Interview and photos by Ross Harris
Mauri Tapia is a 19-year-old kid from Oxnard California, performing under the name ‘Los Retros’.
Mauri’s been building a strong following with the pop songs and timeless ballads he writes and records in his parent’s living room. He uses second-hand equipment–including a gaming PC–and he locks it all down with online recording software. I first met Mauri in a chatroom for people who collect porcelain figurines and wound up introducing him to my friends at Stones Throw Records. Now the first Los Retros EP, Retrospect, is being released on June 21st. I sat down with Mauri in his folk’s living room for a quick chat.
Is there something about this room that influenced the songs in a way that recording in a studio wouldn’t have?
All the songs on the EP are about things that I have been through personally. They all happened here. The funny thing is, I don’t really hang out here anymore. I usually stay somewhere else now. But whenever I have to get to work, I come back here and get used to crying babies and trains and cars. And sometimes my mom trying to come in while I’m still recording and I have to pause it. A lot of the new stuff I’m writing, though, is more from my imagination.
Are you imagining things you want to happen in reality?
Yeah. They’re basically visions.
Where do these visions come from?
Honestly, I don’t know where they come from. That’s why I started smoking–my brain was running out of ideas… Not that I want to encourage anybody to smoke. I don’t think that alone is what brings ideas. I think being kind of considerate and a little more vulnerable to things makes you creative. That’s what does it for me.
One of your influences is the Canadian singer-songwriter Tonetta, and that really caught me off-guard because Tonetta is an older cat who wears lingerie and creates these fucked up, almost karaoke type ballads. Can you explain how he inspires you?
What I like about Tonetta is that he’s… he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about his music quality. He doesn’t care what people thought. He is posting new music every few days and it sounds similar to the rest, but, you know, he is passionate about it. He is an older dude, but I feel like he has a young soul, and he’s staying true to that, regardless of how successful he is. He still has space for love and passion and I feel like that motivates me to keep doing what I do.
What’s motivating you to fully enter the ‘music industry,’ so to speak?
The first thing I think about is my parents. To secure, you know, some kind of money for my parents, to help them out if I can. Plus, I think that there’s just… There is so much more music to discover and create and that’s what motivates me to keep going. I know it’s there, you know? I just need to keep working for it. Making money from my music helps keep that going.
How important is your culture and community to your music?
I never pictured music being like… like, anything having to do with my physical body, my age, or where I’m from. I’ve always thought of it as a universal thing. Music isn’t about race. It’s not about age. Anyone can make it, regardless of these things. I guess you can say there is pride in where I’m from, but I’m also proud of myself. Coming from nothing, having a shitty guitar and, you know, this simple studio, but then creating so many sounds that people like. That’s cool.
Any last thoughts?
I just hope that people stay true to themselves and like what they like because they like it, not because someone else does, or because they want to impress or feel like they’re part of a group. But being able to comment on the videos and songs shows how people are reacting to my music. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them, too. It’s cool. It keeps us connected.