Brian Lopez on Tucson, His New Album Ultra, and Being Compared to an Octopus


In case you didn’t read my review of Brian Lopez’s recently released album, Ultra, go now, oh foolish one, and read it.  There. Well done. Thus, in case you didn’t notice, Brian Lopez is, indeed, awesome. And now, as you arrive at the top of this interview, you, in the privacy of your own mind, are tirelessly thanking me for bringing you more about this wonderful man and lovely album. You’re welcome, dear reader. But I have one more request: after you read this, go and listen (oh, listen!) to that album (if you haven’t already), that buttery voice! And you will smile, and all will be right in the world.

Yeah.  Also, get stoked L.A. because tonight and tomorrow night Brian will be playing shows in town–tonight at the Echoplex, tomorrow night at The Hotel Cafe.  Details and more tour info below!

Claire Gallagher: So, Brian, you’re from Tucson.  Has growing up there influenced your music at all?

Brian Lopez: As i’ve gotten older I’ve realized exactly how bizarre Tucson is. The desert is such a weird place – humans have no business living here.  It’s a desperate environment filled with dwellers and survivalists. At the same time, there is an exotic beauty that is exclusive to the Sonoran Desert. Desolate, desperate, yet beautiful. In that sense, I feel my music is parallel.

CG: Who are some of your biggest musical (or other) influences?

BL: I have a lot of songs that are about, or stem from Barcelona, Spain. I lived there when I was 21.  Best time of my life. Its a fascinating place — vibrantly colorful and vivacious.  Also, any poetry from Tucson poet, Shelly Taylor seems to get my tongue wrapped in an inspiring way. 

CG: What made you decided to pursue a solo career outside of your other band, Mostly Bears?

BL: I actually just started playing solo acoustic gigs on guitar and piano as a way to make extra cash. I didn’t want to have to get a real job. I’d play at resorts and clubs, and people seemed to really love it.  I added an upright bass eventually…then strings…then I started getting offers to play larger shows.  Sooner than later, I had a damn solo project to nurture.  Coincidentally (or perhaps not so coincidentally), around the same time, Mostly Bears was deteriorating. And it hasn’t been until recently, that I have been able to focus exclusively on my solo project.

CG: What has been a personal high and a personal low about your musical career so far? Any particular moments of awesomeness or embarrassing blunders?

BL: I feel like right now, having struggled with music for over a decade, I am experiencing my personal high .  Having had a promising young rock band and seeing it all fall apart before your eyes–coming close many times, only to fail–well, now I’m here under my own birth name, a bit older and wiser, writing and recording music that I wrote, myself.  And people are paying attention more than ever. THAT feels good. And it seems like more than ever I’m being asked to collaborate with other artists. I just played with Instituto Mexicano de Sonido in Mexico City, as a hired guitarist.

CG: What was the recording process for Ultra like?

BL: I wanted to make an album that was filled with my DNA.  Not forced or contrived or artificially clever.  Something that had a “timeless” quality about it and would endure sea changes.  Something that is “forever” as opposed to “of the moment.” And Ultra is what I came up with–it has been the easiest musical venture I’ve ever taken part of in my life, by far. I had been listening to a lot of Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, and Sam Cooke at the time and wanted to emulate some of the “timeless” qualities in their music.  We recorded all of the drums, bass, piano, and rhythm guitars live, for example.  So there is an organic vibe due to that.  Also i made it a point to NOT use any digital instrumentation. No drum samples, no vocoders, midi synth….nothing that you would hear in almost every single modern recording these days. NO! It all had to be analog.  All organic.  Even the church bells on the album are real! This is something that I felt really strongly about –it is my way of saying “fuck you” to the current indie rock climate and all of the gimmick-ery that ensues.


CG: Was there any tension between balancing Ultra’s young, indie feel and the more traditional, classic, Latino elements?

BL: No, not all. I just wrote what I liked and recorded it how I wanted to hear it. I did it all for me…I’m selfish!  Nothing is contrived or calculated. There was no feeling in the room of “this song needs to be more latin” or “this song needs to appeal to the hipsters in Silverlake” etc, etc.  It is what it is–music that is filtered through my personality and background. Es lo que hay.

CG: What do you think you would be doing right now if you weren’t a musician? What did you want to be when you were a kid?

BL: I certainly would be a teacher or educator of some type if I wasn’t doing the music thing.  In fact, I’m a certified substitute teacher and have been teaching at Job Corps the past 2 months (I’m answering these interview questions at school, SHHH!). Anyhow, I LOVE teaching. Not middle schoolers though — those kids are assholes. Only high school or college age.

As for when I was a kid ? Well, I come from a basketball playing household. My dad was a college head coach here in Tucson, so you can bet my brother, sister, and I were all into sports growing up. I was pretty good baller too–when I was a kid I had grand visions of playing ball professionally, sure.  But as I got older and didn’t get much taller or bigger, basketball became less of a reality.  I took a 4 year music scholarship at University of Arizona rather than accepting any of the junior college basketball offers i had at the time. And now, here I am.

CG: How do you feel about being described (in your bio on as “a musical octopus, fluid, ambidextrous, and adaptable”? Is being an octopus (at least being compared to one) a cool thing? (I imagine it would be…)

BL:  I actually don’t like that quote. I’m going to send my label an email and have them update that shit.

CG: What’s next for you?

BL: I have shows lined up throughout the summer between the U.S. and Europe. Lots of touring.  In between time I will be writing and recording and perhaps making a cameo appearance here and there as a substitute teacher….for good measure.


Show and Tour info:

April 3rd (tonight!) at 8:30pm, opening for Heartless Bastards
The Echoplex

$15.00 adv; $18.00 day of show; $19.00 walk up day of show

April 4th at 9:30pm
The Hotel Cafe

Other U.S. dates*:

04/05/12 – The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA
04/06/12 – WOW Hall – Eugene, OR
04/07/12 – The Media Club – Vancouver, BC
04/08/12 – Aladdin Theater – Portland, OR
04/09/12 – The Crocodile – Seattle, WA
04/11/12 – Neurolux – Boise, ID
04/13/12 – Belly Up – Aspen, CO
04/14/12 – Bluebird Theater – Denver, CO
04/15/12 – Santa Fe Brewing – Sante Fe, NM

*with Heartless Bastards

Click here for more details, links, and European tour dates!