Amanda Maceda from Radio UTD recently interviewed Jason Bobadilla also known in the local music community as Ariel & the Culture. Before becoming a solo act, Ariel & the Culture was a group of musicians that Radio UTD recorded a pseudo-stereo session in 2019.
(This interview has been edited for clarity)
Amanda Maceda: I believe now, Jason, you are a kind of solo-act, but we met you previously as Ariel & the Culture.
Jason “Ariel” Bobadilla: Correct. It was Ariel & the Culture and then COVID hit, and a lot of things changed. Some for the better, some for the worse, for everyone I’m sure. A lot of music in general, so things shifted, and then I started really enjoying working myself. I was able to look a little deeper and make all the decisions instead of just some of them because I loved everyone in Ariel & the Culture when it was a group. I’m so close with… I’m good with those people, but it’s just the direction I wanted to go in.
AM: Yeah, I meant it’s still technically Ariel & the Culture but just as a solo. It’s just you right now.
AM: That gives you full control, how you said, you people just kind of drift in terms of how they want to pursue their music and their talent. Especially with the pandemic, I can’t imagine how meeting up and then individuals different circumstances with that.
JB: Yeah, The day before the lockdowns happened, or “never was a lockdown,” but you know what I mean. Everything closed, I think it was like the 15th of March or something like that. Whenever the day was, that day we actually had a show at Club Dada in Deep Ellum with Danny Bonilla and a couple other people from Luna Luna and then a couple other people. We never played the show, and we never… It was just a crazy day, and that kind of just felt like a big slap in the face. With everything happening, it kind of felt like a sign. It was just very weird and almost like a movie. Because nobody ever announced the show wasn’t happening. The entire city, like the state went into… nothing that’s not essential. It kind of killed live music on the spot, so it’s been different.
AM: Yeah, for sure. I guess different experience, but like we had DJs that were going to concerts that week and then all of the sudden, just dropped. A lot of concerts, you know, had to get cancelled, or people were hopeful and they were just postponing it until like fall, then postponing it until spring. Which it’s great to be hopeful, but it’s just how things have turned out.
JB: Yeah, it’s really sad ‘cause a lot of people lost their jobs, their careers, and lost their momentum. I think I lost a lot of momentum, and it was definitely a kick in the stomach. About three weeks before the lockdowns happened, we opened up the Central Track Show. It was a sold out show at the Granada Theater. It was the biggest show I played at that point. It was like two thousand something, I don’t know, plus people, and it was amazing and it was a great night. It kind of felt like a stamp or like… Hey, this is it. This chapter is over because that was the last real show we had. In reflection, you’re just like “oh.” That was a fitting end to that era.
AM: A nice way to go out…
JB: Yeah, I don’t have any regrets. I don’t have any regrets about it.
AM: That’s great to hear. It seems like there’s been a lot of fluctuating emotions, I mean a lot of people have gone through that with what’s happened in the past year. Did you say that kind of reflected your artistic vision and your ability to express yourself musically throughout this year?
JB: Yeah, one hundred percent. That’s a great question. When there was that point I couldn’t see my partner who… She lived in San Antonio at the time, or still in San Antonio, and I was in Dallas, so I mean we’d see each other in a couple weeks. It wasn’t a big deal. For me, that was the biggest slap when I wouldn’t see her for three months, and I was like if I can’t even see them, you know I can’t see anybody. At the beginning of the pandemic, people were washing their groceries and all that kind of stuff, or I was at least, not anymore because things have changed. You really just couldn’t see anybody, and so I was just stuck in the apartment like all day long for months on end. You just drive yourself crazy. I didn’t even make any music. It was just like an energy suck the first two months or so, I wasn’t creative at all. It just felt like live music died overnight. At the time, I don’t know how it was for everybody else, but it didn’t look like it was coming back in the foreseeable future. Now, finally, we see like a light and everything, but at the time it was… I didn’t know what was going on, so it was really hard. I thought like I really need to focus on myself before I focus on trying to keep running a band or a group, so that’s how it was for me at least.
