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The Blank Tapes interview with Matt Adams

October 23, 2014

The Blank Tapes interview with Matt Adams

Matt Adams formed The Blank Tapes in 2003. This groovy west
coast outfit performs what they call “beach party” music. I first
came in contact with the band while watching ‘jammin in the van series’. Band
became more wide known, when releasing Vacation album about a year ago, but
most of the people don’t know, they have been active for over ten years now
releasing ten albums. We’ll discuss about them in following interview with Matt
Adams, who is founder and guru of the band. They will be doing an European tour
in the following month to promote their brand new album HWY. 9.
How did you get signed up for Antenna Farm Records and
what’s the story behind making Vacation album? Your approach to songwriting is
very interesting, telling stories about touring and stuff like that, which
ended up in this sunny Californian album, that you just can’t have enough.
I met the folks from Antenna Farm Records when I was living
in Oakland a few years ago where they’re based. I think my friend TV Mike
introduced my music to them and I’d see them at my shows here and there.  We had been talking about releasing an album
for a couple years, then when Vacation was recorded, it seemed like that’d be a
good fit for what they were doing.  As
for the story behind Vacation, I wrote the song and came up with the concept up
for the album around my first tour in Brazil a few years ago.  I had a few other songs that I had sitting
around and a few new ones that seemed to fit the theme.  I’m fascinated with the craft of songwriting
and I’m always trying to come up with interesting chord changes and catchy
melodies.  Lately, a lot of my lyrics
have been about day to day personal small stuff.  The trick is to make whatever your singing
about bigger than the subject matter and universal in emotional depth.  I love when a song “speaks” to the
listener and seems personal to them. 
Sometimes I have a hard time finding a real point to a song so I do the
ol’ John Lennon and Beck trick where you just sing words that sound good
together. The trippier the better.
Where was the album recorded and what are some influences
for making this particular album?
Around 2010 or so, I moved out of my Oakland house and into
the studio (New, Improved Recording in Oakland) for a few days and recorded
most of the album with my buddy Will Halsey on drums and a few other friends
overdubbing on it over the next few months. 
The first song on the album “Uh-Oh” was the only one partially
recorded somewhere else.  That being in
LA at the Committee to Keep Music Evil HQ where they record most of the Brian Jonestown
Massacre stuff.  As for my influences on
the album, a few songs are inspired by Brazil although the song
“Brazilia” had been written years before I ever dreamed of going to
Brazil and was actually partially written in Mexico. 
What was the line-up on Vacation LP? I heard you changed
some members lately. Would you like to tell us how did the line-up change
during the last ten years you’ve been together?
The line-up has been changing since I came up with the band
name back in 2003. I’ve gone through about 30 members not to mention all the
one-offs.  For Vacation, it was mostly me
and Will, who’s been drumming with me on and off for about 7 years.  DA from Southern California (who didn’t play
on the album) has been playing bass with me on and off for a little
longer.  Joel Williams who played drums
on “Uh-Oh” has been in the band on and off for about 10 years, which
might be the record for longest band member. 
DA & Joel are the ones touring Europe with me this time, but this
will be there first time doing so with me. 
My band changes all the time depending on where I’m living, where the
show is, and who’s available to tour. 
It’s hard keeping a band together, especially since I play and tour as
much as I do and most of my band members have jobs.
Who made the Vacation cover artwork? It captures your sound
perfectly.
Thanks! I drew the album artwork for Vacation and all of
the album covers and posters associated with my band which can be viewed on my
website (www.theblanktapes.com).  Before
I became obsessed with music, I was obsessed with drawing and even had a job
working for a comic artist for a few years. 
I still have big ideas for comics and cartoons but don’t really have the
time and focus for that now, maybe when I’m too old to rock I’ll pick up the
pencil again full time.
You have a brand new album out on Vow Records, titled HWY 9.
Where was this recorded and what can you tell our readers about it? Is it
similar to your previous or did you change your sound?
