Barista by Day, Musician by Night: Behind the Bar with B.P. ValenzuelaFebruary 24, 2015
To start of this article off with the sentence “B.P. Valenzuela is not your typical 19-year old” might not be my best choice of words, but they will have to do because really, she is anything but your average university student.
I remember bobbing my head up and down to her set at Heima a few months ago, nudging my date that night and saying “hey, I can’t believe this is local music.” I found out weeks later that she moonlights as a barista too, where I saw another side of B.P.—pulling espresso shots and curating the music at vinyl record store Satchmi at S.M. Megamall.
“I consider myself to be a really annoying…wait, I don’t want to use the word ‘workaholic’,” B.P. laughs. “I just don’t like being idle!” Aside from balancing her studies and shifts, B.P. tells me that she is back to being a freshman at CSB taking up Music Production after a year in Ateneo. “Before in Ateneo, my schedule would be from 8am-4pm, and now most of my classes are in the morning. I knew I had to do something, so when my friend from Ateneo who is also part of the marketing team here showed me an ad looking for baristas, I wanted to try my hand at it. So I just applied.”
Working at Satchmi for B.P. has hit the sweet spot of doing two things that she loves—making coffee and curating music—and earning from it, too. “Coffee is very special to me. I’ve been a coffee person even before I applied to Satchmi and was trained by the guys at EDSA, like, I have a French press at home and brew my own coffee. I’d like to think that I’m an ‘upper’ more than a ‘downer’ kind of person, so I really need my caffeine fix.” B.P. tells me that on a normal day, she averages 2-3 cups of coffee. “I need it! I need coffee to make me feel like a person—a human being—a kind human being.”
If B.P. wasn’t at Satchmi, she tells me that she would probably be focusing more on music. “I think I really can’t have too much free time. I space out a lot. I feel really restless so maybe I would take up a different thing like…climbing mountains! I don’t know, something new.
“The first few weeks here were weird. I’d be really tired when I get home since I take the train or drive here from Taft. There was a point where I wanted to quit early on, but then realized that I learned more doing this job than from any of my minors in school like how to deal with people—especially that I’m here in Megamall! It’s a huge melting pot of people and I had absolutely no social skills prior to being here. Now, I’ve learned to deal with people not just about coffee because Satchmi is a marriage between coffee and music. I’ve been helping out also with the records, and I think the big difference here is that Satchmi is not a café-café, but a record store first and a coffee shop on the side.
“In most coffee shops, the people there look at you as if they want you to lave, but here, it’s pretty relaxed. There are shared spaces so you’re encouraged to talk to other customers—especially for me, I ask them what they want in their coffee and their music. My bosses are also pretty cool and passionate. One of them is a photographer so that’s why we sell film. Even the furniture here is all well-curated. I was attracted to that. No doubt, Satchmi feels like my second home.”
Hearing B.P. talk about the role of coffee in her art makes me realize that she is wise beyond her years. “I make electronic pop, and people usually get confused because they think it’s EDM. It’s not necessarily cute or dancy, but I love pop music and pop songs, so I wanted to create a sound that keeps people awake. I think it’s similar to coffee in the sense that there are lots of different ways you can have coffee, just as there are different kinds of pop. People say that the way I make pop music is different—like, it’s more introspective and its arrangements are more intricate. I guess, I feel the same way about coffee: you appreciate it more when you know what’s in your cup, and I try to approach my music the same way.
“It’s a bit sad how there’s a stigma on pop the way there’s a stigma with specialty coffee. For other people, it’s like, ‘Oh, third wave coffee is so snooty. It’s so this and that, but for me—as a barista and coffee customer and appreciator, you actually get better quality for what you pay for. It’s like you order a latte from a coffee chain. The price is not that different, but at least you know what you’re getting isn’t a cup of burnt bean extract or scalded milk. I guess, the same applies to my music. I feel that people should really open their minds a little bit more with regard to local music and with regard to coffee.”
If you go on Spotify right now, you’ll see that the most-played local artists are The Eraserheads and Sarah Geronimo (who B.P. really loves, by the way). B.P. tells me that it’s not that she finds it sad, but she thinks that local music is more accessible and other local artists are actually at an advantage today. “Now that the music landscape is changing, the methods of having it heard by more people is also changing. The online world is ours for the taking! We have SoundCloud, and there are also startups such as Amplify.ph that push for local acts. It’s great to see the Filipino community be so supportive of each other. ”
When asked about the best lesson she’s learned about being a barista thus far, B.P. says one word: patience. “When I set my heart on being a barista, I didn’t know that only 20% of it was about making coffee. 80% is the accounting, dealing with people, cleaning, washing, maintenance, and how not to think a certain way. It’s sometimes easy to judge people by what they drink, but I’ve had 13-year olds asking for espressos and tough, muscular guys ordering mochas. It made me think a lot differently about people and how to communicate with them. This job gave me a lot of perspective especially for a college kid.”
So what’s on B.P.’s Coffee Playlist? “Jose Gonzalez’s Heartbeats (the cover by The Knife!), Sarah Minor by Keaton Henson, Pssst! by Bullet Dumas, Kissing Song by Dawn Landes, and—oh, you have to listen to this song—Niki Colet’s Swoon.
“One of my favorite things about this job is whenever a kid plays a record for a first time and tries to figure out how the player works, or a grandma who walks in and reminisces the records she used to own. People nowadays think that vinyl is a fashion statement that will go away in time, but I think vintage records are stories in themselves. But I guess, my most favorite thing about this place is when people come in and say, ‘This place exists! It’s perfect for me!’ because really, I feel the same way. There’s an instant connection right there.”
Check out the latest from B.P. Valenzuela’s below courtesy of Amplify.ph!