Culted Sounds: Pauli Lovejoy talks about Brits in New York & his Ben Sherman campaign

Culted Sounds: Pauli Lovejoy talks about Brits in New York & his Ben Sherman campaign

by Juliette Eleuterio
10 min

Pauli Lovejoy isn’t your typical artist, best explained by himself using his bucket analogy. Why stick to one thing when you can fill your day with more? The mindset is fairly straightforward, and the results all the more fruitful.

On top of his current Saucy tour, including several shows at the newly opened, breathtaking Las Vegas Sphere, and pit stops all over the US, Pauli Lovejoy stars in a special campaign with Ben Sherman, championing British culture and reviving its outside-of-the-UK community. Today, we caught up with the artist to talk about his musical journey, working with FKA Twigs and the Gorillaz, his Ben Sherman campaign, what it means to be a Brit abroad, and most importantly, what makes a good smoothie.

Hey Pauli, how are you? What did you get up to before this interview? 

Hey, I’m good, thanks! It was day one of the tour a couple of days ago in New York. My day today consisted of therapy, which is a new thing for me, and I’m really enjoying it. It was my birthday yesterday, so I woke up in a bit of a haze.

Happy belated birthday! What did you do to celebrate?

What didn’t I do? Nah, I’m joking. I played a show. It was the first show of my Saucy tour. The fans made it really special. They brought out loads of gifts. Someone brought out a sash with my face on it. It was fun, we had party hats. It felt like a very wholesome sweet sixteen.

You got into music through drumming. What is your first memory of music, and with drums specifically? 

My first memory of music was listening to records with my mum. We’d put the needle on the vinyl and listened to that old jazz record. We’d listen to Grover Washington Jr., [Herbie] Hancock, Miles Davis. And lots of soul and R’n’B. My earliest memories of consciously listening to music was probably like seeing a Grover Washington, Jr. record and there being a saxophone on the cover, being like ‘oh, that’s an instrument. That’s what  he plays. I might want to do that one day.’

What is your most memorable music moment? 

My most memorable music moment was quite recently. It was earlier this year, playing at Wembley. I did a run of shows with Harry Styles in his band. He also had us open for him, doing our solo projects. I opened that night at Wembley in front of like 50,000 people. Yeah, that’s probably the most memorable moment musically.

You were a Musical Director for Harry, right? How did you become a Musical Director and what does that entail exactly?
I started off my musical direction journey working with FKA Twigs. We were hanging out in clubs, mates, you know. She called me one day and was like, ‘I need you to be my MD.’ I was like, ‘No thank you.’ 

At the time I was working on some Gorillaz projects on top of other side projects. I saw how much work and MDs were doing. I was really not interested in that kind of stress. But she saw something in me that I didn’t see myself. And I’m forever grateful to her for giving me that opportunity, and just believing in me in that moment to push me into becoming an MD. 

It entails everything that you’re up to doing as a director in any sort of position. But for music, it’s anything that you can hear on a day, on the stage, before the show comes on. It could be the pre-show playlist, before the artist comes on. It could be the hiring of that band. It could be the instruments that they’re playing. You could be involved in every single sonic aspect of the production of the show. It could be liaising with the sound engineer as well, making sure that the stage plot is right so that things don’t bleed and cross over. It can be very technical, but it could also be sorting a set list. It’s an all encompassing role. Depending on the artist, it will require different levels of direction.

Have you found that working with artists like FKA Twigs, Sampha, the Gorillaz has influenced the way you approach your own music? 

Absolutely. I think seeing Damon [Albarn] firsthand was the first moment that I was like, ‘this can actually be a real career.’ His approach was very career-like. I’d see him in the morning, roll into the studio at like 9 a.m., take a very serious lunch break at midday, and then finish the day at a sensible time like 5 p.m.. I was like ‘wow, he treats this like a nine to five.’ And he’s consistent with it. 

Even just seeing him work out his calendar and talking to his team, and then being like, ‘he’s doing this this year. Then next year, he’s doing that. And then in 10 year’s time, we’re planning that.’ I was like ‘wow, you can actually plan that far in music.’ That wasn’t something I’d ever seen before with musicians that I’d seen living day to day, check to check. But here’s a guy who’s literally planning out his whole life. It’s something that I don’t think a lot of musicians are privy to. I’m so grateful for that insight, and I got that insight when I was 20, just finished university. I never looked back.

