Omar Velasco of psych-rock group Amo Amo joins us at Go Get ‘Em Tiger‘s Highland Park location to discuss their self-titled debut, insight on touring across the country, and learning to prioritize general well-being while in a musical career.
Amo Amo is comprised of:
Omar Velasco – Vocals, Guitar
Lovelle Femme – Vocals, Guitar
Alex Siegel – Keys, Vocals
Justin Flint – Drums, Vocals
Shane McKillop – Bass, Vocals
So you’re riding the highs of your recently released self-titled debut. Wanted to say congratulations!
Omar Velasco: Thank you!
For those who have yet to discover it, would you like to share a little bit about the lyrical themes, and instrumental elements that you guys decided to include?
Omar: Oh my gosh, yeah! The best thing to do, like all music, is to listen to it. The songs themselves are gonna inform you much better than I could ever do with my words.
Omar: Generally speaking, I would say that the album deals with themes of love, of acceptance, of empowerment, and forgiveness. It’s our first album as a band, a first collection of songs if you will, and part of what brought us together was this goal of using our music as a means of putting out up-lifting messages. That’s really important to all of us. In the instrumental sense, I think the dance-able pace of the record lends itself to having a good time set to soulful lyrics.
It definitely comes across in your songs. And I mean, I feel like right now especially, a lot of people are actively looking for more positive and empowering songs to jam out to nowadays.
Omar: Yeah, I feel that too. As a listener, those things are important to me, and I want my experience to be one where I feel connected to the people around me as well as to the people that are putting this music out. Not so much as in there’s a sense of performance, but just a sense of, like, these are human issues and emotions that we’re talking about that are concerned with how to heal and how to solve our problems. You know what I’m saying? There’s a lot of music like that’s formed from self-involvement or fixated on the difficulties that we face, and while I think that’s important to explore that side and put that out there, we didn’t feel like that was necessarily our purpose.
You guys were thinking in the broader sense of wanting to use your music to help others as opposed to using it as a self-therapy session.
Omar: In a way, yes.
And which song would you say was your favorite to write and record?
Omar: Ah, that’s always a tough question. It’s a little bit like choosing a favorite child, like, even if you have a favorite, you still don’t want to admit it because you don’t want to hurt the feelings of other ones. But if I had to choose, I would say “Echos Just Begun.” There were a couple of moments in the recording session where some surprises happened, and those are always neat because if there’s a song that you love and it turns out great, then it’s not necessarily a surprise. But if there’s something that’s not really working, but then all of a sudden something happens and it clicks, that’s a special moment. “Echos Just Begun” just kind of had one of those magical, like, when we listen back, it was not what we expected it to be. It kind of blew our minds. *laughs*
I love that so much! Sometimes you just have to go in there and everything will fall into place. The universe aligns at that moment.
Omar: Yeah! And no matter how many times that happens, it always feels like a little miracle. It’s like ‘How did this happen? Nobody knows, but it did, and now we get to rejoice!’
You get to rejoice with a full product that everybody else can also rejoice with!
Omar: Right! And hopefully! That’s the whole purpose of us making music. *laughs*
What are your thoughts in regards to the music industry’s obvious prominence towards single releases and EP releases, as opposed to full-length albums?
Omar: I’ve gone back and forth with this. I do understand that there is a certain nostalgia for the album, a lengthy concept, and the ability for the album to create more of a story, in which I think that gives an artist more time to explain themselves. But I think that it’s futile to be mad at what exists regardless of the length of the work. I think that’s a waste of time. It’s here, it’s what we have, and if you look at it that way, there are some really beautiful things about the shorter format. One that interests me is that the turnaround can potentially be so much shorter from creation, to recording, to releasing, the relevance of the overall creation is enhanced in a way. A lot of times, at least what I noticed in the past, you’d write something, you’d record it, and then a year and a half or two year later, the thing would come out and you’d already be on to the next project. I feel like that would be more difficult to conserve a fresh relationship with the music. Whereas now, you can finish the song today and put it out tomorrow, and that’s cool for the audience and the creator. So that’s how I like to see it.
