As soon as Elvin Estela realizes that Café Abir has Guinness on tap, our plans to head elsewhere for the interview disappear and we settle down for the duration.  In San Francisco to open for the Mars Volta, the man known as Nobody nurses a pint while he marvels about the new directions he's headed in with his latest album.

Any relying on preconceptions could cause some to overlook the 50 minutes of pastoral bliss Estela has crafted on Pacific Drift: Western Water Music Vol. 1.  Those seeking another installment of darkly tinted hip-hop along the lines of Soulmates (Ubiquity, 2000) might be surprised by the psychedelic pop turn Estela has taken, though fans familiar with his other projects might have seen it coming.  Whether buying records for Fingerprints Records Store, programming eclectic treats on, or spreading knowledge on "She Comes in Colours," his radio show on Loyola University's KXLU, Estela makes no bones about his love of '60s psychedelia and bands like the Zombies or even the Monkees.

"Hokeyness is a good thing sometimes.  I'm really into '70s and '60s soft rock right now, and it's hokey, but still a little twisted and soulful," says Estela as he mulls over the free, almost innocent feeling that runs through much of Pacific Drift.  "It's kinda sad, but it's still hopeful – that's a really hard feeling to put into music, but I wanted to see if I could do it."

In addition to the mood swing, the new album also marks a major change in how Estela constructs songs, with a shift away from stacking loops and toward taking individual sounds as building blocks, as well as a move from MCs to singers.  "I noticed I was getting into fights with every rapper (over how I wanted to sound).  My music wasn't matching the lyrics enough.  That's why I wanted to work with singers – they added the exact emotion I wanted."

While Soulmates featured heads like Freestyle Fellowship and 2Mex, for Pacific Drift Estela enlisted collaborators like Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel, the Postal Service) and Ikey Owens (the Mars Volta), drawing on a group of friends that formed around KXLU.  The success of his friends' own ventures has also provided more opportunities for Estela to reach new audiences.  "I like Djing in clubs.  I think if I got my mind together enough, I could rock a party or whatever.  But sometimes I just want to play music to people who appreciate it, and opening for a band, you can do that."  Whatever the venue, Nobody's love for Southern California sounds, as well as his own sunny contributions, seems sure to shine through.

Mush Records