Eric Zavinski – Editor in Chief
Electronic artist LEO ISLO, otherwise known as Matt Pahler, is an example of one of those prime, new-age talents that some would think is more famous than he is.
He sings about relationships, nostalgia, and exploring the possibilities of young adult life and matches that with a very modern blend of electronic melodies and his own creamy voice. His music is perhaps the kind of thing some could imagine themselves getting lost in while looking out at a sunset while on the beach or dancing amassed in a sea of bodies in a club.
As a growing artist, the success Pahler is reaching might soon match the visions of a suave superstar we hear in his music online. And that is exactly why The Clarion Call wanted to get an interview with the man behind the music before he hit it even bigger.
An out-of-place high school student who found music as a calling, Pahler soon became obsessed with a new, promising passion. He worked with bands and other musicians, many of whom were double his age, and played music in Arizona bars, at least when he was not being told to step out in between songs for being only 17 years old.
“When I get obsessed with something, I drop everything and focus on that,” said Pahler.
Pahler played beats on shoe boxes and soup cans before he was able to get his own drum set. Staying dedicated along the way, he always contributed some musical idea to projects with his early work that often manifested into the final products themselves..Before chasing dreams in L.A. was even a reality, thinking about music was a constant throughout his career. “I thought I had an ear for writing songs early on,” said Pahler.
After moving on to a solo career and wondering where to go next, Pahler had a dream in which illusory fans chanted a name at him: LEO ISLO. And it stuck. From then on, the current
Portland, Oregon resident began creating and playing his own music, answering his “call to action from the universe” as he put it.. Traveling for Pahler seems to be his main inspiration. Having been instilled with wanderlust at birth in a U.S. military base in Santiago, Chile, and from being raised in Flagstaff, Arizona to visiting the far-away lands of Thailand and Cambodia among others later in life, Pahler uses the places he has been as the often nostalgic fuel for the songs he wants to write and feelings he wants to convey.
His first major EP, Modern Fiction, was even written in a visit to Nicaragua and conceived partly on the beaches of the country.
“I find my voice and what I want to talk about,” Pahler said. “Writing about the past is always a good thing to write about, I feel.”
He describes that it is somewhat difficult to write about the here and now, especially when present life is not distressing. For Pahler, being happy can be uninspiring for his music, and therefore, unproductive, so it works wonders to look back at rough patches and release the memories as tunes.
“Some of the best music has been written from some of the darkest places,” said Pahler.
One of, if not the most well-received, LEO ISLO song is “Oh, Dystopia.” It is a mesmerizing ballad of being in love, a turbulent kind of love, and weathering that storm according to Pahler.
He says that songs can either take as much as months to put together, but some tracks can fall into place after just a few days. Impressively enough, “Oh, Dystopia” is the latter for Pahler.
Pahler thinks the success he has garnered from the LEO ISLO persona and music is awesome and holds a lot of potential. Being a musician is not yet a full-time gig for Pahler, but with small grassroots methods of getting his talent out there online, that slowly seems to be changing.
“The difference between now and four years ago is extreme,” said Pahler.
Always one to prefer working mostly alone and with smaller labels in the present to retain his artistic integrity and creativity, Pahler says he is focused on becoming a better musician and producer first.
“It’s hard doing things on your own teams,” said Pahler, but with growing viral and chart presences, LEO ISLO can only grow as a highly desired ear worm for new listeners.
Perhaps Pahler’s most important goal for himself is to tour nationally and eventually internationally because he would be combining his life’s two passions: travel and music.
Collaborations are also a big thing for Pahler and something he loves to do as representative in such songs as “Lush Life.” He wants to do more projects with other artists that inspire him as he continues to release more singles throughout 2017 and beyond.
In terms of rewarding the most dedicated fans, Pahler has put some thought into including all the singles he’s released as LEO so far on one customizable USB drive, instead of a CD, something Pahler sees as a dying format.
The journey for LEO ISLO is only just beginning, and if his music continues to transport people to the wonder-filled past and undiscovered places, his growing fan base will find a lot to love along the way.