"I had to go and talk to him about it, and it was just one of those really stressful times," Schalda says. "Something about it got me into the habit of a couple a day, and that was it."
But every cloud of smoke has a silver lining. For Schalda, his trusty Marlboros paid off twofold.
The most obvious victory is his voice, a raspy gem of an instrument that sounds like it's been chiseled from granite. That roughly hewn warble leaps off Half the Time, Pablo's understated debut full-length on KC's own Curb Appeal Records.
"Wall Street" by Pablo, from Half the Time (Curb Appeal):
Schalda's second victory, Maggie Schalda, stands next to him onstage at every show, singing and playing harmonica. Four years ago she married him, and as Schalda tells it, his former best friend didn't take it too well.
"He took it OK in the beginning, and then for some reason, it went downhill," says the New York native, talking on his cell phone from the parking lot outside the Lincoln Theater in Raleigh, North Carolina. Schalda has just finished his set opening for Straylight Run, Spitalfield and the Hush Sound. He's hunkering down in the quiet of his car, the only place where he can hear himself speak.
It may have cost him a friendship, but the Schaldas' relationship has turned Pablo into a family affair. His older brother, Will, plays keyboards, and although they're not on this tour, members of another family brothers Michael and William Strandberg round out the five-piece's studio lineup. Although Schalda has played in everything from emo to Pavement-esque bands, his father a professional doo-wop singer until Will was born introduced him to the music of Neil Young and the Beatles.
"It's funny my pop used to tell me, 'Yeah, we was doing real well, and then the Beatles came along,'" Schalda says, playing up his New York accent.
Schalda says it was Young's classic album Harvest that inspired Pablo. Half the Time was recorded live, and it almost wasn't mastered before being released.
"My goal when we were recording was that when we go out and play these songs for people live, they're hearing the record," Schalda says. "I have a big problem with bands that can't do that."
But for right now, his biggest problem is the smoking. And he swears he'll quit when he's ready.
"As long as it's not menthol, I can smoke it. They kill your lungs. Cigarettes aren't good for your lungs, but menthols are horrible," he says. "You've gotta justify it it's like, I smoke weed every day, but some people smoke crack."
Stay off the rock, Schalda. And if you can, ditch the smokes, too. Your voice is cool enough already.