Juan Wauters makes serious work of playful things. From his 2014 release N.A.P. North American Poetry, “Let Me Hip You To Something” features goofy anachronistic slang, and “Woke Up Feeling Sleepy” includes a kitschy Spanish spoken-word middle bit. Elsewhere, “Breathing (Feat. Carmelle)” lifts the tune of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to be With You,” adding a New York, anti-folk twist.
All this might leave some looking sideways at each other — is this guy putting us on? But overall Wauters (also of garage-folk sweethearts The Beets) is so sincere and charming, plucking and strumming the nylon strings of his acoustic guitar with a beguiling Jonathan Richman-esque naiveté, that you can’t help but be won over. In “Goo” he sings simply: “I am playing the guitar just ’cause I’m good at it.”
Born in Uruguay and raised in Queens, Wauters takes inspiration from another legendary New York band: the Ramones “They took a lot from previous musicians and artists that came before them and made a sound that was their own,” Wauters tells EW. “Being from Queens is different than Brooklyn or Manhattan,” he says, adding, “[the Ramones] have that suburban vibe I see in myself and my friends.”
Wauters says he’s also a fan of the Beatles, and the songwriting of early American rock ‘n’ roll pioneers. This mix of Phil Spektor girl groups alongside reckless punk rock (albeit in Wauters’ case acoustic-punk) can be heard in North American Poetry’s rollicking early Rolling Stones-influenced track “Sanity or Not.”
Juan Wauters plays with K Records band Lake 8 pm Tuesday, May 20, at The Boreal; $7.