ATH Interviews: Ola Podrida
Ever since the first time I heard “Jordanna,” I was possessed with the songs of David Wingo. His group, Ola Podrida, has just released their newest album, Belly of the Lion, which is one of the best albums to come out of Austin (well, sort of NYC) this year, and we were lucky enough to catch up with David before he hits the road in 2010.
ATH : You recently recorded the Soundtrack/Score for Gentleman Broncos. How has working on that sort of creative process influenced your songwriting? Are there similarities/differences?
David: I have been scoring films for about 10 years now and I think on every film I learn something new, just because I always try to step out of my comfort zone a little bit and try something I haven’t done before. Broncos was the biggest budget movie I’d ever worked on by far and some of the sci-fi scenes in it demanded something pretty huge musically, so having to really go for it and do something that I was kind of terrified of doing has to so have somewhat of an effect on the way I approach making any other music. Film scoring has a concrete, measurable effect on my songwriting in the way that it inspires me to think of everything I write (both the music and the lyrics) in terms of atmosphere, but with something like I had to do in Broncos, I think it has more of an effect in way that’s harder to quantify. Just doing something that I’d never done before that seemed so far out of my comfort zone but, at the end of the day, being really happy with the results…I know that that definitely fosters more of an impulse to be adventurous in my songwriting as well.
ATH: If you had to choose between the three, which would you rather write music for: comedy, action movie, or documentary? Explain.
David: I just scored a documentary called Soundtracker this summer and really enjoyed it so right now I would say documentary. I feel like you just have a little more leeway in what you can do just in that it’s not following a three act structure and a script and all that…everything is much more wide open and I enjoyed the freedom that that afforded me.
ATH: You seem to be getting a lot more press (much deserved) for Belly of the Lion in comparison to Ola Podrida. Do you think that sort of press makes you nervous, especially when it came down to the release date of the album?
David: No, not really…I want my music out there and I want it to be heard, but at the same time I try to maintain a healthy remove from it all as well. Which is easy to say until you have a review in front of you saying that the thing you worked on for a year sucks, but after reading a couple of negative ones for the first album I learned to just sort of shrug my shoulders and go on with my day without it really affecting my mood. All of that matters so much more with films where if a film opens in NY and LA and gets some bad reviews then it’s just dead in the water, so I think filmmakers have much more cause to be nervous about press leading up to the release, but it doesn’t seem like it’s quite that way with music…
ATH: For a band, or for yourself really, as a band, you’ve been around for several years, but you haven’t played too many shows at this point (according to the pdf on your homepage). Now that you have a new album out, will you be touring a lot more? Where do you head after this Austin show? Or is this preparation for a later tour?
David: Yeah, we didn’t do any touring of the states with the last record. Kind of a regret, I should have probably done it, but so it goes. I just finally got done putting together a new line-up here in Austin (along with Matthew Frank, who has been playing drums in Ola Podrida since day one) and this will be our first show. We just started playing together very recently and I didn’t want to book a tour until I knew I had the right folks but I’m really happy with how we’re sounding, so a European tour for the spring is currently being booked and we’re gonna soon start working on a US tour to follow that one as well.
ATH: You spent a lot of time in New York before returning to Austin. Did your return to Austin impact the sounds of Belly of the Lion in any way? If yes, how so?
David: No, because I wrote and recorded it before moving back…I finished the first album right before moving from Austin to NYC and then finished this one right before moving back from NYC.
ATH: A lof ot your song titles, especially on the first album, seem to come from fairly mundane things, such as “Monday Morning” or “Day at the Beach.” Do you feel that your songwriting comes from the view of an omniscient narrator or are they more closely tied to you as a personal narrator?
David: I try to not write about my own personal experiences, at least not overtly so, so I would say an omniscient narrator for sure. I used to do that, that was all I really knew how to do…my girlfriend broke up with me so I’d write a sad song about it, I was falling in love so I’d write a love song, the typical things like that. And it always felt so limiting having to stay so true to my own feelings about something and to have my writing be so specificaly pointed like that. But it just clicked with me a few years ago before I wrote the first album that I could make up stories about whatever the hell I wanted and didn’t have to follow such a strict logic with it and could throw out images that are more evocative and abstract than they are narratively explicit, etc, etc, and it was such a liberating change to make. So I’m still exploring that process of writing from more of an impressionistic standpoint, I’m still kind of feeling it out and trying new things with it…
ATH: I’m writing these question prior to Thanksgiving…if you were to make a sandwich from Turkey Day leftovers, what would be on it? There has to be gravy right?
David: Turkey is the most boring part of Thanksgiving, I’ll just have stuffing and gravy please…
ATH: Personally, listening to your albums has a hint of the woods in the background, which is interesting considering you’ve done a lot of writing from within major cities. What do you draw upon for influences in your songwriting, outside of music?
David: Not really sure, I rarely am thinking out anything too consiously or explicitly when I’m in the middle of working on something . But my own feelings of claustrophobia from living in the city most likely play a huge part in my music, which is probably what you’re hearing…I think it’s probably sort of an escape as well as an expression of that.
ATH: They’re currently recording a documentary about you in the future. Who will play the role of David Wingo (ideally)? What other characters will we meet in the story of your career/life?
David: If it’s a documentary, then it would have to be me, right? Or is this a mockumentary? If so then I’d have to say Eddie Deezen…the other characters would just be friends and family. Of Eddie Deezen…
ATH: We won’t tell anyone if you answer this correctly, but you grew up in Dallas. Which town is better, in regards to your musical development, or development as a person (you choose)?
David: No-brainer…even though I did name the band after a long-gone crafts mall/puppet-show theater in Dallas, I highly prefer Austin. Sorry Dallas homeys, it’s nothing personal, just one man’s opinion. But that said, 90% my time within Dallas’ city limits for the past several years has just been spent chillin in the den at my folks’ house watching Mavericks games, so I can’t really claim to have spent a whole lot of time properly hanging out in Dallas since moving away when I was 18. And to be fair, Bedhead is one of my all-time favorite bands and they’re from Dallas, and getting to see them regularly was an enormous part of my musical development, so there is that. But is it just me or does every jukebox in town still play Jane Says at least once an hour? That situation needs to be rectified pronto if it hasn’t been already…maybe I’ll investigate when I’m back there for Thanksgiving.
ATH: If we were going to play one song from your catalog that defined you, and would forever serve as the song associated with you and your music, what song would you like it to be?
David: The Weird Al parodies of Donkey (“Jombi”) and Jordanna (“Morganna”)…
Thanks to David for taking the time out of his schedule, and to Sheila for setting the interview up. Don’t forget to check out Ola Podrida here in Austin on December 11th @ The Mohawk.
Photo credit to Aubrey Edwards.