By Zach Collier
Danny Olguin is one half of the Vaporwave duo Carpoolparty, which features his wife, Mary Olguin, on vocals. He is known for his work at Rock Canyon Studios, where he helped to produce the first three episodes of their live web series. He also collaborated with local rapper Na-G early on in his career, producing beats and remixing tracks.
See what Danny has to say about the latest Carpoolparty music video, Vaporwave as an emerging genre, and their recent relocation to Greenville, South Carolina.
When I saw your video for “Brick Houses,” I had to reach out to you. It’s absolutely beautiful.
Thanks for the complement! It means a lot! We weren’t really sure what people were going to think of our video. I’m happy to see that for the majority, newcomers to the genre and veterans alike who have listened to the song or have seen the music video, are enjoying it.
Very good to hear. So, how did you get the idea for the video?
The idea for the music video kind of came together piece by piece, almost by accident. We knew for sure we wanted to film Mary “dancing” across America but we weren’t really sure at the time how we could do it. I didn’t even know how to use [Adobe] Premiere then. Mary didn’t even dance to “Brick Houses” when we shot the video. Fortunately the song she did dance to still worked.
When we started editing, we realized some shots looked pretty cinematic. So we thought it’d be kind of funny to make the whole music video look like an opening credits sequence as if you’re about to watch some kind of 90’s movie but replacing the names with song lyrics. Little fun fact, almost all the fake staff titles we used actually came from the Star Wars Episode IV end credits.
Gotta love Star Wars! [Laughs] I was wondering where you got all the staff titles – they all sounded pretty legit. There are some gorgeous locations in the video. Where was it shot, and by whom? What camera did you use?
The video itself what shot across 9 States, From Utah to Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, to North Carolina and finally South Carolina. The filming was done by me, using a Sony A6000 from the car mount while driving along the shoulder of the freeway for the landscape shots, and going hand held using a 50mm lens for the close ups.
The freeway? Isn’t that kind of dangerous?
Yes, it was dangerous but we felt the result was worth it. We bought and used the A6000 because of its incredibly fast autofocus and vivid color depth which I think helped make our shots look more surreal.
How did Mary feel about dancing publicly in so many places? Did she get any weird looks from passers by?
Not really. We didn’t get very much sleep on our trip across America so I think Mary was too tired to care, or really even notice; although she did really enjoy doing it especially running across the big landscapes. It felt really freeing. Eventually we just began to feel really comfortable like we were just shooting a video in our back yard or something. Surprisingly, no one really stopped us or said anything. I guess we must’ve looked so focused (or maybe stoned) that people just assumed we were doing some sort of professional video shoot. We don’t do drugs by the way – just for the record [Laughs]. Actually, the biggest worry we really had was getting pulled over because our car registration was expired the whole time.
So, Carpoolparty is a collaboration between you and your wife Mary. How did you two meet? How did Carpoolparty come to be? What got you started? Lots of questions at once, I know.
Oh man. Where do I begin? I’ll try to keep it as short as I can. [Laughs]
Basically Mary and I first met out of the blue at a bus station. She was playing guitar and singing one of her brother’s songs while waiting for the bus. I was sitting on the opposite end of the station when I first heard her. We rode in the back of the bus together and swapped songs. The whole thing was really surreal. Like out of a movie or something. I didn’t see her again for a few months until we began to randomly run into each other at random shows and such. Eventually I invited her to jam over at my place but we just ended up talking for hours and sharing our first kiss. I think a few days later we had our official first date. [Laughs]. After that we basically spent every day together until we got married. I guess we’re a little unusual. While couples like to have their time apart, we don’t like to go anywhere unless it’s together.
So naturally, spending so much time together, we wanted to try starting a band together. Funny enough though, starting out we were really different musically and kind of clashed a lot stylistically. We were (and kind of still are) really stubborn. So it caused a lot of sparks and a lot of frustration. For a time we almost felt like music would ironically be the only thing we couldn’t do together. We had a lot of failed attempts before we finally came up with Carpoolparty.
The way we came up with Carpoolparty was almost as a surrender to each other. We were trying so hard to be as “professional” as possible with our past projects that I think we just burned each other out and just gave up. We decided just to do a project for fun with no expectations and no real plans, and that’s when I think we finally came together musically. I’ve had a lot of people ask me where the name comes from, and while other bands have cool stories with cool meanings behind their names, ours just came to me while I was taking a dump. [Laughs] It’s a super ungraceful story but truthfully, that’s when I’ve had some of my best ideas. For some people it’s the shower, but not for me because the white noise of the shower water is too much like ambient hypnagogic music and I can’t focus.
