Las Nubes’ undeniably catchy songs transition from melancholy dream pop to blistering punk rock as easily as their lyrics do from English to Spanish. Recently named “Best Band” by the Miami New Times, the core trio of Ale Campos (guitar/vocals), Nina Carolina (bass/vocals), and Emile Milgrim (drums), along with rotating live members Steph Taylor (The State Of), Gabriel Duque (Zeta), and Cuci Amador (Afrobeta), have become one of “South Florida’s most beloved bands – a distinction they’ve earned through hard work and infectious hooks.”
The band’s debut album, SMVT, released via the SRR Label in summer 2019, and has retained constant momentum through rigorous promotion, engaging social media, one-off events, and multiple tours. To date, Las Nubes has shared stages with Shannon And The Clams, Jens Lekman, The Coathangers, Sheer Mag, Mark Sultan, Torche, and more. Most recently, they were invited to perform as Iggy Pop’s backing band for a GUCCI x Snap event celebrating the debut of Harmony Korine’s 3D short film Duck Duck in December 2019 during Miami Art Week.
(Photo Credit: Gabriel Duque)
Hear First is Talkhouse’s series of album premieres. Along with streams of upcoming albums—today’s is Las Nubes and Palomino Blond’s Split EP—we publish statements from artists and their peers about the mindsets and impressions that go into, or come out of reflection on, a record. Here, Ale Campos of Las Nubes and Carli Acosta of Palomino Blond sit down to talk about their processes writing songs for the EP, which you can also listen to right here.
—Annie Fell, Talkhouse Senior Editor
Ale Campos: How old were you when you started your first band?
Carli Acosta: I was 15.
Ale: Back then you were probably just like, “I just want to write songs. I just want to be in a band,” whatever.
I started my first band when I was 15 also, but I played drums. I learned how to play drums in my first band, but I never thought of it as something serious. I always thought, I’m just playing music. This is just a hobby. I feel I always grew up with the thought of, music is just a thing that you do, but you need a real job on the side. But now I’ve been trying to learn more of the business aspect of it. Do you feel like it’s discouraging a little, knowing that side? Or do you feel like it motivates you more?
Carli: I think that knowing the business side of music has helped me because I’m doing things myself, in an independent band and shit. Going back a little bit more on the topic of doing music as a hobby — it was funny, because all my life, I’ve been playing instruments. I started playing piano, and then I played the violin in elementary school. I started playing trumpet and guitar in middle school and high school, and my mom was like, “You can totally keep playing music and get a scholarship for college.” That was so viable, but I still had that idea ingrained in me that art and music was just a hobby and not a real job.
So I guess the business side has helped me kind of realize that it is a real job. Artists and filmmakers and stuff, that’s kind of the stuff that keeps people going and keeps people wanting to just enjoy life — not just exist. Without any of that stuff, the world would keep on turning and whatever, but there would be so much less joy in it. So I think it’s a real need in the world to have artists and musicians. Then if you apply it to the business sense, of course, it’s a marketable skill.
Ale: Yeah, I feel that whole business side at first for me was discouraging. I feel like it’s so competitive, and I feel to a lot of people, it’s a game almost. And people play the game a little unfairly sometimes. I was talking to Nina [Carolina] about this, our bassist — you know that band Greta Van Fleet? She told me their first concert, they paid people to go.
Carli: Holy shit.
Ale: And that’s how they hyped it up. They sold out at this giant venue because they paid people to be there.
Carli: My dad showed me their music a few… What was it, like two years ago that they released something? He was like, “This band sounds just like Led Zeppelin, and it’s kind of good.” He’s a dad, so obviously he’s going to think it’s good. I was like, “OK, yes.” And I did some research on the band and found out where they’re from and everything. I always think of rich kids and bands being from LA and stuff, but they’re actually from Detroit. But they must have mommy and daddy pay for them and their fucking Gibson SGs and shit.
Ale: Yeah, that’s what I mean by some people play the game unfairly. Yeah, you guys have money, so of course you’re able to do that. I think it was something similar with Billie Eilish, or whatever.
Carli: And Clairo. Do you know Clairo? She blew up on the internet and everyone’s like, “Who the fuck is this? Her music isn’t even that good” —sorry, if you read this Clairo. Her new album is not that bad. But the point is that her dad was the [Chief Marketing Officer] of Converse. Even though Converse has some stints in supporting musicians, and it’s a cool shoe brand, obviously there’s so much money. The people that we think are just blowing up out of nowhere — they’re not blowing up out of nowhere, they have carefully calculated teams behind them.