Hwy. 9 (another
album cover I drew), is basically an 80-minute collection of old, mostly short
songs that didn’t fit any other albums I’ve been releasing.  Every album I’ve released except for
VACATION, the two 7″ singles and some of the Holy Roller EP was recorded
by me in various garages, bedrooms, sheds, and basements through out Southern
California and the Bar Area.  Some of the
songs are the soundtrack to cartoon characters I have and some of them are just
little random song idea ditties.  A few
were made for a video game that never came out and some others are outtakes
from previous albums. This album is like nothing I’ve ever released although
you can hear familiar sounds and songwriting styles from my other albums.  I write such varied music that lately I’ve
been trying to lump similar sounding songs together to make my albums seem more
conceptual and cohesive. My first few CD’s were like long mix tapes from
different bands which was cool but a little random and overwhelming.  I’m always changing my sound and it usually
takes a few years for the albums to reflect that to the public.  When I play live, I tend to play what I’m
currently into which is psychedelic pop rock with long crazy guitar solos. That
being said, I won’t be playing any songs off of Hwy. 9 at our shows.
You’re a big fan of analog recording. Can you tell us about
the analog process of recording music?
I recorded most of
my early albums on an old 8 track cassette tape recorder.  Before I worked with that I’d record on a
computer program with millions of options of tracks and endless editing
possibilities.  The 8 track allowed me to
focus and hone my songwriting and production skills down to the necessities.
The past few years, I’ve been recording on 16 and 24 track machines as well as
recording digitally which is a nice change of pace from the sometimes limiting
8 tracks.  Although, in the end, it
doesn’t really matter to me anymore as long as it sounds cool. Although I find
if I’m recording myself, I get the best sounds when I record on tape. It also
helps me record a better live take because I can’t fix it or punch it in the
computer later.
Some time ago you also released Holy Roller EP…
Holy Roller EP was simply a compilation of bonus tracks and
B-Sides from the Vacation album. The record label asked me for as many extra
tracks as possible to make the most out of the Vacation vinyl, CD, iTunes,
& singles releases.  It was always
available as a download if you purchased the vinyl of Vacation but now it’s
available on it’s own.
Your Vacation album is the one, that gets most of the
attention, but we shouldn’t ignore your previous albums. First came Country
Western Honky Tonk Saloon Blues, then two years later Landfair followed.
Daydrem came out in 2007 and previous album to Vacation was Home Away From
Home, which came out in 2010. Would you like to talk about this albums. Do you
think your sound, musicianship and songwriting progressed?
Vacation gets the most attention because it was our first
HI-FI release and we had a good team behind it; the label Antenna Farm Records,
Riot Act Media PR, Danny Rose booking agency, and even Silverside Co. our
licensing and publishing people.  Not to
mention, for the first time in a while, I had a solid 3 piece line up for a
couple years and we had been touring constantly to promote the album.  We did a 2nd tour in Brazil and Europe,
Japan, and almost 6 cross country USA tours. As far as the previous albums go,
the first one was an intentional acoustic album and every album since has
become more and more electric, psychedelic, and a little darker.  I also recorded a few more albums that you
forgot to mention.  The 20 minute The One
EP (White Noise) & Invisible Colors (Curly Cassettes), the 40 minute Sun’s
Too Bright
(Burger Records) & Sleepy EP (Dome of Doom), the recent 60
minute Slow Easy Death (Dome of Doom) and the older self released cover album
Friends & Favorites, and two 7″ singles (20-Sided & Volcom).  That’s not to mention all the random songs
I’ve contributed to various compilations. 
I think the main things that’s gotten better is my voice.  I didn’t really start off a singer and it
took me quite a while to find my voice. 
I’ve also gotten better at engineering and performing with less tempo
mess ups. 
We forgot to mention stuff like Slow Easy Death and a
soundtrack you made. So it’s really a lot going on with your band lately?
