interview by Michael McCarthy
I have a confession to make. I’ve been getting pretty bored with most of the music that’s coming my way via publicists. Everything starts to sound the same after a while. You get so many bands all going for the same sound. Lately it’s a lot of indie bands whose records sound like they were recorded on a shitty four track machine in someone’s garage. Worse, they sound like demos, like songs that were done being written. You feel like they don’t even care enough about their music to make it good. Of course, to their ears I’m sure it sounds brilliant. Likewise, I’m sure there’s an audience for it. It’s just been pretty rare recently that I get moved enough to want to interview these artists. Well, I was getting particularly frustrated with it all when along came Wyatt Blair’s album Point of No Return, a refreshing pop rock album that sounded like ’80’s synth pop as covered by hair metal bands. Or vice versa. That might sound God awful to you, but if you ever liked either of those genres then Point of No Return is sure to strike a chord with you, just as it did with me. I think it would also resonate with fans of garage pop or power pop. In any case, I felt like my proverbial light bulb was turned on when I heard this one. So, naturally, I inquired about doing an interview and here you have it. Check out his inspired and inspiring tunes and get to know the cool dude himself.
MM: How old were you when you wrote your first song?
WB: Oh, man, I don’t know. I want to say 13.
MM: What was your first instrument?
MM: Did you take lessons?
WB: My Dad taught me how to play.
MM: Does he drum professionally?
WB: He used to. Not anymore.
MM: When did you realize that you simply had to make an album?
WB: Probably when I recorded Banana Cream Dream. It was the first time I actually tried to make a record. I think it was just out of personal – I was trying to push myself musically. I had never made a record. So, it was more of a challenge to myself. Like, oh, I have to make one myself. Record 10 songs. Do it, conceptualize it. So, that was my first attempt.
MM: Your soundcloud page for the private new album stream states that all songs written, recorded, performed, produced, mixed & mastered by Wyatt Blair. How important was it to you that you do everything entirely on your own?
WB: It’s not like a super important thing. It’s more of like I don’t know if I’d trust anyone. Like why would I trust someone else with my music when I know what I want to hear. I know what I want a song to sound like. My mentality is really is if you want something done right you’ve got to do it yourself. So, I’ve always been like that with my music. I don’t think I’ll ever – maybe if I had a hundred thousand dollars I’d go record with someone. I don’t know. For where I’m at now it just doesn’t make sense. I enjoy the recording aspect just as much as the writing aspect. So, it’s fun.
MM: Do you have any guest musicians on the new album at all?
WB: Yeah, I have a few guests. My friend Chelsea sang a bunch of harmony back ups on the record. My friend Louis played – I actually wrote one of the songs with my friend Louis.
MM: Which one?
WB: It’s called “In The Name of Love.”
MM: That’s one of my favorites.
WB: Thanks. Yeah, me and him wrote that one. He plays the lead guitars on that song. And then I have a friend David who plays some synth on a few songs. Actually, my Dad played drums on a song on the record.
MM: Is it a drum machine on most of the record?
WB: Yeah. It’s like a mixture of drum set and drum machine.
MM: The particular tone of it sounded familiar but I don’t know what kind it was. Was it from the ’80’s or something.
WB: Yeah, most likely. I don’t even know much about the machine. I picked it up for fun a few years ago and I ended up using it on the whole record. I use a few different drum machines but the one I used specifically was this one I picked up at a store. But like a lot of the cymbals are half like a drum set and half electronic drums. I don’t know how else to put it. It was kind of like an experiment I did in the studio.
MM: What other equipment or programs did you use in making the album?
WB: I recorded some of it on my tape machine. An eight track cassette. Little things. Like a lot of the songs – “Dancing On A Dream” – a lot of the guitars were recorded on that. I mixed it and everything digitally on my computer. See, I used a really cheap ass metal drum pedal and, yeah, I mean, there wasn’t much – I didn’t have any crazy gear, you know? I had a 20 dollar guitar pedal. A tape machine and a computer. Just tweaked at it for like a year straight.
MM: Did you use Pro-Tools or anything like that on the computer?
WB: I use Cubase for everything.
MM: That’s not one I’ve heard of.
WB: Yeah, I’ve been using Cubase since the beginning.
MM: I’d say your album splits the difference beween ’80’s synth pop and hair metal. How would you describe it?
