Jean-Paul Builes is the frontman and lead vocalist for the band Reposado. The band takes sounds from the Latin afro and Carribbean heritage and authentic American Jazz to create their own genre: Tequila Funk.
Reposado’s latest release “Poquito” debuts here on Kulture Hub. We’re hype for the release as their last track “Water for the Soul” was hot.
I got a chance to talk to JP about his spiritual and artistic journey from photography to music and how it all fell into place.
The Beginning of Discovery
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Jean-Paul went back in time and told me the story of how it all began. He begins with his high school days. “In the very beginning, I guess it started with buying the best camera phone so I could make my MySpace look legit.”
With his Nokia N95, he understood the importance of a social media presence even back then. Looking back he recognizes his artistic nature. “I never thought that I was gonna be a photographer.[…] I never even thought I was an artist.”
After high school, JP faced the question of what he would do professionally. The answer eluded him despite his interest in style and overall natural ability for photography and editing.
“Nothing really sat well. I was really depressed. I was smoking too much weed. I was soul searching, but I was really anxious and super uncertain of everything”
One day while he was taking a photo of someone with his cellphone and directing and modifying settings to get the right shot a stranger noticed.
That stranger pointed out that JP should look into making that his career.“For some reason, that right there, brought me back to when I was three-years-old and my mother telling me she wanted to be an artist but there was no money in it.”
This recollection had a huge impact on the way Jean-Paul viewed himself. Being an artist was never really an option because he internalized his mother’s lost dreams.
“That idea blocked my whole life, even though I was already an artist my whole life.”
Making a Game Plan
After realizing that the first obstacle in his journey into the career of an artist was himself and his mindset, Jean-Paul decided to commit to figuring out what kind of artist he wanted to be. College was one of the options and JP explored to find his artistic focus.
He took every class available from painting to design to music. With this new hunger and hyper-awareness of art being everywhere, JP was primed to notice all the unseen opportunities around him.
While in NYC he was at a club where he saw a photographer with a huge camera and having been into film at the time he noticed that the photographer was missing out on great shots that JP could clearly see.
“I thought, ‘Oh hell, no!’ He’s whack. I don’t know why I’m saying this or I feel this way, but it made me feel like, all I need is a camera, a real camera and I could get gigs.”
JP knew his strengths socially as an outgoing and extroverted person during gatherings and parties. He knew that he could navigate the gig photography world well. But the next obstacle was to get that good camera.
“I stressed hard, I couldn’t get any sleep because my money was just not enough to get that camera. Just $100 off”
Divine Intervention Through Friendship
But luck would strike. JP got a call from a friend he hadn’t spoken to in a year. That friend told him that she had an extra camera and offered to lend it to him for a while. This all occurred within the week that JP decided to take up photography.
“It was so divine. It was unreal.”
Equipped with his new camera and some friends, JP went around taking photos of everything that caught his eye. When comparing photos with his friend, an actor with a photography degree, his friend recognized JP’s talent immediately.
That friend went on to recommend JP as a photographer to a woman he worked for. Because he didn’t have a portfolio ready yet, the woman gave him a task. He was to take photos of iconic NYC locations that only a New Yorker would recognize to prove his talent.
She hired him right after. He had a steady gig once or twice a month. Then she hired JP for her five businesses. For about two years, JP built his photography career.
“I just wanted to shoot. I found something that I can do being an artist and I’m getting paid.”
But his career as an artist would not stay there. There were other callings that JP would soon discover.
The Universe Provides
After the rush of making it as a photographer ended, at 21, JP felt that there was more for him to do.
“I felt like I had to prove myself as a man”
Films like The Doors and Into the Wild inspired JP to go on a self-seeking journey. He quit his pro-photography job and left his romantic troubles behind.
“I said fuck it, I’m going to San Diego.”
He bought a one-way ticket, packed a bag, and brought his camera. His lack of planning would later put a damper on the start of the experience. “I went to San Diego, showed up at the beach, looked around. I made it. And I realized I do not want to sleep on this beach.”
His fears of misfortune were cleared up pretty quickly, his original mindset paying off. “It made no sense but I trusted my gut and I went away from this system that doesn’t really exist. It’s just an idea that everybody is doing so I decided to do my own. ”
He found a place to stay almost immediately after arriving. A fan of his art and photography offered him a room.
“I went there open arms, freefalling, not knowing where I was going to fall. And life just made room for me.”
Road Trips for the Soul
Shortly after another friend who just came back from the military asked him to take a cross country road trip back to New York. Even though he’d just arrived, the vet convinced him and they set out on his first road trip.
