Inner Wave: LA’s Best Indie Band Redefines the Music Scene
© Photography by Inner Wave
Not only does Inner Wave produce feel-good music that brings the LA sunshine to its listeners wherever they are, but they also present a realness that is a rare occurrence in mainstream music.
It’s a cold and dark evening in London when I sit down to talk with the three founding members of LA’s hottest indie band, Inner Wave. It’s lunchtime in LA, and as they pop up on my screen one by one, I can feel a burst of symbolic sunshine immediately. Pablo Soleto (guitar, vocals), Jean Pierre Narvaez (bass, vocals), and Elijah Trujillo (keys, guitar) have known each other since their teenage years and have been making music together since then. Completing the band are Luis Portillo (drums) and Jose Cruz (keys), who joined the band in later years. Pablo, who is the band’s main vocalist, calls from a studio they lovingly call ‘The Swamp.’ “We rehearse and record a lot of our music here,” he says proudly. Their music, which has millions of streams across various platforms, can be described as a mix of psych-pop and synthwave, and each album offers an eclectic mix of songs, showcasing the quintet's exceptional artistic skills. The band is no stranger to jam-packed schedules. They regularly play at festivals, including Coachella, have just released their fourth album Apoptosis and are now on a US tour with UK band, Foals. On top of that, they have their own solo projects to tend to! It was, therefore, an absolute pleasure to be able to chat with them about their music, the dynamics of the band, and why the safety of their fans is paramount to them.
You’ve recently performed at Desert Daze - How did it go, and what was the best bit about it? Did you get some time to see other artists, too, catch up and hang out with old and new friends?
Elijah: For me personally, the big takeaway from it was that we got to watch Tame Impala on Saturday night. They headlined Saturday, and then we performed on the same stage at 2:30 pm the next day. We got on stage to put our stuff up, and there was tape on the floor from their set from the night before. So that was a pretty cool moment, ‘cause we look up to them a lot, their songwriting and their live performance especially, and it was cool seeing ourselves at the same level as the people we look up to.
Jean: I guess it was a little more business, but we got to hang out with our friends, The Marías, quite a lot. We hadn't seen them since maybe August when we played a couple of shows with them. I don't think we actually walked around the grounds that much either, but what we did see was pretty cool. The stage we played on was right next to a lake, so that was really nice. They were handing out free jello shots, so that was pretty fun, too!
What are the dynamics in the band? What is it like to spend so much time together?
Jean: It's a bunch of jokes, yeah, mostly jokes! We head into the rehearsal space, and we start cracking jokes. We all get along really well, and we have very family-oriented roots that whenever we come together it feels like family. We trust each other because we're working on something that's so special, and it feels very natural to be able to express those very good emotions, and it also feels pretty natural to express negative emotions, too. We get to talk seriously or not very seriously, like; we have inside jokes that are literally just sounds! It's a fun time, and, obviously, we get on each other's nerves for sure, but we always think of respect for each other as the number one priority.
Do you have a favourite song you love to play together, or do your opinions on this differ as individuals?
Jean: I think those change every day for me. [laughs] I don’t know what my favourite song is. What do you think?
Pablo: Right now…One in a Million for me. I feel like that’s just a fun one to play for some reason, nothing too old. For me, I guess it’s the newer songs from the album [Apoptosis]. Anything that’s new I feel is fun.
Elijah: I like playing Rosary, even though I'm playing literally the same loop on guitar for the entire song. I just love the rhythm and the syncopation that we have together, so it feels like we’re locked into this engine and this rolling motion. And the fans love it; they like to dance to it; it’s a good dancing song. And I’m playing the guitar, so that’s more fun for me. I also play keys, too, and I just feel like I’m standing there, not very enthused, but with the guitar, it’s a lot more fun. [laughing]
Jean: That’s the first time I’m hearing this!
Elijah: When we play Rosary, I get to see the crowd; I can look around and get more involved. I’m not as focused as when I’m on the other instruments.
What has the reaction to Apoptosis been from fans?
Jean: Back in January, when the album was released, I think we were all really surprised that a lot of people knew all the words to the new songs. We were on tour promoting the album, and we were able to play most of the album. And for a lot of the songs, I remember seeing everybody mouth the words, and I thought: ‘Whoa, that’s crazy! This only came out four months ago or something like that.” So I think the reception has been really, really great.
I recently spoke to a friend I hadn’t seen in over a year, and he said: “Yeah, dude, I really like the album; it sounds like some arena music; I can hear it in an arena!” And I was like: “Yeah, I feel the same!”
We're obviously listening to it and watching the music kinda create itself, or you build it, or us build it, that you kinda have an inkling as to where the music can play and where the music can stand out. I think we all agree that the music on Apoptosis sounds like, I don't know, Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ By the Way or when The Strokes started playing bigger and bigger shows, like with First Impressions of Earth. I think we all felt that.
There was so much going on during that time that everything just made sense, and it just fell into place: the puzzle was created without really trying. The reception feels great, and I think people can feel that Apoptosis just flowed from the heart.
© Photography by Inner Wave
What can new listeners and fans expect from Apoptosis?
