staff, who declared their debut, self-titled EP NYC Record of the Month in October 2014. We asked Raquel and Luis a few questions about their gear and creative process.
What’s been inspiring the song on your debut record?
Raquel: I think I have been inspired lately by my immediate surroundings, our neighborhood (Ridgewood, NY) and simple daily life in the city with our baby. I think before I was hating the city and thinking about how nice it was when we lived in PR, weather and nature wise. But now I have a different relationship with it, I think I found the happy medium between my longing for the tropics and a zen-like acceptance of this grimy city as our happy home.
Is there something you look for when writing lyrics, like, say, catharsis, personal expression, topicality, or positivity?
R: Catharsis, positivity and humor for sure. But I always want it to sound laid back, not too much drama. I’m a minimalist lyricist.
What comes first: music or lyrics?
Luis: A weird mix of both. Usually whatever nonsense you blabber while making something up has something true to it. I remember Raquel making up the entire melody and lyrics of “Métele” [streaming below] in a minute exactly as she played the chords for the first time.
Is inspiration some kind of random blessing, or is it possible to set it in motion?
R: Both, the first is possible if your antenna is out, but you also have to flex the inspiration muscle.
How do you guys work together on the band’s songs? How do you share the creative input?
R: It varies a lot really. Sometimes I’ll make up chords with that non-sense blabbler first, while Luis plays around with textures and also helps out solving compositions.. Other times I start by sampling stuff and singing on top of it. After that point we both go into the studio together to start production concepts. Sometimes we will just have long jam sessions or we’ll just listen to different snare drums for hours and hours.
Tell us about the process of the one song from your repertoire that came together in the most surprising way.
R: I think ‘Caer’ was definitely a crazy song to make. We had some demos before we went into the studio with Dev but a lot of it was just made up in like two days. We feel like that song goes everywhere and we just experimented with a whole bunch of disparate influences: Gainsbourg, cuban psychedelia, 80’s R&B, Ennio Morricone, argentinian rock, nuyorican salsa..etc It was so funny how we were trying to explain , especially during the guitar solo where we asked if he could just channel The Good, The Bad and the Ugly during the solo.
Normally, how long does it take you to realize if a sketch deserves to be developed into a full song or not?
R: It doesn’t take us that long to know if we have something good, I have a shit load of voice memos on my iPhone.
Electronic music opens so many sonic possibilities that some musicians find it hard to know when a sound is “the best it can be.” How do you refrain from constantly trying new options for the various sounds in your arrangements?
L: If you develop a clear idea, things put themselves together more easily and you can arrive at something using the computer to your advantage instead of being distracted by it.
What is your DAW of choice and why do you prefer it to others?
L: We use Logic X to record and mix on. It sounds good, doesn’t crash and it’s what I grew up using.
Does the songwriting start directly on the DAW or do you sketch ideas with a real instrument first?
L: We do a lot of sketches with our Casio WK-210 and voice memos.What are the plug ins and “in the box” tools you abuse of? L: The Valhalla reverb. It’s pretty much on everything. The CLA-2A Waves compressor and their API Eqs sound great and have simple, old school interfaces which I’m into.
Do you like synths (both real and virtual)? If so, which ones do you use in your recordings?L: All throughout the EP we use the U-NO plug in which emulates the Roland Juno pretty nicely. Our synth player/guitarist LD’s got a Korg MS20 mini, a Korg Poly 800 and a rigged out Teenage Engineering OP1. He runs his guitar through the MS20 then his effects chain, then an amp. Our Casio is also on a bunch of the stuff.
Your music sounds mostly programmed, but there are some live instrument parts, what are your “real” instruments?
L: It’s actually pretty evened out! I play real life bass guitar on most of the songs, there’s live drums on half of the EP, guitar on most songs, and most keyboards were played out by us. Raquel plays samples [through an Akai MPK61 keyboard] but she is playing them by hand so that still counts as real.
What are your favorite guitar pedals?
L: We don’t have anything super crazy. Gotta love the Art Tube Pac as a decent and cheap compressor/limiter. We use it on a lot of stuff including bass for a smacky thick sound. And overdriven on guitars it’s a pretty good fat fuzz.
Are there any real instruments, pieces of equipment or musical toys that lately made you rediscover the playful side of creating?
L: Our synth player’s Teenage Engineering OP1 is definitely that thing. Sampling off FM radio is a beautiful thing.RECORDING SET UP AND MIXING
When recording at home, do you rely on just one microphone/mic preamp or more than one? If more than one, please describe how you use each one of them (2-3 max).
What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your home setup? (Please mention something realistic, not a Neve consolle)
L: If we could mix down to an 8 track 2 inch tape machine with a decent 16 channel mixer life would be sweeter.
Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for?
L: It sort of depends on the song but I think texture is always important and for it to be warm hopefully.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?
R: The hardest part is budget and tools you have at reach to get the sound you have in mind, which can be limiting. On the flip side it’s very gratifying to do a lot with a little, especially when you decide to “bedroom produce.”
Many recording musicians find mixing extremely frustrating, what’s your approach to it and do you rely on a “fresh set of ears” (i.e. external mixing engineer) or not?
L: It’s a love hate thing with mixing. On one hand it can be very musical and creative but you also have to listen to the same song for hours on end. Raquel and I mix together pretty often though. She’ll always have a pretty solid idea of what she’s into sonically and we’ll bounce stuff off each other till we get to something we both dig.
Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded and/or live sound?
L: Luis Valentin from Bairoa is a huge part of our live sound. He plays everything from bass to guitar to synthesizer and all kinds of weird percussion. We fly him from Puerto Rico for gigs when we can. Bairoa is his awesome solo project which you’ll hopefully hear this summer.
Did your tracks change a lot when you recorded them in the studio?
R: Honestly not as much as I thought they might. The finished product is definitely a bettered version of the demos we’d originally made but the general vibe and aesthetic of the music was pretty well defined from before.
THE LIVE SHOW
It’s often challenging to translate programmed music to a live setting, what’s your approach to it?
L: It’s been something we’ve somehow figured out along the way. Because of the nature of the music there’s a lot of variables in our live set up. A lot can mess up in small ways but the trick is in knowing how to use that to your advantage. Playing with other bands helps. We go to shows just to do homework sometimes.
Do you consider the live show as a faithful translation of your recorded material or simply an opportunity to let your songs free to follow new directions?
L: There’s definitely elements we do want to sound like they do on the record. At the same time we want to have fun and not bore people so we just try to get our sound down as much as we can.
What pieces of equipment do you find particularly useful on stage?
L: I have this Art Tube Pac pre amp/compressor I carry everywhere with me. It’s heavy and clunky and fragile but it makes the bass beef up and hit you just right so it must endure. Also my John Bonham Ludwig snare drum. It’s been with me forever and it also sounds awesome so it comes with me wherever.
Are there any vintage formats that you’re interested in pursuing for the band, like, say, vinyl or cassette? If so, why?
R: I like vinyl, casettes are dope too but it’s a harder format for more people to get into I think. I grew up around records and the ritual of sitting down with it, it really makes you appreciate the hard work put into the music you are hearing, it also makes you slow the fuck down.
With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band: fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.?
R: We put a lot of effort into it all, its also super fun for me, since I am a designer. So we are involved in every aspect of the stuff we make. We pretty much make it all ourselves or art directed with our creative friends. We co-edit all our videos as well.
Any comments about the current state of music and art in NYC?
R: It’s a dope city to be in for music for too many reasons. It feels like everyone making cool stuff is here, it also has the best records stores.