WYATT BLAIR: ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE
photography by ben rice
Wyatt Blair: I want to make records you can’t put your finger on: ‘Oh yeah, it sounds like fucking Beach Fossils.’ There’s not enough of this shit going on, and it makes me laugh—maybe I should try that. And I just try that, you know? I’d be myself but I’m not like that in real life, and I thought it’d be funny to write anthem-y songs. And I don’t know—it helped me, man! It was fun making it, I had a good time recording it, and I hope people have a good time listening to it.
What does pop music mean to you? I get the sense it’s not just hooks and harmony.
Wyatt Blair: It’s more of an escape. I think it’s funny because the things I enjoy in life the most are things that I shove into the holes of my body. Music is like fucking my head constantly, and I don’t want to get fucked by some giant black fucking dark death metal-y shit.
You want a little romance.
Wyatt Blair: It’s like as you get older, women get pickier with men, men get pickier with women … people get pickier with music and food and diet and shit like that, and for me, the real world depresses me too much. I just need something that makes me smile—something that’s real, that I can feel. To me, that’s pop music, and I know a lot of people feel the same way. I feel like that’s how pop music is pop music, and I think that’s why it’s so successful—a lot of people are just fucking unhappy, you know? I really feel like the general public is just fucking upset. Why listen to upsetting music when you’re upset? Like that’s why people drink and people, when they celebrate, they go eat. It’s an escape. It’s a way to comfort yourself and feel good and get away from all the real world shit. So that’s why I’ve always been attracted to it. When I was younger I thought pop music was lame. I was like, ‘Oh, fuck pop music, I’m never going to make a pop record.’
‘Pop music is popular music!’
Wyatt Blair: Exactly. That’s why punk exists so heavily in teenage kids, you know? It’s anti-parents, anti-everything. But when you get older, you’re like, ‘Man, I can make more of a statement of “fuck everything going on!” by making a pop record.’ It’s more punk to me, making the most badass pop record than making the most badass punk record.
You mentioned ‘arena rock’ before—what’s the fundamental definition of arena rock? It can bring thousands of people together.
Wyatt Blair: It’s like singing that shit where it’s like, ‘Fuck, this feels good. We’re fucking doing shit.’ I don’t know how to describe that feeling. I’ve never really had it in real life, it’s just … I feel it with records, you know? When I listen to a Thin Lizzy record, I’m like, ‘FUCK! That motherfucker … he gets it. He’s talking directly to me.’
So are records the only reason you know this is a real feeling?
Wyatt Blair: Totally. That’s it for me, man. That’s it. All I do is listen to records. I don’t go to fucking live shows … it doesn’t really matter to me. The band could suck. I don’t judge a band on their live shows. Okay, you just wasted thirty minutes of my time, but that’s okay—I’m going to buy your record, and that I’ll listen to the rest of my life. What you want people to hear is the record, you know? It’s like … if you’re going to buy a fucking kitchen table, would you want to buy it at some woodworking festival where ten thousand people are watching this guy quickly make a kitchen table, going, ‘Here you go, you can have this!’ Or would you be like, ‘Dude, why don’t you take your time and make it the way you want it to look and feel and then I’ll be interested in buying it because then I can actually use this kitchen table for years with my family and I can pass it down to my grandkids.’ To me, that’s what a record is. Why go watch a band, you know? Underneath all these lights, it’s uncomfortable, the band’s on tour and has been traveling and hasn’t slept … I mean, fuck, you can’t expect it to sound the way the band wants it to sound, really. I want the record. Just give me the record, you know? I want to listen to it with my eyes closed, when I go to sleep, when I’m making breakfast, when I’m drinking coffee or chillin’…
This sounds like records to you are more like literature or film. It’s about the finished project, not the process. Not like a play, where it can change every time, but about the complete and unchanging final work.
Wyatt Blair: Exactly. That’s a perfect way of describing that, you know? I like plays, I like Broadway—that’s cool, you know? And I like seeing bands live. But it’s not the same to me. It doesn’t get me that same fucking high as having that record.
What makes you collect records? How does it connect to the music you make?
Wyatt Blair: I don’t view my collection as a whole collection. I go band to band. For instance, my latest obsession has been Thin Lizzy for the past year, and all I’ve been buying are Thin Lizzy records. I don’t buy anything else right now. Now I have every fucking Thin Lizzy record. I don’t give a fuck about any other band. Like … it’s Thin Lizzy. That’s it. But I know that’ll die because this has been the same with me for ten years, and then it’ll be some other band. I’ll try and get their whole discography and really get into ‘em. I like hearing the progress from the first record to the second record to the third record. To me, that’s the story of someone’s life. It’s harder with bands that don’t have a huge discography, which is cooler to me because it’s even more mysterious: ‘Whoa, they have one record? That’s the one record that they have and it’s amazing! Holy shit!’
They came from nowhere and went back to nowhere. Who were they? No one knows.
Wyatt Blair: Exactly! There are so many bands that only put out 45s: ‘What? These are the only songs?’
How have those kind of records affected your personality? It’s encouraging that so much great music has been made, but it’s discouraging so little of it got any recognition at the time.
Wyatt Blair: That’s the thing, though. It’s sad to me that when it comes to a record, especially back in the 80s and the 70s and the 90s, even, it was more luck or you had to know the right person at the right time. You had to play that show for that one guy to be there.
The coked up A&R guy: ‘You got it, man! You got it!’
