Taking it to the Streets: Pedro LDV on Solo Work, Collaboration, and the Art of Outdoor Performance

11065933_10152987785704760_2026711162285937300_n (1) By: Michael Spawn

Around Columbia, Pedro Lopez de Victoria is best known as the front man and songwriting force of Casio Mio, the manic, electric pop group he formed in 2013. But the band’s intense, sweat-soaked delivery can sometimes overshadow the personal nature of LDV’s lyrics, something he hopes to rectify with plans for solo, more acoustic-based material. Jasper caught up with the songwriter to discuss his future projects, his hometown of Aiken, and how growing up there instilled in him a reverence for the oft-forgotten art of busking. *

Jasper: Tell me about the music you’re working on outside of Casio Mio.

Pedro LDV: Basically, it’s all part of the same kind of heart excavating, personal, honest music that I’ve been putting out with Casio Mio. But Casio Mio is kind of that, but with jackrabbit legs, so it makes everything louder. And sweatier. And the stuff outside of that, it’s from the same source; it’s just the song in its rawest form. Because when I write music, I’m always thinking in the back of my mind, like, ‘Oh, this could be a good symphonic break,’ or ‘this could be a good part for a sick bass line,’ but it’s all kind of embedded in this genetic code that, when I’m playing, it’s the base genes of it.

But it’s all a continuation.

Yeah. Casio Mio has always been my songwriting, just amped up a little bit. Kind of distorted.

Are you going to record any of this music? Are there plans for a record?

Yeah, I’m going to be doing a recording of some of my acoustic stuff with Daniel [Machado] from the Restoration. We’ve talked a little bit about working together. One thing we see eye-to-eye on is that there’s something in the performative aspect of our music that could be parsed out a little bit. The livewire thing that comes out of it, I’d want it to be a big part of any release of my solo stuff, because that’s kind of what it’s been. I’ve been in a number of bands with all these bells and whistles, but the undercurrent has always been simple—just standing there with a guitar, maybe stomping on a tambourine, playing a Nirvana cover. That’s the needle to the vein, you know? That’s the most direct method for me. So I’ll probably just put something out under the name Pedro LDV and it’s just going to be an audio capture of my recent stuff and from there I’ll implement more instrumentation and interesting stuff. The next Casio Mio record we’re writing, which we’re still working on, is definitely going to have a lot more than the bare bones, but I still want to get the bare bones stuff and accouterments figured out.

Which will see the light of day first—the new Casio Mio or the Pedro LDV record?

Probably Pedro LDV just because Lee [Garrett, Casio Mio drummer] is spending the summer in Knoxville, so that’s been delaying stuff a little bit. But it’s been coming out of my pores. I can’t stop writing, so that record will naturally be a thing that’s going to happen first, probably.

In what way have you and Daniel been collaborating? Are you writing together or showing each other things you’ve written independently?

We’ve just been kind of just been showing each other songs, but mostly talking about taking the first step of him recording me and then . . . We’re really just into each other’s songs. We haven’t done anything yet, but we’ve got an understanding of each other’s styles and I think that we’ll definitely do something in the future.

Tell me about being drunk in Aiken, busking on the street corners.

Aiken is a pretty dry spot for being a young, teenage creative person; it’s not really known for its offerings in that respect. Therefore, it’s kind of a 101-lesson plan in trying to carve out your own niche in the music scene. It was like going uphill on roller skates because there are no venues. The only venue was a Christian café called Solomon’s Porch; I played there one night and they had an issue with one of my lyrics. I had a song that said, “damn right,” and they just wouldn’t let me play it. So that was a restriction and basically I decided to just get a business license and start busking in the street downtown. And this was groundbreaking. Until then, there had been no street performance at all of that nature. And people enjoyed it because, well, because they were drunk, but also because it was this novel thing that they weren’t used to seeing. So I enjoyed doing that. What I like about busking is it’s own kind of thing. You know, it’s just me and there aren’t any amps and it’s not really congruent with anything and it’s this improvised, organic thing, as opposed to a gig where you have these songs or a record. You could always, if there’s a guy who likes ABBA, just play an ABBA song.

Did you come with a set list or just take requests?

I would just feel the crowd. It’s a more engaging, interactive thing if the people are in the right mood.

What would you guess is the largest audience you’ve ever busked for?

That’s a good question. But when does it not become busking anymore? When does it become a concert? Where’s the line? I think the key here would be, ‘What’s the biggest unplanned crowd?’ Probably my favorite crowd was when I was in New Zealand in this town called Palmerston North for a little bit; I bought this crappy little classical guitar and I was playing near this monument, and these kids started coming around and following me. Then the kids got more people to come and all of these people started gathering around. I think they thought it was a planned thing. That was the line, I guess, where it became this kind of event and people were giving me random things—cups of coffee, business cards, tickets, that sort of thing. It was a beautiful thing to just have spring out of the earth like that.

*[‘What is busking?’ you may be asking. You see that guy or gal over there on the street corner with the guitar/saxophone/ukelele/pan pipes, hoping to scrape together a few extra bucks? They’re busking. Now cough up a dollar.]



