(Interview by Ashley Flamenco and Miguel Anderson)
(Photos by Leila Grillo)
About a week ago, Stage Confessions got the chance to chat with Paul Hernandez who goes by Katzú Oso; he’s a rising artist who makes deeply romantic synth jams, the perfect songs to groove to with your crush. It was the day before Katzú’s big show at The OC Observatory where he would open for Tyler, The Creator, performing alongside artists like BROCKHAMPTON, Clairo, and Jasper Bones. We met outside of a tiny Starbucks, surrounded by constant blaring car horns, where he told us about releasing his first song, “Sophie,” on 420, the experiences of love and heartache that have shaped his work, being a person of color in the growing indie scene, and how it was receiving the news that he’d be opening for Tyler. Katzú Oso has just barely begun his career but with his talent, we know there’s much that lies ahead of him; we truly feel that he’s going to blow up so watch out.
What artists have you been listening a lot to lately?
Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Mild High Club, HOMESHAKE, Steve Lacy — his demo is f***** dope, and pretty much everyone I’m playing with tomorrow at the show. They’re all under my related artists and it’s weird because I’ve been listening to all of them lately; I’m playing with them tomorrow so that’s exciting.
What is an all time favorite album?
Lonerism, for sure, by Tame Impala. It got me through a difficult time in my life.
What are some of your pre-show rituals?
Damn, that’s a hard one….I take a lot of breathers, I try to take a shot or two just to try to loosen up the nerves because if not, I’m really stiff up on stage. And I like to dance up there, when I’m feeling a type of way, I dance a little more.
When you’re making a song, what’s the vibe in the studio?
If the song gets me dancing in the moment, like in my room, I’ll continue to work on it. If I’m not vibing to it, then I don’t continue it, I push it aside and work on something else.
What music did you grow up listening to?
I grew up on The Beatles, as weird as that sounds. My dad’s a huge Beatles fan and he plays guitar too so he taught me. He’s also a big Carlos Santana fan so I kind of grew up with those old school vibes.
Does that influence your music in anyway?
Yeah, totally! My songs are all love songs and The Beatles are all about love so I resonate with that.
Are there any specific artists who you would credit with getting you into music?
Like I was saying, The Beatles are #1 for me, as corny as that sounds.
So you started putting out music this year but when did you decide that you wanted to pursue that as a career?
When I was getting the feedback from my first song, “Sophie.” I had dropped “Sophie” just for my friends, for my stoner friends actually, I dropped it on 420. I thought “because people are going to be smoking today, they’ll want to listen to some jams so they might as well listen to this.” And out of nowhere I was receiving a bunch of feedback and people were loving the song so I just continued and started doing more.
Did “Sophie” just blow up?
It was Sophie that got most people’s attention.
We know that your music is very romantic so we’re wondering what kinds of experiences have shaped that romantic music?
Honestly, everything happened this year: I lost relationships, I gained relationships; I got out of a 5 year relationship so that impacted me a lot. Also, I tried to put myself in my friends shoes sometimes and write from their perspective. For example, with “Honeydew,” I was still with my girlfriend at the time and that’s a breakup song, it’s kind of a sad song. My friend was going through a breakup so I kind of wrote it from his eyes.
Oh okay, so when you wrote it, it wasn’t coming from what you necessarily felt?
No, I tried to write it from his perspective and my girlfriend hated it at the time, she was like “are you gonna leave me, what are you trying to say?” because it’s a breakup song.
When you’re writing a song, what’s a common starting point for you or what inspires you to create something?
I would say a new synth sound. Whenever I find a new sound or something that really gets my attention, I’m like “people are gonna vibe to this live, I need to put this in a song.” It’s nice to groove to synth in music.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Well, my family, they’re all from Mexico. My parents both moved here from Mexico so I’m first generation.
How has it been living in Montebello?
This is such a boring city, I don’t even do much here. It wasn’t up until this year where I just got motivated to make music. I’ve been playing in a band for the past four years but it was more indie-rock, less synthesizers.
What was the name of that band?
Do you still play with them?
No. They play for me, they’re my backup band for live performances. We decided to just focus on Katzú and leave Spoken Folks behind.
Does your background play a role in your art, if so, how?
It does, totally. Well, I grew up listening to a lot of old ballads in Spanish and Rock en español, all of that. I noticed that a lot of those artists, they carried light synthesizers, it might not have been extra as f*** but they’re really light and stuff like that just inspires me.
The indie scene has definitely had a large growth in artists of color recently so how do you feel being apart of that wave of new minorities in the music industry?
Honestly, I never thought I’d even be apart of the wave. It’s exciting, it gives me hope in the music industry. Like damn, people are gonna put time and effort into listening to music that I made.
It gives us hope too because we’d say that the indie scene is really known for being mostly white.
Yeah. With other musicians, I always thought it was probably their parents paying for their recording time and all that but I actually didn’t really invest money into my production, I just use my sh***y equipment at home and make it happen.
What are some messages to other artists of color that you have?
Honestly, don’t give up. As slim as your chances may be, just keep going. I honestly still feel like tomorrow’s show is not gonna happen, it feels like it’s all a dream; it’s crazy, it’s surreal. If you believe in what you’re doing, just keep at it. If you’re passionate about it, just keep doing it, people will listen. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s yours and there’s other people who will like it as well. People hate on me all the time, I get people messaging me like “dude you write p**** sh**, you write love songs and no one listens to love songs,” but honestly, I’m writing it for the people who are listening and for myself.
It was really exciting for us to hear that you got added to the lineup as one of the openers for Tyler, The Creator’s show, how did you feel receiving that news?
I was driving somewhere and my manager texted me and I literally went apesh** and yelled. My friend was with me in the car and we f***** went apesh**, I was hyperventilating, I didn’t believe it, it was crazy. Then I messaged the band and everyone was freaking out. No one on social media believed me until they saw my name on the flyer.
We heard that you have an EP coming out soon, can you tell us anything about that?
There’s no official release date yet but there is a big project coming out in 2018.
Next, we’re gonna ask you a few music related questions and we need you to give us the first answer that comes to mind.
SATURATION 1, 2, or 3?
Who are you most excited to see perform tomorrow?
What’s a venue that you’ve always wanted to perform at?
The Fox Theater (in Oakland). I’ve been there and the sound there is amazing.
Last song that you listened to?
Jose Jose – “Almohada”
Favorite artist at the moment?
We were actually about to ask you “HOMESHAKE or Mac DeMarco?”
I’m a big DeMarco fan but HOMESHAKE gets my heart.
Thank you so much Katzu! You killed it with your groovy performance at The OC Observatory.
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