Wyatt Blair: Exactly! It was so old school back then, but it was that was how it was. And if you didn’t get a deal or you were from some podunk town and didn’t move to the city, no one gave a shit. And it’s still like that now; the bands that don’t have a PR agent or a booking agent, like some bands just putting things out on Bandcamp … people don’t care. People want to be spoon-fed this shit, you know? I feel like for most musicians, you shouldn’t expect anything. I don’t think people should expect anything in general in life; I think that’s just a poor way of living, always expecting shit. If you’re just making music and you don’t expect anything, then if anything comes from it, it’s good. That’s always been my mentality. I feel like it’s a lot of bands’ mentalities. A lot of those undiscovered bands are just dudes writing songs. They didn’t care about a record deal. And then some dudes like you and me found out and were like, ‘This is the fucking coolest shit ever, and we gotta reissue this somehow.’ They’re like, ‘That’s cool, thanks guys! Those are some songs I wrote back when I was a teenager or whatever!’
You collect, make music, run a label, book the tours—do you ever feel like you know too much? There must be a lot less mystery left in how music actually gets made.
Wyatt Blair: Well that’s the thing. That’s what inspired this record to be what it is. I wanted it to be the anti-everything. Music’s selfish, man. That’s the dark part. I’ll spend all this money on records and I’ll listen to all this music like, ‘Fuck, this is just some dude pissed off.’ It’s all ego, you know? And it’s fine—that’s just how it is. I mean, the art is there. And there’s good that comes out of it. And for me, selfishly—honestly—I was just like, ‘I want to make a record that doesn’t make sense to anyone. I want it to just be funny and real.’ I almost wanted to shock people. Instead of shocking like, ‘I’m going to take these pictures of myself with fucking G-strings on and blood and fucking all this …’ Shock people with the most basic four-chord songs, you know? But it might not even be shocking.
It’s definitely unexpected.
Wyatt Blair: I purposely wanted to do that, but at the same time, it’s been a long time since I have put out a record, so a lot’s happened. Banana Cream Dream came out in 2012, so it’s been four years. A lot happens in four years. It’s a long time for me, at least. I want every single one of my records to be totally different. I have a whole other record that’s all acoustic guitar and folk, and I have a dance record I really want to do—like club music, you know? I don’t really try to genre-specify myself. I really like every kind of music, like, genuinely. For me it’s more like building a character, if that makes sense. I don’t know if this is because I’m a record collector, and each band to me seems like this cool character. I want every one of my records to be different. Almost like what David Bowie did. You can tell he’s not trying to put himself in a box and do the same shit over and over and over. I just want to push myself. I love early nineties dance music. Can I make an early nineties dance record, and can I make the best one ever? That keeps running in my mind. I don’t give a fuck if my fans don’t … I don’t even have any fans, so it doesn’t matter anyways. [laughs] I don’t care. I’m just going to keep doing myself. I like artists that do that, and I like bands that change.
Is there an upside to the point of no return? I mean … if no one cares what you do, that means you can do anything you want at all.
Wyatt Blair: That’s what I’m trying to do. It just sucks, because I feel like a lot of people don’t take me seriously.
You look so cheerful on the record covers. You don’t look like you’re going through stuff.
Wyatt Blair: I don’t know. Every artist wants their record to be heard, and I hope this record does something. I hope people can hear it. Maybe it’ll bring some smiles to people’s faces, maybe I’ll get a fan base. I’d rather have fans that get what I’m doing, even if that takes longer to do, rather than having this really big fan base and being like, ‘Fuck, I wish I could do this kind of record, but I know it would never fly.’
Is this why it’s called Point Of No Return? Cuz you don’t wanna go backwards?
Wyatt Blair: Louis came up with the name. The past two years have kind of been shitty for me, and I’ve been just dealing with growing up and … you know, life, however you want to put it. I felt like in the process of making this record I was losing my fucking mind being in the city. Like … I fucking hate L.A. And really L.A. has a big undercurrent with this record. The song ‘Cruel World’ is about L.A. It’s about the entertainment business. Moving to the city and you don’t look good enough, you don’t sound good enough—it’s a cruel world, and we all live in it. And you know … only the strong survive. I’ve reached the point of no return here, and this record came out of it. It’s just me spinning in my head in my apartment. How can I make a record and live in the city and pay an arm and a leg to live here? I don’t have a PR lady, so no one’s gonna hear this record if I come out with it. I’m at the fucking point of no return, so I’m just gonna title the record Point Of No Return. [laughs]
So not just a point of no return, but a point of no financial return too?
Wyatt Blair: Point of no everything return!
WYATT BLAIR WITH THE ZEROES AND LEVITATION ROOM ON FRI., AUG. 5, IN THE AMIGO ROOM AT BURGER OASIS IV AT THE ACE HOTEL AND SWIM CLUB, 701 E. PALM CANYON DR., PALM SPRINGS. 10 PM / FREE WITH RSVP / 21+. AND WITH NO AGE, KIM AND THE CREATED AND MANY MORE ON SAT., AUG. 6, AT THE SAVE THE SMELL FUNDRAISER, LOCATION TBA, DOWNTOWN. 4 PM / GET TICKETS HERE / ALL AGES. AND WITH LBM6, THE BLACK MAMBAS AND RATS IN THE LOUVRE ON SUN., AUG. 7, AT ALEX’S BAR, 2913 E. ANAHEIM ST., LONG BEACH. 8 PM / $5 / 21+ / GET TICKETS HERE! WYATT BLAIR’S POINT OF NO RETURN WILL BE RELEASED ON FRI., AUG. 6 ON BURGER AND LOLIPOP RECORDS. VISIT WYATT BLAIR AT WYATTBLAIR.BANDCAMP.COM.