Juan Wauters Walks Us Through His Collaboration-Heavy New LP “Real Life Situations”

The artist shares how the expansive set of songs featuring Mac DeMarco, Cola Boyy, and more came together.

Juan Wauters has had a busy couple of years—after releasing twin LPs in 2019, the Uruguay-born songwriter returned the following year to unleash an EP of additional tracks that didn’t make the cut on those records (and sat with us to discuss the U.S.’s draining citizenship process). Turns out there’ve been plenty more interesting tracks in the works over this span of time, many of which were collaborative efforts, and all of which congeal together on the unique and extensive radio-inspired new project Real Life Situations.

Complete with between-track commentary from Wauters and audio samples recorded in public by the songwriter and otherwise nabbed from documentaries and other media, the 21-track album sees pre-COVID collaborations and other musical ideas come to fruition in an extremely mixed bag of bilingual and multi-genre singles. Mac DeMarco, Cola Boyy, Homeshake, Nick Hakim, former Beets bandmate Tall Juan, and more artists crop up unexpectedly over the course of the record, all coming together to recreate the sense of normalcy we felt pre-COVID, and which we hope to return to in the near future. 

While the between-track commentary explicitly contextualizes the piece as a COVID-era record, Wauters went into considerably more detail about how each track on Real Life Situations came together, and how the pandemic helped shape these disparate recordings into a cohesive project. Read on for his words, and listen along to the record below. You can also order the LP here.

 
1. “A JPW Headspace 2020”

This is the sound of my studio and my room during the beginning of COVID life. I was watching a lot of documentaries while picking on my guitar and building puzzles. From time to time I would record on my phone phrases that caught my attention. One day I compiled them on this track.

2. “Monsoon” (with Homeshake)

Song written and recorded with Peter Sagar (a.k.a. Homeshake) at his place in Toronto between Christmas and New Year’s 2019. I stayed at Peter’s during those days, so the song was built casually between hangouts. At night we would work on music and in the morning, while Peter slept, I would go to a diner around the corner and work on the lyrics. Once I got the singing part ready we recorded that, and then we worked on the outro. I definitely wanted to have Peter’s guitar playing in there. I’m such a fan.

3. “Sentimiento Queens”

This is two audio clips from my phone, also. One is me talking about how I see my music and the other one a reporter asking questions to people lining up to buy a CD in Manhattan in the ’90s.

4. “Locura”

“Locura” was the only song on the album written post-COVID life. It started from a loop I built with a chord progression. Then I got the melody for the hook and I built from that. Talks about the experience of someone being locked at a house, looking out the window, seeing nothing and reminiscing about their time prior to COVID. 

5. “Ventana”

“My future will be just looking out the window”…just a quote from a YouTube video I saw and drew my attention.

6. “Presentation” (with Nick Hakim & Benamin)

“Presentation” was made one night when Nick, Benamin, and I met at Nick’s studio in Brooklyn. Nick and I had only met a few times before, and Benamin and I met that night. We all hit it off really well and made this song that was built by all of us pitching ideas. The lyrics are a mash up from a bunch of notes I had scattered on my cell phone. There are many references to other songs—some obvious, some not so much. I’d rather not disclose that since that’s the fun for you, the listener.

7. “Unity” (with Cola Boyy)

Matthew Urango (a.k.a. Cola Boyy) and I have known each other since 2009. Back then we were both playing in our neighborhood bands. I went to his house in Oxnard and we worked on the song over a three-day period when we would record and hang out with his family. The song came out quite easily. It’s all somewhat improvised. We did not have anything in mind before getting together. We definitely did not set any boundaries as for what we would make. We just got to it and let it out. It was definitely a good time. It shows in the song, I think. It definitely fit the purpose.

8. “Real” (with Mac DeMarco)

Mac and I met in 2013 when our label Captured Tracks thought it would be a good idea that we meet and do a song. We met and recorded Beatles songs. The tape machine we were working with broke and the songs were never recovered. After that, we never collaborated in any serious way. When I reached out to Mac about the new project I was doing, he was down since the beginning. I happened to be going to LA so we did it at his studio. Mac provided a really safe place to bounce ideas off of each other. We tried a lot of new things and we ended up with this special track. The song put an end to that awaited collaboration that was the initial impulse behind us meeting and forming a friendship that stood in time.

9. “Keep Cool”

Quote from a movie I like, Mi Vida Loca. It made sense during COVID, so I recorded it with my phone. Listening back to the album, I guess I was drawn to these quotes because of the current moment we were in.

