The Blank Tapes

Published on September 5th, 2019

Scooping line up after line up over a decade and a half, The Blank Tapes is an unwavering force in music due to their indisputable backbone and spirit, creator Matt Adams. Adams skillfully and masterfully lays a platform for multiple mediums of art, coinciding with each other to create tangible masterpieces. With no airs about him, just a borderline psychotic addiction to producing content, Matt Adams shares his fervent works with anyone who will listen. In a brief interview with PureHoney, Adams enlightens us on the inner workings of what created a band with such a standing legacy.

How long has The Blank Tapes been a unit?

The current line up has been playing together for only a few months, but the band has been around for over 15 years.

Your music is warm and whimsical without sacrificing ambient depth. What are you trying to communicate to your audience?

I guess I’m just trying to communicate how I feel. I’m a huge fan of the musicality and cleverness of old pop music with topical or personal lyrics. I also love making a complex chord and harmony progression sound easy and natural. As for my subject matter, I try not to hold back from writing about unusual or weird things or adding some humor into the music. I’m also a big fan of breaking rules in music theory and to add as many “blue notes” as I can without making it too dissonant. That being said, I write because I have to get something out of my head or heart.

Videos and cover art alike, your visuals seem to be entwined harmoniously with your music. What goes into the visual aspect of the band?

Thanks, aside from the music, I’ve also been an illustrator & cartoonist for longer than I’ve been doing music. That being said, I do all the art for my band as well as art for numerous other bands and promoters all over the world including the Grateful Dead, Chris Robinson, FolkYeah Presents, Langhorne Slim & many others. As for the videos, I made about half of the ones on YouTube and the other half were done by talented people that more or less get my vibe. I love doing it all, even taking photos for the album covers. If I didn’t do music or drawing I’d get into photography and film.

The Blank Tapes by Terry Way L-R (Sal Joseph, Veronica Bianqui, Matt Adams, Sam Faw)

What is the relationship between all of the band members? How did The Blank Tapes manifest?

I came up with the band name in Los Angeles back in 2003 before I even really had a band. I was located in San Francisco & Oakland from 2004 to 2011 then I came back to Los Angeles and now I’m 2 hours east in Joshua Tree but I’m still kinda based out of LA. I seem to change or add a few band members every couple of years depending on where I’m living. The size ranges from a 3-5 piece band with members located all over California and even Austin, Texas, Brazil & Germany. Currently I have Veronica Bianqui singing and playing rhythm guitar and keyboard with me. She’s been in the band for over 4 years now. On drums we have Sal Joseph who’s been in the band for over a year. I met him when we were both playing in Veronica’s band. On bass is the newest member of the band, Sam Faw, from the SF bay area formerly of The Electric Magpie.

What does California as an entity lend to your music?

I grew up by the beach, briefly lived in the woods, visited the neighboring mountains and am currently living in the high desert, so I’ve been soaking up the different landscapes of California all my life. I love the beauty and the pop culture of this state. Great cities and towns, amazing music and art and a pretty diverse kind of people. I think the laid back west coast attitude has just become a part of my being. I love traveling and visiting the world but California is definitely home.

That being said, I’m actually writing this from a janky old computer in Guatemala’s 2nd biggest city, Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela.

What do you see for the future of psychedelic music?

Hard to say. It seems lately the trend went from ’60s psych to ’70s rock and yacht rock. I’ve always been a bit in my own world not paying too much attention to what other artists are doing. As far as I’m concerned, the kind of psychedelic music I’m interested in is less about effects and recording tricks and more about melodies, chord sequences, rhythmic shifts and new lyrical ideas. That being said, psychedelic music has always been just one aspect of my music. I equally love soul, folk, surf & pop music. A simple song can hit me just as hard as a crazy psych one that melts your face off.

Matt Adams of The Blank Tapes

I have a couple of guesses, but who influences you the most musically and what is it specifically you draw from them?

As a teenager it was the Beatles, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Leonard Cohen, CCR, Velvet Underground as well as some slightly more modern influences like Beck, the Clash, Frank Black and stuff like that. My first favorite band as a kid was Guns N’ Roses. Like I said about some of the older music, those writers had such a knack for catchy melodies. I loved the guitar playing of Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and even Slash so that got me wanting to solo although initially I had somewhat of a punk rock attitude about not really playing solos. Now I fully embrace my shredabilities and push it as far as I can every performance. I love the humor of Beck and Ray Davies of the Kinks and the poetry of Leonard Cohen. CCR and the Velvet Underground’s rhythm is the beat of my heart.

There’s some great modern bands too but as studies have shown you develop most of your lifelong musical tastes as a teenager and young adult. John Lennon said something about either you’re listening to music or you’re making music, and I have too many songs floating in my head for me to absorb too much else of what other people are doing.

Who are your influences outside of music?

