Third-year ethnomusicology student Julian Cubillos was only 5 years old when his parents enrolled him in guitar lessons, but he quickly developed an interest of his own in punk and jazz.
Cubillos said he was first trained in classical music and has taken guitar lessons with guitarist and UCLA lecturer Wolf Marshall.
He has informal training in many other instruments he has experimented with, such as the harmonica and drums, and has now developed his own style that draws from jazz and punk.
“I think there’s more to be done than just studying music. It’s good to appreciate (that) styles come and (go), but it’s more important to apply them to what’s going on currently,” Cubillos said.
Today, Cubillos will be performing acoustic versions of his songs with bandmate Evan Vidar as part of Fowler Out Loud’s concert series.
According to Cubillos, the pair will be performing pop tunes from Cubillos’ 2010 debut album “Youth” as well as new material, all of which has been arranged specifically for a guitar and a vibraphone, an instrument similar to a large xylophone.
Cubillos and Vidar met during their time at L.A. County High School for the Arts, where the two played jazz guitar and piano together.
Although they write songs independently of one another, they perform together in Julian Cubillos and Wonderful People, their respective bands.
Vidar said the two at first wanted to avoid complicating their friendship by getting involved in each other’s music.
They only began performing with each other last summer after they each released solo albums and created a YouTube performance series on Cubillos’ channel.
Vidar said the pair views the decision to collaborate in their performances as a positive one.
“We were rehearsing last week, and I was just … challenged by one of (Julian’s) new songs. I’ve never experienced that with other people and their music,” Vidar said.
“I was trying to wrap my head around how to actually execute some of the stuff that he’s written recently. So it’s nice and refreshing to realize that it was challenging in that way.”
Cubillos said he plans to produce another album next summer and draws inspiration for his songs from any kind of music that is original or honest. He also said he admires the attitudes and ideologies behind music genres as well as musicians such as David Bowie, Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal and guitarist Joe Henry.
“Influence is unintentional. It’s almost inadvertent, but my songs come out of the attitude. … I love the ideology of punk and how completely honest it is, and the fundamental thing of jazz, which is improvisation all the time, … is another form of brutal honesty and not censoring yourself,” said Cubillos.
Wonderful People drummer Dylan Wood said he has learned a lot about music production and rhythms from playing with Cubillos.
“I actually feel chaotic energy from Julian’s music. His emotions definitely come out in his music. He’s very creative and brings out creativity in others,” Wood said.
This Fowler Out Loud concert will not be Cubillos’ first time performing live at UCLA. He has previously performed at Kerckhoff Coffeehouse as part of the Cultural Affairs Commission’s Monday Night Jazz/Folk Series in 2010.
Cubillos said his performances are engaging and different because he draws inspiration and energy from the audience itself.
“I have so much fun looking out and seeing people watch because it makes me play better, and I just can’t help but think that it will make people feel better to be there watching,” Cubillos said.