Juan Wauters, former member of The Beets, moved to New York in 2000 from Uruguay, and released his debut solo record, N.A.P. North American Poetry, in 2014, earning him the title, “One of Queens’ most idiosyncratic adoptive sons.” Interview by Alec Moss, written with Ryan Costigan.
Alec [WXJM]: Your tour is coming up in a few weeks, so what’re you doing until then?
Juan Wauters: I’m in my house in New York right now, I was just trying to figure out which friends are going to come out on the road this time. I’ve been recording at home up here, and then I actually am getting together with some friends and trying to learn the songs. I’m just playing music around the house.
Nice, man. You’re now from Queens, so when you got there, is that when you started taking your music seriously? Or have you always been making music?
Well, I picked up a guitar for the first time in Uruguay, but I was never into like a music scene or anything, but I came here, and I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t have a group of people that I could go out with so I just played by myself. But, yeah, my style was developed over here, ya know? I never played music over there.
How long after being in New York was it until you started playing out?
The first time I played out was in 2004, maybe 2005. Yeah, so maybe two or three years after I came here. It’s cool, I was playing and just getting into recording music by myself and, I guess, with a friend of mine from the neighborhood, but never really thought about the possibility of playing out because I didn’t know about a group of people that did that.
I’ve heard you say before that you’re trying to make your music sound like New York music rather than describing a genre, so what to you defines the New York sound?
To me, I think in New York, people value people quality, meaning, New York is a city that inspires you to be your way, ya know? Meaning that people are from here and love it here, and have been here for a while, or come here from out of the country. I just realized that the city wishes you to be at your best. If you really wanna go out, and do whatever you want, and do it well, the city will get behind you. And I think with the music, it has to do with that, meaning, it just is gonna be music, beyond music style, or like I said before, it’s just gonna be what it’s gonna be, and it’s gonna represent that one person.
Yeah, I like that.
Yeah! I don’t know, it’s just a very good place! I don’t wanna get that serious about it…It’s just I think, the music that I hear from people here are influenced by the vibe of the city, you know?
Yeah, it’s totally different up there than anywhere else.
Yeah, to me, it’s just somewhat natural, because I’ve been here for a long time, but it’s a big place, and then I end up knowing people from all over, and everybody’s trying to do their own thing. People that are from New York, it seems like they have an idea of reality, ya know? I don’t know! It’s weird! I don’t know what I’m getting into here!
Cool! So, you’ve spent a lot of time in New York, and then started a relationship with Captured Tracks, so how did that begin?
The Beets, the band I had before, we were the first Captured Tracks band. When the label started, we were the first release that they had. Then, with the band, we put out two records with Captured Tracks, and then we left, and we did one record with another label, and then the band turned it away, but I stepped away from the group, I don’t know what happened. I had a record and I talked about working with them (Captured Tracks) again.
Cool. How did The Beets and Mike Sniper come together?
He was trying to start a label, and were just trying to play, and he heard about us, we got a chance...We became somewhat friendly, and then started working together. But back then, us as a group, weren’t a functional group that would want to work for the label, ya know? We just kind of goofing around, playing, ya know?
Yeah. So, you’ve been with Captured Tracks the longest, so once they started signing all these new artists, it seems to me like each band is pretty friendly with each other, so what has your experience been with the other groups and musicians?
Well, we always get along together, you know? It’s cool. They’re just people that you meet, and then if you have something in common, you remain friends. If not, we just know them because we’re from the same label.
Yeah, it’s cool because it seems like the groups on Captured Tracks are more than just labelmates.
Yeah, I really like that too. It seems like there’s a connection among us. And it’s just the way that the people at the label are. They kind of encourage that.
Cool. And also, just at the end of last year, you went on that tour with your labelmate, Mac Demarco, I just was curious, Mac being the character that he is, what was one of the craziest things that happened on that tour? Or like some highlights?
I don’t know, we just kinda just did the tour. I don’t think anything super crazy went down. Everybody was kinda chill...the shows were really fun, a lot of people came out. But everything’s crazy when you go on tour and at the same time, I don’t think anything’s really that crazy. (Laughs)
Now, you are working up to another release, but after you finish this tour, are there any other plans in specific?
We’re going off to Mexico after this tour, and then I want to get back to New York and continue working on music. There’s a couple different people, I know I was telling you earlier, that I play with, and I know this year I’m going to have an opportunity to play out a lot, so I want to get more of a steady group.
Juan Wauters will be playing in Harrisonburg, VA on February 17th at a WXJM sponsored show. More details to come.