This sparked the rush JP was looking for and going on road trips became a drug. After returning from his road trips, JP would show his father his photographs. His father was for the first time, deeply intrigued by the vastness of other places.
“I took phenomenal photos of the country and I had a ton of stories.”
JP noticed that his father “did what he was supposed to do his whole life” but that his need for discovery was hereditary.
JP began to plant seeds in his father’s mind, convincing him to get an RV, work from home and take a road trip with him. “We were living on the road and we almost killed each other.”
Seattle City Living
Originally JP and his father planned to be on the road for two years, but they only made it to eight months. JP tired of being in the middle of nowhere, craved a city environment. So he posted up in Seattle.
“It was fresh. It was weird and it was open.”
His love for music resurfaced. He remembered loving jamming with friends while growing up in NYC. JP decided to use his work as a photographer to meet musicians.
After a living situation fell through due to the homeowners’ rejection of his Pitbull, JP found himself homeless without any ongoing jobs.
JP expressed that he’s thankful for this turn of events because he felt that until now he had been spoiled, without fear and without a sense of worry.
At the time, however, JP was at his lowest. He felt like a failure and began to have suicidal thoughts. Those thoughts were short-lived as he picked up his guitar at the back of his car and freestyled a song talking to what he calls his real self, his higher self.
“Once your options are none, all of a sudden if you flip your mindset, you have all the options now. You’re not tied to anything.”
He decided to get a job he didn’t like because he didn’t want to be that lower-self anymore. A month later he saved enough to get a place with roommates.
Music is the Answer
The first night he pulled out his guitar and everyone in the place gathered and sang and drank. One of his roommates, a rapper, invited JP to his show. At the afterparty, he felt good for the first time in a long time and treated it as a celebration for his achievements.
The party had a live grunge band, who later left the setup, and JP walked up, picked up the mic, and asked the bass player and the drummer to drop something.
“I closed my eyes, didn’t open them, and I just let my heart out completely.”
JP doesn’t remember what he said but remembers the crowd going silent, and him creating a hook that the crowd learned quickly. The experience was so powerful that it rebooted the party and spurred others to start freestyling. JP decided that this was the feeling he would chase from now on.
“I made a decision that I will never pass up an opportunity to get on the microphone”
For a few months, the music scene was ripe and JP was full of energy. As winter rolled around everything went cold too.
Things Pick Up Again
During his photography work, JP met Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio a soul-jazz group. He discovered them at a bar playing and knew that they were good despite the empty place. He came to hear them play every Tuesday. Later they would be on Billboard and are now touring the world.
“They changed my life, and I’m sure I changed theirs.”
JP took their photos and created the groups’ first album cover, Close, But No Cigar.
He had asked the trio if he could jam with them sometime and freestyled well enough for them to agree. But at the session, his spirits were down, he was feeling depressed and it showed. He bombed.“It was so bad, and these are my idols.”
That’s when he realized that he couldn’t rely on freestyle, JP needed to hone his art.
“You need to prepare yourself so that even your bad moments are really good.”
Reposado is Born
While at the afterparty for his roommate’s show, one of the attendees invited him to another party, an after-after party. There he met Torin Frost, a fellow photographer and local rapper who excels at freestyle. JP’s musical chops impressed Frost, and JP knew he’d be working with him one way or another.
Later Frost and JP would be joined by JP’s friend, a drummer from NYC and they’d jam together. They’d end up drinking a lot of Reposado tequila and adopted the name focusing on its real meaning, ‘rested.’
“I also like where it stands in Tequila, where it’s in between too young and too mature.”
The name started catching on with JP as the band’s frontman and leader. JP decided it would be best to play where he lived and slowly take over that part of Seattle.
“I like to play where I live and get to know my community.”
They played on the street, in front of stores and later in stores and jump-started a music scene in Columbus City. Reposado wouldn’t just play for others, they would encourage others to come to join and jam with them. The music scene in Columbus City still carries on today.
Rested and Ready for the Future
As Reposado has gained and lost members, it’s grown to an eight-piece band including a three-piece brass section. JP met many of the players while playing basketball.
Builes still leads on vocals and his journey since the creation of the band has evolved. The band is willing to trust and follow his vision and have spent time in Puerto Rico for a tour, JP’s first-ever tour. There JP recognized that this is what he wants to be doing, touring the world.
After an East Coast tour back in the states, Builes found out he was going to be a father and went back out west and later back to Seattle, to be closer to his child.
Reposado is currently recording, mixing, and mastering and successfully opening for larger bands.
Make sure to tap in and check out our favorite Tequila Funk Band, Reposado. They’re destined for greatness.
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