“There’s time where I beat myself over the head about why didn’t I do this…why didn’t I get into computers, why didn’t I apply myself in other areas better? It’s because I never loved anything the way I love this. Whenever I play…I’m in love with the sounds…I’m in love with that organic composition…the people, the music…the whole thing. I am in love with that. And so it’s like, why stop? Forever on out, no matter what…do what you love.” – Giovanni Lugo of Paloma
Opening its doors for a free night of original music, Seville Quarter hosted two area bands inside Lili Marlene’s. What was originally a saloon created by former Navy pilot Bob Snow, became the entertainment venue now known as Seville Quarter when local attorney Wilmer Mitchell saved and opened the club in 1967.
On this Tuesday night, the historic venue entertained a full crowd as The Suzies (Luke Buckley (vocals/guitar), Willis Garrett (Bass), Jeremy Padot (guitar), and Joe Hobbs (drums) followed by Paloma (Aaron Finlay (drums), Giovanni Lugo (vocals/guitar), Hale Whisler Leal (bass), Nathan Dillaha (guitar) played inside of Lili Marlene’s World War I Aviators Pub.
Following the show, the crew of Paloma got comfortable in Rosie O’ Grady’s for a short interview and talked about their sound, The First Waltz, the upcoming Cover Band show, Ira Glass wisdom and Aaron Finlay’s superhuman karaoke abilities.
TCAS: How did you get together as Paloma
Nathan Dillaha: Facebook. Literally. Gio just sent me a message one day and he’s like, you know it has been long enough. We’ve known each other long enough. We’re both musicians in Pensacola’s music scene; let’s just do something together to have fun…
Aaron Finlay: We’ve always wanted to play with Nathan, but the time…
Giovanni Lugo: We’ve known Hale forever. Obviously with Nathan, I’ve always wanted to play guitars with him because it just scared the living hell out of me. You want to play with outstanding musicians. Hale, I didn’t even know he played bass, but anybody would say he’s one of the nicest guys in town. And that’s kind of key too. We’ve all played with a lot of different people and I just want to play with good guys, guys I trust, respect.
Dillaha: Well bass players are notoriously angry, (laughs) very vindictive people and he’s just not. Whether he played bass or not, he was the perfect bass player.
TCAS: Your sound. What are you influences? How do you put it all together?
Dillaha: I think a lot of the songs are Gio’s brainchild…brainchildren…or whatever…
Lugo: I think a lot of it, especially with this one, with this project, you know, its Paloma…Spanish, it harkens back…you know, growing up in Puerto Rico. I always think of like my grandparents living out in the countryside. The whole idea behind this is rhythm. The whole idea is to hear songs move. I don’t sit around and play flamenco guitar, but there are splashes of what I think is my translation of that culture. Melodies, everything that we’ve grown to know and love and things I love…power, rhythm, motion, and just learning to play better. I think with this is just trying to…for me it’s kind of relearning how to play again and relearning how to sing again, learning to listen, hearing other guys who are beyond me, just kind of learning from that and taking that in. A lot times driving around Pensacola, these are the soundtracks, this is what I hear when I’m busy working some job or when I’m driving down Scenic Highway or when I’m cruising down Gulf Beach Highway or out in Navarre. This is the soundtrack you play to kind of go about your day. I’m not going to listen to the radio unless it’s news. You kind of tap along, and you hum along and then you try to come up with what you think you should be listening..
Dillaha: One of the things that I was talking to Gio about, whenever I first started, was how…I wanted to get out of this box that I had kind of put myself in with guitar where I played like a white boy…like…and I don’t mean that to be rude…
Finlay: Nah…I know…
Dillaha: Like, “all white boys play the same”…that’s not the case. But in my case, I know he had this Spanish influence, like there is this rhythm that I wanted to adhere to with my take on the guitars for this band and so far I think I’ve really come a long way like “learning” like Gio said. Just how to basically “unlearn” how I was playing guitar and really just learn how to play in the pocket, get in the rhythm instead of like you know..the blues stuff…It’s fun and there’s definitely a time and a place for it, but I’m taking the next step by being in this band and there’s so much more culture, I guess, in the overall sound mixed with rock n’ roll, so that’s one of the things I was really pumped about.