Slow Easy Death was initially supposed to be released after
Daydreams in 2007 but I abandoned it for the rocking Home Away From Home.  Last year I dusted off the recordings,
re-recorded some parts and added some new songs and finally released it.  A few songs off SED were specifically written
for Korduroy TV’s surf movie Compassing which featured 10 of my songs. That
soundtrack is actually one of my most downloaded albums which is more of a
collection than a proper album.  You can
also check out the early Korduroy TV movie Stoked & Broke which features
over a dozen of my songs.  There’s also
tons of short videos they made with my music.
Were you in any other bands before The Blank Tapes?  Do you have any side projects?
I’ve been the side man to many, many bands, before and
during The Blank Tapes.  The 2 main ones
I’ll mention is Part the Clouds which was a 4 piece formed a little after I
started The Blank Tapes consisting of members that eventually went on to play
in my band including Joel who will be touring Europe with us this Fall.  I named a song of mine after that band.  Another band that still kind’ve exists today
is a 2 piece band called Dirdy Birdy which started back in 2001 or
something.  That’s mostly my friend Alan
Siegel’s music which I produce and usually play all the instruments on.  When I was living in SF and Oakland I was
playing in 5-10 bands at a time. Some of the main ones were fpodbpod, Magic Leaves,
Indianna Hale, Michael Musika, honey.moon.tree. & Os Beaches. You can get a
sample of the music scene I was involved in on the Universal Western
Attractions compilation CD I released in 2008.  
Some of the albums I’ve produced are on my Hi-Fi-Lo-Fi Recordings
Bandcamp.  Check out: Dirdy Birdy’s
“Headful of Sunshine” “Imaginary Friend” “Sweet Potato
EP” “Down the Road” “Bamboo Meditations”,  Collin Ludlow-Mattson’s 2 albums (the 2nd one
is coming soon), Sleep Todd “Songs”, Vera Gogh “Blue Pearl of
Happiness”, Indianna Hale’s “She’s a Revolution” as well as tons
of singles & EP’s by Obo Martin, Keegan Goodman, Quinn Deveux, Kath Bloom,
Levi Strom, TransVan Santos, Veronica Bianqui, Pearl Charles, Matt McCluer and
more.
Where can our readers purchase your albums? In what format
are they available?
You can purchase my albums through my Bandcamp
(theblanktapes.bandcamp.com) which you can find on my website
(www.theblanktapes.com).  All albums are
available digitally, and select ones are available on vinyl, CD, & cassette
tape.  Some are selling out fast so
hurry!  You can also download them on
iTunes and stream them on Spotify.
Speaking of formats, what’s your opinion about vinyl and
cassette. Vinyl has a strong comeback and so do the cassettes lately. I think,
this is really great news, because most of these releases are truly made with
heart and it’s like a labour of love for all of us, who appreciate this classic
format for listening music. Digital has it’s own advantages, but after all if
you think to yourselves you don’t have anything real. It’s just somewhere in
the clouds, but when you have a vinyl record or cassette or even a CD it really
means something. What’s your opinion about that?
I agree with you that tapes and records seem a little more
real and tangible.  I’ve always loved the
sound of the crackles, pops, and tape hiss while staring at the artwork and
reading the liner notes over and over again. 
It just isn’t the same as staring at a computer or iPhone/iPod
screen.  Everything is becoming more and
more disposable so it’s nice to have an item that you care about and that means
something to you because you paid a little more than the digital version of the
music.  Tapes never went away for me but
I’m glad they’re making a come back with music fans.  Also, it always seems more legit and real to
me when I see my music on the grooves of a vinyl.
Do you have a vinyl collection?
I have about 150 or more records, currently in boxes in my
parents garage until I get my record player set up again. I love records but
I’m so nomadic it’s too much of a hassle for me to transport them with me.  I can see the advantage to digital music when
it comes time to move from house to house. 
