Lola Pistola Steps Out of AJ Dávila’s Backing Band and Into the Spotlight

By Beverly Bryan 

Arvelisse Ruby Bonilla-Ramos, known to the stage as Lola Pistola, is working three different jobs, bartending and waiting tables, and living with her boyfriend in a tiny Red Hook, Brooklyn apartment. She is also absolutely, wildly, unequivocally living her best life. Lounging on the couches at Remezcla headquarters, the singer, songwriter, and guitarist muses, “I feel like if you are in the right spot in life and you are doing what you truly love, you are able to feel fulfilled and happy and in control.” When asked if she is in that spot, she replies simply, “Oh, yeah.”

She’s just released her first album, Curfew, a 10-track storm of grungy, moody rock with touches of Velvet Underground-style downtown glam and dreamy psych pop. Like its raspy-voiced creator, the record seems effortlessly cool, but Bonilla-Ramos, a puertorriqueña who came up in San Juan’s storied punk scene, will tell you it took a lot to get to this moment, a moment where she is sharing her own music with the world and plotting her first tour, at least as a solo artist.

She got her start in music singing with AJ Dávila, sharing vocal duties with Selma Oxor on “Es Verano Ya” off his solo debut Terror Amor and touring as a vocalist in his band. (Fun fact: She also features on the debut album from rappers Füete Billete.) A longtime friend, Dávila had always encouraged her songwriting and dreams of performing. “My first demos, my really crazy stuff, I would send him,” Bonilla-Ramos recalls. Perhaps most encouraging was Dávila’s promise that, someday, they would collaborate.

“I feel like if you are in the right spot in life and you are doing what you truly love, you are able to feel fulfilled and happy and in control.”

It came to pass when Dávila embarked on a solo career following the breakup of his beloved punk band Davila 666. “He was like, ‘One day we’re going to do something together.’ Years after, he had his project and asked me, ‘Do you want to come and sing? Do you want to be in the band?’ This all happened when I was already planning to move to New York,” Bonilla-Ramos remembers. She wrote “Tu Pensabas,” which became her first single, one night with Dávila in his home studio, while he was working on Terror Amor. She recorded the vocals for “Es Verano Ya” on her laptop after moving to New York.

Moving to New York City and simultaneously joining the band was all part of a watershed period in the singer, songwriter, and guitarist’s life. Shaking off the heartache of a breakup, the then-24-year-old landed in Bushwick and started working as a hostess at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club in Manhattan. She calls the job “chaotic,” and those first early days in the city “overwhelming.” “I got sidetracked my first year here, because I just wanted to feel New York. I wanted to feel the people, and I didn’t want to care about anything,” she reflects. “My money was never for anything that wasn’t going out, going to raves, partying, DJing.” (This creative Catherine wheel has also been known to DJ and make electronic music.)

GIF by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

GIF by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

 

Heady as her first year in New York City was, being part of AJ Dávila y Terror Amor was even more so. Looking back on it, she describes an experience that was both challenging and beyond rewarding. Dávila’s 2014 U.S. tour was the first time she had really sung with a band, and it was also her first tour here in the States. She shares a vivid recollection of her first show in Virginia. “We were expected to be very professional, to know our notes and to know when to sing.” But, she says it was “such a rush. I had never experienced anything like that before.”

And thus, she was hooked. Bonilla-Ramos turned out to be a born road dog. “My favorite view is being in a van and your bandmates are around you, being loud, knowing that you are going to play in a venue, and looking into the back and all your equipment is there,” the musician explains.

 

As much as she loved touring with Dávila, after a second U.S. tour with him, she knew that she was done singing someone else’s music. “I knew that I had to be selfish. I knew I needed to put something out. After I got back from that tour, I was like ‘I have to do this,’” she says. While on tour, she released the single and video for “Tu Pensabas” as Lola Pistola. When she got home, she doubled down on writing and demoing songs.

