David Pajo has played second fiddle in some of the decade's grooviest bands. But with Ariel M, other people are finally dancing to his tune

David Pajo may cut an unassuming figure, being a quiet, half-Filipino from Kentucky with a shy smile, but he's made his home in some of the most influential bands of left-field rock. First Slint, then Palace Brothers, followed by Stereolab and Tortoise. He's been there, done that, exploring different instruments and styles while following his most astute instincts.

Which led him to form Ariel M, also including Tony Bailey on drums, Tim Furnish on guitar, and Kathy Merit on bass. It's moodshift instrumental music, from bedtime lullaby noodles, to euphoric electronica, to low-key, bass-heavy introspective rock. It's restless, unscripted stuff. And Pajo is enjoying his new environment. "It's the first time I've been in a band where I was the boss. If I write a song, I usually hear it in a different way than if I am collaborating with other people. With this, I just wanted to see what it was like if I heard the song the way I heard it in my head. The people in the band are just local musicians from Louisville, unjaded by the music scene. They are not technically great musicians - the guys in Tortoise are - and I kinda like that."

As with Slint, one of the charms of Ariel M is the way private intimacies or reference points work so beautifully in the music. The new single features a track called "Wedding Song No 3", written, like numbers one and two, for Pajo's brother's wedding.

And another Pajo trait is that, although softly spoken and with a certain laid-back air about him, he has clear ideas about what moves him musically. Which partly explains the absence of a vocalist. "I like vocals a lot, but I think they have to be done in a certain way. I would feel too much of an arsehole telling them how to sing. Lyrics especially are really important to me. Almost all the songs I write, I do lyrics for, but never use. I feel if I release them, I'll have to stand by them and I don't know if in a year or two I'll still like them, but I'm pretty comfortable that I'll still appreciate the music."

Although Ariel M take up the bulk of Pajo's time and he brings them to London, he's also temporarily joined the notorious Royal Trux. "I think they are a pretty amazing band," Pajo enthuses. "Their philosophy is really abstract - I just really like their attitude to music. I'm a little scared, but it's a challenge."

And the future in general? "I want the Ariel M experience to get more focused as it goes on. I wanted the first record to creep up on people, and now I can attack them," he giggles.

Ariel M play with Stereolab, Jimi Tenor and Scott 4, at The Astoria (0171-434 0403) 19 Jan