20 Questions: PBDY
Paul Preston talks pop, pot, and heartbreak.
20 Questions: PBDY
Paul Preston talks pop, pot, and heartbreak.
Paul “PBDY” Preston’s debut album arrives in a particularly difficult moment for the Los Angeles musician. Careworn, a 10-track long-player brimming with guest spots—Jeff Parker (of pioneering post-rock outfit Tortoise), Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (violin), and drummer Justin Brown—is out now on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder, where he’s been a resident DJ for the best part of eight years, hosting radio shows, building DJ mixes, and rocking label showcases, having relocated to the California coastline from Phoenix, Arizona upon FlyLo’s recommendation.
A self-confessed music fanatic, PBDY’s seemingly inexhaustible passion for new sounds is infectious, but this enthusiasm is contrasted by a sadness that pervades the album, the result of an unprecedented heartbreak in his life: he lost his mother to cancer while working on the record, and views it as a sort of sonic documentation of his feelings during this four-year period.
Before Careworn, PBDY’s discography consisted of just one track: “Bring Me Down,” included on Brainfeeder’s 10th anniversary compilation last year. He only began producing in 2017, linking up with Jeremiah Jaeas as JP Moregun for a moody, psych-heavy rap mixtape, and he’s spent much of the period since then working on a long-form outing. In the wake of the album’s release, we caught up with PBDY to learn more about it, as he catches his breath after a 35-date tour across the USA with Flying Lotus.
01. What have you been up to recently?
Recently, I’ve been touring a ton! I was on a 35-date North American tour with Flying Lotus alongside Brainfeeder label mates Brandon Coleman and Salami Rose Joe Louis, and now I’m on tour with The Cinematic Orchestra for another 22 shows across America. I’m super blessed to have been on the road so much recently.
02. What’s the last thing that made you laugh, and why?
Thundercat and I always send each other stupid memes and weirdo shit. He’s my big bro so it’s just dumb laughs always. Between that and my newly found “Soprano’s out of context” memes, I’m a happy guy.
03. What’s the last thing that made you cry, and why?
The song “8:48 PM” on my record has a sample of a voicemail from my mother. It was the last voicemail I had saved after I lost them all when she passed away. It’s basically her telling me she can’t make it to my show in Phoenix because she was too sick. That was the last show she would have ever been able to see me play at. She never got to see me perform. I played that song in Montreal to a sold out crowd and I just started to get super teary. I love my mom and miss her so much, and I know she heard that one.
04. How would you describe your debut album in three words?
Perseverance, heartache, rebirth.
05. The album explores “love, loss and death.” What do you mean by this?
During the process of recording this record, I lost my mother to cancer, fell in love, and lost love. This record was made throughout the span of close to four years so through that time I went through some pretty life-shaping experiences that have forever changed me. I’m still dealing with these feelings and I used the recording process as a cathartic means to keep going forward.
06. Careworn is the first part of a trilogy. What can we expect from the next two instalments?
So Careworn is the first in the trilogy of the human condition. The second record will be titled Heartsore, and this which explores the feeling of even more grief. As I started working on new music after completion of Careworn, I realized the feelings I was going through still remained, and they were even getting slightly worse. My music was getting darker and more cinematic so the second record explores the concept that maybe the feelings that I thought were resolved remained. The third record will be titled Betterment, and it is the sort of light at the end of the tunnel. Things have to get better, but it takes time.
07. How much of an impact has Flying Lotus had on your work, and also on Careworn?
Flylo has had a huge impact on my work, I think. Not in the sense of what it sounds like but in the sense that I’ve taken music so seriously because I know it’s important to do so. It’s pretty trippy and intimidating to be surrounded by such incredible musicians. That’s partly the reason why I’ve never released music really until now. I’ve always thought that the point is to make complete and genuine music. Not something half-assed. There is so much good music in the world that for the longest time I was okay with not releasing music because I didn’t think I had much to bring to the table yet. I’ve always wanted to add to the dialogue rather than be another sonic that gets lost or in the way. FlyLo was the first person to tell me to stop sampling so much and to try to work with musicians, which is maybe the main reason Careworn happened. I set out to make something with no samples at all, just purely original sounds from myself and my friends involved. It ended up creating the most personal work I’ve made to date. He pushes me hard and I fucking love him for that. He’s like my Goku. He just wants to see people succeed and I appreciate him endlessly.
08. Where are your favorite places to look for new music?
I’m still a Soundcloud searcher; a lot of the music I find on Soundcloud. I also get a ton of unreleased stuff sent to me all the time, because I’m running TAR so I get demos all the time. Of course iTunes and Spotify for more popular things, but I’ve been just digging random spots and also just hollering at the people whose sounds I love asking them to send me their new stuff.
09. What are the best and worst things about living in Los Angeles?
I’ll be honest, the tacos, weed, weather are the best things about Los Angeles. Also, I have so many friends here so I couldn’t imagine living elsewhere. The worst things about Los Angeles are the traffic and the fact that it does feel like everyone is just trying to one-up everyone else. This can be a good thing if it’s friendly competition but it can also be deadly if it’s ego-based. I also do wish I could have more variety nowadays in the live shows being played in LA. It’s a mellow time, I think, in LA which is great for creation but it does keep me staying inside more than I used to.