Jean: Emotion. I think there’s a lot of emotion in the album. It has a very natural flow of emotion. I feel like you waft in the emotion, but it doesn’t necessarily sink you down, you know, like music that feels very heavy, not in a bad way, but it just feels heavy because of all the emotion in it. Apoptosis has a very light emotion; it feels good, it feels great, man, you’re gonna love it! I have no words for it; I feel like it’s one of those things where I’d rather just send you the link and let you listen and let you figure it out for yourself.
You’re quite keen to let your listeners interpret the lyrics for themselves. Do you ever get fans asking you what your lyrics mean to you?
Pablo: Yeah, all the time. I want to try and keep a certain level of mystery with it, though as well, as far as what the songs mean. Even the title Apoptosis itself has sort of a phoenix, like a rebirth metaphor going on, and in a lot of the songs, we deal with this sort of transformation, I guess. But I love hearing people’s interpretations of what the songs mean for them, ‘cause they’re adding more detail to it. Some people have told me their theory on Take 3 and have given me this whole rundown of what it is. And I’ve told them: “Yeah, that can be what it is if that’s what it is to you.” And I would hate to shatter any illusion by telling them what I was thinking because it is even simpler than what they were thinking. I think people are very creative when they love something, there’s so much meaning and thought attached to their favourite pieces of art, and that’s always way more interesting to me.
I feel that once we release music, I mean, it’s always ours, but you kind of let go of some of that ownership because once it’s in people’s hands, it’s really theirs in a way. It becomes a soundtrack to your life, and I feel like you know more about your life than I do. And that’s the whole thing about sharing our music and connecting with people. Having something so deeply personal and then it becomes deeply personal for someone else – that’s a beautiful thing.
On your website, you share a Code of Ethics with your fans and any visitor. It’s been signed by each and every one of you, including your management. This is something I’ve never seen before, and I was incredibly touched and impressed by it. Why was having a public Code of Ethics important to you?
Elijah: Everyone goes to shows to have a good time; everyone is coming together to listen to the same thing at the same time and experience it together. It's a beautiful thing when you know people are doing this with each other. But there's also a huge stigma at concerts that there are always people being harassed by someone, either in the crowd or from the artist or anywhere.
We have people who are close to us who had encounters with that from way back, even when my mom was going to concerts as a teenager, and nothing has really changed since then. And that’s so sad. It's important to show that times are changing and that this doesn't have to be a worry for someone who's young and wants to come to a show, even if they want to come alone; they should feel and be safe.
We do have a lot of young fans, so what we're doing with ‘Our Music my Body’ and all of their affiliates is that at all our shows, we have a booth set up where they don’t just offer information and hand out pamphlets, they also have resources for people who you may not feel comfortable to speak out about something. They offer this place to go for safety. You know, if someone feels a certain way out of sorts, or if someone's being inappropriate, they could report this to them, and actions could be taken from there. Or they could just meet somebody there and find a safe friend to hang out with at the show. This creates much more of a safe environment where people feel more comfortable meeting each other and even becoming friends.
We have a lot of fans that met each other at our shows, and they became friends, and they keep going to shows together, which is amazing because it's like, when you take away the fears of shows, and you're able to create more of a community and a safer environment then people are more inclined to meet new friends with similar likings, and there’s a better sense of community.
How do you look out for each other’s well-being, and what do you do for your mental health?
Jean: We talk quite often, and we see each other a lot, too, so that we get to talk about what's going on in our lives. We meet up at rehearsals, and then we start talking and venting or just catching up. For the most part, we’re all in therapy, or we also have other friends and other people in our lives that we’re able to talk to, so I think we have a very strong sense of a healthy direction of mental health and emotional health.
I think that's like the most important part of having that trustworthy group or trustworthy person, a relationship that's able to sort of free you up into healing, free you up into a brighter direction - I think we're very much those trustworthy partners for each other.
Elijah: Yeah, and it's cool to see the evolution in each other too, ‘cause the three of us, we've known each other since we were twelve, so we know everything about each other, and we see each other go through things personally and together as a group. We each have our own therapy that we go to, and they're all different ‘cause we're different people. But it's cool that we come together and kind of talk about what we’ve learned about ourselves and share with the group. I feel we all learn from that too.
It's good to see the growth in each other, and the support just keeps continuing ‘cause we’re like a family, so you wanna see your brother doing well. And it’s important that we're good at listening to each other, too. We hear each other out, and it's not like: “Oh, you should do this; you should do that”. It's more like: “I hear you, I know where you're at, and I'm here for you.” Sometimes, that's all you need.
What can we expect from Inner Wave in 2023 and beyond?
Elijah: New music!
Jean: New music and new collaborations as well!
© Photography by Inner Wave
There is a charm to Pablo, Elijah and Jean, not just how they talk about their music and their fans but how they talk about each other. Speaking to them makes it clear that they care deeply about one another and their music. Not only that, their fans’ well-being and safety are paramount to them, which shows the band’s maturity and awareness of the responsibility they have as five famous people in the limelight. As artists, they are able to create music that not only stands out from the masses but also speaks to everyone on their own personal level - a difficult thing to find in today’s music industry. Their latest album and tour with Foals will propel them further into the global spotlight, and there’s no doubt that whatever Inner Wave will come up with next - it’s going to be something good!