Southern California's Wyatt Blair injects good-natured charm into lo-fi garage rock world
California's Wyatt Blair (right) – shown performing with bassist Cameron Ward (left) and drummer Tomas Dolas (center) – is now on a tour with Dolas as well as Cameron Allen and Jeremy Katz (not pictured).
The lo-fi garage rock world is infested with enough scruffy, beer-swilling, shitkicking male musicians to last several lifetimes, but Southern California native Wyatt Blair stands out for several reasons. For one thing, his songs, especially those on new album "Banana Cream Dream," are crisp, crunchy, surf-pop-influenced nuggets that combine saccharine lyrics with snappy three-minute instrumentation. For another, Blair serves vital back-up roles in two excellent female-fronted bands, Peach Kelli Pop and Feeding People, giving his music and personality a charming tilt often lacking in the macho scuzz-rock community. And finally, Blair's a downright nice dude who seems to be still in awe at his good musical luck.
Folio Weekly: Give us a quick rundown of your musical history, Wyatt.
Wyatt Blair: I've been playing music since I was 13 years old — always in bands and always writing songs. I just never thought I could actually write an album until a friend convinced me to, and Burger Records started helping me two years ago with my first EP, "Candy Eyes." It was all unexpected and happened really fast, so for "Banana Cream Dream," my first full-length, I decided to take a little bit more time. On the side, I also play with Peach Kelli Pop, Feeding People and Mr. Elevator & the Brain Hotel.
F.W.: Did you self-record the majority of your new album?
W.B.: I did. I bought an 8-track tape recorder about a year ago, because I really wanted to record the whole album on it. I've had all these songs for maybe about five years, but I just started recording them within the last year in totally different locations. I started where I grew up in Dana Point, Calif., in my parents' garage, and then took it to my rehearsal space in L.A. and also to my house. So, it's kind of just a traveling album.
F.W.: Have you always operated in the lo-fi garage rock vein? And do you think you're doing anything different in what has become a crowded genre?
W.B.: I guess it's a niche that I fell into. I've always been attracted to that but also to pop music. So with this album, I really wanted to record a standard pop-rock album that could be universally enjoyed by people from anywhere, of any age and any gender. In a way, it's a comedy album with a lot of sarcasm so it's supposed to be fun — just happy pop songs.
F.W.: Judging by the first two infectious singles, "Sweet Operator" and "Ba Ba Ba," you've definitely succeeded. Tell us about Lolipop Records, the label you run.
W.B.: I just started it as, again, a funny thing. I was really in love with some young bands from where I grew up in Orange County and really wanted to put a tape out for them … and that's just sprawled and kept rolling like a snowball. It started with me hand-dubbing tapes by myself in my kitchen, and now there are a bunch of people involved. I actually probably do the least amount of work right now for it. But it's just total fun — all about local support.
F.W.: Is there a strong local music scene in Orange County?
W.B.: Well, I've lived in Los Angeles for the last two years, but I lived in Orange County, which has always had a really interesting music scene, before that. It's the suburbs, so there's not a lot going on … a lot of artistic stasis and angst, stuff like that. L.A. is totally different — a lot more serious with a lot more music. But I miss Orange County, because of how real and honest the music scene is. There's not a lot of honest bands or songwriters in L.A.
F.W.: Having recently toured in Florida with Peach Kelli Pop, what are your thoughts on our scene down here?
W.B.: Everything about it is great. Florida was my favorite place to play on the whole tour because everybody was so nice and so into the music.
F.W.: Is all that love translating into full-time musical success for you?
W.B.: For now, music is what I do full time. Unfortunately, I wish I had a job where I could afford better food and better clothes. But I just don't want to grow old and always question myself with "what if." I'm still young, and I have nothing really to lose, so I want to do what I love to do as long as I can. … I'm just going with the flow I guess.