LOCATION: Seattle, WA
GENRE: Latino Neo Psych Indie Rock
INFLUENCES: Phil Spector, Yo Lo Tengo
Seattle and partly by way of Buenos Aires-based band PAMPA has been described by revered music writer Jonathan Zwickel as “timeless, lo-fo, downtempo guitar pop that is equal pats Phil Spector-ish Wall of Sound and limber Yo La Tango-is jangle … with “magnetic melancholy of a particular Northwest bent.”
Originally PAMPA was to be called Mannahatta for “land of many hills,” lead singer-songwriter-guitarist Moon Ballie explains. “Lenni Lenape used that word to describe Manhattan before the European invasion. Though Baillie lived for two years in New York City and felt a connection with the city, he felt it inauthentic to draw on his time there for the name. He had also considered ‘Sigue la Sombra de mi Bebe,’ a reference to a song by Charly Garcia, but this felt like it might be a bit too challenging out of the gate for the English speakers he hoped would lend their ears.
Baillie was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In his path he writes stories. These stories are the fabric of his culture, and PAMPA is a journey that describes his modern American experience. Baillie started PAMPA in 2013, after spending three months back in Argentina, which he had been away from since 1996. “Pampa” is also a native Quechua word describing the wilderness, and he realized that the mysterious wildness of that description fits what confronted him at the time, such as “where to fit in this Northwestern society?" So Baillie did what he does: write his stories in songs about life in order to find where that place would be. “These songs document times,” he says. “I mean, they have structures, formulas, esoteric reasonings, but they capture a mood in its inception.”
Baillie is joined in PAMPA by Steve Lykken on drums; John Carlson on bass; Kerrick Olson on rhythm guitar and vocals, and Nate Rogers on keyboards and vocals, all adding some flavor with other ingredients where some extra spice is needed.
As multi-layered and intricately thoughtful as PAMPA’s output is, the deeply familiar heart and earnestness of their music is being warmly understood by local music fans seeing them live or hearing it played on KEXP. Their new eight song release La Contumacia is an elegant yet ecstatic mixture of poetic bilingual stream of consciousness, swirled with delectable organ and various ethereal, interplaying elements, augmented by crying lead guitar and dashes of horns, with the feeling swing of golden era Freak Pop filtered through a staggering jaunt through Buenos Aires unlike anything you’ve heard since the 70s became the 90s.
The album's title translates to "the contumacy," meaning "a stubborn refusal to obey or comply with authority," especially in regard to compliance with bureaucratic orders. Which, given Baillie's status as an immigrant (albeit a naturalized citizen) and his bandmates' shared feelings regarding things happening in this place and time, is a clear message from the entire band.
La Contumacia is PAMPA’s second full-length and it feels like a true progression from the bands first album, In The Flatlands. Specifically as they left us on the B side with hints of more grandiose composition and experimentation. Here we find them expanding in this direction with instrumentation and moving parts well beyond what we hear on their debut while still remaining anchored in the intimacy and intensity of Moon's voice and lyrics. The band clearly has a number more years under their belts; melding into an ever moving and developing united entity with the ability to express the music in swelling arrangements far beyond anything on the first release.
Baillie first heard the phrase La Contumacia in a record by the Uruguayan composer Eduardo Mateo. “During the South American Summer of 2018 I spent one month in Uruguay,” Bailie explains, “and became obsessed with Mateo’s record Mateo Solo Bien se Lame. Truly a gem of Rioplatense folk. Some of the audio takes were left in, and at one point his mic starts feeding back. His reasoning was, ‘ah, la contumacia.’” Baillie and his comrades investigated the arcane meaning of Mateo’s usage, and it became an inspiration to their new album.
Three of the key tracks from La Contumacia are the lilting and funky “Una de Cal y Una de Arena,” the sweetly timeless and haunting album opener “When the Dawn is Gone,” and the torch, shimmering, almost hymnal dream-pop “So Far.” A video for “When The Dawn is Gone” is being prepared and will be out before mid-summer.
Baillie functions as the songwriter with the band as whole creating the arrangements you hear. The sophomore release, like the debut, was produced by Johnny Goss (La Luz, Shana Cleveland, Lonesome Shack) at Dandelion Gold in Seattle with the band playing together live to capture the basic tracks. Overdubs also included a little performance help from their friends for the first time, such as Ben Thomas, Annie Ford, Jonah Byrne, Ben Lewis, Mikey Gervais, and Eva Walker.
La Contumacia is meant as a document of our times, as well as the evolution of the band creating it, a Polaroid of this moment in the experience of their lives. Because things are happening so quickly now they already have more than half of their third album written.
Live contemporaries PAMPA could be considered with would be Kurt Vile, Tame Impala, The Moondoggies, Low Hums, Dean Johnson, The Cave Singers, Blitzen Trapper, and Dungen. The band would like Neil Young to know that if he slotted them in as an opener, they would not turn him down.
The tour for the album starts in mid-September, and will include cities such as Spokane, Missoula, Idaho, Portland, and Tacoma