Interview: Roy Blair on 'Cat Heaven' and what's next.
Roy Blair’s ‘Cat Heaven’ as he calls it, is to be a “forever coming of age,” and after releasing the criminally underrated album last year, the album’s fanbase is continuing to grow, nearly a year on from its release.
Having just released one song this year (‘Dennis’) on the sixth month anniversary of the album, and playing a few one-off shows in Los Angeles and New York City, Blair revealed to us that he doesn’t feel ready to work on his next project, while his full attention is still placed on the world of ‘Cat Heaven’, having just dropped a music video for ‘Happy’.
While in Los Angeles, Coup De Main caught up with Roy Blair to talk about the upcoming re-release of ‘Cat Heaven’, his aspirations as an artist, and more…
...the most exciting part is anticipating it, and the most fun part. Then when you get the record of course it’s a good release and the music is good and you get to live with it, but there’s nothing as special as the anticipation before a project comes out, if you're a big fan.
[Roy's hair done using Good Dye Young's Poser Paste in Blue Ruin - click here for more information.]
COUP DE MAIN: How was your recent New York show? Do you have plans to play more shows soon?
ROY BLAIR: The New York show was good, but I felt like it could've been better. It was my fault because I didn't prepare well enough for it like I did for the LA show, because I was busy before the show and I thought, ‘Oh, we're just doing the same set,’ and then I started rehearsing a week before the show and it just felt like we weren't as tight as we were in LA as a band. But I have four shows at the end of the year that we're about to do that I'm definitely going to prepare for a lot more.
CDM: Do you always find yourself being hard on yourself in terms of when you play a show and how you feel it went?
ROY: Yeah, but I don't think I have to do like the best job in the world to be satisfied, I don't think I have to kill it. I think basically the idea is to like surpass the audience’s expectations by any amount and then as long as their expectations are more than what they anticipated, then I've done something substantial and memorable. But if I do what they expected or less, then I feel kinda bad.
CDM: You played a new song with the line, “I wish I had a reason to feel this way.” Is it a new song that you’ve written since releasing ‘Cat Heaven’?
ROY: Yeah, we did that in June. We made a few songs in June we’re gonna flesh out, that was one of them, and I just wanted to give New York something new because I gave Los Angeles something new back when ‘Dennis’ wasn’t out, so that song is probably going to come out. The other ones we did probably aren’t, I'm not very interested in releasing new music right now.
CDM: Has your writing process changed since releasing ‘Cat Heaven’?
ROY: I would say it’s not very different, I think I know how to write a better song at this point but the way I approach it is similar, but I don't know if I'm ready to write another record.
CDM: A lot of artists these days don't place enough importance on having time off between things - there’s a constant expectations from fans to have a flow of releases.
ROY: Yeah, I can't do it. I feel like right now it's been a whole year of promoting ‘Cat Heaven’ and celebrating that record and trying to do as much as I can with it to set myself up for the next record. My heart doesn't really feel in a new place because I'm talking about the last record, because I'm doing videos for the last record and doing shows for the last record - it doesn't feel like I can start something new. I totally agree with you, it makes it a little less special when people aren't really thinking about what the next thing is in full form.
CDM: The visuals that accompany Roy Blair - from merch, to artwork, to music videos, all seem to live in this world that you’ve created. Is having a cohesive art-form something that you find super important?
ROY: I think it’s very important - I think it’s one of the most important things aside from music. All the artists I grew up idolising and being invested in, they built a universe and built a world and I really thought I knew who they were. Every song means something, when you really care about the artist, or you care about the world.
CDM: You released ‘Dennis’ on the six month anniversary of ‘Cat Heaven’, what was it about that song that made you want to share it with fans?
ROY: I think it's catchy. It was one of the few songs that I finished and felt like it extended the ‘Cat Heaven’ universe well. I felt like I didn't want to release new music in the sense of a new sound or new style, I wanted to put something out that was like an extension of ‘Cat Heaven’ and it felt really right at the time.
CDM: Was it written at the same time as ‘Cat Heaven’?
ROY: Afterwards, probably a couple of weeks after I put the record out.
CDM: In our interview earlier this year as part of our must-know feature, you said you wanted to release some more music later this year. What can you tell us about new Roy Blair music?
ROY: I think it's good, I think the few songs I might release are building on that record, it’s not a new thing yet, it feels like it’s still building, but it does feel like a step forward. The songs that I’ve made recently feel like songs that could be on ‘Cat Heaven’ but maybe just a bit more interesting, a bit more like something I made afterwards.
