Pueblo Vista: His Production Process
A production-focused chat with one of the preeminent lo-fi hip-hop producers working today.
by Sam Armstrong (udiscovermusic)
Pueblo Vista came to lo-fi hip-hop in a rather circuitous way. The Innsbruck, Austria, resident was a vlogger, looking for royalty-free music to accompany his videos. He found himself gravitating to lo-fi hip-hop often, and quickly realized that he could produce this kind of music quickly, efficiently, and all on headphones – a must for any musician with a newborn.
Fast forward a few years, and Pueblo is among the preeminent producers in the genre. His list of collaborators is extensive but considered: He’s always on the search for musicians who can bring something to the table that he cannot. His collaborations are all about knocking something out that is both high quality and done quickly, or, as he says, like a rally in ping-pong with only a serve and return.
Pueblo Vista’s instrumentals are lush and complex, filled with layers of synths, guitars, and vinyl crackles. He prefers easily digestible drum grooves, and rarely solicits vocalists. (Data has shown that most lo-fi songs with singers get skipped.) The result is something extremely precise but never staid, perfect music to relax to or music to nod along to. In this interview, we talked with Pueblo about just a few of his tracks to get a sense of his production methods and process.
“About 80% of my music is self-composed, and about 20% is sample-based,” explains Pueblo Vista. On a song like “Close Your Eyes My Little Angel,” Pueblo crafted a melody from messing around at his keyboard, and began looping the melody with down-tempo drums and a few subtle synths. The warm crack of vinyl envelops the track, giving the song a warm core.
“Usually the melodies just come randomly,” he explains to uDiscoverMusic. “It’s something nice that I would try to play or hum. I have a two-year-old daughter and I try not to sing to her because I don’t know too many baby songs. I’ll generally test my melodies on her by humming. I might pull out my phone while I hum something, record my voice, and then try to duplicate that on the keyboard.”
One of the most impressive things about Pueblo Vista’s songwriting style is how emotional he can make his melodies and beats without relying on lyrics and voices. While he says using his own vocals would be, ‘disastrous,’ he’s put serious thought into working with other singers to help convey his message. But on songs like “Sleep In My Arms,” there’s no need―especially while he’s still composing in the lo-fi hip-hop template.
“We don’t see singing that often because this kind of music has a lot of passive audiences through playlists,” says Pueblo Vista. “Data shows that usually when listeners come across, let’s say a lo-fi or a track like one that includes vocals, they tend to skip these.” For Pueblo Vista, music creation is a combination of pure artistic expression and exacting data analysis.
Though many of Pueblo Vista’s releases are strictly in the lo-fi hip-hop lane, he has a taste for experimentation and a willingness to push boundaries. “I’ve always experimented. I care about my audience, but I can’t think about them when I’m recording,” he explains to uDiscoverMusic.
“I started with 100 listeners and now I have 1,000,000 listeners, it’s still the same for me. 95% of the time, I just make the music for myself, and then I just put it out. I never really paid for advertisements. The numbers that you see now that we have on all of our social profiles, that’s organic.”
His devoted fanbase has allowed him to deviate from the core traits of the genre, and on a song like “Waiting For You At Shibuya Station,” he makes a busier song than lo-fi hip-hop fans are used to. The synths are playful and interact with a piano melody in a complex way. It’s still calming, relaxing music but it also shows a versatility to Pueblo Vista’s mission.
Lo-fi hip-hop can often be a lonely process. The community is massive and dedicated, but the creative process is often lonely and solitary. Pueblo Vista likes collaborating both for the ability to work with another musician, but also because he can attack some of his perceived weaknesses through the strengths of others. “When I’m working with someone else, especially on boom-bap stuff that I’m not as good at, I let the other person lead. When somebody has a stronger hip hop or boom-bap background, I let them show me the way,” he explains.
“I’m not the guy who likes to play ping-pong between ‘Here’s a beat and here’s that.’ I make something. I give it to you. You can use it, not use it, chop up whatever you want. Then for me, it’s ready because I don’t want to hinder people’s creative process. If I choose to work with you on something, it’s because I know what you produce. I will give you my idea and then let you sprinkle your magic on it. Then I’ll be happy.”
As unromantic as it is, much of Pueblo Vista’s decision-making comes down to convenience. Lo-fi hip-hop is a profitable industry, and a style of music he can make at home, in his headphones, while his young child sleeps. It wouldn’t be realistic for him to be in a metal band. Lo-fi hip-hop also more accurately reflects where he’s at in life more generally.
The easy groove and neat guitar line on “Airplane Mode” is casual without ever being rough around the edges. It goes down smoothly. “The excuse that I have is that the older you get, the slower the BPM gets, too. When you’re young, you go out and you’re really into party music and drinking and dancing and having a blast,” he explains. “Then you get a little bit older and you’re like, ‘ Oh, my body aches’ or ‘I cannot drink that much anymore.’ I’m a very limited social drinker. My music tends to reflect that.”
While My Child Gently Sleeps
Pueblo Vista’s journey to becoming one of the most important producers in lo-fi hip-hop was a long one, and one that developed from unexpected origins. “My producing background stems from electronic music, progressive trance, progressive house, and deep house. Note, not the deep house that we know now that evolved into EDM. I was into dance music that was moody and contemplative, but could also get really fast and exciting, too,” he explains.
While his jump from club-ready music to music that is intended for almost exactly opposite purposes was a natural evolution, he still includes many of his favorite styles of music into his lo-fi hip-hop songs. “Girona” features a slick guitar line that lands somewhere between lounge jazz and old-school funk. There’s a subtle use of heavy cymbals, giving the song a unique depth. It’s definitely lo-fi hip-hop, but it also exists outside of the genre.