Lugo: I think even tonight…a lot of times…still kind of early on live wise…so, I’m kind of looking down at the frets, looking at each other, trying to send some messages…eyebrows…and tonight in particular I was able to kind of…I know what I need to play and I looked out, and I’ve told all these guys and that we’ve seen live clips and I’ll see someone and they’re just shaking their head, just kind of like…head throbbing…boom…boom. Making people listen and…I just love that reaction. And I love that…where they hear the beat. You know what I’m saying? At that point I’m like…alright, cool. We’re doing the job right, I guess.
Dillaha: Everybody in the band, whether it’s a couple of people at a time, like there’s always someone doing something interesting. Like musically, but I like to kind of look at the crowd whenever I know like when Hail is doing something kind of cool…Aaron is doing something kind of cool right here…I like to look out, if they’re looking at Gio or something and whenever that change is to where one of them comes in with something interesting that they’re doing, I like to see all of the heads just go (elated expression of expectation) whenever I know they might be looking at me.
TCAS: Is there any room for improvisation with you guys?
Lugo: No! No way. Let’s not even (laughs)…let’s…Where is the (grabs recorder)
Finlay: As far as improvisation. That last song….whenever we get noisy and stuff…that tends to be just a little different every time.
Lugo: With musicians, I think with, as long as we’ve played, it’s always…right now it’s such a baby stage even. Where everything…I’ve told everybody…these are just blueprints…pretty specific blueprints that I’ve had for a year or two or maybe even recently…if you guys understand it and you get it and you learn it, let’s make that tight, let’s just learn how to play together specifically, what it is to like…more importantly than anything, let’s learn to play at a tempo and stay with that tempo…
Finlay: Being tasteful.
Lugo: But, I think a lot of stuff throughout practice, there are things that are brought out “let’s do that” or “what do you think,” “What do you want to hear there,” “What do you want to do at this part?” Playing with these guys teaches me a lot, but also one of the things that is important too, is just like, once we pass the formalities of just being around each other a lot, then we’ll kind of start to understand each other and know where we want to go, know what these songs should sound like, suggestions then will just become natural and it will just be played out, that’s what I love to learn. I think that’s important. To make it like a living breathing thing that just moves like it needs to. We do that now with sound, we do that now with noise, swells, just kind of getting the aggression up. I think once we start tightening it down to more signatures of letting everybody’s individual taste and individual influences also come out…at that point it’s just everyone’s baby at that point, it’s everybody’s living child.
TCAS: You guys are recording now or have you finished recording?
Lugo: In the process.
TCAS: How soon do you think it will be before you…
Lugo: Man, we’re trying to like…knock it out. It’s not how we’d like to do things. But at the same time we’re trying to be a working band, we’re trying to be available. One of the most important things, you know…bands go through all the trouble of snapping photos, looking cool, you know being the P/R thing…
Dillaha: Basically this…
TCAS: Facebook. Facebook fans…have a million fans and haven’t played one show.
Finlay: That and they have the whole get up and trailer and van.
Lugo: We’re just trying to book shows, book smart like even for us, just playing in different areas in Pensacola and meeting different people within the area and then doing our damnedest and try to put on the best show we can possibly put out and hopefully by mid-July we should have something on-line. We should definitely have something, a song. Like a quick, four song…everything’s turned digital now. You know bands go straight to the internet and that’s where you find music and that’s where it needs to go.
TCAS: The First Waltz. How did that come about?
Dillaha: My friend Tanner (Hodges of Lucid Lions). He was starting a band and we got together one night and he threw out the idea of just like…there were all these bands…me and my brother were in a band…and me and my roommate are in a band and then we’re all in a band. He was talking about having a whole show of two-man bands kind of thing going on and then it kind of evolved into…“well we all have full bands.” He got an extra person in his band, so it just turned into like this local music showcase. And his dad was a big fan of like…play on words or whatever and he was like…”Let’s call it “The First Waltz.” And I was like “I can do a flier idea with that.”
TCAS: It was pretty big…
Dillaha: Yeah. It was over 250 people there.
