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"It's Therapy for Me": Chatting With Pauli The PSM Before First Stop of Headline Tour

Pauli Lovejoy, widely and professionally known as Pauli The PSM, is an artist who is ever-evolving, refusing to be boxed in by a singular genre or creative medium. The London-born drummer, musical director, producer, DJ, rapper, model, singer, and composer has spent their career undefined but steady in the same vision—to express themselves as authentically as possible.

Having worked with the likes of Harry Styles, Gorillaz, Maggie Rogers, Jamie xx, and FKA Twigs, The PSM has been a priceless asset to some of the industry’s biggest names.

In January of 2022, Pauli debuted a new side to their music on record OFFAIR: The Power of Your Subconscious Mind Vol 1: SPACE— contrasting that of their previous R&B EP, Secret Life of a Badman (Vol. 2). This new record is taking a dive into the ambient and ethereal realm lit by the inspiration of astrology and astronomy, geared towards healing.

Pauli is currently on their first headline tour, kicking it off with a sold-out show in Chicago, which Tonitruale got the chance to attend as well as chat with them beforehand.

Photo Credit: Brianna Ramirez

The night, of course, began with Pauli entering the stage with confidence and grace. Before the beginning of the set, they were sure to put on a green wig that they can be seen wearing on the cover of Secret Life of a Badman (Vol. 2).

The energy in the room was high from the start, as Pauli starts off the night with the 2018 track, Less I Say (I <3 U)— an upbeat track with enough power to possess everyone in the room to dance.

Photo Credit: Brianna Ramirez

Between passing out flowers to the audience, effortlessly commanding the crowd to move in sync with them, and even jumping into the crowd itself on multiple occasions, the night was a completely unique, and as Pauli later says, truly healing experience.

Perhaps the most special part of the night consisted of the authentic gratitude Pauli expresses as they stated, “The only reason I’m here tonight is because you believe in me and I believe in you.” They then, in a heartwarming moment, proceeded to ask the audience to turn to each other and say, “I believe in you.”

Before the show, Pauli dives

deeper with Tonitruale— discussing meditation, finding inner peace through creativity, working with big-name artists, and more!

Your music had spread throughout a range of genres, going from an industrial house sound to a now ambient and atmospheric direction. Can you talk a little bit about your pathway to that space and this era in your career?

Yes–great question, first of all. I guess the transition happened subconsciously. I worked with an artist called Brian Eno who for many years [has been] one of the godfathers of ambient music. I worked with him in Mali in West Africa and it was a very upbeat and different sort of project. We basically worked on a collaborative album called Africa Express. At the end of that project, he gave me his album called Ambient 1: Music for Airports. It’s basically just music that you listen to in an airport which is mad because it’s like background music but it’s so potent that you can’t really listen to it as background music. You just feel it and it’s visceral. Him giving me that album is the first time I consciously listened to ambient music. So I think subconsciously from that moment I was really interested in creating something that created that same feeling I had when I first listened to that record. And then I had an opportunity with OFFAIR, which is the record label, to create an album. They asked me if I had any sort of creative direction that I wanted to go down for an ambient record and I’m really in love with the idea of marrying astrology and astronomy. So, I created this whole concept of telling the story of the zodiac signs through the eyes of the astronomer, which is mad because you’re not supposed to marry those two worlds. One is very spiritual and the other one is like, science. Those two worlds don’t really agree on anything so it’s been a journey but I think that subconsciously I’ve always just wanted to make something like this. In this moment, I just realized how beautiful it is that we don’t have to be monolithic. Like, I love that I can create like you said, something quite industrial one day while I’m rapping over hard beats and the next day I’m creating something that’s almost neo-classical.

What are you most eager for in terms of performing a sonic and dreamy experience to an intimate crowd on this upcoming tour?

That’s a good question again because I don’t know what I’m going to be doing for these shows. I kind of just, in my mind, want to experiment and I want to just feel it out. I know that they’re small venues but that doesn’t mean it needs to be chill. First and foremost, I’m an artist which means I need to be doing things that are thought-provocative and essentially entertaining. If you don’t leave that space feeling entertained or more free or healed in some way, then I don’t think I’ve done my job. So, I think my vibe for these shows is just to be really free within myself and hope that that energy rubs off on the people in front of me. It’s therapy for me. I’m just going to go up there and have a good time. We’re just going to dance and have a good time and hopefully everyone else will be down to boogie with me.

Photo Credit: Brianna Ramirez

Your previous collections of work, Secret Life of a Badman and Secret Life of a Badman (Vol. 2), differ greatly from your latest project, Offair: The Power of Your Subconscious Mind Vol 1: SPACE. How do you access these different pieces of yourself and find a way to elegantly express them?