AM: Right, well I hope you’re… It seems like you’re in a better place
JB: Oh yeah, oh yeah. A much better place now, thankfully.
AM: It’s rough, but it helps you appreciate when you have those moments of pure passion, creativity and happiness.
JB: It’s really made the smaller things a lot bigger. Just like going to shows and loading out all the equipment which is usually a pain the ass. I started to miss it sometime last year, and I was like that’s how I know I’m down bad.
AM: That concert euphoria. I mean people have been able to do virtual concerts, and that’s been great, but it still isn’t kind of the same as that full experience.
JB: No, it just can’t replace it. It’s really hard to replace the sweating bodies of people pushed together listening to loud music with bass that’s way too loud. It’s just hard to replicate. I do miss it. I’m glad like I said. I don’t know if a lot of people can say this, and I’m not saying this in a retrospective way like anybody else who had a very terrible year because I had my own bad parts of the year too, but in retrospect I’m glad it happened for me because I did a lot of self-reflection, everyone did. Working out, I lost like 20 pounds, 30 pounds, worked out, did the whole thing, and I just, like, bettered myself through the whole process and now I’m grateful for it, but at the time it was so hard.
AM: It’s also sometimes these hard moments or these feelings of intense pain that push you to really do that self-reflection, and take those actions to better yourself or your friends or your ambitions in the long term, even though it is only in the moment.
JB: It made me appreciate everyone and all, everyone who was in the group and everything. I never sent out an announcement saying that things were over because you know things are always open-ended on my end. As of right now, like right now, I’m a solo artist, but I don’t know how things can change in a year, six months, ten years, I don’t know how long it’ll keep going. I meant it’ll always be open-ended to me, but right now I think I’m working best as a solo artist. It’s definitely something that I needed to reflect on, work on, and make better music. I feel like my music’s gotten a lot better too, as it should.
AM: To talk about that, it’s like the vibe, the vibe changed between that previous album y’all released in, I think 2018, 2019 and “Dame Tu Amor” which released late-2020. The genres between those were very, very… Can you, I guess, tell us how that twist happened, and now with “Push To Start” it feels like it kind of jumped again, or if you’re just exploring different avenues.
JB: You’re the first person I’ve talked to since “Push To Start” came out because it’s less than a week ago, so that’s exactly what I wanted to hear. I have a bunch of people I’m talking to soon, but you’re the first one, so I’m glad you said that. Yeah, I kind of… there was a point where I felt like I was hitting a ceiling with Ariel & the Culture being a group. You know what I mean? I’m only getting so far doing this kind of thing, making this kind of music, and “Dame Tu Amor” was actually an accident. I did like an interview with NPR earlier last year when they picked up the song, and it was really awesome. I talked about how I went… The first time I saw my partner, we met in the middle of Austin, so I did like a road trip and we got to stay with a friend or whatever and, so, it’d been months and months of not seeing each other. All the angst and everything, and I hadn’t written a song in months. Like not a single word, nothing. No chords or anything, just still laptop, you know? So I got to Austin, [and] as soon as I was with her, I finally started making music right there. I didn’t even have any equipment, I wasn’t prepared to… like going to Guitar Center and borrowing guitars and like recording in the back room of Guitar Center just trying to get ideas out. It just all came at once, and so on the way I wrote the first part of “Dame Tu Amor”, but I didn’t expect to be anything. I wasn’t planning on releasing it as a single. I don’t think I was even planning on finishing it. My partner actually came up with the idea of making it a cumbia, she’s like “You should make that a cumbia!” She started mimicking the beat, and I was like “Oh, no I don’t think you know what you’re talking about” because at that point, I wasn’t really doing that kind of music, but I followed her lead and I did it. I was like “ah! see? you did something”… It was her idea, I don’t want to take all the credit for the cumbia. I mean I made the cumbia, but she…
AM: She was like, “Yo, try this!”
