True musicianship cannot be faked nor imitated, and when you come upon it you want to share it with the whole world. I first heard of Pomo when I encountered one of his songs in an Ex Mag mix, and I was hooked ever since. He’s part of the growing trend of producers that defy a single genre, and in his case he crosses everything from Soul, Funk, R&B, House, Hip-Hop to even Trap.
Pomo is a multi-instrumentalist from Vancouver, Canada, and after putting in his dues playing with different bands, he got his big break when Kaytranada liked one of his songs which led him towards signing with eclectic label HW&W.
The end of May saw Pomo wrapping up his North American tour at Schubas in Chicago with a young crowd of young eager fans. Shortly before that we spoke on the phone.
photo by Riun Garner
I cannot stop listening to your music, I’ve been trying to find some of them to buy but can’t! My favorite is the Janet Jackson rework “Work It Out.”
Yeah a lot of the remixes are just on Soundcloud. Because some of them are unofficial so not all of them are available to buy.
I was reading up on you but I didn’t see a whole lot about your background. Can you tell me a little bit about that and some of the instruments that you play?
My parents put me in classical piano when I was a kid. I grew up doing that and I didn’t really like doing classical as a kid, so I was trying other things such as learning how to improvise and learning stuff like blues. And then in high school I picked up the guitar and started playing in more bands with other musicians. The minute I started playing with other people I knew this was what I wanted to do.
Later on I got into electronic music when I was 18 and went back to playing keys mostly.
And how did you come up with the name “Pomo”?
It’s actually short for “Port Moody,” which is where I grew up before I moved to Montreal. It’s a town in British Columbia.
Tell me about this band you were in that motivated you to move to Montreal?
I was in a band in Vancouver, which wasn’t really great for funk-like stuff or electronic music. It was more into like ’80s kind of music so we chose Montreal. And at that time I just really had that urge to do more dance music stuff.
When did you start DJing?
I kind of taught myself. I always DJ’d through Ableton, I never learned CDJs or anything.
What’s interesting to me is that your sound is danceable but it’s a little bit slower, a little bit more of a groove thing. It’s not crazy fast. When you were doing it, did you find it a challenge to get people into it or was it right away? I know that in the last couple of years a lot of DJ sets have gotten into a nice, slower groove. It seemed like the style of slowing down music came in the last, oh, 5 years or so?
There are definitely times that if the crowd’s not right it’s hard to play strictly the type of music that I do so I kind of have to cater my sets to be a bit more energetic sometimes.
I love that video of you in France, at Concrete Paris, I think. We watch that over and over again and are mesmerized! Tell me about the label you’re on HHNYW. Is that more of a mixed bag label?
It’s got Stu, Kaytranada, me, Jango, and a bunch of others. At the core it’s got a Hip-Hop J Dilla funk kind of thing. And then also more electronic and dance, and a little bit of trap. They guys who run it are really open dudes so they’ve always signed who they like.
Was signing to the label what immediately catapulted you to success? Did you have any significant struggles prior to that?
There was definitely a struggle leading up to that. We moved across the country to keep trying to do music, we kept at it and sharing it and finally that just happened. At the time I was playing in a Hip-Hop band, there was a rapper and we all kind of backed him up and we wrote the music. So the format was like The Roots – a live band with a rapper. It was really cheesy though, it was so bad! [laughs] We were called “Panther and the Superfly.” I mean at the time we thought it was all right but when you look back at it you’re like “Oh God what were we thinking?”
It was a good thing that we moved, because it really showed who in the band really wanted to pursue music. Because it’s hard, you have to find a new job, you’re in a whole new place, and then meet 3-4 days a week for practice and some people were like, “I just can’t do it anymore.” We broke up and I spent more time working alone.
So tell me how you ended up opening for Disclosure?
They shared one of my songs “So Fine” and they were posting about it and saying that they were playing it at every set. Then they would be asking me for new music on Twitter sometimes, and then we started talking. They they eventually asked me to do a gig with them in Las Vegas for their Wildlife show. So I opened up for them there and Guy really liked my set so he pitched the idea of going on tour with them. I said “I’d love to,” but I didn’t keep my hopes up about it, but it actually happened. We did North America and then Europe a few months apart.
Did you do Chicago?
Yeah we did do Chicago! Navy Pier. It was a massive crowd.
To be honest, I love Disclosure but I wouldn’t be surprised if you may have blew them out the water with your performance.
Can you tell me about your production process? I wonder if there’s a difference between how people who aren’t musically trained work out their music as compared to someone like you who is so musically versed.