CDM: Like a gradual progression?
ROY: It's definitely a progression but not like the next level. I really like artists and idolise artists who take things to next levels, so they drop a record, and it might them take three years to drop another record but when they do it, you feel like artistically they have taken a new step forward. Like when Kendrick Lamar goes from ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ to ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ to ‘DAMN.’ it feels like a building block, and they’re big blocks. It feels like a very tall staircase, but only a few steps. I want to be one of those artists, so, in due time. It just takes time.
CDM: I feel like you also appreciate it more when you have to wait a little longer between artists releasing stuff.
ROY: Before ‘Blonde’ came out, I was so obsessed with the idea of ‘Blonde’. When I'm really anticipating a record, I think about what the songs are going to sound like, I research the people that have been working on it and listen to their music, and then I try to figure out what it's gonna sound like, so it's like piecing it together in my mind. I think that inspires the music, before the record even comes out. It’s kind of an interesting piece of inspiration.
CDM: Every time I see people in a studio together that are separately artists I love, I always am so anticipating hearing what it’s going to sound like.
ROY: That wait is important. I feel like I'm never 100% satisfied with the final product, but in a funny way, this is such a cliché thing to say, but it’s like, the most exciting part is anticipating it, and the most fun part. Then when you get the record of course it’s a good release and the music is good and you get to live with it, but there’s nothing as special as the anticipation before a project comes out, if you're a big fan.
CDM: A lot of ‘Cat Heaven’ is written about really personal moments in your life, but there’s also songs like ‘Perfume’, which you’ve said was you trying really hard to write a love song. Do you prefer to write about things that you’ve experienced first-hand, as opposed to something you haven’t?
ROY: My favourite music is very descriptive, it’s like incredible imagery, it paints such a picture, you hear a line and you're just like, ‘Whoah!’ That doesn't always necessarily need to be like, ‘I was on this street at this time, doing this,’ but if you go, ‘I was on this street and I felt some type of way’ that everyone can relate to then that’s a crazy thing to hear on a song. You don't have to ever have been on that street, but you being like, ‘Wow, that artist really exists in a place,’ it’s not just all this made-up world, I think that's super important. So when I have songs that are really detailed, I think it’s a balance, is what I am trying to say. I think it’s cool to write a song like ‘Perfume’ where there are moments where I am referencing things specifically, but overall the feeling of the song and the meaning of the song wasn’t something I was experiencing at the time, but maybe I wanted, but not something I was experiencing.
CDM: Have you watched the 'Why Isn't Anyone Listening to Roy Blair?' video on YouTube? It has over 60,000 views!
ROY: I have, it's cute! It was really cute. I'm usually really hard on those video essays where it’s a white dude talking about hip-hop. I’ve had issues with those videos, not his specifically, but just video essays, like ‘Why You Should Pay Attention To 'Rick and Morty' and it’s something obvious that I didn’t need to waste seven minutes on. That was a very specific topic and I think it was really cool to see someone dive into my art. You make a record with as much care and attention as I did, in the hope that people will digest it and tear it apart and point at things like, ‘Wow this is like an interesting thing,’ and dissect it. Maybe I wish I saw it more, but it was really cool to see him do it for a few minutes.
CDM: What else do you have planned for 2018 at the moment?
ROY: I have got a video for ‘Happy’, that's coming out soon. I’m gonna do a few more merch lines and I have a mini-tour at the end of the year and that’s gonna be awesome and hopefully I'll get at least one more song out before the end of the year, and I’m re-releasing ‘Cat Heaven’ too. It’s gonna be fun.
CDM: You tweeted: “i wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for kevin abstract either... he taught me so much. one of the most important and inspiring people i’ve met on my life path.” What were some of the most important lessons that Kevin taught you?
ROY: You know, he said to me once, 'I don't think any music is impactful without something packaging with it visually in today’s age. I don't think there's any point to release just a song without a video.’ I think that’s super important, I think about that all the time. I think just the sentiment, when I first was listening to his music, I had sort of not really been paying attention to music - I gave up on it, I didn't know anyone my age creating who idolises the same people as me, and I saw his music and I was like, ‘Dude, why do I have this voice in my head telling me I can't do this too, telling me I can't do it the way I want to, I should just do it.’ He also told me, ‘Sometimes less is more,’ I definitely didn't think about that until he brought it up. When we're talking he always has something that I take to heart and think about every time I'm making music.
Roy Blair’s album ‘Cat Heaven’ is out now - click here to purchase, and watch the ‘Happy’ music video below…