WB: On a personal level, I think they’re just songs that I wrote. I think they could be any genre. I just happened to have some ’80’s gear and was inspired that way in the moment. It kind of has that sound but I always try to do my songs just songs. I don’t try to specify exactly what it is. Simple. I guess I like simple pop songs.
MM: I read – I don’t know if it was in the L.A. Weekly profile or one of your press releases, but it said something to the effect that you had made Banana Cream Dream in an ironic or comical manner. Could you explain that?
WB: Yeah, it was supposed to be a comedy record. Kind of like a joke record. Like a really kind of sarcastic, mockery kind of way. Yeah, my goal was to try and make a record without any – basically I wanted to make the whole record on an eight track so the whole thing was eight tracks. There’s no effects. I plugged my guitar straight into the amp and that was it. I tried to be as simple as possible. And the songs were kind of about just, you know, a mockery on day to day shit like girls and cars and shit like that.
MM: But it ended up being more popular than you thought it would be, right?
WB: Um, I didn’t think anything of it but it got press to the record and I got to do some tours around it. The songs mean something to me. It’s the first stuff I really wrote. It’s a joke but I do – it’s a piece of my heart. I’m psyched that I got to do press properly and some people enjoyed it, I guess.
MM: I thought it was good.
MM: How did you approach the new album differently? Is the new album tongue-in-cheek at all?
WB: Well, I kind of felt like Banana Cream Dream was really basic. It was – looking back, I could’ve made the songs sound better and added a lot more parts. I could’ve structured them [differently]. I’m sure every writer is like that, but with this record I was trying to – and it’s always just like you’re exercising or something and you’re always trying to reach the next level. I just wanted to see how far I could go. In the moment. So, I tried to have more diversity in the songs. I tried to have the recording sound more high fidelity. I wanted the songwriting to be a little more mature. I felt like Banana Cream Dream was very tongue-in-cheek and I think the new one is as well but there’s a lot more depth. At least I want to think there’s more depth. And there’s a lot of meaning behind the lyrics and the songs. It’s supposed to be a reassuring record. A record that will help when you’re in times of trouble.
MM: The L.A. Weekly profile made it sound like you’re obsessed with Kenny Logins.
WB: Yeah, I’m not. Totally not. I like Kenny Logins, but I like all kinds of music.
MM: I’m a big fan of hair metal myself, so I was curious as to who your favorite hair metal bands are?
WB: I love Whitesnake. I love Thin Lizzy – to be honest, they’re not hair metal, they’re more like proto, I don’t really know what you’d call that. I love Poison. More of the pop stuff.
MM: Yeah. Me, too.
WB: Def Leppard. I like all that stuff. It’s inspiring.
MM: Since you have ’80’s influences, I was curious as to what your favorite ’80’s movies are.
WB: Um, shit. I think maybe Back to the Future is up there. Breakfast Club, obviously. Top Gun – I’d say Top Gun is probably my favorite ’80’s movie.
MM: You started your own record label in 2010 at your parents’ place then you moved it to LA in 2012. At the time that you started it, were you intending to put out your own music or were you just intending to put out other people’s music?
WB: I never intended to put out my own stuff. Actually, I feel weird about doing it. I think it makes sense now, but at the time, no, I just wanted to put out my friends’ stuff. That’s really how it started. Burger put out a lot of my early stuff. They’ve put out everything I’ve ever done up to this point and they’re doing the new record with me and Lolipop [editor’s note: I did not spell this wrong. Lolipop is how they spell it]. It’s cool now. I’m glad to put music out on my label. It’s just, you know, it’s a bit – it’s weird.
MM: How does it work when there’s multiple labels involved? Is one doing one aspect and the other another or how’s that work?
WB: Sometimes. For this record, everything is split. The LPs, the cassettes, the CDs – all that stuff was paid and made and everything through Burger and Lolipop. We’re both putting out every aspect of it together. But then there’s time where a record label will put out the LP and we’ll put out the cassette version or CD version. It depends on the situation, I guess.
MM: I thought I read that there was another label involved with the new album, too. Resurrection?
WB: They put out Banana Cream dream with Lolipop. They’re great. They’re a cool label.
MM: How many artists have you released on your label?
WB: Artists, I don’t know, but know that we’ve put out about 300 records.
WB: Yeah. I think it’s more around 350 now. But it’s in the 300s.
MM: Who are some of the most successful artists on the label?