Double Header: Thinking About Gender and Athletics at Indie Grits

IG-Logo Indie Grits has always put an emphasis on documentaries engaging with thought-provoking social issues, and the 2015 edition is no exception. When Jasper was glancing over the schedule the first time, we quickly noted that two of the films--Every Body Hit Somebody [screening Thursday 4/16 at 7:30 in Nickelodeon Theater 1] and American Cheerleader [screening Friday 4/17 at 6:00 pm in Nickelodeon Theater 2]--explicitly tackle women and athletics, a rich area for exploring gender construction that both films tackle in different ways.


Every Body Hit Somebody, directed by Amanda Berg, is an experimental documentary that follows a women’s football team, the Carolina Phoenix, through the course of a season as it ponders questions of masculinity and femininity that are tied up and constricted in sports in ways that make the team and its league’s existence surprising and confounding. Berg made the film while getting her MFA at Duke University, and its unusual in a variety of ways, most notably in its combining of traditional documentary techniques like extended interviews and live-action with extensive use of still photographs (some of which have been featured on the New York Times Lens Blog) as well as its no-man’s-land run-time of 43 minutes.


American Cheerleader, on the other hand, takes on a more dominant and traditional cultural trope in the cheerleader, but attempts to both humanize the zany pop culture version of the sport typified by films like the Kirsten Dunst-starring Bring It On (2000) and to underline the competitive edge that the sport has. Directors James Pellerito and David Barba were initially skeptical about their subject matter, and that skepticism seems to have served them well in creating a compelling narrative that removes the more sensational aspects of how our culture understands cheerleading.

Jasper decided to shoot the makers of both films a few questions to get a sense of their films--how they came upon these topics, what they found surprising, and how they ultimately grappled with similar subject matter differently. Here’s what they said.

Jasper: What originally drew you to your subject matter? How did you “find your teams”?

James Pellerito (American Cheerleader): David Barba and I were originally approached to direct and produce a documentary about high school cheerleading and we were apprehensive because of the existing stereotypes of cheerleaders.  Our only points of reference for the sport were the National High School Cheerleading Championship broadcast on ESPN every year, and the movie Bring It On.  We took the project on as a challenge to produce the real Bring It On and break stereotypes about cheerleaders.

Amanda Berg (Every Body Hit Somebody): My own nostalgic football feelings and the desire to tell stories that explore gender boundaries. I researched “women’s tackle football” and found out there was a semi-professional women’s team right in Durham (NC), where I was living. I went to check out one of their pre-season practices and spent the rest of the season documenting.

Jasper: Both of you follow a single team over the course of a season, which provides a built-in narrative, but one I imagine many documentarians struggle with. What stories remain untold in this framework?

JP: For American Cheerleader, we followed two 12-member high school cheer teams and additional coaching staff.  The challenge for us was what stories to tell in the amount of screen time we had and of course we weren’t able to touch on every team member’s story.  We settled on four stories per team that served as a representation of the teams.

AB: A critique of the structure itself. A season is a linear narrative, one that we are all familiar and comfortable with. I saw this film as an opportunity to challenge narrative expectations as much as gender expectations. A lot is left untold in the hope that questions are more powerful than answers.

Jasper: Why do you think it’s important to make documentaries that tackle questions of athletics and construction of gender?

JP: It’s important to tackle these questions in order to get to the truth.  Stereotypes about athletics and construction of gender are generalizations that exist in public consciousness and have been perpetuated over decades.  If nothing is done to get to the truth, stereotypes persist.

AB: Questions about athletics and gender are important because of their prevalence in daily life, mainstream media and influence on individual freedom. Sports don’t simply reflect gender assumptions. For a really long time now sports have been one of the places where gender boundaries are defined.

Jasper:  What surprised or challenged you in the process of making your respective films?

JP: In making American Cheerleader, we were surprised by how driven and hard-working the teams were, as well as the family bonding among the athletes.  From our perspective as filmmakers, It was humbling to see how fearless and passionate the teenagers were in striving for their goal.  Their practice and competition schedules were not unlike those of high school football or other team sports.  And of course, we never could have predicted the ending.

AB: I was not expecting the Phoenix would go undefeated and win the league championship. Actually, I was having so much fun working on this project it didn’t cross my mind until we were in Texas for the title game.

Jasper: To what extent do these sports still construct certain kinds of gender identities? Is there a way forward to challenge or upend these conceptions?

JP: Cheerleading is still primarily a sideline sport promoting high school spirit and supporting other sports like football and basketball.  That will never change and maybe it shouldn’t.

AB: Football is still perpetuating “manliness.” More coverage of female athletes will promote mutual respect and opportunity between the sexes. As of now women’s sports only constitutes 2% of media coverage.

How have your films been doing? Have you shown anywhere else, or have plans to show elsewhere?

JP: American Cheerleader premiered on the festival circuit in October, screening at IndieMemphis, Dance On Camera at Lincoln Center and winning the audience award at Louisville International Film Festival.  The doc is screening at several festivals this Spring and Summer and is being distributed by FilmBuff.

AB: Every Body Hit Somebody recently screened at Images Festival in Toronto and photographs from the film were featured on the New York Times Lens Blog. Indie Grits will be its second festival screening.