Q&A: Pujol’s Daniel Pujol On Jack White, Refusing To Be Sad And Angry, And “E-Merican Realism”


Daniel Pujol formed Pujol about two years ago, and he has put out ten releases—singles, EPs, and full-length albums—in that short period. When Pujol (the band) isn’t touring, writing or recording, Pujol (the guy) is playing the Nashville circuit with his other band Meemaw or blogging for the Nashville Scene with his girlfriend. This year is his third at CMJ, and it coincides with the release of his new EP Nasty, Brutish, And Short (Saddle Creek); he’ll play the Voice showcase at Cake Shop today. He spoke to SOTC about the way his hectic life influences his art, working with Jack White, and working with his friends on his music.

You recorded your new EP Nasty, Brutish, And Short in between touring and school in just a few months… how did it differ from the processes of your other releases?

Did you say only a few months? It was only a few days. It was really crazy. It was actually nasty, brutish, and short.

Do you record all of your albums that quickly?

Some of the prior 7-inch releases on Turbo Time Records I had more time for. I usually just try to get whoever is around and available to help me record.

X File On Main Street was sort of similar to Nasty, Brutish, and Short where I found two buddies from this band in town and I was like, “I gotta make a record. Want to make a record?” But I ended up getting them to spend maybe about three or four weeks tracking in between my house and Battle Tapes [recording studio] on that one.

You describe the new EP as having an immediate sound and something that actually happened—do the songs lyrically speak to what’s happening in your life, or is it more or less just a take on the world around you?

Five of the songs on the EP were written in like a two or three week period and they’re directly related to what my life was like at the time and what I was being exposed to in terms of culture, my personal life, academics.

I picked out people who were available and I put them together based off their individual personalities and their styles, and I placed them each on their respective songs. I tried to use the time crunch as an opportunity to capture the sound of different kinds of people working together. The best thing about it was they weren’t all their at the same time. For instance, on “Skully” West (Natural Child) played bass on that, and he’s my favorite guy to record with. My friend Dan played drums on it, and I went in and I did the rest of it and someone else played piano on it and it was kind of like getting to sit down with each person individually and having them track their own personality on something that’s already happened. I wouldn’t necessarily be like it’s different bands playing on each song—it’s like different people playing together as themselves on each song and you can kind of hear that dialogue of personality.

You usually just round up people to help your recorded material, but are there any permanent players in your live lineup?

It’s unfortunately whoever can afford to go. I’m always trying to get it to permanence, but I would never ask someone to sacrifice their financial well-being. You know what I mean? For my music. I’m not gonna be like, “Man you should live like shit like me! So you can do this… with me!”

How do you find time for everything—writing, recording, touring, and you’re also going to school, right?

Yeah, I’m pretty busy all of the time. I just kind of try to pace myself and pace my day out where I can balance the school with my personal life, specifically my relationship with my girlfriend who I love very much, and the writing—I try to let them be connected. I do the collaborative thing with my girlfriend every Tuesday on the Nashville Cream blog called Eggs where I’ll write a poem and she’ll draw an illustration for it. School, a lot of the information that I’m exposed to helps me write. So, I’m taking in just as much information as I’m putting out.

What are you studying?

It’s called global affairs but I’d really say it’s kind of like sociology and international relations at the same time. But I want to get more into media theory as I get older. I’ve gotten really lucky and I’ve been exposed to a lot of critical theory in the last six months, and I find that that helps me articulate a lot of things that I’m into. Like that song “Stuff”—my roommate showed me this Slavoj Zizek book called In Defense of Lost Causes, and that song is about him showing me that book.

You’ve mentioned that, lyrically, Nasty, Brutish, and Short deals with the uncontrollable variables of a life that you describe as “E-merican Realism.” What does that mean exactly?