TCAS: So will it happen again?
Finlay: It’s up to Tanner.
Dillaha: He really put a lot of work into it. Like a lot of work. His ethics got that where it was.
Lugo: That was one of the first times that Vinyl actually opened up it’s doors at a reasonable $5 price. All local bands and it was just packed out. We have these great venues now. We have great talent in this town. We should be able to come in here and rip it apart at a good price and everybody’s happy. I think that’s what we’re hopefully seeing. Some of these venues just opening up to that. We’ve got music here.
TCAS: So what are you guys doing to reach those people out there that are not coming? They say “Oh man Pensacola, doesn’t have anything?” I hear that a lot.
Finlay: We’re not being picky. We’re trying to play with everybody. Spread it out, you know. Get our name out there.
Hale Whisler Leal: Friends of friends. Between the four of us, all of our friends know of the other from another friend. So we’re trying to spread the word a little bit by talking, say “Hey! Come on out. Hang out with us, you know. We want to play some music for you and just chill.” Having a good time.
TCAS: What are your next shows coming up?
Lugo: July 21-23. We’re going to hit Mobile on the 21st, Thursday at the Alabama Music Box. And then we’re also going to hit Pensacola at The Handlebar. This will be our first Handlebar show. Which is total sacrilege because that should have been our first. Normally our approach in other bands, we would have probably already played The Handlebar three times just back-to-back-to-back. That’s just what you did. Now it’s like…hey there’s a club over there. Let’s go to Cantonment. Seville. Yeah! Let’s go to Seville. Let’s go to all of these places where there’s a P.A. and there are people that want to listen, that’s where we’re going. Try not to spread ourself…hammer the same spot, you’re going to play to the same people, you want to reach different areas, you know, different ears.
Dillaha: Normally, when people ask why we haven’t played The Handlebar yet, it’s because we’re trying to save our quality shows out of respect to The Handlebar. That goes on the record. (laughs) All that other stuff…
TCAS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Finlay: Keep playing. Keep doing what you love doing. Don’t let playing in front of one person on a Tuesday night get you down. And just always be on your game, no matter what. Suck it up.
Dillaha: I read this…I’m a big fan of NPR so I read this thing by Ira Glass and he said something to the effect of like when you start out as an artist, everything you do just sucks because your taste is up here, but your ability is down here. And the reason your taste is so good is because we’re privy to so much….so much quality. So what he said is as long as you’re doing something, like eventually, if you keep at it, it will eventually get to where they are in sync, your taste and ability are in sync. And so that’s what I think as far as an artist for myself, I’m trying to do. Just like keep doing like what he said.
Finlay: Because I want to be in one of those bands that people look up to.
Lugo: I think as far as playing music. I think even just. It’s one of those hear it all the time…do what you love. There’s time where I beat myself over the head about why didn’t I do this, why didn’t I pick up some books, why didn’t get into computers, why didn’t I apply myself in other areas better, it’s because I never loved anything the way I love this. Whenever I play…if I f*ck up, I don’t care. I’m in love with the sounds that are coming out of the boxes. I’m in love with the responses. I’m in love with that organic composition…the people, the music, the chords, the whole thing. I am in love with that. And so it’s like, why stop? Forever on out, no matter what…do what you love.
Dillaha: Do it your own way. Nobody ever made their mark by doing something that somebody else already did. It’s true.
Finlay: Just take little bits and pieces of everything you love…(laughs)
Dillaha: 33%…change it…33% (laughs)
Finlay: That’s what I do with every band I’m in…every thing that comes out of my hand. I think about my influences and try to pull from all of them. And not make it too obvious (laughs)
Whisler Leal: I’m pretty sure they covered…
Dillaha: He was going to say “Grow a beard.” (laughs)
Finlay: And none of us are brothers.
Dillaha: The joke when we first started was like me and Aaron were brothers.
Lugo: The big brothers, little brothers band.
Dillaha: They kind of look like brothers too (pointing to Hale and Gio)
Finlay: …the White Stripes kind of thing.