I’d say like 80% of the time I’ll do some drum sounds… I’ll lay them out, play each individual hit on each of the keys and jam out the drums until I get a cool kind of groove. I try not to think too much about it, because it’s easy to just start adding a million things on top of it but it’s better to keep it simple. So I start out with a drum groove, go up another sound, it’s almost like jamming with yourself and adding another layer.
Another way that’s kinda cool is to drop an accapella of another song, so you have this song structure laid out for you, so you can make parts around the accapella, and then just remove the accapella. And then you have a song.
I’m really impressed that someone as young as you reference so many old songs, songs that someone more in their 40s and 50s would know. You’re really well versed!
I’ve always been into funk stuff, as a kid I loved Michael Jackson. I loved that type of music and those grooves. I feel like that time period of the ’70s and ’80s was just the peak of everything you need to learn about that style of music.
A lot of people like to go out and buy all this shit because they think it’s going to make their productions better. Your shit should be world class without all the gear. Your gear isn’t going to make your sound world class. The problem isn’t the gear.
You used this one song with the vocal “I don’t want to fall in love, love hurts just like a knife…” What was that song called? I lost my shit when I heard you play that!
Oh, yeah yeah yeah! I love that song! That’s a remix by M Phases. The original is “I Don’t Want to Fall in Love” by Jane Child.
Thanks! So tell me about your tour?
I’ll be doing it with Danny… It’s like a duo set. I’m playing a couple of keyboards, we have a drum pad with sticks. Danny is doing guitar and keys. We try to play as much of our stuff as we can live, and then try to improvise as well to make it more of a live show.
So is your goal ultimately for future shows, to bring in other musicians?
Oh definitely, 100 percent.
It’s interesting, I was talking to people about the advent of DJ culture so prevalent in the past 10 years or so. And since you’re kind of doing both – the DJing and the band thing – do you find that people in bands are suffering because they’re not really getting booked so much because of the comparative costs between them and just one DJ?
Oh definitely. It’s inevitable because it’s so much cheaper to tour and get a successful show without a live band. But luckily I think the DJ thing has been around for long enough now that people are starting to want to see more live music.
It’s hard to play with a really amazing band. It takes a lot of work to get your band really tight and to find the right people. But if you do have a great band, people are always going to pay to see it (like Anderson Pak’s band), that’s never going to go away. Nothing can beat a really good live show… the energy onstage, seeing people work together, it’s more human.
Do you want to bring in singers too?
I try to bring in a singer when I can. The opening dude who I’m bringing on tour with me, Mac Ayers, he’s really young and an amazing singer. He’s coming up now. There’s a song called “Eazy” that’s he wrote that’s really dope.
Speaking of producers, what are some that you recommend our readers look out for?
He’s not really a producer but I’m looking forward to hearing more stuff from the rapper Buddy, he’s got some stuff coming out with Kaytra. I’m trying to work with him as well he’s awesome. Masego is also really good. I think in the next year he’s going to have some really cool stuff come out.
You said Paris is your favorite place to perform, why is that? And since you’ve toured by yourself, have you noticed marked differences between various cities that you’ve performed at?
I like Paris because they were the first city to ever bring me out to play even before playing in the States. And I got into electronic music through French House music like Justice and Daft Punk. I think they have an appreciation for that kind of funk sound. They have a big scene for that there. They’re also super energetic, it’s just great.
And yeah, some cities have more of the vibe of stand around and be too cool to dance.
I’ll bet you’d do great in Japan, they would love you there.
I really want to go. I would say my favorite gig was in Korea. That was insane! I was doing an Asian tour a little over a year ago… We went to Thailand, Bali, Singapore, Taiwan, Shanghai and Seoul.
And finally, I wanted to ask you… Can you give 3 Pomo production tips?
One tip that took me a long time to learn is that “less is more” when it comes to effects and processing. When your ears are new to producing you’re always going to want to add way more than necessary. Once you do that on everything the track starts sounding like mud. It takes restraint. When you do a little bit on everything it all adds up to be really good. It’s easy to go over the top when you start and I hear that in a lot of people’s work.
Learning a bit of music theory helps too. It’s pretty obvious but again a lot of people don’t have it. Music theory is good because if you get stuck and don’t know where to go you have guidance. And it helps develop your ear.
And lastly, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on gear to get a great sound. I know it’s tempting – a lot of people like to go out and buy all this shit because they think it’s going to make their productions better. Your shit should be world class without all the gear. Your gear isn’t going to make your sound world class. The problem isn’t the gear.