As I’ve mentioned, visual art has been a huge part of my life since I could hold a crayon. I have a song on Soundcloud called “William Wray” about an artist I’ve been working for on and off since the early 2000’s. He worked on “Ren & Stimpy” and I assisted him on a comic strip for MAD Magazine for a few years. In the song I mention most of my art heroes like Sam Keith, Bill Watterson, some of the Looney Tunes guys, etc. Most people say my style reminds them of R. Crumb or Rick Griffin but I actually didn’t get into them ’til much much later in my life once I had more or less developed my own style. Bill (William) Wray definitely had a huge impact on my artistic approach and drawing technique having worked under him for so long.

Outside of art, I love movie directors like Paul Thomas Anderson (which I had the amazing opportunity to be an extra in his film “Inherent Vice”), Stanley Kubrick and the Coen Brothers (who doesn’t!). So many other influences in this world. I eat, drink and dream music so I try to broaden my horizons when I can so I’m not completely 2 dimensional.

It’s more than apparent that The Blank Tapes effortlessly transmits joy with its music, both live and recorded. What is it you aim to imprint on your audience in both settings?

For live shows I’m trying to keep the mood upbeat for the most. I remember seeing Radiohead at a festival years ago and I was sickened by the crowd singing along to the end of
Exit Music (For a Film)” or whatever it’s called from “OK Computer.” The whole crowd was singing “I hope that you choke” and I’m thinking, what a fucked up thing to have so many people collectively singing such a negative message. I like Radiohead to an extent and I know the audience was enjoying the song, but given the power Thom Yorke had, I’d much rather it be a different kind of message.

I saw Paul McCartney at Dodger Stadium last month and people were crying all around me because they were overwhelmed with his message of love he chose to share with the audience. I know we’re all multifaceted complex humans and I get depressed and angry like most but given the opportunity to share a message publicly comes a certain responsibility. Some audiences don’t care about what they’re hearing but I do. I love melancholy music like Leonard Cohen and a lot of those old country singers but to me there’s a feeling of hope in there. I literally cried like a baby when Leonard Cohen died as I was listening to his music. I guess it’s all relative, my old art school roommate thought he was the most depressing sounding guy I ever but to me it came from a place of love.

With technology completely overtaking the airwaves in every pop genre, what is it about an analog feel that’s important for you to respect and convey?

One regret I have about my band name is that I’m now pigeonholed to being an analog purist. A lot of my latest records were completely digital like my last full length album “Candy.” my most recent EP was half analog and half digital. My band started off as more of an analog recording project after I got disenchanted with the endless options of recording digitally. I wanted to change my approach from countless overdubs to just adding what’s essential. Over the years I’ve felt limited by only using 8 or 16 tracks (24 seems to be a good amount but I rarely have access to a 24 track tape machine). My approach over the last 10 years has been to do whatever I want as long as it sounds good to me and the music is coming across the way I want it to. I pay for pretty much all of my recordings myself so I have to just work with what I can do myself or what I can afford. I love what you can do with digital technology and I love the sound and approach of analog technology, be it music or film or whatever. Now it’s all about the marriage of the two while analog still exists in some capacity.

Who’s your dream collab?

I don’t know. I used to love Beck but I haven’t been a fan of what he’s been doing lately. I think he’s a great producer when he’s not doing his cookie cutter radio pop. I toured with Jonathan Wilson across the USA but haven’t gotten a chance to record with him. I like to work with people who come from the same school of rock as me so I can trust that they’ll have great ideas.

With your impressive catalogue of music, you seem to have evolved gradually and consistently from album to album. What’s in store for The Blank Tapes going forward?

I have 5 albums that I’m currently working on with about 200 additional songs to record. One is finished, another is almost done and the others are in different stages. I literally have my work cut out for me until I’m dead. The next album is our most hard rocking yet with my most ambitious guitar work. The one after that is more of a classic psych pop record covered in strings. I have a cosmic Americana double album recorded mostly live with pedal steel that I can’t wait to release. Tons of other songs that I love and can’t wait to share, but it’s just so damn time consuming doing it all mostly myself that I can’t get them out fast enough. I envy bands like King Gizzard and CCR back in the day that could release 3 albums in a year. I’d happily release an album a month if I could. Some say I should edit myself more, but that’s not really a concern of mine. I’d rather release as much as I can and let the audience figure out what they like.

Robot uprising or ape overlords; which are you expecting and which would you prefer?

Well, if you’ve seen “Terminator 2,” you know that’s not going to end well. There’s still a fighting chance against some apes.

Bumblefest, with 37 bands on 6 stages for two nights, is Friday, September 13 and Saturday, September 14 in the 500 block of Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach. Admission is 18+. Doors open 7pm Friday and 5pm Saturday. Two-day Early Bee Tickets are available at ~ Freddie Zandt