TCAS: Forget the Steward Brothers (local musicians/brothers Alex and Ryan Steward)…you’ve got the brothers right here. I’ll get to that question in a second. Aaron, I’ve got to ask you this. The Aaron Neville karaoke thing…I didn’t know you did Aaron Neville like that. Holy Hell.
Finlay: Me and Kyle did…Linda Ronstadt…We pull it out every once in a while…
Dillaha: That’s awesome! (breaks out “I don’t know much…but I know…”).
TCAS: How did that start out? Where you at home in the shower?
Finlay: Actually it was…
Dillaha: Years and years of practice.
Finlay: I thing being on a random Simpleton (former Pensacola indie rock band) mini-tour, just started singing Aaron Neville and then Kyle (Staples) chimed in with the harmony and the rest is history. We did it a couple of months ago.
Lugo: Aaron’s got a really sick knack of having a recording device in his throat.
Finlay: I was called “The Parrot” (laughs)…Greg Hunsucker was like you’re “The Parrot.”
Lugo: You’re “The Parrot.” But it’s anything he hears that he thinks is funny he can pretty much bring it right back. Voices and stuff like that.
Finlay: But not on command. It’s just got a…
Dillaha: It’s got to be organic. Anybody with a sense of humor…
Finlay: So yeah…it just came from that.
TCAS: So that won’t happen…will that be in Paloma by any chance?
Lugo: You know what. I just now though of us doing that song…I mean if Aaron’s down…(looks at Aaron) not really. (laughs)
Finlay: We’ll leave that for the karaoke.
Lugo: Yeah. We do other things other than play. We get hammered and sing silly songs at the top of our lungs until the place shuts down or asks us to leave. (Collective groans and Oooohs)
Whisler Leal: We do have some surprises though…maybe Halloween coming up…
Dillaha: Hopefully. That would be really fun to have a Halloween show with a bunch of local bands, everyone dress up. It’d be a lot of fun. I call Princess Leia. With like the mini-buns on your side.
Whisler Leal: If you could put the buns on your beard…that…
Dillaha: Really good idea. Just have hair coming…
Whisler Leal: With the whole like white robe…elegant.
Dillaha: Mmmm. Or I could just like the Jabba the Hut, metal bra….just come out in chains crying…
Finlay: I think later on down the line as we get really comfortable with everything, we may throw in a cover just for fun. T-Rex or something.
Lugo: We could have done that tonight…
Dillaha: If we do that, we’ll find a way to make it our own. How would Paloma do this?
TCAS: Is there going to be a cover band show (Finlay organized last year’s Cover Band Show at Sluggo’s Vegetarian Restaurant)?
Lugo: Everyone’s working on it…
Finlay: Yeah…I’ve talked to Brandon Clarkson about doing ELO. I was talking to Dave Myers…
Dillaha: I want in on that…
Finlay: …doing Granddaddy. I think they were talking about Beatles.
Lugo: I think me and the Stews (Steward Brothers) are going to do a raunchy, raunchy Beatles set. Just loud and hard Beatles…
TCAS: Raunchy, raunchy?
Dillaha: During the Rubber Soul era.
TCAS: Crunchy or Creamy peanut butter?
Dillaha, Lugo, Finlay: Crunchy.
Lugo: Extra Crunchy! Mmmm!
Whisler Leal: Creamy.
TCAS: You’re the first person that I’ve asked say creamy…
Lugo: That’s because he’s the creamiest, man. Are you kidding me? Come on.
Dillaha: Spoken like a true bass player….smooth. Give me the Jiffy.
Whisler Leal: I can’t just go along and be like “Oh, I like nuts in my stuff. Nah”
TCAS: Own it.
Whisler Leal: Yeah. Smash that sh*t up.
Lugo: It has a different effect later on.
Dillaha: I will go ahead and say this; I just like peanut butter in general. Like even whatever is inside those Reese’s…that’s not even peanut butter. It’s like sugar…peanut flavored sugar that’s still really good.
Lugo: Peanut butter cookie batter or something…just gritty.
Dillaha: It’s like peanut butter in general. If it’s like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I’m not going to be like..”is that crunchy or creamy?” If it’s creamy, I’m still going to eat it.
-Michael L. Smith