Ale: I have no interest in like blowing up.
Carli: I don’t think it’s real.
Ale: It’s unrealistic. I feel it’s sort of empty. The music, a lot of the times when that happens, is whatever. Or it could be amazing, but then it was so hyped up, and it happened so quickly that they’re expected to shit out another album, and it just doesn’t sound as good because there’s no heart in it at all. And they just fade as quickly as they rose up.
Carli: Yes, dude, totally. I read this article a while back and it was about how the social media algorithms now put content that people think they’re going to like in the forefront. So what does this mean for artists? That they’re actually sacrificing what they want to do more, based on what they think people want to see. Social media has definitely changed output. You see a lot of bands with music videos that look the same, and you see a lot of artists and animation that look exactly the same just because they’re trying to reach that trendy point.
Ale: It’s something that changes so quickly, too, that sometimes you’re late in the game when you feel like you’re catching up. It’s definitely thrown the music business aspect for a loop, because you have to basically build your whole business model behind that.
So aside from the business aspect, I guess I wanted to talk more about the music writing process, just because I’m always curious to know how people do it. So tell me about that.
Carli: Well, a lot of the stuff that we’ve been playing was written a while back. Most of the songs were written in December to March from 2017 to 2018. That process was pretty much: I would sit down with my guitar and a huge list of things I would hear, or things that would come to mind that I have written down in my phone, miracle stuff. And most of the time in life, your thoughts have a common theme of whatever you’re going through, so you can write stuff at different points, but different things will connect different ideas.
Ale: So you would say you start with lyrics first in the writing process?
Carli: I mean, not really, even. I’ll do them separately. I’ll write lyrics without thinking of a song that they could be in. Then when it comes to the music, a lot of times I’ll just write one riff. I like to write verses a lot and then leave choruses for Kyle [Fink] because he writes really catchy stuff. But I’ll try to write as much as I can instrumentally until I hit a roadblock. Before, I used to try to push through it and keep writing the whole song by myself, but now I look at it less like a roadblock or writer’s block, and just a cue — I should send this to my band mates and see what they can come up with.
I really like collaborating when it comes to songwriting. When we wrote those songs, like “Creature Natural,” I brought the verse riff to Kyle, and then he wrote up a pre-chorus, instrumental. I just started talking over it until I could drone on one note on these words that I was saying. Then after harping on that for a while, I left his house and immediately got a text message with a voice memo: “Here’s the chorus.” So when it comes to hooks, Kyle is really good with them. He’s really good at melodies, and then I’ll put words over the melodies.
Like “Damage” — I wrote it even before I met Kyle, before the band formed or anything. It was this limbo time where I was in between Palomino Blond and my old band. When that band disbanded, I really [wanted] to take the influences that I’ve never been able to apply before. I wrote “Damage” when I was really into Sleater-Kinney and Smashing Pumpkins — I mean, I still am, but it was when I was first getting into them.
The lyrics actually did come first for that. I was in the shower and I had the first line come into my head, and I had to turn it off, and get out, and get dressed, and start playing. I was like, Oh, my God, this is so good.
Ale: I love when that happens.
Carli: Yeah, that moment in the shower, [or] when you first wake up or something. I love waking up with a melody. Just immediately trying to grab my guitar, reach for my phone and sing into it.
Ale: Have you ever heard riffs in your dreams?
Carli: Not that I can remember.
Ale: Dude, that happened to me one time and I immediately woke up and did a voice memo of it. I sent it to Emile [Milgrim] and she was like, “Oh my God.” I was like, “Dude I know!”
Carli: You play it yet or, no?
Ale: No, we’re actually working on it right now. I’m really digging it so far. The only thing that I’m stuck on is vocal melody part.
I write the riff first. I don’t want this to sound cocky, but I feel I’m good at writing hooks. That’s my thing for sure, and I wish I could collaborate, as far as the writing process with band mates, but I can’t. We’ve done it before, and it’s come out fine. But for me, at least, I’m a little self conscious about how I write stuff and how I play guitar. I feel more comfortable doing it by myself and just taking the time, because I will literally sit there for two hours trying to figure something out, and then it comes out of nowhere. With other people there trying to help me, I get distracted. Or I’m really nice sometimes — if someone gives me a suggestion, and I’m kind of not crazy about it, I’ll be like, “Yeah, that’s great!”