WB: Um, I don’t know how to differ success. I like all of them, you know? I like everyone we release. You can’t really pick. Like if you have kids and someone asks who your favorite kid is. They’re all different. But I think all of the bands are successful in their own sense. It’s been fun to work with older bands and reissue stuff from the ’60’s and ’70’s and ’80’s. That’s always been.
MM: What are some of the bands you’ve reissued?
WB: We reissued The Turtles’ Greatest Hits. They’re like a ’60’s sunshine pop band. And we’re reissuing some Paul Collins stuff this year and some old Doctor Dog records from the early 2000’s and we’re actually putting out a record by this guy Seth Swirsky who wrote a bunch of hits for Celine Dion and Taylor Dane and stuff in the ’80’s. If you’re into pop music, he’s the king of pop in my opinion. His solo stuff’s amazing and I’m psyched to put that out later this year.
MM: Will this be his first solo album?
WB: No, it’ll be his third one.
MM: Do you only release stuff that you’re really into or do things come across your desk where you’re like this isn’t really my cup of tea but I can tell it’s good at what it’s supposed to be?
WB: Um, I think, I genuinely mean it when I say I like everything. So, I like everything. My taste palate is very wide. I feel like I can tell if I listen to something. Things either speak to me or don’t speak to me. Whatever I feel like is real and I feel something from it I want to put it out no matter what it is. If it’s hip-hop or country music or reggae. That’s always been my mentality as a label.
MM: That’s kind of how we are as a website. We cover just about everything.
MM: The only thing we don’t cover is polka.
WB: Yeah. I guess there’s not a lot of polka in the States.
MM: As someone who owns a record label, I’m curious – what are your thoughts on Spotify and streaming services in general?
WB: I think it’s great. I think whatever helps get the music heard is great. I don’t know about the way they pay the bands. I don’t think that’s necessarily fair, but I think it’s all great.
MM: Have you seen sales go up since things started being put on Spotify?
WB: Yeah, but with Spotify you get paid cents. So, it’s not really a lot. Unless you’re like Adele or Britney Spears and you have millions of streams there’s not much money to be had in streaming. It’s a weird position we’re in. There’s more streaming than buying now. It’s kind of strange.
MM: Do you do your own distribution in terms of getting stuff on Spotify or Pandora or whatever?
WB: Yeah, Lolipop does that.
MM: What do you think about the comeback vinyl has been making?
WB: I think it’s awesome. I think it’s great. I’m all for it.
MM: Yeah, me, too. Does it surprise you?
WB: No, it’s always been there. I just think it’s being capitalized on now because people are sick and tired of not having the real thing, you know?
MM: They want something they can hold in their hands.
WB: Yeah, and it’s fun to collect. I think no matter what happens there’s always gonna be a record community.
MM: Yeah, I do, too. Now, I wanted to ask you a few things about Los Angeles because I lived out there for a few years in Glendale as well. What are your favorite and least favorite things about life in LA?
WB: There’s not a lot of favorite things. Um, it’s mostly unfavorite things. I really don’t like the traffic. I don’t like the air. I don’t like where the culture’s going anymore. I don’t like how expensive it is. I don’t – and all of that is really uninspiring to me. I feel a little suffocated here. I can’t get a lot of writing done. I can’t get a lot of creative juices flowing. For this new record, for instance, I recorded the whole thing in Arizona. I couldn’t do it here. I couldn’t. So, all that is shitty. But I do like the beaches. There’s a lot of good food. There’s a lot of inspiring people. I guess those are nice things. But, yeah, it’s just very suffocating here. A lot of people crammed into one area. A lot of trash. Just, you know, it’s a wacky city.
MM: Do you live in LA itself or one of the suburbs?
WB: I’ve been living in Echo Park for years. I’m actually just moving this month to Pasadena, so I’ll be out there now.
MM: What are your three favorite Los Angeles area restaurants?
WB: My favorite is Taco Zone. It’s a truck. A taco truck. I think it’s some of the best Mexican food in LA. I love – there’s this place in Pasadena called The U Pick Cafe. It’s probably number two. It’s kind of weird. It’s not even a cafe. It’s like a Mediterranean restaurant.
MM: Is that in the Old Town/ Colorado Boulevard area?
WB: Kind of. Yeah, it’s off Colorado and Lake. So, it’s a little past Old Town.
MM: I might’ve been there one time.
