Pavo Pavo, an experimental pop band with sounds both retro-futuristic and ethereal, features not one but three Yalies — all of whom met while studying music as undergraduates here on campus. This week, WKND found Eliza Bagg ’12 and Oliver Hill ’12, who were in town this week for a gig at BAR Pizza with the rest of the band, on the steps of Blue State Coffee on Wall Street. They were clutching identical lattes.
WKND: What are your Blue State orders?
OH: We got the same thing!
EB: Well, we both got lattes. It’s a 7 p.m. Blue State order, you know. Light on the actual amount of coffee?
WKND: What’s your 8 a.m. order?
OH: Tall iced.
EB: Tall iced.
OH: Three cups a day.
WKND: What does it feel like to be back in your old stomping grounds?
EB: We came back a few weeks ago because we were filming a music video. And New Haven has a lot of really interesting architecture — famously so. Brutalist architecture was the aesthetic: retro-futuristic. We did a big tour with the video director and everyone.
OH: We had more time to spread out then, so that was when we were doing our nostalgic romp.
EB: But it’s nice to be back! It’s funny, I feel older. I guess we’ve been out of school for about the same time that we were actually in school, right? This is the beginning of our fifth year out.
WKND: How did Pavo Pavo get started?
OH: It’s pretty scattered — there’s me and Eliza, and one man named Nolan [Green ’12] — we all met in college.
EB: We all met here, and we actually had a band while we were in school together here, the three of us. And then we moved to New York.
OH: And Ian [Romer], my high school friend, just joined, and Austin [Vaughn], a New York music friend, joined. We just kind of gathered people.
WKND: At what point did you become Pavo Pavo?
EB: About a year and a half ago.
OH: We made this record, which is going to come out in November. It was when the record was done, we felt like we needed to come up with a band name, just being like, “All right, we have a record. We need to have a band now.” The people that were in the band at that moment are what Pavo Pavo is now.
WKND: Can you tell me about the inspiration behind “Young Narrator in the Breakers” and its title?
OH: The idea is about breaking waves. If you’re at the ocean, it’s like the waves — the tide falls in and the undertow happens. And where the wave breaks is where the two things meet. So being caught in the break is being in a transition. The young narrator is us collectively. It’s really about moving from here to New York, a lot of the songs were written in the two years after leaving college, and a lot of it is about being in a break between being a grown-up and childhood.
WKND: Do you have any sort of favorite children in the album?
EB: There’s quite a lot of variety, I would say. They were written in different spurts, so there are different collections among them. They have really different energies.
OH: Like today for example — we’re going to play this song tonight and we haven’t played it in a while. There’s this song called Ruby, it’s about falling in love with a motorcycle and how there’s a danger element to motorcycles and the main lyric is, “You can buy the bike today and choose to die another way,” and we thought that was a cool part of growing up, is the dangerous side.
EB: That’s related to the larger theme of the record about aiming for something that’s on the dangerous side or trying — falling in love with an idea that’s too much or too fantastical.
WKND: You talk about these collections of songs within the album, and it references a narrator in the title: is there some sort of story or plotline to it?
OH: Not a linear narrative, but I think there are definitely lots of little subnarratives and characters. It’s really about us. We’re best friends and it’s about the relationships in the band, and so I think there is kind of a natural drama that unfolds. Also, three of us sing, so you get a sense of different people’s characters, and then you can wonder how they interact with each other.
EB: The young narrator refers to the idea of seeing yourself as a character in your own story.
OH: Having critical distance. It’s not like confessional.
EB: It’s more like seeing yourself acting out the life that you want to have or could have.
In what way do you envision your audience engaging or interacting with this record — to what degree of intimacy or distance?
OH: I think we would hope that there can be different layers of engagement. It definitely, we’d like to think would reward lots of listening. Just musically, there’s a lot — there’s a lot of music, a lot of instruments.
EB: It’s musically quite dense. It’s complex. There’s a lot of different things going on sonically, harmonically that are complicated. I would hope that it becomes more rewarding as you get to know it better.
OH: It works better not as background music than as background music, but we hope that it’s okay as background music.
WKND: You’ve talked about, with me and in other interviews, the album being about moving through time, but does geography play a specific role in the album?
EB: A lot of it is about New York, definitely. I mean, New York just is a place with a very strong personality. And it very much affects the way that you move through life and the way that your brain thinks, especially being an artist in New York. One of the things we’ve been lucky to have is being part of artistic communities in New York since we moved there four years ago. The physical nature of the city and all the crazy things you have to do to live in the city — there are just so many things about living in New York — it inhibits you and it imposes certain kinds of limits on your life that are interesting. [The record] is about that — how living in a city like New York influences the way you think about your life and the work you’re making and your emotional life. So many things about New York are evocative and associative: we have lines on the record about riding the subway; there’s also like a theme throughout the record of wanting to do the disco, of wanting to be a part of this nightlife-magical thing that you imagine is happening through New York.
OH: It’s funny. We all come from different places and we aren’t all city kids, but in this moment we’re embracing being city kids.
WKND: Given the approaching release of the record in November, how is the band changing?
EB: In a way, because this is our first movement as a band, our first product as a band, we’re kind of creating our whole aesthetic world around us. We have to make music videos, and we have to make press photos. It’s actually kind of fun because we have an opportunity to say, “Let’s make as many choices as we can to realize our vision.”
WKND: What is that aesthetic world?
OH: It’s important to us that it’s not straight-up retro, because that’s definitely a thing that gets boring. There’s an element of thinking about this in the record too —
EB: With the kinds of sounds that sound —
OH: Current — but there’s a lot of current music we don’t like at all. So how do we sound current, but not like crap?
EB: I really like how, throughout time, people have had lots of different visions of what the future will look like. That’s just a standard thing people think about, in art especially. There’s Jules Verne, and the Jettsons. We’re very interested in how sounds can be evocative and we’re thinking a lot about what it means to be creating — that aesthetic. How people think about what the future may look like.
WKND: I know you’re named after a constellation [“Pavo,” Latin for peacock] — do you have any closing thoughts on stars or birds?
EB: Well stars, partly because outer space is always a part of those aesthetic ideas about the future or what might be out there — space travel has always been a part of that, right? And the peacock in particular, we’re attracted to because, like the other stuff we’re saying about growing up, the peacock is something that displays itself and is this beautiful but kind of prideful thing. Again, almost ridiculously magical-looking. We’re thinking about that idea: a part of growing up, in leaving New Haven and moving to New York and trying to be artists, there’s this kind of willful display. And trying to capture that beauty and the majesty of that.
OH: And, they’re very colorful.
EB: We like things that are colorful. We’re big on maximal things.