Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Grant Pavol

Photo courtesy of Girlie Action Media.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Psych-folk artist Grant Pavol has been compared to the likes of ‘Sung Tongs’-era Animal Collective, Nick Drake and Arthur Russell.

The impressionistic singer-songwriter has made it a key to never take himself too seriously within the contexts of his music. Like his idols, he perfected his craft at an early age, as he learned guitar on his own as a teenager.

Pavol has dropped one album (‘About A Year’) and two EPs (‘Okay’ and ‘Reflections’) already via Shamir Bailey’s Accidental Popstar Records.

The Music Bugle had the chance to speak with Pavol about his experiences following COVID-19, insights on his ‘Reflections’ EP and much more, which you can check out below.

Music Bugle – What was the moment that made you want to become a musician? 

Grant Pavol – The first time I went to a house show, I knew I needed to do it. Seeing my peers playing right in front of me, not elevated by a stage, hardly even amplified – it made it feel tangible and doable. Attainable. I started getting my own music together right then.

Music Bugle – Based on your social media, you definitely wear the city of Philadelphia on your sleeve. How would you describe Philadelphia to someone who has never been there before?

Grant Pavol – Philly is like if you took New York and stretched it out. It’s not nearly as dense. Everyone knows each other. Everyone is weird as hell. It’s like the whole place is united by some absurd in-joke.

Music Bugle – What was your goal for your ‘Reflections’ EP? 

Grant Pavol – I wanted to make short songs that felt like they existed in a sort of time void. Like, while you’re listening to them, they could be going on forever. Hypnotic, meditative takes on pop. That’s the central idea – pop music being stretched in oblivion like Dave in the scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” where he’s flying through time.

Music Bugle – “Bright Skies” seemed like a brighter track on ‘Reflections’ compared to the mood of the rest of the EP. What made you want to put it out as a single?

Grant Pavol – It’s definitely the catchiest track on the EP. The most uplifting. I wrote it explicitly to be a sorta optimistic pop song, which isn’t my usual approach. Also, the drums on it hit really hard.

Music Bugle – Did the “Bright Skies” video come out how you hoped? 

Grant Pavol – It came out way beyond my expectations, honestly. David McFaul, who did the video, is just a real genius. He did pretty much all the work on it by himself. I loved his previous work and so, I convinced Shamir to let him do the video. We gave him pretty total creative freedom. When he sent me the first cut, I was just floored.

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise? 

Grant Pavol – I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental music. A lot of Tim Hecker and The Field. On a more singer-songwriter basis, I’ve been really getting into Jolie Holland and Gillian Welch. I’m also in the process of exposing myself to everything Scott Walker ever did. Besides that, I’ve been loving Baby Keem. He’s so sick.

Music Bugle – How would you compare your newer songs to your earlier material?

Grant Pavol – The newer songs aren’t as direct. They unfold more slowly and they’re more restrained broadly. I have a greater mastery over my production software and I’m more tactful with my production ideas. The sounds I go for tend to be more distant and less blunt. If ‘About a Year’ was like being swaddled in a plush blanket, ‘Reflections’ is like seeing the ghost of that blanket kind of hanging around the room, preserving your warmth from afar in an ephemeral way.

Music Bugle – How were you initially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Grant Pavol – Like everyone, I had a lot of plans that had to be rescheduled. I was kinda lucky; working from home just meant I had way more time to work on music. In a way, it was a blessing. I got really familiar with my DAW and explored new production techniques. All in all, COVID was okay for me personally, but seeing the way it has affected Philly as a whole is heartbreaking and angers me deeply. So many people have lost their livelihoods and the city isn’t really doing anything. You can see it on the subways and the street corners; the opioid epidemic has gotten pretty dramatically worse, or at least more visible. There’s a general mixture of anger and resignation about town, which is awful. TLDR – I’m fine, but it was a pretty terrible year and a half for us all.

Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?

Grant Pavol – Financially, the advent of the internet pretty much destroyed the music industry for a lot of people. However, on an artistic level, I think the access we all now have to varied and rare music is a fantastic tool for innovation. I don’t know, to sum it up. I was born in 2000, so I don’t really know a pre-social media world. It’s just something we all have to deal with, I suppose. I hate that I am addicted to social media, but I definitely am. Anyway, follow me on Instagram!

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