Meet Boy Pablo, Sunny Indie Pop From Norway’s Chilean Diaspora

Photo by William Glandberger. Courtesy of Terrorbird Media

Né(e)s: Pablo (vocals), Gabriel (guitar), Fredrik (bass), Eirik (keys), Sigurd (drums)
Raíces: Chile and Norway
Sounds like: A sunny beach day that helps you forget the many political trash fires
You should listen to Boy Pablo because…we all need a break to bop around to fun guitar pop every now and then.

Though he doesn’t much care for the label, bedroom pop accurately describes Boy Pablo‘s music – mainly because he really does create out of his bedroom in Bergen, Norway. Call his tunes that, or use lo-fi or DIY or dream pop; the 19-year-old singer-songwriter won’t argue strongly either way. In conversation, Pablo Muñoz is decidedly neutral where one might expect otherwise.

There’s no excited surge in his cadence in discussing the video for “Everytime.” The clip went viral last year after a Reddit post boosted a YouTube algorithm that had already started recommending the video to users. At one point, it was earning about 50,000 views daily. Today, it’s climbed to 8.3 million.

To be fair, Muñoz has likely been asked about this unexpected explosion countless times. “Everytime” is a breezy indie pop track centered on a female protagonist who’s repeatedly heartbroken by a guy on the Internet, one who she’s never even meet in person. But in the scenic waterfront video, there’s subtle humor in its simplicity – it’s basically just Muñoz and his bandmates dressed casually, playing the song while squinting in the sun.

Plenty of Reddit users found the clip humorous. Their scrunched faces are the best part, one user wrote, and another noted their personal funniest moment sits about halfway through the clip, when the bassist is inexplicably playing to a wall while the rest of his bandmates are facing the camera.

It was a serendipitous event, but Boy Pablo has certainly made good use of the attention gained. Since then, the band has delivered that tune and the rest of the Roy Pablo EP at live shows throughout Europe, and next month they’re due in the U.S. for a string of dates running into August. A new single – “Losing You” – has already been released, too.

Like the previous clip, this one is generally understated, with the band often offering the same ironic, plain-faced stares. But occasionally, a smile creeps in on members’ faces.

Lyrically, Boy Pablo is mostly about unrequited teenage love – an enduring topic, of course. But for Muñoz, the words don’t weigh as heavily as the melodies and musicality. The sound itself is more important. At first, he didn’t even enjoy singing.

I like making the music, to be honest…Now, I like to sing and write the lyrics. But at the time I wrote the EP, I didn’t like it. I just did it because I had to have some lyrics,” he says.

Born to Chilean parents who emigrated to Norway in the 80s, Nunez has only one other Latinx friend his age – Boy Pablo’s guitarist Gabriel, whose father is from Chile. One might assume he’d have encountered some hostility in his small-town upbringing, but that simply isn’t the case.

“The city where I grew up, where I’m from, there’s only like 200,000 people here. So it’s really quiet. There’s not a lot going on,” Muñoz says. “It’s really chill. It’s safe. Norway’s a safe country, compared to the rest of the world. I grew up in a safe family, in a safe country, in a safe city.”

Photo by William Glandberger. Courtesy of Terrorbird Media
Read more

At home, he speaks Spanish. His mother makes empanadas and albondigas, and the whole bunch watches Chilean futbol matches together. His Latinidad made little difference outside that, he says, adding that there are a lot of people in Bergen who hail from elsewhere.

“Norway’s a safe country, compared to the rest of the world.”

As if that didn’t sound idyllic enough, his family is also a musical one. He got hold of his brother’s drum kit at five or six years old, then moved onto another brother’s MacBook and began tinkering with GarageBand.

That got me interested in making music, and then I started playing the guitar when I was a little bit older, and the bass. So I spent a lot of my time in my room making covers of cool songs. At that time I liked a lot of punk music,” he says.

The Ramones, MxPx, and Blink-182 all got the Muñoz treatment in those early days. His father, who helped him and the rest of his brothers learn guitar, has his own project, Chilika. So do his brothers – one as pop artist Felipe Alexis, and another as a member of a hardcore punk band called Tirades. The latter espouses anti-fascist messages and other political and social commentary.

Photo by William Glandberger. Courtesy of Terrorbird Media
Read more

But with Boy Pablo, Muñoz has his own style, a reflection of his own experiences – and his neutrality doesn’t necessarily mean indifference. Muñoz just wants to make music that feels good, and to be himself, which includes shrugging off the bedroom pop label and the comparisons it may bring.

Everybody compares everyone to everything. I’ve already heard the Mac DeMarco thing. It doesn’t bother me too much,” he says. “I know that I don’t make music as him, so it’s OK.”

In understanding that he’s doing his own thing as Boy Pablo, there’s a reminder that the option to be ourselves is available – but, of course, that’s not as simple for everyone as it is for Muñoz. He’s been lucky.