Premiere: Watch "Unbothered", The Latest Offering From Omar Apollo
If you haven’t met him yet, get acquainted: Omar Apollo is the homemade musical prodigy serenading listeners with swift Spanglish lyrics sure to melt hearts. Taking over Soundcloud, then Spotify, then Apple Music, Apollo has high-speed Internet to thank for his millions of streams and wide-reaching fanbase. Producing beats and recording vocals out of his home in Indiana, the musician’s success epitomizes the sort of democratization of media that the digital plane has granted to audiences and artists alike. The first generation Mexican-American artist represents a new generation of music.
On track to release his very first EP in the coming months, Apollo has dropped a few recent singles including “Heart”, and “Unbothered” to keep us on our toes. Today, he premieres a music video for the latter-mentioned single, directed by NYC-based film director and photographer, Kevin Lombardo. In an exclusive quote to Milk, Lombardo explains his motivation behind the charming video, paying homage to the youthful, creative energy that anybody would deem vital to the pulse of New York:
“In NYC you are invisible—you pass by so many people in one day and don’t talk to any of them. The inspiration behind the video was to capture loneliness, but also the coming together notion that happens by the end of the video. The objective of the film was to get a vibe of New York’s youth scene for those who have never seen it.”
We caught up with Apollo since our last introduction, checking in with the artist and his forthcoming music. Check out the full interview and exclusive premiere of the “Unbothered” music video below.
I read that growing up, you weren’t surrounded by many musicians or music in general. How did the passion that would soon become a pursuit start?
I was playing guitar since I was like 12, playing at church and stuff, then it got really boring ‘cause I was just playing normal chords, church stuff, and the music wasn’t super interesting to me—not in a bad way, just sonically haha. It just wasn’t doing it for me. Then I stopped playing around 14 or 15 and started playing again at 18 right when I was about to graduate high school. From then until now, I’m 20, I’ve been playing and making music. I just started doing it in my mom’s house and then I got internet, like wifi back in the day, and I started looking up all this crazy music and just got inspired by all of it.
My mom used to play music sometimes, but really only on like a Sunday to wake everybody up, and it was always some corridos or bachata, just traditional Mexican music. But I recently actually found out that my parents were really into music a long time ago! They listened to so much shit and I had no clue. They showed me a bunch of stuff and I listen to it all the time now. They showed me a ton from the 50s and 60s that they really like. My dad also really put me onto the Beatles when I first started off on the guitar. He didn’t really know what they were saying, but he just loved the way it sounded.
Right, so you’re first generation American right, and both of your parents are from Mexico? How has that upbringing informed your work and even just your way of life?
Yeah, yeah they’re both Mexican, they’re from Jalisco and Guadalajara. They didn’t meet in Mexico. They crossed over, and my dad’s sister was friends with my mom in Mexico and they would send each other postcards with pictures of each other and they would talk and write each other, so they met up. Then my dad brought my mom over here and they had my oldest brother in Indiana.
My dad taught me to never forget how I was brought up. I remember my mom telling me in school, ‘These kids, they were raised a little differently than you.’ Shit like that. And I would see it all the time, I’d pick up on the differences—even the way my friends would talk to their parents would be so different. I was taught from a young age to be very proud—every day I would just embrace it. There was a lot of racism when I was in elementary school, for me being brown and speaking spanish, and my parents never really taught me or made me aware of that sort of racism. They never taught me the slurs that people called us, so I would hear it and not even know what they were saying when I was younger. I mean now that I’m older, I’m aware and more in tune, but once I was in middle school I really understood it and I was like, ‘I’ll never let anyone talk to me like that again.’ But yeah, I’m speaking Spanish to someone at least once a day. It’s just there. It’s a part of my life.
Right, so is the incorporation of your Mexican heritage into your music and your work something of a conscious decision for you or is it more so a natural progression for you?
Yeah, it’s pretty natural. I just go with the flow of the music too. If I listen to the beat and I’m like, ‘Ooh, this sounds like I can sing some Spanish on it,’ then I’ll do it, but I don’t do it just to make a Spanish song. But my mom and my dad and my tios all really want me to make more Spanish music, they’re always asking me.
