Photo Credit: Kristen Manza
By: Forrest Cook
PopCulturePirates is the solo project for Nico Caruso of DFW’s “post-indie” rock quartet Kyoto Lofi who’s been a frequent to most of the pivotal live music oriented establishments around our thriving little DFW music scene since 2015. Caruso has been releasing music under the alias PopCulturePirates since long before that, describing the project on his bandcamp page as “a sonic tour through [his] many mistakes and wasted lives,” which in the past has featured collaborations with other talented musicians throughout the community.
“Athlete” is the latest single, just released on most major streaming platforms, by way of PopCulturePirates latest EP, Goodbye Moon, which was released in June of this year and is available for streaming and “name your price” digital purchase on PopCulturePirates’ bandcamp page. The newest single is brought to you courtesy of Canadian-based Breakwood Records, and is a follow-up to the bands February-released full-length, Palo Alto.
The song has made the local rounds through Dallas media outlets and recently received a feature in Central Track’s “Song of the Day” category.
Caruso’s other band, Kyoto Lofi just recently received recognition as “Best Rock Act of 2019” by the Dallas Observer, and given that due cause for celebration, it’s easy to see how one might take to describing PopCulturePirates as a “side-project” but Caruso has mentioned in past interviews between reciting Julian Casablancas references and discussing his boisterous self-ascribed creative schedule that he’s willing to change the tides, seeing neither group as a side project and is more disposed to consider Kyoto’s work a “group project” while clinging to the idea of PopCulturePirates as a music all his own.
The latest EP, Goodbye Moon does cite one other person for honorable recognition, and that person is “your mom.”
It’s good to see persistence and diligence pay off in the local community, and even better that prescription from tireless effort when deviated into commonplace stress inducing negative self assessment can be met with an opposite creative outlet dependent on one’s own self-propelling necessitation of artistic come-aboutedness… and also a sense of humor reminding us to take the world with a grain of salt.
Caruso had this to say about the creation of the new single, “Athlete”:
“The 20 second demo for this song was done earlier this year and I recorded that on my phone. Months went by and when I wasn’t able to write anything decent I went through old demos and found this one. I pulled it and worked on it and fleshed it all out in one day.
Then I sent it to canadian label, Breakwood Records and they wanted to release it as well, as a single. They released my last album, Palo Alto.”
Of note, every instrument featured on the track was played, recorded, mixed, and mastered by Nico Caruso.
“Athlete” opens with gazey guitars leading into the slow build-up of high-hats and a fluid lead which breaks open the atmosphere as the snare drum enters the spectrum in ambiance. Lyrics of, “you say it’s easy for you, I can’t believe it’s true” add a personal touch regarding the artist’s own struggles in dealing with negation and life’s sometimes blinding opalescence. Caruso explains:
“The lyrics deal with internal struggles of failure and mental health, “Athlete” refers to the “mental pirouettes” that people sometimes have to do to seem like they’re doing alright in front of everyone.”
Online resources list influence for the song as ranging from The Strokes and Killers to My Morning Jacket, whether “soaked in the sun or drowning in distortion, PopCulturePirates is the band playing at the prom while the gymnasium burns down.”
“Athlete” exudes rainy day vibes, and mental-health holiday notes as a reminder that even the most upright-seeming among us have our woes to deal with. “You say I’ve got it easy, you know I’ve been through that before… Now I’m black and bruised… but I don’t blame you.” Stream the new single online and stay tuned for next year when Kyoto Lofi has promised their newest EP to be released.