Las Nubes and Palomino Blond’s split EP on Bufu Records, due out March 13, will mark not only the first time the latter band has shared its music on vinyl but also the long-awaited return of the local record label.
Las Nubes, voted Miami New Times' Best Band of 2019, was one of Miami's most buzzed-about music acts last year. Its debut LP, SMVT, garnered attention from NPR and BrooklynVegan, and the group achieved a new level of recognition after it performed as Iggy Pop's backing band at a Gucci x Snapchat event in December during Art Basel Miami Beach.
The up-and-coming rock band Palomino Blond caught Las Nubes' attention at a show.
“Emile [Milgrim] and I had talked about doing a split with them,” Las Nubes member Ale Campos says. “Then we ended up playing a show together in the backyard of Churchill’s, and we messaged them that night.”
It turned out the admiration is mutual. Palomino's bandmates — Carli Acosta, Kyle Fink, Raven Nieto, and Jake Karner — had been waiting for the right opportunity to mention doing a split with fellow fans of hook-laden tunes and jumped at the chance to collaborate.
“Kyle and I were driving home from that show, and we were like, 'How sick would it be to do a split with Las Nubes?!'" guitarist and vocalist Acosta says. "They would be the perfect band.' And I kid you not — within 15 minutes, we saw a message from Las Nubes asking us [to collaborate].”
The partnership with Bufu Records was similarly organic. Both bands had close ties with the label's figurehead, Ben Katzman, and were fans of his past art direction with Bufu as well as his solo project, Ben Katzman’s DeGreaser. Given the timing and compatibility, the two bands thought a new venture together would be perfect.
“I’ve known Ben since I was 16," Fink says. “I’ve always wanted him to put out my first record, whatever that would be. It’s perfect for Bufu Records to put out my first vinyl ever.”
Jonathan Nuñez of the band Torche recorded the split. Considering Torche's heavier influence and Las Nubes' aggressive playing, Palomino Blond's members were inspired to take things a little darker for their contribution to the EP.
“Though we decided which songs went on the split on our own,” Acosta says, “we knew that Nubes had a lot of distorted guitars and an all-round heavier approach to writing, and Jon obviously works well in that environment, so we wanted the songs to be complementary.”
On the split, Las Nubes deliver the rager "Demonize" as well an ode to the Illinois space-rock outfit Hum, aptly titled "Tararear," which means "to hum" in Spanish. Fans of Nubes are sure to get giddy over these sonic additions, which — although left off SMVT — have been fan favorites during the band's live sets for years.
Palomino Blond makes good on its promise to explore a heavier sound via the track "Damage," which dives into uncharacteristic territory through distorted guitars and other rock-centric moves. "Seventh Heaven," too, works in grungy motifs that slink away from the band's usual repertoire.
The split is Bufu’s first big release in several years: The record label nearly ground to a halt in 2017. For those unfamiliar with the label’s origins, Bufu was designed to fill a perceived gap in the market for smaller DIY bands.
Katzman, a Miami musician, had moved to Boston in the early 2000s owing to a drought of independent record outlets in the Magic City. As New Times has documented elsewhere, the lack of infrastructure for independent artists prompted many musicians to leave town under the assumption they could find success elsewhere.
The move to Boston wasn't the catalyst for success Katzman had hoped for. He soon realized that perhaps signing to a record label — independent, major, or otherwise — wasn't in the cards for him or his friends.
Because Katzman had relocated around 2008, small independent labels such as Burger Records — a known champion of DIY artists — had yet to become known for their extensive catalog of underground artists and clever use of mediums such as cassette tapes to build major followings for the little guy. Streaming services such as Spotify and SoundCloud, which helped lower the barrier of entry for mass audiences to discover smaller musicians, also had not yet splashed onto the musical scene.
“We just wanted to let people know we exist, that we want to put out records," Katzman tells New Times. "Just because someone doesn't want to invest in us or sign us doesn't mean we can't be just as valid.”
But before he knew it, punk bands such as New Yorker’s Japanther, which were exploding onto the scene, began to approach the 21-year-old.
Bufu went on to become an unmitigated, if unexpected, success. Though it was an exciting development for all involved, it wasn’t something Katzman had emotionally or strategically prepared for. The pressure further mounted as he took on managerial roles for acts Free Pizza and Tall Juan, which at the time were becoming recognized by publications such as Spin.
“At no part of my idea or plan did I think I would be getting these bands into festivals like Coachella or get into crazy [distribution deals] and have their records on display in Japan. At no point did I think [Bufu] was gonna move out of the basement stage into a real business," Katzman recounts. "And while I was superstoked, it became overwhelming.”
While Katzman released records for his friends and bands he loved, continuing to do something he was passionate about while navigating the high-stakes nature of the music biz eventually took its toll on Katzman's well-being and proved to be too much.
“Once [Bufu] became a machine, I felt like the thing that made it supercool disappeared," he says.
Years later, Katzman is trying to reignite the original magic and artisan-like quality of Bufu’s initial output. The opportunity to release the Las Nubes/Palomino Blonde split seemed like a fateful opportunity that brought both the label and its ethos home to where it began and maybe belonged all along.
“I just want to put out releases that feel personal,” Katzman says of his motivation to breathe new life into his label. He says the Las Nubes-and-Palomino Blond EP reflects his original intention of capturing snapshots of local music scenes through time.
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“These two bands are on their way to doing really, really well, and this is a moment to capture them because who knows if they're ever going to do a split again,” he says.
The release show is set to take place next to Zoo Miami at Gold Coast Railroad Museum, an unexpected venue for the Miami bands. The setting was chosen thoughtfully, though: The two groups are keenly intent on hosting an all-ages show and offering Kendallites a night off from the long commute.
The Ruffans, Hometown Losers, and Cannibal Kids will join Las Nubes and Palomino Blond on the lineup while Katzman holds things down on the decks. It promises to be a good time for all involved, whether it be the audiences that cherish and celebrate their local bands, the artists themselves who are relishing a new degree of success and visibility, or Katzman, who now has a chance to finish what he started long ago.
Palomino Blond and Las Nubes' Split EP-Release Show. With the Ruffans, Hometown Losers, and Cannibal Kids. Doors open at 6 and music starts at 7 p.m. Friday, March 13, at Gold Coast Railroad Museum, 12450 SW 152nd St., Miami; 305-253-0063; gcrm.org. Tickets cost $10 via eventbrite.com and $12 at the door.