Fusing together pop, R&B, hip hop, and experimental genres, Victor makes it a point to bring to light the complexities of being a first-generation American by openly voicing their battle with mental health, dealing with familial and cultural pressures, and exploring their personal growth
You grew up on the south side of Chicago. What was that like?
I grew up in La Villita in Chicago. It’s a mostly Mexican neighborhood where you have paleteros walking the streets, you can buy chicharrones on the corner, they’ve got some really good tacos. So yeah, it was a pretty cool neighborhood for the most part, but it also came with a lot of weird moments- the neighborhood is low income so I went to a school with mostly low income families, and so there was always this weird struggle with each other, like I think we were all trying to act hard and so that made it really hard for people like me to feel comfortable with expressing my emotions and feeling vulnerable too. I think especially the boys at school, there were a lot of gang bangers so everyone was trying to be tough. It was always really weird to navigate that growing up. I think after moving out I started getting in touch with how I felt and how I felt being vulnerable, and I started to get more comfortable with that. I think also surrounding myself with people from different communities really helped. But yeah, I think growing up in La Villita was really hard because everyone at school was just so tough. I had friends that were gang banging during the week- they would pull up on people. It was such a weird time. There was just this pressure. I never participated in that but there was definitely this pressure to also act hard and act tough and sensor myself. But again, just knowing other people and meeting people from other communities really helped me get comfortable with myself and express myself better, and it also made me more comfortable figuring out my sexuality- I think that was also like really cool just seeing that. I transferred schools later on. I went to school at Chi Arts in Humboldt Park and I met like a bunch of different people from all communities, and I think just seeing them be comfortable with who they were really inspired me to take that leap and kind of let go of everything I had learned growing up in La Villita.
Do you think growing up there had an impact on the type of music you make now?
Yeah definitely. I feel like also growing up in the church on the side impacted my music. Both of my parents sing and my father plays trumpet, and they both grew up in the church worship team and then I later joined when I got older. A lot of the chord progressions and melodies that I picked up in church- they’re very sentimental. They have these heavenly chords and they’re very strong and deep, so I like to think that a lot of that I carried over into my music. And also just growing up with my family. I mean, they listen to a lot of boleros like Eydie Gormé, Los Panchos, Joan Sebastian, and I think a lot of that music also just seeped it’s way into my stuff because their chords are very dramatic and very heartfelt. So I think a lot of that definitely carried over. But again I think just that struggle of trying to get comfortable with who I am and figuring myself out- if I hadn’t gone through that whole process I probably wouldn’t be as comfortable as I am now. Just looking back I’m like ‘wow that was so crazy’. I was suppressing so much of myself and I wasn’t really being myself growing up, so it just feels so good to express all of that now through music. It’s awesome, I love it.
Do you think your culture/heritage is reflected in your music? If yes, how?
Yeah, I would refer back to the chord progressions that I would pick up with all of that music. Like the slow Spanish ballads. Yeah, there’s a lot of that in my music. Also the use of guitar because my tio grew up in the worship team playing guitar so I learned a few things from him and just listening to my parents sing together. But yeah, I don’t write a lot in Spanish but I would like to start doing that more often. That’s definitely something I want to try out. I’ve had friends tell me to try making a bachata song or like a cumbia song- I want to try that out. I’ve been doing a lot of R&B alternative stuff but it would be so cool to drop a cumbia track.
You released Forever, One Day, and LUV last month. Can you tell us the story behind those songs?