As much as I love my vinyls, tapes, and CD’s, I’ve got way too many that
I’ve been lugging with me for too long. 
I care but I don’t care at the same time.  I don’t like the sound of mp3s but I still
“feel” the music that’s coming out of the speakers, even if it’s
coming out of a phone and sounds like shit.
You spoke about analogue recordings above. What kind of
machine do you use to record?
My main machine is the 8 track cassette tape Tascam
Portastudio 488MKII.  I have the smaller
and larger version of this machine too but the 488MKII is the best. Lately I’ve
been recording newer music on the slightly more pro 8 track Tascam 388
1/8″ reel to reel tape recorder. I also have a cassette tape 4 track
Tascam PortaOne a friend in Iowa gave me that I’ve been recording demos
on.  I owned some HUGE tape machines at
some point but they were a pain in the ass to work on and move, so I sold them.
Do you consider yourselves as a psychedelic band? In my
opinion your band is a truly great mixture of beach psychedelia with desert
vibe, which feels fantastic.
I consider myself psychedelic the same way people would
consider the Beatles psychedelic.  I
mostly write rock and pop songs with catchy hooks and melodies, but there are
elements of psychedelia either in the guitar solos, the songwriting, or the
effects I’m using.  My style is a mix of
60’s psych/pop rock, surf, country, folk, and the occasional 70’s synth with a
very laid back California, beach vibe. 
On the other hand, my Hwy. 9 is a combination of everything I’ve ever
listened to, even classical and klezmer!
What would you say influenced you the most since you were
young and what are some of your influences these days?
I’ve always been influenced by cartoons, comics, and
illustrators. Artists like Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Bill Watterson, and all
the Loony Toons and early Disney stuff. 
As far as music goes, I started playing classical music on the piano
then listened to what my older brothers were listening to. Mostly Guns ‘n
Roses, Nirvana, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, and stuff like that.  My friends dad listened to old country which
I’m still really into.  Everything
changed for me when I started listening to the Beatles when I was 13 or
14.  It was like drugs for me and still
kind’ve is.  These days, I’m not the
“band fan” I was when I was a teenager but I still love hearing
“new” music, mostly obscure stuff from the 60’s.  The last band I REALLY got into was Big
Star.  Other than art and music,  my surroundings have always really influenced
me, whether I’m at home somewhere in California or travelling the world.  A couple of my favorite places in the world
are Big Sur & Joshua Tree in California.
How do you see the local scene?
The local music scene in LA is blowing up with psych/garage/surf bands.  It’s amazing
but like any music scenes revolving around a genre or an era, there’s a lot of
bands doing the same thing.  I don’t
really feel like I’m part of the LA scene to be honest.  I’m my own scene.   
Any bands you would like to recommend from your local scene?
I like the Mystic Braves (LA), Allah Las (LA), Mr. Elevator
& the Brain Hotel (SF), Joel Jerome/Babies on Acid (LA), The Electric
Magpie (SF), Sugar Candy Mountain (my drummer Will’s band in Oakland), Sonny
& the Sunsets (SF), The Range of Light Wilderness (Big Sur), Little Wings
(Calif).  My side project Dirdy Birdy is
fun but we rarely play shows. 
How about national and international?
Ummmm.  Floating
Action out of Asheville, North Carolina is great. Graves/Au Dunes from
Portland, OR too.  Ramiro from the Rotten
Mangos in McAllen, TX.  Other bands are
escaping my memory.  To be honest, I
don’t get impressed easily and have an awful memory.
I think we covered pretty much everything. Thanks for
stopping by.
Thank you! One last thing, I have another new
“proper” album coming out this December on vinyl and tape called
Geodesic Dome Piece which is all about smoking weed, hence the name of our
upcoming European tour “Way Too Stoned in Europe 2014”.  We also have an EP that is being released in
Greece for the tour.  Other than that, We
have 3 more albums set to be released in 2015 along with many more tours!
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014
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