10. “Carmina Pensá”

“Carmina Pensá” is the only song on this album that was recorded years back. This song was recorded at James Hoare’s place in London in 2016. I was in the middle of recording Introducing Juan Pablo, and I stayed at his place for about a week, so we recorded some songs. I always liked this song, and when I was compiling Real Life Situation I thought this would be a good fit for the album. It’s a whisper of encouragement to a friend who’s going through a hard time.

11. “A Peter Pan Donuts Conversation”

This is another sound clip I had recorded in my phone at a donut shop. I liked what these two youngsters were talking about. In this conversation they encapsulated the feeling of being a boy walking into independence and adulthood.

12. “Lion Dome” (with Air Waves)

This song was written in December 2019 with Nicole at her bandmate Ethan Sass’ studio. I had known Nicole for over ten years at the time. We were part of a scene of bands around 2009. I was thrilled to finally make a song with her. Before meeting to record, we met and she showed me two ideas she had for a potential song. When I heard what turned out to be “Lion Dome” I imagined the following part for it, so we went with that one. What I like about this song is that in my head the lyrics were about sexual attraction and Nicole never noticed that. Tell me what you think. 

13. “JPW Talking”

Since the process of making this album was during lockdown, I wanted to talk directly to the listener. So I did. I told them a bit about the album and a bit about my future plans.

14. “Acordes” (with Tall Juan)

Juan and I met one time in December and we worked on a song together. It was a 45-second hardcore song. It talked about making a song with a friend that made everyone jump. Once I started putting the album together this song did not fit the aesthetic, but I really wanted to have Tall Juan in it. He lived close by so we met a couple of times during the lockdown. One day he showed me on the guitar a song by a favorite Uruguayan singer, Mariana Ingold, called “Acordes.” I knew the song well, but I had never played it on the guitar. I loved playing it with him—one guitar each, and both of us singing. We shortened the original version by picking our favorite verses out. We worked on the new structure and recorded it at Juan’s studio with Charly Garmendia on percussion.

15. “Bailando”

This is a quote I like from Silvia Prieto, an Argentean movie by Martin Rejtman. I liked the dialogue a lot in this movie. I love this scene, the delivery of the dialogue, and I thought if fit well before “Estas Escuchando.”

16. “Estás Escuchando” (with El David Aguilar)

I wanted to do a song with David since we collaborated in his other project, La Vacación. I know him as such a good whistler, so I thought it would be a good idea to have the whistle be the hook as in the N.E.R.D. song “Wonderful Place/Waiting for You.” The rest of the song we wrote over the phone, though we were in the same city at the time. We were anxious. Anyways, then we met and recorded at his studio in Mexico City with producer Ulises Hadjis. 

17. “Crack Dabbling”

This was another clip I had in my phone. This clip has a great deal of stress and aggression and I thought the album needed a bit of that, given the times we were living in. We had been exposed to a lot of that during the summer of 2020: frustration, violence, and distress. I had recorded this clip at a house party I went to in Kansas City years back.

18. “JPW Theme Song”

I had mentioned JPW and radio a lot in the album, so I thought it would be cool to have a theme song toward the end in the form of a short snippet. I wrote it and recorded quickly so I could snap it in. The idea was for it to have that type of aesthetic, sort of a field recording of a group/cult singing along the JPW theme song.

19. “Yendo”

This song I wrote in the subway one day in 2019. A lot of the songs I write come to me in acapella form, then I add instrumentation. Some I leave acapella because I like how they go that way. This became sort of like an anthem at my concerts in Spanish-speaking countries, so I decided to record it. It talks about how life should happen through you instead of you happening through life, and that no matter how low or high you have gotten to in life, there is always room to go higher.

20. “Powder”

This is an old song from the N.A.P. time (2014). For some reason I started playing it at shows again in 2019, and my manager Gustavo really liked it. One day he called me and said, “I had a dream that you record this song with strings in the background.” Mainly because of that reason I recorded it that way during the lockdown and put it on the album. I think the song has an encouraging message, and I like to end an album on that note.

21. “NY Weaz”

Once COVID first hit, a lot of people fled the city. It was a strange feeling. People who had money went to their homes in the Hamptons or Upstate. Transplants went back to their hometowns. The city felt empty. This poem talks about the experience of people in the neighborhoods, and how some “New Yorkers” are New Yorkers only when it’s convenient to them. It was read by my friend Weasel. That’s why we called it “NY Weaz.”

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