The album is called Curfew because she essentially imposed a curfew on herself, not unlike the one her mother enforced in her teen years. “If I wasn’t home by 11 p.m., she would call all my friends. At 10:55, she was already calling people to see if I was on my way.” This time around was even stricter; she told all her friends she couldn’t hang out, and in a largely symbolic gesture, deleted Tinder from her phone. Moving to the relative quiet of Red Hook helped, as did getting into a serious relationship a bit later. The album took a week to record when it was ready, but she worked on the songs that would become Curfew for a year.

 

Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

She knew she had it when the raw, punky songs she was writing started to ring true for her. “It’s very intense when you write a song and you don’t doubt yourself and you don’t question what you are saying. When I could sing the same songs over and over and they would still have the same effect, that’s when I knew that these were the songs,” she says. One song off Curfew that she says always evokes the same indefinable feeling in her is “Wild, Rich & Loose.” It’s a ballad with poetic lyrics about young and hungry souls, resembling a Mazzy Star song that’s been dragged through the gutter. It builds to a fantastic roaring breakdown.

On this track, and the rest of the album, she’s mining the noisiest end of 90s alt-rock with emotional honesty and trippy sonics. It’s tempting to call the sound dreamcore. Whatever it is, Curfew is bound to have the ring of truth for many more ears than just her own. Last year, she started performing the songs live, and is already hustling to try to take them out on tour. She’s working three jobs to save money so she can go back out on the road, this time sharing her own music. It won’t be long before she can glance over her shoulder and see her bandmates and gear all crowded together in one vehicle again – her own personal definition of happiness.

Lola Pistola’s Curfew is out now on Burger Records.

Lola Pistola Is a Misfit Beauty Queen in the Video for “Carroll Street”

Written by Jhoni Jackson

Taking the wrong train is a guaranteed day-ruiner for most public transport riders, but in Lola Pistola‘s new video for “Carroll Street,” premiering today on Remezcla, it’s a surprise impetus for self-discovery. Through the adventure of unexpected exploration, you might find yourself better appreciating — even savoring — the mundane day-to-day you’d typically overlook.

With help from makeup artist Jezz Hill, Lola Pistola adopted a drag-inspired version of herself to become an “out-of-place beauty queen,” an over-the-top character complete with cherry-red formalwear and a bouquet of yellow roses. The concept was initially hers, she says, but was teased out from there — and into what would manifest onscreen as moments of desert-level dry humor — when she and director Kaya Yusi got to brainstorming.

“We would only write down things that would both make us laugh, like ‘standing by the pier overlooking the Statue of Liberty and imitating a pose with a weird grin’ (although we didn’t shoot this), ‘eating a hot dog for breakfast,’ ‘looking bored with half-naked dudes,’ ‘crying in the middle of the song,’ etcetera,” she says.

The gritty-but-pretty track falls somewhere between alt-grunge and noise pop, with white-knuckle bursts contrasted by stretches of soft, serene vocals. It’s the first single from her forthcoming full-length debut Curfew, out September 29 on Burger Records, following the AJ Dávila produced “Tú Pensabas” in 2015 and last year’s Everyday/Routine EP.

Lola Pistola, aka Arvelisse Ruby, notes that the video location was intentional, and paramount to the entire LP’s creation. It was filmed in Red Hook, where she’s lived for the past year with her partner, bandmate Robert Preston (He’s also one of the two half-naked guys in the video; the other is her roommate).

“It has been the first time since the five years that I’ve been living in Brooklyn where I can feel like home,” says Ruby, who relocated to New York from Puerto Rico.

Working in chaotic bars and restaurants but having the benefit of switching back to “introspective solitude” at home, she adds, feels surreal compared to the other NYC neighborhoods she’s lived. “I have downtown and the Statue of Liberty, the pier, and more just a few steps away from my house, and I can smell the water and be near it always, just like back home,” she says.