And that’s good that you have an open mind about it. We’ve definitely come a long way technology-wise, and you said, someone can record a song tonight, and then put it out tomorrow. It’s insane, but that’s just how it is now.
Omar: I just think that if you embrace it, it really changes how you think about the writing and the recording process. It doesn’t really serve you to get hung up on something with the song, because the point is to be more fluid. I see that as a benefit.
It’s like, if you’re inspired right now, you should totally just go and create something.
Omar: And not think too much about it.
Yeah! Go with the flow!
So if you could choose three artists to go on a world tour with, who would you choose and what would you name your tour?
Omar: Oh gosh, could it be hologrammed? A hologram tour?
*laughs* I mean, we’re pretty much there.
Omar: Actually, to be honest, we just did a tour that was really special with Jim James, who produced our record. Just because we know we all get along and that we’re on a similar music wavelength, he’d probably be on it. And then two more?
Omar: I think Bob Marley would be one. I wish some other band members were here because they would have their own opinions. *laughs* But since I’m the only one here, I would have to say Stevie Wonder as the last one. And I would call it…what would I call it? Oh my gosh! I’d call it ‘The Love Brigade’ Tour.
Ooh! I love it! Speaking of touring, you mentioned that you just wrapped up a tour with Jim James from My Morning Jacket. How did the opportunity come about and what exciting things did you guys experience during the tour?
Omar: Oh wow! Well, the opportunity came about with him being involved with the making of the record. We really bonded as friends through that, and I think that he resonates with the music and the message that we have. Honestly, it was probably just like, ‘This will be really fun, let’s do it!’ *both laugh* We were all really excited when the offer was presented. Of course, it happened through management and through all of that, but I think the seed itself was planted through the music that we made together. One thing that was great about the tour was that we did a lot of field trips together. We traveled across the country and saw things that many of us had never seen, like Niagara Falls.
Awesome! I’ve always wanted to go!
Omar: Yeah! It might not be exciting to some, but if you’d never seen it, it’s by far one of the most incredible things that I’ve ever seen. We also went to the Motown Museum in Detroit and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. That one in D.C. though was absolutely the most mind-blowing and most stirring, eye-opening museum I’d ever been to. Everyone should go. Every American should go.
I’ve heard great things about the African American Museum. I’m so glad you guys got a chance to visit it.
Omar: We are too.
What are some major differences that you noticed in regards to touring around different parts of the U.S.? Like, how the audience reacts to artists coming into town or even how venues are run?
Omar: You mean as opposed to here?
As opposed to here, yeah.
Omar: Well, let’s see, I mean there are differences of course. There were shows where we seemed to be received more enthusiastically than others. I don’t have the data available of why that was in certain areas, but it was interesting to see nonetheless. I think, and you’ve probably heard this before, in a city like L.A. that’s pretty much the entertainment capital of the world, there is that sense of saturation in a way. It can be a little more difficult for people to get people to dance. I think more than differences, I would say that, there was a unifying element where at the end of our set, at least part of the audience were singing, dancing, and smiling, which just says to me that if you put out a message of inclusion, and it connects with people, then in and of itself it’s a beautiful thing seeing people sway together. For somebody that’s onstage, it just creates this energy and creates a beautiful cycle. That was something that was nice to witness around the country. Rather than what was different between this place and that place, if you bring this thing where you’re giving permission to have a good time and loosen up in a soulful way, not in an escapist way, that can work anywhere.
Music is such a unifying thing, and sometimes you don’t even realize it until you start talking to people and realize that you both love the same band.
