When you think of the word “explorer,” certain characteristics like curiosity, creativity, resilience and focus come to mind.
Fargo-based musician Brian Carmona, who goes by the moniker XPLOR, has all of these characteristics, but he isn’t a traditional explorer with maps, compasses and other survival gear. He’s what you could call a “creative explorer” whose curiosity is his map, talent his fuel and ambition his compass.
Throughout his life, Carmona has never been afraid to take risks or follow the path less traveled when creating and sharing his indie music. His most recent adventure is his “American Love Story” installation show at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at Fowlers Heritage Co., 210 Broadway N.
The downtown show uses lighting, fog, looped images on a vintage TV and other effects to create a holistic experience that “strips the barriers” of traditional concerts, Carmona says.
“I want to take people to a place that feels like they’re inside a John Hughes movie (from the 1980s),” the musician says. “The visuals, lush smells and dream-like music is all going to present one cohesive message about love.”
Carmona channeled his favorite musicians like Beach House, Frank Ocean and The xx when conceptualizing “American Love Story,” which is partially funded by a Jade Presents Arts Partnership grant.
“My overall vision as an artist is to create meaningful, inspiring and impactful music for the masses,” he says. “We all go through similar pain in one way or another, so when I write music, I want it to be about others and convey a universal message.”
The Los Angeles native grew up in a Chicano household that instilled a love for music, but he never took formal instrument lessons. Rather, Carmona’s music career began when he picked up his father’s old nylon-stringed guitar and taught himself to play by watching videos on MTV and YouTube. He learned bass and keyboard the same way.
Carmona uses standard industry software and drum emulation kits on his laptop to produce his music, which he describes as “indie dream-pop.”
Instead of creating entire records, the musician releases one song at a time on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music because “that’s where most people go to look for new music,” he says.
“I’ve always tried to educate myself on where music is going next,” he adds.
Before moving to Fargo, Carmona spent more than two years in Nashville being mentored by big-name producers in the music business and connecting with publishers who used his music in shows like “Teen Wolf” and “Teen Mom” on MTV. His song “Recover” alone has more than half a million streams.
Since moving to Fargo in 2016, Carmona has performed to crowds of all sizes in venues around town, but “American Love Story” is his way of showing Fargo what he’s all about. He’d always envisioned performing the show in an intimate venue with a historic vibe.
When Fowlers business owners Greg and Julie Robbins offered to host the show in their boutique store in downtown Fargo, Carmona knew it was perfect. He looks forward to connecting with the community and hopes people keep their minds open to experiencing music in an unconventional way.
“Even if it’s just one (person in the crowd), I’m going to play to that one person as hard as I’m going to play to a crowd of 600 because I think that’s what you do as an artist,” he says. “There’s no in-between. You’re either in or you’re out.”
“American Love Story” is free and open to the public, but attendees can register on Eventbrite. Donations to help fund a vinyl release of the “American Love Story” EP will be accepted as well.
To listen to Carmona’s music, find him under XPLOR on Spotify and Apple Music.
If You Go
What: “American Love Story” installation show
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7
Where: Fowlers Heritage Co., 210 Broadway N., Fargo
Info: Free and open to the public, but donations will be accepted
This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and originally appeared in print on Monday, September 3, 2018.
Photos by Andrew Stone.