WB: Nice. Yeah. It’s the shit. And I guess there’s this Thai place that’s really good called It’s Thai. That’s probably my number three spot. It’s in Echo Park. It’s on Glendale Boulevard.
MM: What is your favorite LA suburb? Is it Pasadena?
WB: It’s hard to say. I like Pasadena because it’s still relatively cheap and quiet and the air’s a little [better]. It’s a little less suffocating there. If I had a million dollars I’d probably live in Malibu or Laguna Beach or something, you know? But I think for what I can afford that’s my favorite.
MM: What are your favorite LA dive bars?
WB: Shit. There’s one called the Redwood Bar downtown. You feel like you’re in a pirate ship, the way they have it. I don’t know. I don’t drink, so I’m not really a bar-goer.
MM: Do you ever do karaoke?
WB: I used to. I don’t know the last time I did that. The last time I did it I was in Santa Barbara. Somewhere down there.
MM: So, that was before you moved to LA?
WB: Yeah, I don’t know anywhere in LA that does karaoke?
MM: When I lived in California I used to go to this dive bar in Glendale called Dave’s. Off Glendale Boulevard. That was pretty cool.
WB: When were you in Glendale?
MM: I was there from 2003 to 2006, but I’m hoping to move back out there. I just moved back to Massachusetts because I was having a lot of health problems. Things are a bit more stable now.
WB: That’s good.
MM: What was the last book that you read?
WB: I don’t think I got to finish it. I wish I had more time to read, but I started Mark Marrin’s latest book. It’s called something Normal. I forgot the title of the book. [editor’s note: I spent quite a while searching on Amazon, looking at all kinds of books by various Marks but wasn’t able to figure out what it was. Wyatt – if you’re reading this and could let us know that would rock. email@example.com]
MM: What are your all-time favorite TV shows?
WB: I love Friends. I think it’s one of the best sit-coms. I love Seinfeld. I really like Silicon Valley. Three of my faves.
MM: Have you ever watched Veep?
MM: That’s a show on HBO. Julie Louis-Drefus stars as this idiot president. If you like Seinfeld, you’d like it.
WB: Nice. Yeah, I gotta check that out.
MM: If someone gave you a million dollars to put into your record label, who would you try to sign if you were going for a big artist?
WB: I want to probably figure out a way to reissue all the No Doubt records. And probably Smash Mouth’s records.
MM: Who are some of your other favorite ’90’s artists?
WB: Blink-182, Green Day. Sugar Ray. I love all that stuff.
MM: There’s a chain of indie record stores out here called Newbury Comics and they’ve been licensing all these albums and putting them out on colored vinyl and they just put out Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt. You might want to check that out.
WB: Thanks. Yeah, I will.
MM: What was your biggest indulgence this month?
WB: What kind of indulgence?
MM: Like if you spent a lot of money on something or treated yourself to something or vacation.
WB: Actually, that kabob place – that Mediterranean place I was telling you about. It’s kind of a bitch to get there, maybe like 50 minutes from Echo Park, but I just drive there all the fucking time just to eat that kabob and come back. A lot, a lot of money spent at that place.
MM: What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?
WB: It was this band called Goldfinger. The record was called Hang Ups. I remember. The first record I bought with my own money. I saved up. It was eight bucks. I got it at Warehouse Records.
MM: What format did you buy it on?
WB: CD. Yeah, that was the one. I still love it. I still have it. I still play it and everything.
MM: Name a few artists from your parents’ record collection who you actually like?
WB: Oh, man. I like all the stuff they listen to now. Like Michael Jackson, obviously. Prince. X. The Ramones. The Rolling Stones. The Beatles.
MM: The last thing I was going to ask is if you’re a fan of Prince or David Bowie and, if so, how did their deaths effect you?
WB: I’m a huge fan of both. My mom was – David Bowie was her idol growing up. So, I had a lot of David Bowie when I was a kid. Just a lot of influence of David Bowie. Prince, later on. Both definitely. It’s hard because it hasn’t effected me on a super personal level because I don’t know them, but in the weird magical land of cool music, it’s definitely tragic. And the whole way David Bowie went about it was really interesting. Like he knew he was going. That whole part of it is really sad but also really cool. That was his way of interpreting dying.
Wyatt’s latest album Point of No Return will be out August 5th on Lolipop and Burger Records. Pre-order on Amazon.