You, sir, get ten points for honesty. [Laughs] As Carpoolparty, how would you define your sound?
For a while we wanted to do something “Indie,” producing a lot of “meh” kind of sounding tracks. Over time we got more and more electronic and eventually got to a sound we both felt we really agreed upon. I would simply describe the sound we’re going for as a blend of original vocal dance music and vaporwave.
Tell me a little bit about Vaporwave. What is it, where did it come from, and why does it intrigue you?
Wikipedia says, “Vaporwaveis a music micro-genre that emerged in the early 2010s. It is often characterized by a nostalgic fascination with retro cultural aesthetics, commercial fragments, and technology, as well as a critical or parodic preoccupation with consumer capitalism, popular culture, ’80s yuppie culture, and new-age tropes.”
Now, about 5 years later, Vaporwave has evolved into an art movement and has branched into dozens of sub-genres of its own. Vaporwave has grown from being “Meme Music” and “sh**posting”, to sophisticated original compositions. Now the word “aesthetics” is considered a curse word among the more serious Vaporwave community looking to expand the genre. The original defining album, Macintosh Plus’s Floral Shoppe, is slowly being replaced by its more somber and ambient counterpart album, 2814 Birth of a New Day. While many “purists” mark this as the death of Vaporwave and the loss of its ironic nature, many more are claiming it is alive and well and slowly maturing into a serious art form.
Vaporwave intrigues me not only for its unique sound but perhaps even more so for its execution. I find a sense of freedom and a limitless amount of inspiration. There is just so much that I can do with Vaporwave that I can’t stop thinking of new ways to incorporate the genre into my music. There is also such a very active community that every day you will discover something new. It’s really sweet to be able to see and share so many ideas instantly across the world. We live in an awesome time.
The other thing that intrigues me about Vaporwave is how much visuals are a part of the genre almost equally as much as the sound itself. Ever since I started writing music, I would always think about what logo, or graphic, or artwork it should have. I’ve done graphic design and artwork for a few more years than music and having these two mediums of art have perpetually enhanced my creative process. When I draw I must have music, and when I create music, I must have graphics to go along. Vaporwave just feels like a natural extension of what I was already naturally doing. It’s so perfect it’s surreal. When I was 17 I even made a song using Windows 98-2000 sound effects which is actually a style found in Vaporwave. Perhaps I’ll put it up on our website for fun.
Honestly, I’d love to hear that! That’s super interesting that visuals and music are tied so closely together in your mind. How does the creative process work for you and Mary then? Where do lyrics and melodies come from? How do you write your beats?
So usually I write the beats and Mary does the vocals. Usually we come together to produce the song into its final form. We never release anything we don’t both agree on. As the producer I do get an override on some things but that doesn’t happen very often.
I use Logic to produce the beats, and Ableton for live performances. For visuals I use Photoshop, Premiere, and Flash.
The way I like to write out beats is the drums first. Then the bass. Then the synths. In between those steps I’ll add samples here and there until the whole song kind of comes together. I usually lay out a foundation of drums and bass all the way through before I lay down the rest of the song that way its easier for me to see the end from the beginning. This step helps me from doing too much for the song too early which used to be one of my biggest problems starting out.
I also take A LOT of breaks. I mean A LOT. As soon as I feel that I am forcing it, I take a break. Some days I can go hours or even days on end, and other days I can only go 10 minutes before I need a break. I’ve noticed working this way has helped me stay more inspired and include only ideas that came out of inspiration rather than out of pressure. I go by feeling A LOT. After all, music is an emotional language. It only makes sense to compose it with your feelings in order. If I’m not enjoying the moment I don’t write.
Our lyrics come from a lyrics bank that we put together from other songs. I’ll usually spend hours listening to random music while playing a game or working on graphics – or basically doing anything other than music but that is enhanced by having music – and whatever lyrics stand out to me I write them down. I do have some rules though. The song must be obscure, or the lyric must [be] obscure enough that it could be used in any other song, and it cannot be longer than 1 short sentence. The shorter the better. Mary likes to scan lyric sheets, and whatever phrases stand out to her she writes those down. I believe Mary is like an analytical genius or something, because the way she does things would melt my brain.