JB: I gotta give her credit because it wasn’t my idea. Maybe I would have got the idea, but I mean I can’t say for sure. Then I kind of had the song like I held it for a few months, and I didn’t think there was anything of it. Then I started linking up with a bunch of new friends of the pandemic. Pretty Boy Aaron, Khalid Abdul from Chroma (it’s a rap group in Dallas), and then BRUHNICE video who’s like an artist and video maker in Dallas, and we started talking. We were playing like Call of Duty or something. We were just bored in the pandemic, and then we started talking, [and] we became good friends. Now we’re great friends. I played them the song, and then they’re like “Ohhh, you need to drop this!” because I was planning on a bunch of other stuff I’d been making and it wasn’t hitting for them. They’re like you need to drop that. So that’s how it came out. It wasn’t going to come out honestly through me; they’re the ones that pushed me, so I have to thank them.
AM: The power of good relationships in your life just you know bringing that inspiration and also [it’s] encouraging when they see something that they’re like this is wonderful. Y’all if you haven’t listened to it, it’s such a good track, and also the music video is such a it’s like.. personally, like how you said it was inspired by cumbia, it gives me flashbacks of me dancing with my friend late at night. You know one of the last trips before the pandemic, you know just being funny. It does bring that warmth to it, and yeah it was such a fresh sound from you, and it was so refreshing when it was fall of 2020.
JB: That’s very sweet, thank you. That was the point, I wanted the song to sound nostalgic. I’m a very nostalgic and emotional person. When I move out of like a home or something, I have to break down crying and everything when everyone’s just packing up boxes or something like that. I don’t know if that’s artists in general or the person that I am, and so I wanted it to kind of sound nostalgic. I’m really glad, that is my favorite song that I’ve released so far. I’m really glad people took it to heart, and were like “oh, I showed this to my grandmother, but when the cumbia part at the end, the bass changes, she’s like her head turn and everyone’s just like “ah!” I wanted to connect like the older generations and the newer ones and it worked! I’m really glad. Almost didn’t release it.
AM: We’re all happy you did, you executed it so well, to just jump into like the old and the new… That music video was also just so beautiful.
JB: Thank you, I appreciate it.
AM: Is there a story tied into it? Because I can’t help but try to look for symbolism, or was it just combining?
JB: Yeah, there totally is, so I definitely wanted to put the sense of nostalgia into the video. It was directed by BRUHNICE video, Trey, a good friend of mine, and roger woodruff. It was shot during the pandemic, so like around August 21st it was shot or something 2020. It was really difficult getting the logistics of it, and we had to hire actors, some really great actors, and we shot the whole thing. I wanted it to seem like an older version of myself, and then an old version of my partner who’s also in the video, that’s her. That’s her in the younger version, and she’s the one that inspired the cumbia, so you can thank her. I really wanted to kind of just… Like being a first-gen Latino and Mexican-American, you know you’re just kind of dealing with a lot of mixed cultures. You’re not American enough, you’re not Mexican enough, you’re just kind of nowhere. That’s who I’m making music for. One thing I always want to make clear when I talk about it is… there is, as people pointed out, I guess purists or Puerto Mexicanos, they’re like some of the Spanish is kind of grammatically incorrect there, and someone told me before I released it when I was showing it to people. I decided to leave it in there because that’s how I grew up, speaking broken Spanglish in some words, and I wanted to leave that in there. To be like it’s okay if you speak broken Spanglish, like it’s not supposed to be perfect. I’m not trying to be someone I’m not.
AM: You’re getting the sentiment across and the message.
JB: I think a lot of people are getting the point, and so I just wanted to write a story about whose name was Siamata. Basically, you know, falling in love. I wanted to make a fantasized version of myself falling in love from her quinceañera, and then him still being there, and that being me. Him growing up, and her not being there, and I wanted to bring a lot of like Mexican tones and cultures, and non-Mexican, specifically Latino, tones because quinceañeras are a thing across all Latin America. When he’s older she’s passed on you know there’s an ofrenda on there, people say it’s like the movie Coco. I definitely got inspired a lot from the movie Coco too and lots of other things. Another thing I’m inspired by is the 1990s movie Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo Dicaprio. I don’t know if you’ve seen it or heard of it.
AM: English freshman year classic film.
