By Zach Collier
As their self-proclaimed biggest fan, I can confidently say there’s nobody in the Provo music scene like Pacificana. The brainchild of frontman Ben Mueller, the project draws on the textures of surf-rock and the earliest days of Rock n’ Roll without being either surf-rock or a revival. Some bands, like The Mellons (who are also a personal favorite), have gone to great lengths to recreate the sound and aesthetic of The Beach Boys in terms of recording technique, writing, arrangements, and mix. Pacificana hasn’t done any of that. Nor do they pretend to.
“I feel like such a poser because I can’t even surf,” says frontman Ben Mueller.
Pacificana works for me largely because of the project’s meta-referential nature, its tongue-in-cheek presentation, its raw production, and the carefree energy it exudes. It’s just fun music, and it sounds like those involved have fun when they make it. It’s no wonder Jordan Ottesen gave their first outing a stellar review.
“Rolled Up Jeans” is the first Pacificana release since 2018’s Messy Hair. When asked what the reason was for the lengthy hiatus, Mueller said life got in the way. “Long story short, some of us got married, pursued other awesome musical avenues, moved out of state – and college,” he said. It’s all been good vibes, though. “Everybody is just thriving, and it’s so fun to see what they’re up to and creating.”
During those years, Mueller was still writing new songs. The secret to Pacificana’s bright exuberance is that it’s a passion project. Bandmates and collaborators like Scotty Knutson of Brother. and Casey Ball of Drusky are able to jump in without any pressure.
“I just think it’s so fun to make music,” says Mueller, a filmmaker by profession. “I’m not looking to get famous or even perform. I’m just looking to have some fun with pals. It’s really fun to share with family and friends.”
Before their hiatus, Mueller had written “Rolled Up Jeans” and even got to play it a few times with the band. “I think the reason why it was the first new song we released was because it’s been the longest one with me.”
The group is currently in the process of recording additional songs. The recording process is as laid back as the music. Everything is recorded in Scott Knutson’s office in Salt Lake City (except in the case of bassist Dallan Haslam, who records from his apartment in New York City) and mastered by “some dude from Fiverr.”
“I feel like I’ve been really hands-off this recording, and my super talented friends just did what they did best,” says Mueller. “It all just came out amazing. Whenever I listen to the song, I just love listening to the solo on repeat.” So do I. I absolutely love the guitar solo at 2:17. The tone is so wild. Mueller’s words are my own: “Man, Casey Ball can just shred.”
Pacificana may make some live appearances in the future. “I’ve debated going back to try Velour’s Battle of the Bands,” says Mueller. “We’ll see!” If that happens, I’ve asked Ben to make me a part of the band. Until that dream comes true, you can catch me over here listening to “Rolled Up Jeans” on repeat. You can follow Pacificana on Instagram and listen to their new song below.