Q&A: Pessimistic Minds
By August Edwards
Meet Pessimistic Minds: the indie rock band that's doubly based in ABQ and NYC. The band formed in Brooklyn, NY, after singer and actress Kalina Schulz and guitarist and filmmaker Mayid Guerrero met due to their parallel lives converging.
"Maybe there's more than this pessimistic mind," Schulz sings in their latest single, "Pessimistic Minds." It comes as a relief to know that their project name derives from a place of striving and optimism, rather than what might meet the eye at first.
ABQGR had the chance to speak with the duo while Guerrero was briefly in ABQ to write, record, and play shows with Schulz. We hope you'll check out this Q&A where we discuss their unique origin, song structure, and a bit of music business. Check out their music video for their single "Linen," coming out on Friday, August 13th!
How did you get your start together?
Guerrero: I’ve been playing music my whole life, playing in random bands. I make music for films. I met Kalina actually [while] casting for a film. There was music involved and all of that, but then we started jamming, and here we are. This was in 2018. It took us a little while, but yeah. It’s real.
Schulz: COVID pushed us back an entire year, but this year we were like, 'Let’s start recording.' We got our first five songs recorded, and we’re gonna be releasing an EP soon, too. It was funny, because when I first met Mayid, it turned into our first jam. He had written a song and was like, ‘Can you sing this?’ And I didn’t sing it the way he wanted me to.
Guerrero: Yeah, pretty much. But it was still very cool. It was different.
How was it not what you wanted?
Guerrero: It just wasn’t the notes. But it still worked. So I was like, you know, what, we shouldn’t try to force this, let’s just start some new shit.
Schulz: And that day we wrote a whole song. He was like, ‘Okay, cool, do you wanna jam again?’ And the next day we jammed and that’s when we wrote "Pessimistic Minds."
My understanding is that you [Mayid] don’t live in town. Has this been a remote project since it’s inception?
Guerrero: I guess now it is. [Kalina] was in Brooklyn, so when it started, she was there.
Schulz: It was easy.
Guerrero: Since she’s been here, I just fly back and forth. That’s the plan for now. For her, too. To just go into the city.
Schulz: I grew up in a small town here in New Mexico—Madrid, that coal mining place. I grew up there, then grew up in Belize, the moved to Pennsylvania, and then I moved to New York.
Has working remotely, so far away from each other, been difficult in this music-making process?
Schulz: I wanna say we’ve done pretty dang well with it so far.
Guerrero: Yeah, because we’re not really doing anything besides promoting.
Schulz: Yes, a lot of it is online stuff right now—getting material, and then promote it, promote it.
Guerrero: That’s what I meant. We have all these songs recorded, now is just the time to get it out there.
Schulz: We wrote a song today.
So, creating hinges being together - COVID threw a big wrench in there. Do you think that anything good came from that, though?
Schulz: [Meeting] Kenny, the sound producer at Rio Grande Studios. Love that man so much. He’s awesome. Being able to drop in and work with him—he’s super, like, move, move move, let’s get this done. And he’s just like, ‘Okay, you have a good product and you know it’s going to be solid.’ So, I would say that the key going forward is having a good producer, and having a good promotional person. That’s social media. We’re still struggling to find someone for social media, but we’re interviewing a lot of people. Really, those are the two things you need if you want to make money.
So, you’re doing something very different than other bands. You’re actually looking for a social media person. What are you looking for in a social media manager, as a band?
Schulz: As a social media manager, one, you gotta reply quickly. I need you to be on top of your game. Two, you usually need to post three to four times a week. Understanding the algorithm is big. Once you can slide into the algorithm, you’re golden. You just need to understand what’s your algorithm, what’s the location, who’s your target audience. And it’s hard to find. You gotta go through a lot of people so that you can start understanding it yourself.
So many people don’t have the resources to get that.
Schulz: Unfortunately, the advice is to just get the money.
So, you have five songs recorded. What was the process of making those, and what does it mean to you to have those under your belt right now?
Guerrero: I can just play and she can just sings. And it’s never not worked.
Schulz: We always get something.
Guerrero: I think [the process of making music] has been like everything together - all the things I've listened to in my life, bands I went to see. This is all kind of putting it all together. And Kalina is down with my ideas and I’m down with hers. It’s pretty inspiring.