So you’re born, bred and based in Indiana, but it’s honestly hard to tell considering your digital presence and social media. Geography matters less on a digital plane, it removes the distance. How do you feel like you’ve been able to use social media or how has social media help you build a fanbase and accumulate an audience?
Yeah that’s true. I kind of just saw people I looked up to, when I was 16 or 17, posting their art and around 6 months later, they were doing well, seeing results, so I didn’t really think about it much and figured I’d probably get somewhere if I just started sharing my music. It wasn’t like, ‘This is my only way out,’ or anything, I just started posting. My friends were into it, then it became local, and I threw a listening party a long time ago in my mom’s garage and like 50 or 60 people showed up. It was chill, it was cool. Nobody really knew who I was then, but locally everyone was down to support, which was cool. I don’t know, I kind of winged it. I was like, ‘Whatever, let me just post this shit.’
Now, though, I’m a total nerd when it comes to posting shit—I’ve got my mics and my amps, I need to get the tone down. Back then, I’d just plug it in—whatever. Mostly everything that I have out right now is direct input, but the new project is recorded with mics and stuff. So yeah, I kind of just winged it and once Dylan Shanks came along, my current manager, he made objectives so that was cool. That’s the cool thing about having a manager, I just have to focus on showing up and making music. It makes it really easy for me. But yeah, I never took it so seriously, I just started posting my music and people caught on I guess!
How do your parents respond to your music? I assume they’re supportive because they’re making requests for more Spanish songs.
Yeah they are now. People come up to my parents actually. My dad was in Walgreens developing some pictures and the cashier lady was like, “Hey, you’re Omar’s dad! His music is so good!” So they’re super proud. My dad is always sending me new music to check out and listen to. He gave me a watch this Sunday and I just thought that was really cool—I’m wearing it right now. My mom is really proud too. Actually, this is really funny… I’m playing Ruido Fest in Chicago, and there are these bands playing, Los Ángeles Azules and Caifanes, and my parents heard that I’m playing the show and they’ve been telling all their friends that I’m playing with famous people now, they’re all hyped. My bass player’s mom is freaking out and she’s telling all her friends. I hadn’t even told them, they just heard about it! I didn’t even know they knew the other bands. It’s cool though, because they get it now. It’s not like, “Oh, Omar dropped out of college.” I’m really doing things.
Yeah, that’s awesome. Congrats on your new video for “Unbothered”! What was the song inspired by?
Thanks. I don’t know, if you listen to my other songs, they’re kind of sad, but that one I wanted it to be more so like indifferent, like I’m unbothered by you, I’m good over here—rather than I’m heartbroken. I was making the beat for it, and that was the first thing that came to my head. I was like, “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-Unbothered by you.” So I just mumbled the first part and the word unbothered just came out, so I guess it was on my mind and the rest followed. One word can inspire a whole song, so that’s what happened. It was really natural from there.
Who do you see listening to “Unbothered”, but also just your music in general?
Oh… Dude, I don’t know that’s hard. I guess the only answer I could give you is answering what kind of people I see coming out to hear me play and coming up to me. It’s always the same type of person—mostly Mexican girls, haha. They’re really into it. Those are the ones that have come up to me in person the most, also just girls in general.
Can you talk a bit about the video, directed by Kevin Lombardo. Did you have much involvement in its creative direction?
I mean he wrote the treatment, and I was just like, “Ok, dude.” I didn’t direct at all. I let him do his thing. In our future projects though, I told him that I have a bunch of ideas, because I’ve directed before, so you know as an artist, you always want to pitch your ideas. But yeah, Kevin was super dope to work with, he wrote it and put it all together.
We’re also anticipating the release of your first EP, right? Is it finished, what else can we expect?
Yeah, it’s completely done! It’s actually supposed to come out some time this summer. It’ll probably be around seven tracks. There’s a little bit of Spanish in it too, not as much as I’d like to, but you know there are always future projects. The singles sound like what I’ve been working within, the same zone or genre, but the whole project I think—especially the first track—is pretty experimental. I just didn’t want to be boring, and I get really bored fast. I kind of just messed around with a bunch of things. It’s a little different, but it’s still me, you know?
Images courtesy of Aiden Cullen and Kevin Lombardo
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