JB: Me too! That was definitely… I watched that a lot, and I was like there’s a lot of visual symbolism between those two, so if you ever see the movie again and see the song you can definitely see parts that were similar from there. That’s what I wanted to do with it. People can take as they want, so let’s just start.
AM: I did not realize people would compare it to Coco. I think purely my brain did not think of Coco because I saw the conchas, and I was like that wasn’t in Coco, the other bread was in Coco. I can see it now.
JB: Yeah, and the music video set I cannot take any credit for. Those were all done by Deisy Rios who works with a lot of artists in Dallas, Texas and Houston. She does an amazing job, she’s an amazing artist. So check her out she’s amazing. She did it all by herself. One person.
JB: All, zero budget basically. She did it, so she’s amazing.
AM: Yeah, oh my.
JB: Can’t take any credit, that’s all her. Hit her up, she’s amazing. She’s a talented Latina artist, and she’s super nice too. People don’t have to be when they’re that talented, but she’s super nice.
AM: Thank you, Deisy. Yeah, so, there’s so many new updates and those aren’t even super new, but like you’re producing a lot of stuff like rad stuff right now. Talking about the late-2020 stuff, but just how we mentioned, you just released “Push To Start”.
JB: Just released “Push To Start” with my friends: Pretty Boy Aaron, BRUHNICE sings the hook, he kills the stupid hook. He’s so good. He didn’t even want to be in the song, before, he’s like I shouldn’t be on the song, bro. I made the beat like in July or June. That’s how long this song… I pulled out something in June of 2020. We first started meeting up, I sent it to Aaron, and we all had like a group chat. Aaron was like yeah, I like this a lot, and so that’s how long we’ve been holding onto the song for. Since June, and then we were going to release it in late 2020, and then I got interest from a French label and distributors called Profile De face or Profil De face for the people who don’t do the French accent well, which is me. Profil De face, they wanted to sign me for the song, and so I took a lot of time, that was back in December 2020, and so they distributed the song this past week. I’m with Profil Def ace, that was my first labeler. I don’t want to call it my first record deal because that sounds corny. My first deal for a single was through them. Really excited about that.
AM: “Push To Start” has already got like three thousand listens on Spotify, so you know it’s picking up traction.
JB: It’s almost five thousand right now in less than a week, so that’s nuts. I’ve never had a song come back like this.
AM: About to say a few hours ago… Maybe I just need to refresh my page.
JB: No, I will show you the numbers right to your face. Let’s see right there almost five thousand, yeah almost five thousand.
AM: Oooh! That was a pleasant surprise to notice. For this interview, I was like, “Oh, okay! Okay!”
JB: Yeah, it was far left field, and I feel like that’s what I wanted. I had other songs that sounded kind of like “Dame Tu Amor” ready to go. At least five or six, if you’re like “Drop it! Drop it!” so I will be dropping similar stuff to that soon, but for now I’m focusing on “Push To Start.” I wanted to swing for far left field because I hadn’t dropped music since August and it’s March 2021. If I just drop another of the same kind of song, people might like it, or they’re gonna like it, or they might hate it, but I mean if I drop something out of the blue, you know whether it’s a good or bad reaction, it’ll be a strong one. I want to keep… I don’t want to… One of the realizations I had last year was I don’t want to be like coned to being a certain kind of artist, and that’s what people kept doing. The only thing I want to be is a Latinx or Latino artist. Like that’s what I want to be, and I want to help break the mold and all of that, being like you know you just because you’re a Latinx artist doesn’t mean you have to sing in Spanish, being Latinx makes your music Latinx. That’s when I decided to go far left field and just rap ‘cause nobody expected that and everyone was like what the heck is going on?
AM: Your music spectrum knows no bounds.
JB: That’s the point and I wanted to push it. I don’t feel like I do any genre great, but I feel like I can do a lot of genres well. Like amazing, you know what I mean? I don’t know. I feel like I want to be able to keep doing that, so I guess keep an out. I think the next song I’ll be dropping more between the two, so it’s not gonna be even further left field, but I’ve definitely got some stuff like super, super out of the ballpark that doesn’t sound anything like I’ve even dropped from those two. Maybe one day I’ll be dropping that, but yeah.