[Laughs] OK, let’s go into it. The political system of the United States is based off the inclusive model where you’re allowed to be a citizen in the United States, insofar as you’re included to participation as a citizen; we’re recognized as individuals with rights and entitlements in the United States of America. In tandem with that, if someone is recognized as an individual then there identity is going to be recognized in relation to that. And I guess E-merican Realism has to do with the culture industry meeting the public and political sphere in the middle through the medium of the internet, which I think is a brand new and interesting contraption for identity formation of being able to reinforce your own identity through things like social media in the physical sense. The EP is kind of like a funny, dystopian almost, take on what if ideological consistency and identity and consumerism and politics and culture and all of these things turn into, like, God being a robot.

I want to switch gears and ask you about Nashville—a lot of people consider it to be a total hub of garage rock. do you get the sense that there’s a movement forming or is it more organic than that?

What I see everyone doing, maybe I’m doing as well, is that whenever everyone started playing—like three or four years ago—a lot of people were interested in creating an aesthetic and maybe a style of narrative in rock and roll music that wasn’t angry or sad and didn’t do a lot of negation—like “fuck the government, fuck this and fuck that, fuck you.” It’s kind of not wanting to be sad or angry and trying to address things that you could be sad or angry about without conceding to those things making you sad or angry. You know what I mean? Maybe you’re just bored… maybe you’re not depressed. I just think we refuse to be bored and we refuse to be sad and angry.

That’s rad. So the music grew out of that?

I’d say for the most part. From what I continue to get out of it and what I continue to try to get out of it is refusing to view obstacles as some abstract, monolithic, oppressive entity and just continue to take blows as they come and not necessarily make that carve out some negative punk rock world view which would essentially just play into the other side of the crazy right-wing world view or something like that—no absolutes, you know?

What are your favorite Nashville bands to play with?

Natural Child—I just think they’re the best band. I’m in this band called Meemaw with West from Natural Child and there’s just serious mutual admiration between me and them, and they always make me happy seeing them play.

I remember the first time I saw them play was at a house show in Brooklyn and my friends and I were just like, “Holy shit! Is this happening right now? This band is the best thing I’ve heard in months.”

Yup. I’m trying to snag West long enough to get him to play on this LP that we’ll be recording in the winter.

Are you already working on new material for that now?

Yes ma’am. I’ve written most of it already and when I get back from tour with Ted Leo I’m going to start recording it.

What was it like working with Jack White?

That was really great—that was the first time that I’d ever really been like, “We’re going to make a record. You’re going to go into the studio. We’re going to record it. We’re going to put it out.” It kind of taught me how to do it. All those guys [at Third Man Records] are really nice; all those guys are really respectful. All those guys are Catholic. I grew up Catholic in the middle of bumfuck Tennessee, where no one is Catholic, so it was kind of like a familiar culture thing, if that makes any sense at all. And I was like, “Holy shit. I guess this Catholic thing is real, because everyone seems to communicate the same way.” They’re really great people—really supportive. I actually just got done doing a video for one of the songs off the EP for one of the people who work with them—they’re constantly a pleasure to work with in any shape or form.

I caught you at South by Southwest this past year and your music translates well live—would you ever consider putting out an album of live material?

Yeah. I put out a live LP through Third Man with last year’s four-piece (at SxSW)—and last year we got to do a live record with them—it was real Thin Lizzy, with two guitar players like [makes a shredding sound] and stuff like that. It’s only on vinyl. But, I heard it and I was like, “Holy crap! This sounds really good. Wow.” I never got to hear it before.

I’ll definitely have to check it out for myself. Sounds dope. Lastly, the token CMJ question—which bands do you want to see this year?

I have to think about that, with me being so busy. I’ve done CMJ for three years so there’s some people that might not be playing this year that I think would be… hmm… White Fence.

Yeah! I love White Fence. What about other bands at the Village Voice showcase you’re playing—like Turbo Fruits?

Oh, yeah! I actually played a show with them last night. My birthday was yesterday and Jonas’ birthday is today, so we did the EP release show in Nashville. I played at 11:30 and Turbo Fruits played at 12:10, so both of us got to play on our birthdays.

At the Voice showcase, you’re also playing with Diarrhea Planet, another Nashville band…

Yeah! I want to see my boys—Turbo Fruits and Diarrhea Planet.