Lately its been more like that, but before, when I first started writing the songs for Smvt, it was definitely, Inspiration, go! And it flew out of me. That was for almost every single song. I feel now I’ve had to learn how to not wait for inspiration and just shit out whatever comes to mind and work with it.
It’s an interesting method of writing that I’m not used to at all. Almost every song that I’ve ever written has just been, Oh, the universe has provided me this riff, I must play it. Then the whole song just comes out. I haven’t had that in a while and I feel like there’s something wrong with me.
Carli: No, I haven’t written a song in a while too.
I have so many ideas that I’m working on at the same time, so I’ll say that I haven’t written a song in so long, but I’m actually writing several songs at any given time. There’s this one riff that I’ve had for almost two years that I’ve hadn’t been able to bring to the band yet, because I’ve changed it so many times — it’s the same chord progression, I’ve just changed the rhythm so many times.
Sometimes I’ll write in pieces and connect them later, but sometimes when you’re having really intense emotional moments, you have to take advantage of those exaggerated moments. Because when you’re feeling emotional, if it’s positive or negative, everything is blown out of proportion. So instead having an argument with someone or crying or whatever, you can write. That will be a healthier outlet, and then you can reflect on that emotion in a healthier way.
Ale: I feel like I used to purposefully make myself go through heartbreak, because I wanted to write more. And that was when a lot of these songs came out, because I was just going through it with so many people. I would write a lot of the songs laying down on the floor. Just being sad and laying on the floor with my guitar feels even more dramatic for me.
Carli: I don’t know, I had a heartbreak recently, but I couldn’t write anything good out of it. I just have a lot of stuff on the back burner that I’ll revisit, and I’m like, when that runs out, what’s going to happen? But it happens. I write something and I’ll sit on it and revisit it. And even though it feels like I’m not writing anything new, it’s going to be new to the band when I bring it to them.
Ale: The song that we put on that Gator Ramen comp — that was an old song that I actually have recorded that I think is on Bandcamp, but it’s in English. We decided to translate it and play it in Spanish, and I feel it sounds so much better that way. In that sense, it did make it a new song completely. It gave it this new life.
Carli: When it comes to songwriting, I think talking about it minimizes how magical it actually feels to do it. Because when stuff is just coming out of you, especially instrumentals, it’s hard to really describe how cool it feels when you find a really beautiful chord progression, or you write a lead that doesn’t sound derivative. It feels magical when it’s actually happening. So it’s funny to break it down.
What was your first band called?
Ale: The Czechs. It was horrible, please don’t look it up. The songs are not good. I quit the band because I found out that they were low key singing about Jesus in all the songs.
Carli: That reminds me of that Hard Times article that’s like, “Bass Player Finds Out Every Song Lead Singer Writes Is Actually About Her.” But it’s, “Drummer Finds Out That Every Song Is Actually About Jesus.”
Ale: Literally me. I grew up going to Catholic school, but I very much was against all of that. So, I was still in high school when I started this band, and I just was over religion at that point.
Carli: It was a Switchfoot type of thing?
Ale: Yeah, it was so bad. And, honestly, I didn’t quit — I got into an argument with them about that, and they kicked me out.
Carli: The confession comes out.
Ale: It was one of those, “You can’t fire me because I quit! I didn’t want to be in this band anyway!” It was super power poppy and just terrible.
Before Palomino, was it just Long Shore Drift?
Carli: I was in two other bands, one while I was in Long Shore Drift. I was in two bands and both of them had dog in the name. I was in this emo indie rock [band], it was really fun; I think I was in my senior year of high school.
Then Beach Dog was something where my friend Nick wrote most of the songs. It was like Joyce Manor, that kind of pop punk emo thing, with a little bit of heavier, hardcore energy, and it was also surf influenced. I played bass in that. I really liked being a bass player for a punk band because you had a lot of freedom to move around on stage. I did some harmonies, but it was just really fun and we would lose control, playing root notes and still be good.
Ale: I honestly really miss playing bass in Wastelands and not having to be the front person. I hate being the front person so much. I’m not good at talking.
Carli: Me neither. I’m so bad. It’s really embarrassing.
Ale: I’m really awkward. I feel so restricted, and having to sing — I’ve gotten better, but I feel I’m not really a singer. I can’t belt it.