Omar: Oh yeah, totally! And it happens all over the world! It’s like, with all the ways in which we can focus on dividing characteristics, a lot of people still talk about what brings them together. Yeah, we’re all different, but we’re also on this planet trying to deal with living. A lot of us lead lives concerned about climate change and politics that it creates uptight-ness and worry, so if there can be a moment of letting go of that for a little bit then sign me up, whether that’s me being onstage or in the audience.
Kind of going into social media and more talk about connection, the digital connection, it’s pretty much taken over as the main form of marketing right now. Do you think it helps artists make a name for themselves, or do you think it makes it harder?
Omar: Again, I think it’s a mixed bag. I have friends that have figured out how to utilize technology and the means of connection really advantageously and expertly. And they’ve made wonderful careers! I do think that it does take a certain type of personality to do that, and for those of us who don’t have that, it can be overwhelming.
Most of us don’t really have that. *both laugh*
Omar: It can create this vortex that you get sucked into, and the next thing you know, you forget what the hell you’re even doing. It can be confusing, and I think that’s a pitfall. It’s almost like everyone’s doing it like an attention currency. Everyone’s trying to slice off a share of the attention market. It’s weird to think of it that way, because that makes me feel like I need to be an exhibitionist or make a big ruckus to share something. That’s certainly not my personality, and I feel like it paints humanity in a very worrisome light. It’s the reality that we live in now. When you’re on your phone, your attention goes down the drain, and I admit, I see it happening to myself. So the question is, how do you use the technology without falling prey to the pitfalls of it? It’s a double-edged sword.
And do you feel that it kind of adds on a pressure to be constantly having something going on? Or portray yourself in a certain way to your audience in order to keep their attention?
Omar: I think we’ve felt that pressure and we’ve definitely all talked about it. Two or three of us right now have deleted Instagram. There’s kind of this rotation where you’re like, ‘I’ve gotta take a break. This is too much. I’m losing my mind’ but then there is also this pressure because you want to share your music and you realize ‘If I don’t do this, nobody’s gonna hear it.’ We want people to hear the music, but again, it’s finding the right frame of mind. As long as my own relationship with Instagram, which I think is my biggest one right now, can be done in a measured, creative, and empowered way, then it’s fine. But the platform itself is created such that it’s really hard to maintain that discipline because it’s scientifically engineered to prey upon your insecurities. You get caught up in it up until you have a breaking point. That’s what sucks about it, and to be honest, that’s not what I signed up for.
I think that there’s very few people that can handle the pressures of social media well. Or handle the constant ‘I need to post all the time!’ kind of thing. There’s only so many hours in a day, you can’t do it all.
Omar: Exactly! I feel like as an artist, it’s very important to set your own parameters, especially right now, when nobody actually knows what the formula is. There’s really no formula, except for the people that are shaping the industry, so to speak. Those are the ones that are just setting their own parameters and doing their thing how they wanna do it. That’s the type of career that I want to have. I don’t want to be a slave to anything or anyone. Anyways, if posting on Instagram is going to keep engagement and get people to the shows I’ll post, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. At the end of the day, it’s infinitely more important for me to use my energy writing a song that will connect, so I try to keep that in perspective.
Yeah! And how do you guys balance your personal lives with your professional lives?
Omar: Actually, my wife and I just had our first baby.
Omar: For me, I feel like for the first time there really does need to be a differentiation. I’m learning what that’s all about, but at the end of the day, I really want the work to be a representation of my values and what I love doing. Not only would that be the best thing for me, but also for my daughter, for our family, and for the world at large. I believe that if we honor our deep values in what we call ‘work,’ which is a majority of our waking life as adults, then we can contribute to wellness rather than disgruntlement or dissatisfaction. That’s my main goal with this so-called ‘career, doing what fills me up in my soul.
And that so awesome to hear. We all feel an obligation to do all of these things that we think that we have to do. And I mean, there are stories of people on their deathbeds saying, ‘I wish I traveled a bit more,’ or ‘I wish I spent more time with my spouse and my kids,’ or ‘I wish I pursued guitar lessons. It’s crazy!