Yes, so those are my new songs- LUV was the first single that I released of the three. LUV is just a fun song. Honestly when I got in the studio with the producer Cooper, he made the beat on the spot and I just started freestyling so throughout the song there’s some mumbling like, ‘”Close friends, not again, number nine, can’t reply”‘. It’s just a bunch of stuff I put together and rhymed. But it’s just a really fun pop song, like I just really wanted to branch out and try something different. I’ve never made like a radio ready song but I was like ‘this sounds like it could be a radio song, let me give it a shot’, and it came out really nice and I love it because it’s just the perfect summer song. As for One Day, that is also a little bit more experimental with the drums and stuff. I wanted to go for like a dance-y vibe. But yeah, that song is just about being annoyed with someone. The chorus says ‘”I need an intervention”.’ It’s just about having someone who’s really clingy and just trying to keep your distance and take some space. A lot of my songs are not directly personal, I just like to write stories. And sometimes I’ll like eavesdrop on my friends and what they’re going through, and I like to write about that in my music as well. I like to just tell stories or make them up. But a lot of my songs are very personal, like with Forever, it was very personal to me. While writing it I was in a relationship where we were just trying to work things out and it just wouldn’t happen, so just kind of realizing it’s not going to work out and it’s probably best to just leave and just go our own ways. That’s what Forever is about. It goes, ‘”Keep talkin bout forever, I promise to do better”.’ It’s just kind of like making empty promises but then afterwards realizing ‘I can’t do this, it’s best to just part and go our own ways’. So, I really like that song because I think that one is most personal to me, and also I just went for like a totally different sound, like I went full Prince on that song. I loved it, it was so fun to make. That was also my first time using real synthesizers and bass. I don’t really play bass, but that was my first time jamming out on the bass.
You’re very open about your mental health struggles and mental health in general. With that in mind, when you make music is there a takeaway for other people who are struggling as well?
Yeah, definitely. I put out this song a while back called ‘Unfair’ on my last project, Victor’s Debut. I just opened up about growing up with my family and my father leaving at a very early age, and also just kind of having to maintain my family- being I guess what many households would call the “man of the family”. That’s really hard, especially for someone who is like first generation Mexican kid. That’s a really tough spot to be in because I didn’t grow up privileged or with a lot of money, so I had to kind of find my own way and help my mom through that and help my brothers just to get some food on the table or just help with rent. So yeah, I was very open about that and I hope other people can connect with that too because there’s a lot of kids out there in similar positions where maybe their father left at an early age or maybe their parents may be unable to work for any reason, and so sometimes we end up maintaining our parents or taking care of them at a very early age. And that’s really hard because you have to kind of sacrifice your childhood and you don’t really grow up enjoying it because you’re taking care of other people the whole time. I just hope people can relate to that and feel like they’re not alone, like other people go through it too and it’s okay. It’ll all work out in time. But yeah, I do like to open up about that.
You’re performing in Chicago and Dallas soon. How has preparing for that been?
It’s been great! I really missed being with my band and it’s been a few years since I’ve seen some of them, so it’s just been really cool getting back together and working on the shows again, and seeing how we could deconstruct each song and put it back together to make it sound different from the recording was awesome. I really like when I go to a concert and the song live is completely different from the studio version. I really really appreciate that because I can tell that the artist took their time with the song, so I want to do that as well and just offer a very unique experience at my shows. But it’s been so fun! And we’re using backing tracks now which I’ve never done, so that’s also really cool. I might be getting my band some in-ear monitors, so yeah it feels like we’re just upgrading. I grew up very DIY- like doing DIY shows, so for the longest time I was so anti-everything, like anti in-ear monitors and upgrades but I’m like, ‘you know what, things need to upgrade at some point. We gotta flex a little bit , we gotta step it up’, so now i’m really excited. It’s all good, we’re gonna sound great.
Is there a song that you’re really excited to perform live?
Yes! I’m so excited to perform Forever. We were just working on it the other day and it sounds amazing. I think people are going to love it and I dance to it. It’s gonna be really fun.
Victor will be performing at Lincoln Hall in Chicago on 10/14 and Club Dada in Dallas, TX on 11/12. They also just dropped their new project Blue 2000, which is a 7 track album including his previous releases, One Day, LUV, and Forever.
They also just released the visual for Forever, directed by Nick Boozang, which you can watch below.