Talk about time management. How do you manage to balance everything going on in your life, considering you’re a drummer, composer, producer, model, DJ, and MD?

Just wear all the hats, and don’t be afraid of wearing all the hats. I think it’s important to have a good team around you that can help you make the best for your time. I love the analogy of the bucket with rocks in it. It’s full to the brim, but then no, it’s not. You can throw sand in there. Now it’s totally full to the brim, right? No, you can throw water in there. And now it’s full, right? Well, what about the air on top? 

I like to approach life like that. I’m going to really make the most of every moment. I’m not trying to skip on that one half hour and just be sitting around doing nothing. And if I’m doing nothing, I’m intentionally doing nothing. There’s 24 hours [in the day], let’s make the most of it.

You clearly are filling your days full to the brim and more, now that you’re the face of Ben Sherman’s Global Artist Foundry. How did that come about?

It’s incredible given support from an established brand like Ben Sherman. Growing up in the UK, I was always aware of Ben Sherman, and it feels very full circle. 

The whole reason why this all came about is because of relationships. When I moved to New York, I met the Vice President, Public Relations & Brand Marketing [of Ben Sherman]. Her name is Ann and she started looking out for me. What she had done was created this beautiful community of Brits in New York. People that spoke like me, people that looked like me, people that interacted culturally like me, and that was mad. 

Even like being [in America] now and going downstairs and being like, ‘Hey, can I get water up there?’ And them being like ‘What’s that? Wah-turr?’ It’s basic shit that we take for granted that starts to play on you. You start questioning yourself – Am I speaking another language? Do I belong here? She helped me to feel like I belong. 

She created this community around the Ben Sherman store on Spring Street. It was just so poppin. If you know anything about Spring Street, you know it’s the central hub of fashion, like hipsters shit – it was back then anyway. That was like 2013 or 2014. She got some activations in the store, people DJing in the store, when no one was really doing that. She just had this vision for the brand, that I don’t think the brand even had for itself. It was beautiful to be a part of the birth of that, or the rebirth of what felt like a very British moment in New York.

Fast forward ten years, and I’m making my own music now and partnering with brands that I believe in and people that I believe in. [Ben Sherman] hit me up and offered me the opportunity and it made perfect sense with everything that I’ve got going on. I’m all about just genuine and symbiotic relationships, and I’m just grateful that she didn’t forget about me. I will never forget those moments when I first moved to New York and I felt a part of a community. It’s all about creating community and belonging for people to see themselves in spaces that they wouldn’t previously see themselves.

From the Ben Sherman campaign to just a quick scroll on your IG, it’s clear to see you’re a man of style. Who or what inspires you when it comes to fashion? 

I’m inspired by a lot of designers, people who do industrial design like Marc Newson, Philippe Starck. I love how those designers dress because they’re from different worlds. Other than that, I’m inspired by designers like Samuel Ross, Virgil Abloh – rest in peace – and Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss.

I know you’ve been on tour recently, but what does the ideal day look like for Pauli Lovejoy? 

Those days consist of waking up early, crack of dawn, and getting my feet on the ground, outside preferably. I’ll get some fresh air, a solid thirty minutes of meditation. Get to the gym, get the heart rate up, get the blood pulsing. Get a nice smoothie, those good smoothies. Not any of those shit ones that are a bit too liquidy. I want one of those thick ones you have to scoop up with a spoon.

After that, just get some work done. See some people, interact with people. What’s been weird about travelling is that you see a lot of people but you don’t necessarily know a lot of people. So you don’t get to interact with people on a real basis. I do my very best to greet people when I get the elevator, or when I’m in the lobby, or when I’m just on the street. People think I’m crazy. But I think it’s important to just connect. I think that’s what makes us quite unique as humans, the fact that we can connect and deeply empathise with each other.

Do you have any upcoming projects coming up? What does the future look like? 

First thing to plug is my new single “Milkyway” which is already out. And then the Saucy tour. We’re doing dates in the US at the moment, and then we’ve got the European leg that just went on sale.

Main image credit: @estorie

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