Finally, we go back and listen to the tracks and feel out what kind of story the music is telling and look through our list of random phrases and pick out the ones that feel right. Again ALL done by feeling. It might sound weird but it’s something that really works for us. Mary and I have spent so much time together that our emotions are really in tune with each other so we use that to our advantage when writing lyrics and music together.
It’s really fun that I get to do this with my wife. It really is a dream come true for me.
Here’s the real question. How do you find weird stuff from the 90’s to sample? Do you have a specific go to source for 90’s voice excerpts? Like some sort of 90’s repository?
So what is so great about using Vaporwave as a method of sculpting out tracks is that you can find inspiration from almost anywhere. Old tapes in your parents’ or grandparents’ attics, searching online for 90’s weather station archives, commercial archives, old Japanese video catalogues, all of it you can find online. It feels like treasure hunting for sounds. It’s really fun!
You recently relocated to Greenville, South Carolina from Provo, Utah. What was the reason for the move?
One of the big reasons for the move is that we wanted someplace new for our new project. As much as I love Provo, I wanted to see the country and see what it was like out of Utah. I grew up in Utah and felt it was time for a change in scenery, so Carpoolparty was the perfect reason to do that.
What is the music scene like there, and how does it compare to Provo?
Greenville is pretty new when it comes to electronic music. Local producers tell me the general public is a bit “behind the times” in terms of taste in music which has its advantages and disadvantages. Because of this, electronic music is a small tight knit community and like in most small scenes, you are a big fish in a small pond and it is much easier to stand out. However, there are less performance opportunities than the more “liked” genres of local acts… busking happens out here and that’s something we really wanted to get into, especially starting out. We don’t need exposure shows when we can busk for exposure and still make a little bit of cash. It’s not a mecca, but it is a good home base for us. Here we can grow like we could in Provo but have a little bit more of a chance to make money starting out.
You’re now just a few hours from Nashville. Have you had the opportunity to visit? Do you hope to establish a presence there?
So the other big reason we moved out here is because we are so close to so many music hubs. Nashville is about a 4 to 5 hour drive and there are other major cities for us to establish our music. So far we’ve only had a chance to visit as tourists but we’re still working on going back with an in. Nashville is one of the main cities we want to try to establish a presence in but not immediately. Our biggest priorities are the cities closest to us that have an electronic music scene, big or small.
You were known for working at Rock Canyon Studios. How did that experience impact your skills as a producer and a musician?
Working with Gaynor Brunson was a blast. Watching him work taught me a lot. He also let me learn as much as I wanted with his equipment. I have a lot to thank for my experience at Rock Canyon Studios. It was there that my ear began opening up and I could start hearing the subtle differences that help or harm a mix. I feel confident I can take that experience and continue to grow as a producer and produce professional results. So far right now, I’m only working on my own music, and very few close and private clients.
What was your experience with the Provo music scene in general? What are some of its strengths and some of its weaknesses?
Although I can understand it, I still hate the general attitude producers have that if they help each other out, they’re creating more competition for themselves. That’s an attitude that will keep Provo from becoming a major influence in the music industry. Unfortunately that attitude floats around Greenville too. So I keep private about who I produce out here. But that’s a big weakness I see in Provo, and Greenville (from what I’ve seen so far). What I really like about Provo though is the sheer amount of talent and opportunities. I think a lot of Provo musicians take for granted what they have. There’s a plentitude of great sounding venues that many starting bands can perform in and even make money in. It is also one of the most supportive communities that I know of when it comes to local music and arts. It’s too bad that so many artists, good artists, aren’t serious about pursuing music as a career. So you get these great bands that fizzle out every year.
If you were to name a favorite act from Provo that you listen to regularly, who would that be?
I gotta give a shout out to my friend D9 Robot. He’s an example of someone who takes his craft seriously. I love seeing him work. I always learn something new from him. If you ever get the chance to pick his brain, you will walk away a happier person. His name’s Dan Wilson. He’s got a private recording studio in downtown Provo and that’s all I’ll say. That should be enough info to find him if you really want to.
When can we expect a full release from Carpoolparty? What can we expect from you in the future?
We’re hoping to release our first full album this Summer 2016. We will always be releasing more singles for download/sale and we’ll always be grateful for the support we get from our fans.
We are planning on honing in our brand, preforming live shows, making them bigger and better as budget allows, and putting out more quality content for our fans. Loving Carpoolparty means you will always be loved back! And as this whole thing grows, you can expect tours and show dates all across the country.
See Carpoolparty’s music video for “Brick Houses (I Don’t Care Where I Belong)” below!