Alternative artist Pablo Alvarez has found his voice as an artist after years of experimenting with multiple genres. Born in Bogota, Colombia, he and his mother emigrated to the culturally diverse city of Miami, FL when he was a young child. Alvarez discovered hip hop, Star Wars, and skateboarding, cultivating his internal creative self and later earning a spot in The Guinness Book Of World Records for the Longest Consecutive Rap, freestyling for 26 hours straight in a live broadcast. As a young adult, he moved out West to Los Angeles in an effort to start a music career and formed his latest musical project Good Bison. It was in Los Angeles that Alvarez felt as though he had truly found his voice as an artist. Combining elements of surf rock, pop-punk, indie rock, and hip hop, his music is creative and unique without sounding chaotic. Good Bison has released 2 EPs in recent years, 2016’s debut EP Buffalo Roots, which explored indie-rock, lo-fi pop, and electronic sounds, and 2017’s hip-hop leaning mixed tape That’s Bodhi, influenced by acclaimed producer Jeremy Hawkins, whom Alvarez met shortly after releasing Buffalo Roots. 2019, however, saw Good Bison move back into an indie and rock direction. On his 2021 EP, Scattered Storms, he wrote and recorded all the music for the EP with Mauri Viladegutt and Slightly Stoopid producer George Spits. Largely acoustic and rhythmic in sound, the 4 song EP showcases his ability to twist melodies and hooks on a dime and embraces organic instrumentation, such as percussion instrumentation from a kid’s toy set and a Colombian rain disk. “I want my music to help people feel less alone in the world, as cheesy as that sounds,” he laughs. “My favorite songs speak to the shared human experience. We may all live wildly different lives, but we go through so many of the same feelings and emotions, and in a way, music helps us understand that we’re all in this together.”
On February 21st, the new Good Bison EP, Ghost On Mulholland, will be released. The EP follows the storyline of a self-penned short story, the narrative of which sees the protagonist’s flight from a ghost who has followed him all his life. In December of 2022, Good Bison released the first single from the EP, entitled “Can’t Waste This High”, featuring a mix of live instrumentation and electronic elements. The song was written and recorded in Miami by Good Bison brainchild Pablo Alvarez and Abraham Mendez (Abes), with George Spits handling additional production, mixing and mastering, and Agustin Mas on lead guitar. “Abes and I wrote ‘Can’t Waste This High,’ along with the rest of the EP, over Thanksgiving break in Miami last year. This song was built entirely around the bass riff, and has probably the least amount of lyrics of any Good Bison song ever,” says Alvarez. It was originally meant to be an interlude, but once we brought George Spits into the mix we decided it needed to be more. I always knew I didn’t want to write a verse for the song because everything that needed to be said was already being communicated by the music.” The second single, “Better Lies”, was released in January of this year and is a song about living in denial and the anguish of ignoring one’s inner pain. It finds Good Bison brainchild Pablo Alvarez musing about hiding how he truly feels, running away from responsibilities (i.e running away from the aforementioned ghost in this narrative), and pretending that all is ok when it’s not. “I’ve never been particularly great at communicating my feelings. My mind is so focused on staying afloat and pushing forward that I rarely allow myself to process my emotion,” says Alvarez. “I could be at one of my lowest points and still go about my day smiling. It’s not necessarily an accurate depiction of how I’m feeling, it’s an instinct. Or a defense mechanism. Sometimes I fear people would be disappointed if they realize their perception of me isn’t entirely accurate. I’m actually not always in a good mood, although it may seem that way.” Alvarez’s intention is for the record to be a journey for the listener, enlisting the help of Estefania Krol, the director of KRÖLHAUS, to bring the ghost to life through visuals. “People have a tendency to be extremely hard on themselves, myself included. We criticize, judge, and attack ourselves without reservation. We celebrate the success of others and ignore our own wins,” Alvarez concludes about the themes in his new music. “[We] chastise our shortcomings and belittle our hardships. And I don’t think that’s okay, so I’ve been trying to be nicer while still holding myself accountable. There is no right path. Trust yourself. You’re doing great, even when you’re forced off the road by a ghost only you can see.” With plans to promote the new album and hopefully perform some live shows, make sure to connect with Good Bison via the following links to stay up-to-date on all upcoming news and tour dates. Good Bison is Pablo Alvarez, Abe Mendez, Agustin Mas (lead guitar), Sebastian Delgado on drums/backing vocals, and George Spits on additional production, mixing and mastering. Photo credit: Estefania Krol.
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You have talked about getting into music by writing lyrics and how growing up, you didn’t care too much about the beats or instruments. With your prior EP Scattered Storms, you wrote the guitar for 2 of the songs, which you hadn’t done before. What can you tell me about that transition of conveying your feelings and emotions through music, as well, rather than just lyrics, and how has that been incorporated into your newer music?
I’ve written so many lyrics over the years that sometimes I worry I’ll run out of things to say. Or at least interesting things to say. Finding more ways to express myself through the music rather than just the words was like discovering a bunch of colors I had not been painting with. Before, I might have been self-conscious about releasing a song like “Can’t Waste This High”, because it barely has any lyrics. Now I’m excited because I know the instruments are saying more than I ever could. Every song has its own way of communicating.
A few years ago, you said that you had a turning point with your music after developing a love for The Beach Boys’ album Pet Sounds, as well as The Cure and David Bowie and connecting with the music, rather than just the lyrics. Having always been drawn mainly to Hip Hop and Punk rock music, how did listening to bands like these change your perspective of what you wanted your music to be?
