By Ross Bretherton
Plenty of students release albums while at Tufts, but not many first years can boast being at the forefront of a musical movement in their own hometown. That’s exactly what Andres Bolaños, known to the music world as Bubó, is aiming to do. Recorded in a home studio in his hometown of Guatemala City, Bubó’s forthcoming debut Como Tu No Hay Nadie is as polished as it is groundbreaking in a city where live music is pretty much limited to pop, classic rock, or reggaeton.
Having grown up in the predominantly Catholic country of Guatemala, Bubó grew into a culture of family, both in a biological and a musical sense. “The music scene is really really small,” notes Andres, “It’s this tight circle of about 50 musicians that are working hard on their music in Guatemala, so we all know each other.” The country’s appetite for live music is expanding, however, with the recent development of ‘cultural centers’ in the capital city. These centers provide artists like Bubó a platform to perform a more diverse variety of genres.
The small size of the music scene played to Bubó’s advantage, as it put him in touch with his producer, Juan Pablo Perea. Perea’s past work included one of Bolaños’ influences, the prolific Guatemalan rock band Bohemia Suburbana. Bubó crossed paths with Perea when the producer invited his high school rock band, Radio Capital, to record a few demos. Though the band wasn’t as keen on returning to the studio, Bolaños liked Perea and decided to return with some solo work he had been writing on the side. “I had two songs written and decided to record with him and see what happened. I never thought I would end up recording an EP.”
Bolaños’ solo work as Bubó represented a stark departure from the more classic rock sound of his high school band. “I could never write those songs,” he says of the rock anthems performed by Bohemia Suburbana, Alux Nahual, and more recently Radio Capital. Instead his EP consists of politically-conscious love songs that loft his sultry croon above laid back, yet intricate instrumentals. At moments it feels psychedelic, verging on the sound of Tame Impala in the hazy “Me Voy”. In the title track, “Como Tu No Hay Nadie,” the crunchy kicks and subdued ad libs backing the chorus drive into an entirely different realm. Bubó isn’t trying to sound like anyone in particular, and the result is an EP with something for everyone.
Among his influences, Bubó credits David Bowie’s drumming, and The Beach Boys, especially “the way [Brian Wilson] recorded everything perfectly and was very tedious about the exact sound he wanted to get.” This perfectionism manifested itself in the four-month recording process for the EP. In Perea’s basement, the two started with acoustic tracks, and layered on instrumental tracks one at a time. The drums were most time consuming, since neither Perea nor Bolaños is a drummer. They recorded random drum ideas over each track 16 times, and meticulously pulled in elements from all of them. From the nineteen songs Bubó wrote, five made the cut for the EP.
Oddly enough considering the grounded vibe Bolaños exudes in person, the name Bubó is a contraction of Bougie Boy. While wandering through the 5th Arrondissement in Paris, his friends told him that he looked like a Bubó and the name stuck. To Bolaños, though, the name represents his aspirations to live a simple life, like Hemingway, Picasso, and countless past Bubós. In his own words, “Guatemala is a country with lots of differences in opportunity and money. [For example], if you are born into a family of wealth it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to [ascribe to capitalism]. In whatever situation you should be who you like.”
Bubó’s presence in the Tufts music scene since his arrival has been minimal, in part because his past work has been so grounded in his hometown and disconnected from anything academic. With no formal musical training, music for Bolaños is spiritual, not something to study. However, with a recent performance at the Crafts Center Spring Art Show, he is slowly making his presence more known on this campus.
With a booming alternative scene in Guatemala’s neighbor Mexico, Bubó isn’t the only one with his eyes on introducing his hometown to a wider variety of genres. “It’s exciting,” says Bolaños of the timing of his project, “because nothing like this has been done before in Guatemala.” Through his producer, Bubó was able to score a 15-day licensing deal with the telecom giant Millicom Tigo, who will be promoting his debut single on May 19th. With the EP out shortly after, a music video in the works, and several gigs already lined up in Guatemala City, Bubó has a busy summer ahead. For a breakout artist, when talent aligns with good timing there’s nowhere to go but up.