AN INTERVIEW WITH JUNE PASTEL
A year ago, June Pastel - the musical endeavor of Anthony Peña - released their debut album, Collages, and followed the release with a self-booked U.S. tour. Since that summer, June Pastel has released a joint single with Andrew Goldring, played Unregistered Nurse Fest, toured the east coast with Castle OG and toured the west coast with Andrew Goldring. In between it all, Peña has stabilized a life heavy with booking and playing shows in Baltimore, while also studying Computer Music and Recording Arts at Peabody.
In July 2018, after returning home from tour, and unbeknownst to the excitement the following months would bring, Peña and I met up at a cafe in Adams Morgan to talk about college, live music and what it was like producing an album three years in the making.
YOU’RE ORIGINALLY FROM SALT LAKE CITY, NOW ATTENDING SCHOOL IN BALTIMORE. WHAT DREW YOU TO ATTEND SCHOOL OUT EAST?
Pretty early on I fantasized about New York and I went to go visit cousins in New York right before high school, so throughout that time I always enjoyed the east. Around my senior year, my dad had been flying out to Baltimore to do some work and [he] found out about this music school out there and when I looked at the program it just lined up so well with what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to go to school, but my music professor at the time was like “just apply to one so you can practice going, auditioning and applying for schools.” I got really invested overtime with the whole process and [Peabody] was the only school I actually applied to and I got accepted. I was really stoked and ended up going out because I wanted to move out of Utah.
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THE CONTRAST YOUSEE BETWEEN THE SALT LAKE CITY MUSIC SCENE AND THE BALTIMORE MUSIC SCENE?
DIY is still very prominent in Baltimore and that was what I grew through in Salt Lake. From a young age, we were all just booking our own shows, making the flyers, playing in each other’s bands and coming up with really exciting bills. For me, that was just nature and that was all I knew. Coming out to the east, it served really well to have that under my belt. In Baltimore, where it's still “you book your own shows, you do your own thing,” and then somewhere in DC, where it's just so close, you kinda come overprepared (laughs) into working in that field. I think, in both places, kids are just as eager to listen to music, but there's still a lot of work that has to be done to do that and I’m trying to have the same sense of community in Baltimore as I did in Salt Lake.
YOU STARTED WRITING MOST OF THE SONGS FOR COLLAGES WHILE STILL LIVING IN SALT LAKE, SO I’D IMAGINE THERE WAS A SIGNIFICANT PASSING OF TIME FROM THE ORIGINAL DATE OF WRITING TO PUTTING THEM IN THE STUDIO. WHEN REVISITING THE SONGS, WERE THERE ANY ISSUES WITH AN EMOTIONAL DISCONNECT FROM THE CONTENT OR WERE THERE SONGS WHERE IT WAS REALLY DIFFICULT WRITING THEM AT THE TIME + EVEN MORE DIFFICULT REVISITING?
When I first recorded all those songs I recorded [them] with leaving Salt Lake in mind and I had this show that was kind of my farewell show. I recorded early versions of songs on Collages and printed them onto CDs and gave them away at that show, but I knew that the songs didn't feel ready so I never published them online. I never did anything with [them] and going into college I was like ‘alright, June Pastel is definitely going to go on hiatus, I'm definitely gonna grow and I’m gonna learn from Baltimore and maybe one day I’ll revisit.’ I don't remember exactly what happened, but I knew that one day I’d be cracking back into those sessions and redo them, and I did around the second year of college and it quickly was this thing I could not stop thinking about. I would spend my days doing homework at three a.m. because I’d be working on these songs. The way I write songs, they just kinda happened, I don’t question them too much. I think when you go about any sort of art or life decision, you just go by your instinct and you’re honest about it. I think there's a lot that doesn't get unpacked from the get-go and a lot of those songs I felt like I was just starting to understand two years later. There were a lot of things I feel like I was writing about at the time that made sense for my life then, so it still connected.
THIS SUMMER YOU BOOKED A TOUR FROM MARYLAND TO CALIFORNIA AND BACK. WHAT WERE SOME VALUABLE EXPERIENCES YOU LEARNED THAT YOU THINK OTHER PEOPLE WHO WANT TO TOUR SHOULD KNOW?
I think, from the get-go, just that fact that you can do it. When you're gonna tackle something like that, it's gonna be all kinds of emotions so I think for an easier process just try to start early on. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity to have a lot of space, but we did it and I would say if you’re booking something as large as a U.S. tour, be really grateful for what ends up happening. For me, it was a lot of anxiety and stress. Not for myself, but really for the people who go on tour with me because I never want them to feel like they’re wasting their time. Maybe something that I didn't do so well was communication, just like communication all around, so as you're doing it try and maintain good communication. You can only put so much effort into it, cause even my communication with my friends wasn't the best.
IF YOU HAD TO PICK A FAVORITE SHOW AS WELL AS A FAVORITE TOUR STOP OR SIDE ADVENTURE, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
Show would have to be Tempe, AZ, that one was really wild because we didn't know how the show that night was going to be. We were all kind of drained from the Grand Canyon the night before, but we all decided to get coffee right before the show so we came really hyped into the night. It was a house show and it was just packed and it was super cool. Everyone was super supportive and it was just the wildest show, everyone was dancing and jumping all around. As far as a tour stop, I’d say our time in Austin was really nice. It was really healing and that was the stop where we all just got on the same page about a lot of things.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE WALK AWAY WITH AFTER LISTENING TO YOUR MUSIC OR ATTENDING ONE OF YOUR SHOWS?
I always hope for a sense of inspiration. I hope that when people walk away from a show that they want to go and record music or put something together, because they totally can. I hope that's what they can take away because me and everyone else we’re just kids, and something I’ve learned from Baltimore and Salt Lake is that if you want to do it, you can most of the time. That's how you start growing a community and that's really what keeps me in, just making friends and supporting one another and seeing how your energy goes into other people’s art and lives.