Ale: Bullshit! You have an amazing voice. I was even going to ask you, did you ever take vocal lessons? Because you have a pretty high register. I feel I can not belt it for the life of me — I’ve tried and I’ll just end up screaming instead. For the longest time, I really didn’t want to sing at all and I was fighting it, but it kind of just had to happen.
Carli: Same thing for me, because my cousin [who I] was in another band with was a really good singer. We had both been in elementary school choir and stuff, but she was always able to sing solos, and she kept singing in middle school and high school. So when we made our band together I was like, “OK, you’re going to be a lead singer.” And then I was writing a lot of the words that she would sing. Then I was like, “You know what? I’m going to sing this, I don’t want you to sing what I wrote. It’s embarrassing for you to read it.” So then we started doing a dual front person thing, which is cool.
We also do it in Palomino Blond, and that’s nice because it takes the edge off. A lot of the times we open with one of my songs, but when we open with a Kyle song, I’m like, OK, I can just back off.
Ale: I love that. I wish I could do that more. That’s the other thing with having to sing, my lyrics are so childish. That’s why I don’t put lyrics on Bandcamp or anything. Anytime someone asked me to send them lyrics I’m like, Ugh, OK..
Carli: No, sending lyrics is one thing, but when people ask you in person, “What are you saying?”
Ale: Don’t worry about it.
Carli: Yes, don’t ask questions.
Ale: It’s really personal. “Then why are you singing about it?” Shut up!
Carli: Yes, but when it comes to fronting the band and everything, it is a lot of… I mean, non-existent pressure. It’s like pressure you put on yourself. I think it’s awesome when bands don’t even talk during their shows, but then sometimes there’s dull moments where you have to speak. The other day we had a show where we had major technical difficulties and there was five minutes of dead air. That was really painful.
Ale: “What’s up guys?”
Carli: Raven [Nieto] was like, “Any comedians in the house?” And Kyle was like “Anyone want to get up here and do a skit?” I was thinking, Stop talking. Just enjoy the silence, as Depeche Mode would say.
I can’t speak in between songs. When I do, I regret it.
Ale: Same. I’m trying to figure out a way that we can not ever have to talk and keep the delay on or play a little riff or something. Since we announced the release show for the split, I’ve been like, What the fuck am I going to say? I don’t know what I’m going to talk about. “Hey, guys, thanks for coming out tonight!” What an idiot.
Carli: This video I watched, it’s Ian MacKaye calling out the crowd. Personally, I hate moshing, and I hate it even more when there’s only one person doing it and terrorizing everyone. It’s a compilation video of Ian MacKaye calling out people. There’s this one, it was really funny — I don’t know if it was him or his band mate, but he was like, “You see that guy right there? He’s not so tough. He was outside eating an ice cream cone. He’s an ice-cream-eating motherfucker.”
At the Torche show at Las Rosas the other day, there was two or three crowd killers who I could not stand, and only one of them got taken out by security. The moment it happened, the crowd just relaxed and a bunch of people moved up. But it’s really obvious when there’s one person that’s taking up all this space and making everyone uncomfortable.
Ale: Dude, there was a time in Miami where, at punk shows, I was moshing, the one Punisher thing, [and] either the front person of a certain band or someone in the crowd would just strip down and get completely naked and then just jump around. And of course they were all dudes, so it was just like floppy dick everywhere.
I think it stopped the moment, it was at a show at Boiling Point, where a stranger, someone from outside of our scene, did it, and then started trying to mosh. And then everyone was just standing around staring at them and then he just straight up stood there in the middle of the living room, butt ass naked and was just trying to vibe with the music. And everyone was like, “Dude, put your clothes on, please.” I’m so glad that that’s not a thing anymore because it was very strange.
Carli: That’s disgusting.
Ale: Yeah, man. I haven’t seen it in a while. Well, actually, a couple of years ago, for Ballbusters on Parade [a punk fest in Miami], there was a band where the frontperson was naked, but then they had a cage for their dick.
Carli: Oh, my god, like a chastity belt.
Ale: It was so weird looking. AThey were just angry punk, yelling, whatever. But then this thing’s just like, blah. Oh, my god, it was so weird. I guess that’s not for me. Maybe I’m not punk enough, or whatever. But what the fuck does that even mean anyway?
The split is available for pre-order via BUFU Records.
(Photo Credit: left, Gabriel Duque; right, Steph Estrada)