Omar: Yeah. And I would like to add to that there doesn’t need to be an assumption that ‘work’ equals ‘things that you don’t wanna do.’ The ideal thing is to do work that lights you up. Now, with that being said, work is work, and there are going to be times where it’s going to be tough. But the bigger picture is, ‘What are you doing it for? What does it mean for you to be doing it?’ That’s my wish for everyone. Yeah, you have to pay your bills, and you have to do these things to get by, but at least for me, I’m gonna try my darndest to have all of that be covered with something worth doing because I really abhor doing things I don’t like to do.
Don’t we all? *both laugh* And if you could give your younger self some advice in regards to what you’ve experienced so far with music or with life in general, what advice would you give him?
Omar: Where do I start? *both laugh* I feel like in some ways there would be all kinds of things that I would want to say to myself. I’d want to spare myself the pain or ‘mistakes’ that I’ve made, but in a way it was almost like an inevitable path that I had to take in order to be here. I feel like I’ve still got a long way to go, but I would say that I feel pretty good about who I am. I would also want to really encourage myself to meditate and to listen to my inner voice. I think that’s something that everyone would benefit from. Actually, I would love to see it in schools as a part of their curriculum, like, a meditation or self-introspection class.
They are starting to meditation in place of detention.
Omar: Oh, are they? That’s fantastic!
Yeah, it’s so awesome! Instead of constant punishing, it’s giving them a chance to contemplate, ‘What did I do wrong and how can I do better?. Sometimes quiet time is really what we need.
Omar: Especially with all the noise that now live with. I think it’s vitally important right now for my own self, as an adult, getting to a place where I need it to survive, because otherwise I would just go crazy. That’s what I would say to myself, ‘Take the time to do the things that bring you joy,’ and what parents say, ‘Persevere, work hard, and be kind to yourself and others.’
Very well said!
What do you hope your audience will take away from your music?
Omar: Oh my gosh! Honestly, if the audience can feel a sense of joy when listening to our music, I think we’ve done our job. If they can feel a sense of joy by just being there, whether by dancing or singing along, then that’s awesome! Even if they’re just kind of zoning out, and I say that because that’s what we’re there to do for ourselves, like, we’re there to really enjoy ourselves and to have fun, and even though it’s not always possible, that’s still our intention. I always say that we don’t call music ‘working.’ I don’t ‘work’ music, I ‘play’ music, it’s right there in the language, so let’s not forget that part! We’re ‘playing!’ We’re ‘playing’ music! If people can ‘play’ with us, that would be the goal.
Yeah! And to end us off, what big, exciting things should we be expecting from you in the near future?
Omar: Something that’s real exciting for us is that we’re gonna play at Red Rocks opening for My Morning Jacket. We all know the lore and the legend of Red Rocks, so we’re very excited about that. And then honestly, we’re just making more music! We’ve talked a lot recently about diving back into the next iteration of Amo Amo, and we’re very excited about that.
About Go Get Em Tiger – Highland Park:
Go Get ‘Em Tiger has come to be known as a beloved L.A coffee chain with roots in many foot traffic heavy neighborhoods. Opened in 2018, the Highland Park location found a home in a cute little small business cul-de-sac style building on the illustrious Figueroa Street, accompanied by Triple Beam Pizza and Highland Park Wine. Sound the alarm! You can get coffee, pizza AND wine in the the same hub!
Anyways, due to sharing a space with other businesses, GGET HP’s shop size is a bit smaller than some of their other locations, but that’s not to say that they don’t utilize their space to its fullest potential. A clean color palette of white and their signature light blue paired with luscious green plants hanging from the ceiling and light, warm wood display shelves (which also include plants and coffee making items). Plus, they have a cute indoor patio area for happy customers to enjoy their delicious coffee and healthy noms (if they don’t want pizza of course). All in all, the GGET team has done it again with a lovely location for locals to enjoy.