In the “Carroll Street” clip, though, Ruby hopes to stress the notion that, even away from home, “we are who we are, no matter where we are.” Breaking routine could be the reminder you need to embrace that idea. “There’s no mysterious message to it, but maybe you need to miss the fucking train to blossom and find yourself and do something crazy,” she says.

Lola Pistola’s debut album Curfew drops September 29 via Burger Records.

Libera tu instinto asesino con "Tú Pensabas" de Lola Pistola

Una canción para mandar al mundo a la mierda, producida por AJ Dávila

Después de una temporada rompiendo madres junto con los de Terror AmorLola Pistola decidió tomarse un descanso temporal de la banda de AJ Dávilapara destacar por sí misma, así que estamos felices de estrenar su canción debut como solista, "Tú pensabas".

El tema, producido por el mismo AJ, es garage soleado y pegajoso del que ambos ya nos tienen acostumbrados con Terror Amor, aunque obviamente tiene sus diferencias con lo que hace AJ por su cuenta. Y el video, el cual pueden ver aquí abajo, tiene como eje principal de la historia un amor mal logrado que termina en tragedia.

Le pedimos a Lola que nos hablara un poco sobre la canción y el video, y esto es lo que nos dijo: «"Tú pensabas" es un tema de desamor. En el video logramos ver dualidades en el personaje, específicamente en mí, interactuando con el mundo bajo diferentes estados de ánimo (tristeza, rabia, soledad). Es un poco oscuro, porque cuando uno se siente como mierda se comporta como mierda. También pienso que la única manera de resurgir como persona y tener nuevas experiencias es cerrando capítulos viejos y abriendo puertas que te dejen experimentar nuevas relaciones y oportunidades en la vida. Que es corta y a esta velocidad aún más. Hay que hacerla divertida».

«El tema es parte de un proyecto bastante divertido y lleno de rock n' roll que saldrá a finales de este año. El colectivo Sea Smoke estuvo a cargo de la producción del video».

Sin darle más vueltas a esto, dejen que el sonido cochino y las ganas de sangre los vuelva locos gracias a la cara triste de Lola.

Lola actualmente se encuentra de gira con AJ por Estados Unidos y está grabando videodiarios del tour. Pueden verlos por acá. Y esperen próximamente más música de ella.

Lola Pistola’s New Singles Are Blissfully Forlorn Tracks for Gloomy Autumn Days

By Jhoni Jackson 

Brooklyn-based Boricua Lola Pistola has a natural penchant for documenting her life, from tour diaries to zines full of photos she captured as a member of AJ Dávila y Terror Amor, as well as poetry and prose. Now she unveils another installment in her continuous chronicling: Everyday/Routine EP, a two-track effort released via hometown label Discos Diáspora premiering today on Remezcla.

Neither cut is as angsty as “Tú Pensabas,” last year’s solo debut produced by AJ Dávila and bearing his signature jangly, deliberately unruly pop aesthetic. These new tracks are nothing like that: This time around, Lola Pistola is introspective, contemplative. Madness resulting from too much monotony, too intense melancholy, is the centerpiece here, both in lyrics and in sound.

On “Everyday,” produced by Puerto Rican experimental pop artist Héctor “StoneTape” Hernández (half of the duo Carnales with AJ Dávila), Lola Pistola is stuck in a cycle, feeling lost, disappointed, and crying. There’s a little bite in the lines. “Everyday/Feels like the/Fucking same,” but even a (deceptively) optimistic pace and somewhat cheery riffs can’t take the track out of its decidedly dismal headspace. Things only get sadder from there; “Routine” recalls a despondent vibe akin to a roughed-up take on Maria Taylor’s anxiety-riddled “Xanax.”

Maybe Lola Pistola was missing the hectic excitement of tour life when she penned these tracks, or maybe this forlorn rumination has been in her all along. Whatever the reason, she’s crafted something more universally resonant from her sadness. This addition to the catalog of her personal life could be an entry in anyone else’s, and we’re grateful for it.

[Article first appeared via REMEZCLA]