Katzu Oso — not his real name — and I meet up at the labyrinth known as the Outlets of Orange during the early afternoon. As he walks towards me, I can see a skateboard in one hand and his phone on the other. Katzu is worried that he’s being awkward because he smoked weed. He isn’t at all. Katzu is down to earth. We casually talk about live shows, Coachella, and about having a terrible short-term memory. He never loses a beat. He says he dislikes doing interviews, but I wouldn’t have interpolated that on my own. When I ask him about why he chose the moniker Katzu Oso, he replies ambiguously: “I’ll tell everyone in two years.”
Katzu has been playing music since he was in middle school. For a short spell, he was in a ska band when he was in 6th grade where — according to him — he sang (aka only scatted). After his middle school ska-era, he joined another band in high school, which he describes as an indie band influenced by Two Door Cinema Club. With them, he performed at many backyard shows in Montebello, Whittier, Pico, Downey and even ran in similar circles with fellow bedroom pop artist Cuco. However, he admits that the backyard scene has died down in recent times.
Katzu Oso has been playing live shows for a year and has quickly gone from backyard show band to serious contender. Some of his bandmates from his old high school band, other musician friends, and even his brother became part of his seven-piece band. He’s opened for Tyler the Creator and Y La Bamba, playing his honey-dipped love songs and covering an eclectic mix of songs like “Bizzare Love Triangle” by New Order and “Big Poppa” by Notorious B.I.G in his live sets. He currently has an upcoming show at Quince Night II this Saturday which will help raise money for domestic abuse victims. He also has a slot at the upcoming Tropicalia Festival in Long Beach and hopes to plan a cross-country tour to support his new mixtape, Pastel, soon.
Inspired by the bedroom pop artists like Cuco and Triathlon and feeling creatively confined by being in a band, Katzu decided it was time to create his own style of DIY bedroom pop music. Also during this time, Katzu was producing trap beats for his current guitarist and best friend who had a side-project writing and rapping Spanish trap songs — an influence he ended up incorporated into his music. “I wanted to put trap beats with guitar and synths in my music and it worked out, it fits nicely,” says Katzu.
“I thought I needed a studio to make music, but you really don’t need that much,” says Katzu. He uses the music software Ableton to create his synth-scapes and program his 808 drum beats. He analogizes that creating music on his computer is similar to working on a puzzle. He fits pieces of synth and drum beats together — usually in his room — until he creates something he likes. So far, he’s released several singles and a mixtape through Soundcloud. “I was happy when I got 100 listens, now I have more than hundred thousand,” says Katzu, never believing he was going to blow up.
Although newly coming up in the music scene, he already has critics. People tell him that his music is very simple in a negative way. But according to him, the songs are simple and short by design, purposely taking cues from the early Beatles era love songs. The simplicity and earnestness of his songs “Crazy4luvinU” and “Coqueta” make them catchy and casually cause you to fall into his music without realizing you’ve been roped in. “I want to be very simple and direct,” says Katzu. He combined his Soundcloud material with newer songs to create his first mixtape Pastel which was released this past July.
His mixtape Pastel is a meta-narrative about a former five-year relationship he was in that ended around the time of he began to write his songs. He combines the Spanish romanticism of Jose Jose, Roberto Carlos, Astrud Gilberto, the 80’s pop of New Order, and lush synth-sounds of Tame Impala to tell a story about a blossoming relationship which eventually falls apart. The last song, however, points optimistically to a new beginning.
The title of his mixtape, Pastel, perfectly reflects L.A’s burgeoning latinx hipster culture. “I was listening to a lot of bossa nova and I wanted to incorporate my own language (Spanish) into a bossa kind of vibe,” says Katzu. Pastel is a false cognate (one word, but invoking different meanings in separate languages). Pastel is a soft and delicate shade of a color in English but it also means cake in Spanish. “It gives off different meanings. It’s the type of color and also pastel (cake in Spanish) has layers. I constructed the set list to be like layers,” says Katzu. “It can mean whatever you want it mean. It could mean cake like booty, too,” says Katzu laughing.
Despite just recently dropping Pastel, he’s already working on new music. “I want to make a record with live tracks,” says Katzu. “I want the next one to be more of a band effort.” However, he has no release plan any time soon.
I like to stare at my computer. Occasionally I type words to pass the time. Those words are usually about music.