It’s just about the idea of not being monolithic. We all have several sides and I really enjoy exploring all of those sides to the point where it’s not sides like I’m a square. I want to have many sides that I become circular. I love the idea of being so fully rounded that you don’t know what you’re going to get next from me. Some of my favorite artists, like geniuses when it came to that like Prince–you never knew what project you were going to get from him. Or with David Bowie, you’re like, is David Bowie going to give us a punk record, or is he going to give us a choir record? I love that music doesn’t need to be this or that. It doesn’t need to be binary. I think that’s something that I’m really exploring now in myself and my artistry.

Being on tour constantly, do you find it difficult to continue to work creatively or does it help and elevate your process?

I think it’s the only way that I can stay sane. I think we’re all creative people in some way, shape, or form. For me, neglecting that, again, side of me would make me square. So, I’m trying my best to have creative output whilst I’m traveling. I have this kind of idea that a studio in a hotel room is the artist’s version of working from home. So that’s my WFH vibe. But yeah, I love it. I think it’s really necessary and it really helps me to be a better MD [Music Director] the more I’m creating. It helps me to be a better human, a better brother, and a better friend because I think it’s all about just having balance in life. You can’t neglect one thing or another. There’s so much solace and peace in creating. Being alone as well, being on tour, you’re constantly surrounded by people whether it’s the crew or the band or whatever it is–just separating yourself, I think you can really tap into something quite special. There’s this quote which is, “Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.” I think that’s what meditation is for me. I find meditation transcendental; I definitely leave my being to find something that’s bigger than me. I find this limitless space and then come back to Earth and try and put it into words or put it into music. That’s what separation is and why it’s also so important to take time away from tour to just focus on myself.

You have worked with a variety of other multi-talented artists such as FKA Twigs, Jamie xx, and Maggie Rogers. How has working with them influenced your own creativity and work?

I think working with all these different artists, and there’s a long list, I always just find it’s like a symbiotic relationship between us. I love sharing with them and in doing that, I’m very much invested in them as artists or as bands or as projects. By doing that, I see the best come out of them which teaches me so much about not just them but also about myself. I think I try to take those lessons into everyday life and also into my music. So just the way that Jamie was so particular with his production– that’s something I definitely learned from him. Or the way that FKA Twigs was so studious in every single detail of her performance–that is something I can only aspire to be as great at as her. I think I’m quite lucky to have had a glimpse into the workflows of some of the greats of our time, some people now that I call peers which is a massive honor.

Photo Credit: Brianna Ramirez

You recently started your own radio show on Amp called Flybrations where you DJ, talk to special guests, as well as connect and chat with the audience. What do you enjoy most about this experience and do you think it brings you closer to your fans?

Flybrations is so fun. The Amp platform is so unique in that it does let you directly speak to the audience, like they can call up and have a conversation about the music that we’re listening to. But primarily, it’s a playlist and I just think it’s a wonderful way of discovering new and old music. So yeah, it does allow me to be much more present with my fans and it also allows me to be more present with music because you have to listen to the song from beginning to end. It’s a real experience, having to deeply listen to music but at the same time you can chat about the music and say what you love about it or what you don't like about it, or what it’s inspiring in you in that moment and I think that conversation whilst music is playing is also really healthy. [I’m] really enjoying the process of having a radio show that is so modern in its approach.

When you create, it seems to come from a lot more than just a singular vision. There is always so much to it in terms of different mediums, different sounds, instruments, and deeper meanings. What is it like to balance all of these aspects in your artistry?

Wow! I think, again, it comes down to influence. I was massively influenced by an artist called Sun Ra. Sun Ra is considered the first-ever psychedelic artist but never actually took any psychedelics. He’s like the OG of independent jazz, released over 100 albums, and coined this phrase, “Space is the Place.” [He's] like a space jazz artist. It just sounds crazy to even be saying this but Sun Ra would definitely pull on all these different mediums whether it’s history or a historical moment; he was also a Civil Rights activist and a prolific musician. I think the fact that he was able to do all of those things and present them, whether it’s through an album or through a live show or even through film– like he created an incredible film called “Space is the Place”– I think was something that inspired me. I was like, I don’t need to just present what I’m doing in a singular way. There can be a duality to the work. It can be a multiverse created through what I’m doing. That’s something I’m keen to always do whether it’s through releasing visuals, or if it’s through a live stream or a DJ set– whatever it is, I’m just trying to connect with people at a deeper level and meet them where they’re at to take them on a journey in the hope that they can unlock something that I’ve been able to unlock for myself.


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