ABOVE: AJ DAVILA Y TERROR AMOR IN NEW YORK, OCTOBER 2014. PHOTO BY ATISHA PAULSON.
Punk rock is a moving target. This is the message embedded AJ Davila’s pop-influence melodies and fuzzed-out guitar jams. As the music world’s genres and boundaries become increasingly more difficult to define, musicians like Davila shows us how to bridge the gaps.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Davila released two albums with his band Davila 666 before the six-piece disbanded in 2011. Now he’s back with Beibi, the debut album from his new project AJ Davila Y Terror Amor, as well as a compilation of singles from his 666 days titled Pocos Anos, Muchos Danos.
While Pocos Anos is an homage to Davial’s rock-‘n’-roll roots with MC5-like guitar solos and high-energy lyrical strides, Beibi expands into funky pop melodies and experimental samplings. Both projects emphasize Davila’s identity as a tried-and-true punk rock musician with an eclectic musical lexicon. “The Beibi album is way more weird and dirty, but it’s the same pop quality, the same melodies,” Davila explains when we meet him at Bowery Ballroom in New York. “It’s always going to have the essence and influence of Davila 666.”
MERYN CHIMES: Growing up, were your parents interested in music?
AJ DAVILA: Since I was a kid my mother was a music lover. She was a mentor. She introduced me to music and to all I wanted to do. She used to love a lot of soul music—she had a collection of seven inch records that was mainly R&B and soul. She was always playing Al Greene and Marvin Gaye.
CHIMES: Did that influence your music?
DAVILA: Of course, I love catchy melodies and our music is influenced by those melodies. When I make a record I don’t listen to rock-‘n’-roll, I listen to other music. I listen to a lot of soul or hip-hop because I don’t want to be influenced.
CHIMES: Who’s your favorite hip-hop artist?
DAVILA: A Tribe Called Quest, and then De La Soul and the Pharcyde.
CHIMES: What about Jurassic 5?
DAVILA: Yeah, Jurassic 5! That Quality Control album is really good. They have a lot of hooks, I love it.
CHIMES: Do you remember the first CD or tape you bought with your own money?
DAVILA: It was Dr. Feelgood by Mötley Crüe. It was a casette.
CHIMES: You sing in Spanish. Did you grow up listening to more Spanish or English language music?
DAVILA: I grew listening to more music in English. Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States. We all grew up listening to music in English; the music in Spanish was more like salsa or hip-hop, not that rock-‘n’-roll oriented.
CHIMES: What was it like growing up in Puerto Rico?
DAVILA: It was amazing. I love Puerto Rico. We are who we are as a band because of where we grew up. It is everything to us. Our songs are always in Puerto Rican slang—it’s not Spanish it’s Puerto Rican, broken Spanish.
CHIMES: Do you still live there now?
DAVILA: I lived all my life in Puerto Rico but now I’ve moved to Mexico and I have been living there for five months. I want to stay in Mexico. I think it’s way better for the music that we do. Change is always good.
CHIMES: Why do you make music? Is it an inward or outward act?
DAVILA: I think I do it for myself, but it’s what I love. It’s inside of me. If I didn’t make music I would be unhappy. Making and creating makes me happy, putting all that energy that is inside of you to the outside.
CHIMES: What was the first song you ever wrote?
DAVILA: I used to have this group called Crisalidas in the ’90s and I probably wrote my first song in ’95. I was writing about things that I lived, my experiences.
CHIMES: What do you see as the difference between the Beibi record by AJ Davila Y Terror Amor and Pocos Anos, Mucho Danos by Davila 666?
DAVILA: For this record [Beibi] we have experimented more with the music, new sounds. We used way more psychedelic sounds.
CHIMES: I noticed a more folk-based, playful sound—like a celebration.
DAVILA: Yeah, it’s really catchy. It’s psychedelic, it’s playful, but it’s all that mixed with pop. I love that. It’s dirty pop. It’s punk rock too though.
CHIMES: What do you think makes a good pop song?
DAVILA: It’s all about hooks and catchiness. For me, I make a song and every single part has to be catchy. That is the most important thing in a song and makes it a pop song. For this album, I really wanted to make every single part memorable. Every part like a chorus.
CHIMES: How did you find that dirtiness to your pop sound?
DAVILA: We live a dirty life. We’re dirty motherfuckers. We are wild kids. In our music we talk about how we live, it’s life. We didn’t grow up in a beautiful environment, we’re street kids. We put that—all the wild things we’ve done—out in our music.
CHIMES: Music that makes you want to dance?
DAVILA: Yes! Music that makes you want to dance. You need to dance. That’s important. We’re from Puerto Rico—we dance a lot.
BEIBI AND POCOS ANOS, MUCHOS DANOS ARE BOTH OUT TODAY, NOVEMBER 4, VIA BURGER RECORDS.