Pacifico's Matthew Schwartz on His New LP 'Everest'
By Brody Coronelli and Samantha Warren
The collaborative indie-rock outfit Pacifico is no stranger to collaboration. Formed in 1999, the band is fronted by Matthew Schwartz, but instead of using the band as an outlet for his independent creative vision, he's always prioritized working with other musicians to create a sound that's both collective and unified.
Everest the band's newest offering, is the third in a set of independently released albums that were built from the ground up with a unique and rotating set of collaborators. This approach has rendered each album different from the one before, and Everest is arguably the finest of the three. With a sound that strikes a balance between seasoned experimentation and vibrant pop sensibilities, it's a milestone in the band's spanning career that can't go ignored. Behind the Scene had a chance to chat with Schwartz via email about Everest, the collaboration that defines it, and their current tour promoting the record. You can read the conversation below.
BTS: I first wanted to take the time and thank you for doing this interview with us. For our readers who haven’t heard of Pacifico yet, can you tell us about yourself and anything about the band you’d want us to know?
MS: Thank you so much for having me. I am Matthew of Pacifico. Pacifico is a collective, an idea that spawns from my songs but is sewn together by the contributions of every artist I work with. I’m just a songwriter that needed an outlet that allowed collaborators to choose their level of commitment and yielded high artistic output.
B: How’s the reception and touring behind your new album been going?
M: The reception has been overwhelmingly positive. We’re so excited with how well people are connecting to these songs. Watching people dance to your music is the best compliment you could ask for.
B: When you write any new music, can you tell us what the process is like? Describe to us what happens in a typical writing session.
M: I never really set out to write a song. Typically, I’m either singing to myself, playing piano or guitar, and a melody comes to me. I then spend anywhere from the next several days to the next several months chasing the sounds in my head to finish the song. When the song is written and arranged, that’s when I start focussing on lyrics and production, deciphering what words I’m saying, keeping the ones I like and discarding the ones that don’t make much sense - overall finding out what the song is about.
B: Can you talk a bit about the collaboration that built your new album Everest? It sounds like it was a very collective process, working with the likes of Ronnie Martin on synths, Vincent Cellucci on the lyrics, and Trey Wadsworth for the artwork. Has this degree of collaboration always been an integral part of your creative process, or was it new for this LP?
M: I feel like collaborating with people can only make any project better. Pacifico has always had this philosophy, even when we were still a more traditional band, and especially since we have become a collective. Much like previous albums, Everest certainly wouldn’t sound or look like the final product without the input and contributions of the amazing artists you named above and many others.
B: At their core, the songs on Everest are definitely pop songs, but despite that, they find ways to push the envelope sonically while also remaining infectious and catchy. How do you go about striking the balance between catchiness and experimentation?
M: I’m so glad to hear that you see what I was trying to create. To me, a song is not a good song unless it gets stuck in your head. Seeing that this is my third record, I wanted to experiment a little more with writing and arrangements, ultimately trying to make something more challenging wrapped up in a digestible sugary wrapper. Much like my heroes Radiohead, Brian Wilson, and The Beatles, I tried to take a simple melody and flourish it with unconventional chords and arrangements.
B: What were some influences behind the new album that weren’t necessarily as present in your past work? The presence of synths and electronics are very present on this album as opposed to your previous records, which worked with more traditional indie-rock sounds.
M: I can’t think of anyone that has influenced this album that hasn’t also influenced my previous work. It’s just that this time around some of those albums and songs affected me in different ways. For instance, I was researching the different production styles like the Dust Brothers, I dissected any collaboration that Ronnie Martin was previously in, and I wanted our words to be more eloquent like when Brian Wilson and van dyke parks worked together.
B: With the music industry always changing and evolving, what are the things you like and don’t like about it? What aspects of the industry do you feel have hurt or helped you throughout your almost 20-year career? If you could change anything about it, what would it be?
M: The good thing about the music industry is that it’s the Wild West and you can make and release music any way you want. What’s bad about the music industry is that there’s no value placed on art anymore. If I could change anything it would be to figure out some way to convince everyone to financially support the music they love to listen to. Pacifico certainly had its brushes with fame, each time dashed by the toppling of the music industry. Now more than ever in music you have to be a little crazy and do it just for the sake of art itself.
B: Do you or any of your band members have any side projects outside of Pacifico? If so, what are they?
M: For the people involved in the making of Everest: Ronnie Martin has his own project called Said Fantasy, our drummer Andrew Linton is also the drummer for a band called The Widowers, our bass player Ben White sings in the Nirvana cover band Nameless Nameless, and our lead guitar player CJ Mask also plays with Mike Dunn.
B: When you’re performing how do you handle any mistakes on stage if they ever happen? Do you have any stories that stand out to you where you had to make a memorable recovery?
M: You’re inevitably going to make mistakes. The best advice is just to pretend it didn’t happen and move on. Thankfully, none of the recoveries I had to make have been very story-worthy so far.
B: How do you decide which songs go into a set when you perform live? Do you change up the sets or stick to a regular setlist? Do you have any covers you’re currently playing?
M: For this tour, we’re practically playing Everest in its entirety. We switched up the order to put some more “in your face” songs at the beginning. We pretty much play the same set each night, maybe omitting a song here or there. Our full set does not include a cover, but we have played a few acoustic sets on tour, and for those, I played some covers. My go-to's are “True Love Ways” by Buddy Holly and “Smile” by Nat King Cole.
B: If you had a choice to tour with any band, who would you pick and why?
M: My answers are either going to be practical or impractical. Impractical would be my heroes like Paul McCartney, Radiohead, Noel Gallagher, Beck etc. Practical would be bands more fitting for our album like Wavves, Grandaddy, Civilian, Two Door Cinema Club etc.
B: Do you have any advice for any upcoming artists? You’ve been in the business for a long time—what’s the best piece of advice someone gave you when you realized you wanted to be a musician?
M: My advice would be to follow your heart, always be true to yourself, and never be anything you know that you’re not.
B: Any last words?
M: Thank you so much for having me. I hope everyone enjoys the new album Everest, and hopefully, they can see us live at a show soon.