Prior to the pandemic, Pachy Garcia was on the go. The Echo Park-based musician is part of synthpunk outfit Prettiest Eyes and was playing live often. “There wasn’t a moment where I had space that I needed to refresh my life in a way,” Garcia says by phone. “I was bartending, going to shows, playing shows, going to clubs. I needed that moment to breathe and reassess all my musical interests and what I wanted to do musically.”
When the COVID-19 shutdown forced Garcia to take that break, he turned toward the dubbed-out solo project that he launched back in 2019, Pachyman. The results of those quarantine recordings can be heard on The Return Of…, Garcia’s latest full-length as Pachyman, which is set for release on August 13.
The Return Of… is a 40-minute dive into the classic dub sounds that have influenced Garcia for much of his career. He plays all the instruments on the album, using a mix of 20th and 21st century gear, including a Hammond from the 1960s that he found at a thrift shop and a Tascam 388 eight-track recorder and mixer that dates back to the 1980s. “I do a lot of recording digitally, but, when it comes to mixing, I mix into tape,” he says. “It also gives it that old sound.”
Garcia grew up in Puerto Rico, where he was enamored with ‘90s punk, but had also soaked up reggae influences. It’s a fitting combination given the intersection of the genres in the U.K. during the 1970s. “It’s strugglers music,” he says. Eventually, he stumbled onto artists like Augustus Pablo, King Tubby, and Scientists. “It sounded really raw and futuristic at the same time,” he says. “It was instrumental, but it was very minimal and had all these effects. It spoke to me.”
Years passed and, in 2012, Garcia moved to Los Angeles, where his then-girlfriend, now-wife was attending art school. Almost immediately, he headed to the long-running reggae party Dub Club. “I needed to find a community that reminded me of being back home,” he says. “It became my home away from home. I was going there so many Wednesday nights.” He also befriended Dub Club’s Boss Harmony (David Orlando), and the two went on to play with each other in the band Sex Stains.
When the pandemic hit, Garcia may have had more time to work on his solo project, but, as was the case for so many people, the shutdown also separated him from his friends and collaborators in the music community. “I was happy that I could just stay in and chill and work on music and try to figure out what I wanted to do, but it did definitely take a toll on me,” he says. “If there’s something that I learned from the whole thing is that I need people. I need being around people.”
So, Garcia started making videos of his work on the album, mostly songs that he describes as more light-hearted. “If they’re going to pay attention to a video that I’m posting for three minutes, I might as well make them smile if I can,” he says. He posted videos on Saturdays and would get messages from fans who appreciated his efforts.
The music that Garcia made during this time is reflective of his desire to uplift people during an incredibly dark year. “At the same time, we were going through the Black Lives Matter protests and it was the last year of the Trump administration, so there’s a lot of rage going into these recordings too because it was…it was such a fucking heavy year,” he says.
Moreover, because he was sharing his in-progress work online, Garcia was also tapped into the mood swings of social media. “I’m putting all this stuff on social media, so I have to keep up, but being on social media during 2020 was so demoralizing,” he says. Still, he says, “I try to keep it as positive as I could because I knew that it was such a demoralizing time to be making a record and pitching a record.”
Since Los Angeles’ reopening, Garcia has been able to reconnect with people in person. He’s a bartender and has been back at work for a while. He’s also had the chance to swing by Dub Club since it reopened, and to check out the In Sheep’s Clothing residency at NeueHouse. Soon, too, Garcia will be back on stage. His Pachyman record release show at Zebulon on August 13 is already sold out and Prettiest Eyes will be playing the same venue on August 25.
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