Falling in love with The Beach Boys, specifically Brian Wilson, made me realize how little I truly knew about music. I couldn’t believe I’d grown up listening to songs like “Barbara Ann”, “Fun, Fun, Fun”, and “Be True To Your School” without having any clue of the depth and richness of their musical catalogue. I was also amazed and impressed by Brian Wilson’s long-lasting impact on music, despite the commercial and critical struggles over the years. It helped me realize that it was important for me to make something that would stand the test of time, regardless of current trends.
You will be releasing your new EP Ghost On Mulholland on February 21st and the EP is narrative driven, describing the protagonist’s flight from a ghost that has followed him his whole life. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the narrative and what the ghost represents for you and the journey the narrative represents?
The narrative was inspired by the music, they go hand in hand. I would say the ghost first became apparent while we were writing “Haunting”, but he was always there. From the moment we started working on the EP, we knew it was a journey, we just weren’t exactly clear on the type of journey. Once I realized it was a ghost story, everything fell into place. If I look at it metaphorically, there are plenty of things the ghost represents to me, but I prefer to think of it as a literal ghost. The EP, and the short story, are my opportunity to overcome a lifelong haunting.
The EP has, at times, a slower sound to match the ghost story. How would you describe the experimentation with sound on the EP?
Abe was honestly the mastermind behind the sonic vision for Ghost on Mulholland. He’s not only one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever worked with, but I also genuinely believe he’s one of the most creative, gifted minds on the planet. He basically plays every instrument and is fluent in so many styles of music. I think the two of us really took advantage of this collaboration to showcase our influences and our interests.
You wrote the songs on the EP with Abes (Abraham Mendez) over Thanksgiving break in Miami last year. Having written with Abes in the past mostly through long distance, what can you tell me about traveling to Miami to work and jam with him in person? What was that process and experience like? You have worked with Abes since before you started Good Bison, so what can you tell me about working together for so long and the friendship that has developed?
Whenever Abe and I are in the same room, it’s only a matter of time before a freestyle session breaks out. He’ll find his way to a piano, or whatever instrument is laying around, and then beckon me over. If no one stops us we can literally go for hours. I can’t tell you how many amazing songs have lived and died all in the span of one of our jam sessions. Surprisingly though, our first few sessions in Miami were a bit challenging. Once you’re going in with the intent to actually make something, the energy is completely different. I think both of us felt pressured, and that can stifle creativity. It wasn’t until we let loose and flexed our freestyle muscles that we started to get in the groove. It’s tough too because Abe and I have been friends since we were kids, so we don’t always stay on track. We goof around, watch TV, hang out, listen to music, and then get upset at ourselves for not being more productive with our time.
In December of last year, you released the first track from the EP, “Can’t Waste This High”, which was originally meant to be an interlude. What can you tell me about the track and about bringing George Spits (production/mixing/mastering) into the mix and the decision that the song should be more?
George Spits is a wizard. No two ways about it. I’ve been a fan of his since I discovered his band Llamabeats back in Miami. They are local legends, so I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to work with him. Abe and I already worked with George on “Nowhere to Go”, and we loved what he did with that song, so we knew going into this project that we wanted him to be involved as well. George loved “Can’t Waste This High” right away, but he was adamant that it should be longer. He fleshed it out in a way that made it feel much more like its own journey, rather than just a small part in the EP’s journey.
On the song “Haunting,” you sing in Spanish for the first time. What inspired that decision for you? Do you plan to incorporate more Spanish lyrics in your music going forward?
I’ve incorporated Spanish into my music before, but it has never been as prominent as it is on ‘Haunting’. I was born in Colombia; Abe was born in Mexico. We both grew up in Miami. Spanish has always been a huge part of our lives. My mom and I only speak in Spanish. It felt right to embrace that on the EP, especially because of where it comes in during the narrative.
Having talked about how the record is meant to be a journey, once you had the plot mapped out, you worked with Estefania Krol, director of KRÖLHAUS, to help to bring the ghost to life. What can you tell me about working with her to being the ghost and your story to life?
Estefania got to hear the earliest versions of these songs. She was involved in the project from day one. I shared the plot of the short story with her before I’d even written it. She is the one who is truly responsible for bringing the ghost to life. It was her idea to make him orange, and once I saw that it tied the entire narrative together.
You have worked with KRÖLHAUS prior to this, as well, and have said that you feel as represented by the visuals as you do by the music. How would you describe the importance of visuals for you as a way to express yourself creatively? What do you see as the relationship for you between the music and the visuals? Does one inspire the other?
I’ve been working with Estefania Krol and Krolhaus since around 2019, and I’ve never felt more represented by my visuals as I do now. The music is always the thing that comes first to me, so that’s usually where any project starts, but I’m obsessed with storytelling, so visuals are incredibly important to me as well. The music and the visuals work hand in hand to bring people into this world that we’ve created. They inspire each other.
You have said that you’ve never been good about communicating your feelings. Do you see music as an outlet for you to do so? Do you feel it is easier to communicate your feelings and emotions through song than through talking about them?
I fell in love with music because it allowed me to express myself. In my songs, I fully let my guard down. I’ll write something into a lyric and record it in the studio before ever saying it out loud.
What’s next for you? What are your plans and goals for Good Bison for 2023?
Ghost on Mulholland. The EP drops February 21 and I’m going to be working hard to make sure it reaches as many people as possible. I’ve also been working on a live set with Abe and a bunch of talented musicians in Miami. I’ll definitely be getting back on stage this year, that’s a big goal. I’m hoping to be able to announce some shows soon. My biggest priority at the moment is