Schulz: It’s fluid. It’s interesting, because I got to become a very good mimicker. I could hear a singer and I could do their voice. But I didn’t quite understand mine. As women, it’s interesting, because we tend to talk really high, but our voices are actually lower. And a lot of men’s voices are actually higher than they speak. So I found my voice through acting, surprisingly. It scared me at first, because I didn’t recognize it. And then I started singing with it and it became comfortable and I realized it was uniquely me. We’ve gotten a lot of comments on the voice, which is so cool to see. Our music has a pretty unique feel overall. We don’t like to follow structure, not for all of our songs. For some people, it trips them up. But other people love it.
Is there a strategy behind the lack of structure, as you put it? Or is that just your journey in songwriting?
Guerrero: We’re jamming together, so we can’t structure on the go. I think how it works is sometimes a person just brings a song to the table kind of already put together. This stuff isn’t like that at all. A little bit, obviously, because it’s things that are in our minds—lyrics, chords and stuff. But, yeah. We just hit record, and then ten minutes later we have a recording. It’s very—I’m just in it. I don’t know what’s happening.
Schulz: We’re both kind of weirded out by the process.
It sounds very organic. Not predetermined.
Guerrero: That’s a good way of putting it. I’m just focused on what I’m playing when we’re first recording. And she’s just singing. And I’m not really listening. And then we play it back, and it’s like, ‘Oh! You were saying that!’ And I guess the real process is going back and figuring out how to make it something that’s not like a ten-minute long thing.
Schulz: Yeah, some of the songs are too long, so it’s really trying to cut it in half to get it to where you want it to be. You have a sweet spot.
Guerrero: And [as far as] repetition, I just get bored. I get bored. If a chorus repeats itself and you keep listening to the song, you’re going to hear it so often. I always like verses in songs. A song I really like after the 50th time listening is because the verses are really good. But we also do have songs that are down the line of structure, though I think those are not that interesting.
Schulz: But people do like them because here’s the thing—some of those songs, for audience members, if someone can hear the song the first time, they can sing the chorus again. That’s kind of entirely for the audience, and not the musicians. They understand it and they’re good with it. We have people who listen to our songs once and they’re like eh [unenthusiastic], but then they listen to it again and they like it. It’s an acquired taste for some people.
Guerrero: It’s pretty much all positive unless you’re just not into the genre. And that happens.
It sounds like this project is really an exercise in expression for you two. But do you like to cover specific topics in regard to lyrical content?
Schulz: It’s organic, but I also want to say that words have power and intention. Every time I think of what I’m going to sing, I think specifically of story. Of a specific person, of myself, of someone I know—and then putting it in the light of what is this person’s story and what are they feeling. We’re called Pessimistic Minds—what is that? If you fall into the pessimism of yourself or others, what is it when you actually feel it? Really, like what is life? Life is the mind game between yourself and others, but also between yourself. It’s always a battle of what you’re trying to figure out within yourself. A lot of [the lyrics] are very personal, but not necessarily to me. Just to people in general.
So, it’s the human experience?
You touched on this earlier, but how do each of your artistic facets inform or complicate your music? If at all.
Schulz: They totally help. [I'm an] actor, singer, dancer, model—also producer. It’s interesting because, at the end of the day, what is art? Art is storytelling. There’s no artform that’s more ancient than storytelling. You’d have people around a campfire, and that was the most respected thing. Having that culture around storytelling, and hearing each other and being with each other. You learn lessons through those, you learn connections through those. You learn empathy through those. Anything that I do, very much I care about the story. I care about the person. I care about what that means. There’s an intrigue to that everybody is so different. And I think that’s a really cool thing.
Guerrero: Storytelling a good point. But I don’t know if it does [relate to one another for me]. I think it’s more separate for me. The music that I use in my films is nothing like this. Maybe the music is influencing the film more.
What's something that you wish your audience knew about your music?
Schulz: Honestly, not too much. I kind of want the music to speak for itself. When you create anything, you create it and then you let it go. It isn’t yours, it doesn’t belong to you. Whether it’s a painting or whether it’s a song, it’s no longer yours, ‘cause it’s out there. Whatever that means to the other person, it’s theirs now.
Guerrero: It’s the music that’s carrying us and doing all this work. Why not keep going?