AM: So are you planning to just release a few more singles, are you?
JB: I’m looking at compilations, but I don’t know. Right now, I just want to keep focusing on building a fan base and a group of people around me that like my music. I don’t call it a fan base because that sounds corny. But I’ve definitely started to grow a group of people around me that really like my music from near and far that I never knew even cared or listened. I always hear something with artistry, like you know you made it when you have people from high school hitting you up to work with you. Just don’t pay them any mind because they didn’t give a damn back then. Sorry, but you know it… It’s definitely… I think I’m just gonna keep dropping singles. I mean I recently joined Stay Pretty. I wanted to mention that first here, you’re the first person that I mentioned that to, which is just a group within Aaron, Pretty Boy Aaron, BRUHNICE, and Khalid Abdul. We’ve also got Tisha from New York who did “Comb My Hair” with Pretty Boy Aaron. That song went viral and was like on H&M commercials and stuff like that or the playlist and stuff. We’ve also got Bruno and we’ve got Brandon as well. We’ve got more people coming, but we’re just trying to do a collective right now. Soon, we’re about to drop, as a compilation, a lot of music, so it’s about to be a crazy roll out from here until pretty much the end of summer. I’m excited. I can’t talk too much about that.
AM: Yes, understandable, but thanks for giving us that tiny tidbit of what’s to come. That sounds like a really, kind of, rad collaborative.
JB: It’s everyone dropping, it’s not just me, so I mean, if you like what I’m doing, you know I’m the one that produced “Push To Start,” but I mean there’s people who worked on other stuff of mine, and I’ve worked on theirs. I mean if you like the music I’m doing, or if you the music they’re doing, you’re gonna like what we’re doing together.
AM: You’re like local, local, right? I could have sworn I had a friend that mentioned like you went to highschool with you or something at Garland.
JB: Oh yeah, I mean, it’s been a long time ago. I mean, I was local, right now I’m in San Antonio right now, and I’m hopping between Austin and Dallas every couple weeks or so. I don’t feel like I look like I’m based in San Antonio and Dallas. I don’t feel like I’m locked to one place though, so I’m still a Dallas artist, nothing changed there. I’m hopping cities working on personal stuff, work, and then music stuff, so I definitely feel like you know, I was definitely local, local in Denton for a while. Then during or right before the pandemic, I moved to like downtown, downtown Dallas. Like I lived on Main Street, like I was in downtown living the city life. That’s where I experienced the pandemic, then the summer riots, the summer protests and all the events and everything in between, so I definitely… like my worldview just completely changed living downtown because everything happened there. That was like a big inspiration for everything, so I have music from when I was inspired at that time like still yet to come out. That encapsulates that kind of feeling and stuff if that makes sense. But yeah, I am from Garland, I’ve been playing music like in Garland and downtown Garland since I was 13, so it’s been a long while. I used to play at coffee shops there, playing completely different music. It doesn’t even sound like the same, and those videos are lost on YouTube somewhere. Oh god, I hope no one ever finds them.
AM: That’s gonna challenge someone.
JB: Yeah, but I like Garland. Like I said, I grew up there. It’s not like I don’t rep it or anything, but I’m glad I’m out. I’m hopping between cities now, so I was in Austin yesterday and now I’m San Antonio today. I like it. I like being on the road a lot, it’s nice.
AM: It’s been a great time talking with you.
JB: Yeah, of course!
AM: For our listeners, watchers, where’s the best place to contact you? I mean, not contact, but maybe contact. Like social networks…
JB: Yeah! You can stream my music at Ariel & The Culture, that’s Ariel ampersand, people don’t know what that sign is called, it’s called an ampersand. Ariel ampersand the Culture, or you can just, I feel so weird saying you can just Google my name now and it shows up. You can follow me at funnylatinx on Instagram or Twitter. I’m just back in the pool there, and people like it, so awesome! Thanks guys for listening to Radio UTD!
(This interview was transcribed by John Lawler)
Check out Ariel & The Culture’s new single Push to Start, out now on streaming services!
Watch Ariel & The Culture’s 2019 Pseudo Stereo session below!