10. If you could go B2B with anyone alive or dead, who would it be?
Shiiit, I thought about this for a long time and the name that kept coming to mind was DJ Rashad. I still love DJing footwork music and I think that would have been the best shit ever. I love the fast pace of footwork, it truly does feel like a battle or video game when you’re doing B2B with those sounds. Straight up Co-Op mode. I just love how many songs you can mix so quickly and DJ Rashad was truly a pioneer. I played a house party once right before him and I’ll never forget that shit!
11. If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who would it be?
Another tough one! I think Alejandro Jodorowsky. He’s one of my all-time favorite people in the world. Between his beliefs and philosophies, his films, music, his writings, he’s easily one of the most interesting people in the world. Plus, I’m sure he’s got some wild food tastes. I would also want him to read my tarot during the dinner. That would be too next level! “The Holy Mountain” changed my life when I was younger so I would love to pick his brain and have him explore why my brain processes the way it does.
12. What would be your perfect day, and why?
I’m a pretty simple guy when it comes to my “perfect day.” I do live by a saying I heard years ago that touches on the fact that people get really caught up in the thought that everyday should be some huge experience and should do this and that, and how boring the average day is. Well, the truth is, one day all we will want is an average day. When the shit hits the fan, all we will ask for is normality. When things get really bad, all you want is that basic day with nothing going on, and just being okay with that is important.
So to answer the question, my perfect day would start with a super hot shower including essential oils—eucalyptus, lemongrass, tea tree—then I’d cook a proper breakfast, go to a gym session, come home, throw on some music and explore sounds, do my emails, work on more music, watch some good/bad movies, and go see my homies (Lotus, Thundercat, etc..). Come home to cook a huge dinner, invite some friends to join, and smoke a bunch of weed to end the day. This sounds super basic but again, not everyday can be extravagant. We would lose the aspect of excitement if every day was crazy important!
13. What are the secrets to running a successful label?
I think a key thing is constant contact and communication with the artists on the label. It’s very important to chat with your artists often, even if there is nothing to catch up on, that’s still catching up. The more connected the artists feel to the people running the label the more there will be a real family feeling. When you feel like a family, it’s a lot easier to work and feel honest and open with what’s going on. No one has to beat around the bush or feel awkward; it’s just openness and communication.
I also think having your ear to the street is incredibly important. Knowing everything that’s going on, even if not interested in it, it’s very important to be all-knowing with what’s happening in the world. There are so many things that go into running a successful label but I do think those two things are sorta major keys. Also, just not being afraid to holler at folks or try to connect with new people; whether it be a new artist or a visual artist you want to work with or anyone, just find the contact and make it happen. Worst thing that happens is no reply or they say no. And even then, you just have to keep going!
14. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Teleportation would be a pretty rad ability to have, if we are going the super power route or whatever. A lot of the things in life we wish we could do are limited by transportation and distance. Imagine wanting to work with someone or see someone you love instantly. Endless bonds could be created. I think a lot of people should wake up with the quality of more empathy though, that would help the world immensely.
15. What three tracks can you not stop listening to right now, and why?
“Ocean of Tears” by Caroline Polachek. This song has been on REPEAT. I think it’s pretty much a perfect pop song, the beat is so subtle but banging, and her vocals and cadence are just fantastic. She’s legit killing it right now.
“Kuytu” by Kit Sebastian. This is easily one of my favorite new bands I’ve found this year. Such amazing sounds and freshness that I’ve been looking for.
“Free The Frail” by JPEGMAFIA. This song is so beautiful. It’s the type of track that makes you just need to keep going. When you feel like you’ve lost hope, this is one to bring you back up and find your way.
16. What hobbies do have outside of music?
I love to cook and write. I’ve cooked most my whole life, learning from my parents since I was about eight years old. I’ve been writing short films and stories for just as long. I love throwing on a good movie score and just writing all sorts of short ideas and brainstorming. I’ve been a huge film buff for as long as I can remember so film is very important to me. I’m going to finally try and shoot my first short film(s) in 2020.
17. What was the last film you watched that really amazed you?
“Monos.” This was easily the best film I’ve seen in the last five-plus years. The best movie I’ve seen in theatres since “Moonlight” and “The Revenant.” Utterly mysterious and beautiful. It’s truly incredible and I’ve told everyone I know to go see it immediately. I’ve never seen a movie that throws you into the world without much explanation and at the end you’re still left wondering even more. It gives you just enough to feel satisfied and I love a movie that keeps you thinking for days after. Not to mention the amazing score by Mica Levi.
18. What would you want to be if you hadn’t become a full-time musician?
I would definitely still be working in the record industry. I have always had a huge passion for working at record labels and such so I would continue doing that for sure. When I was a kid though I almost went to culinary college!
19. What are your long-term ambitions with music?
I would love to continue working with Brainfeeder and grow in that world of the biz side of things. But musically I would love to start working on movie scores. It’s sort of naturally happening but I would really love to work properly in that field soon. After these few records, I’m working on i do plan on starting to score films.
20. What’s the first thing you’re going to do after you’ve finished these questions?
Soundcheck in Chicago!
‘Careworn’ LP is available now via Brainfeeder.
Support Independent Media
Music, in-depth features, artist content (sample packs, project files, mix downloads), news, and art, starting at only $1/month.