He was among the first people I met when the door to this year’s Parlour was opened up for me by Steve Taylor. He’s proficient at every instrument necessary to make a complete album (and others beyond), and he has a mountain of tapes full of songs to prove it. And if you’re out hittin’ up the San Francisco rock clubs on a regular basis, you’ve probably heard him play, seen him hangin’ at the bar, or even know him personally. Meet Matt Adams of The Blank Tapes:
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Matt Adams is seemingly everywhere. I had been running into him so much since the middle of November, 2009 – when I first met him and his girlfriend after I finished filming Episode 24in Steve Taylor’s basement in Oakland – that in time, we became friendly with each other. And he seems to be friendly with so many different people, that if I hadn’t eventually made that connection, I might start to doubt my limited social skills. Or my morals, or my sanity.
In any case, what first kept bringing me into Matt’s sphere was of course the very reason this whole series exists in the first place – the music. And as we saw when filming this interview, there’s so much music in Matt’s world that it’s not exactly easy for him to get it all out there. The “piles of unreleased albums” he refers to in the interview footage above is no joke – he literally has hundreds of songs, stockpiled since he began writing in earnest in the late ’80s. And yet, to date there are only three albums of all original material and one full of covers that you’ll see at The Blank Tapes’ merch table.
But as we all know, quantity means jack if there’s no quality to back it up. With Matt drawing from the folk, rock and psychedelic music of the ’60s and ’70s as his main influences, and with a craftsman’s expertise developed over two decades of cranking out songs and committing them to multi-track analog tape, quality is not a problem in the least. With each new song he writes, he takes that craftsman’s approach of learning and knowing the process of writing and recording inside and out, marries it to the spirit of spontaneous inspiration that all the great songwriters learn how to tame in time, and voila – new songs arrive. He makes it look and sound so easy, and for him it is. But that’s because he knows and loves what he’s doing.
Though Matt tends to play most of the instruments on his recordings himself, he hasn’t quite perfected the art of playing all those parts live on stage by himself. That might take him a bit of time. So till then, he’s been playing with a rotating cast of friends and neighbors when taking his songs out on the road. As of this writing, The Blank Tapes have lately consisted of Matt on guitar plus Sean Olmstead on bass, Josh Bruner on second guitar, Will Halsey on drums, and sometimes Steve Winchell on percussion. At other times, Steve would be on bass and Sean would play second guitar. These guys not only bring Matt’s songs to life, they also help each other bring all their own songs to life in their own bands. But we’ll get into that in the next several months…
Of course, another big reason that I found myself drawn into Matt’s world is the man himself. It’s no secret around town that he’s a generous dude with positive intentions – just look at all the friends he has, and how often he’s out there helping them shine. In many ways, he’s the heart of the music community we’re exploring in this series, and yet he doesn’t have to be the super charismatic showman who’s always at the center of attention. He gives hope and inspiration to folks like myself who are soft-spoken and unassuming, yet want to continually improve our ability to give back to those we love with confidence and style. In short, he’s the complete package, and that’s why we love him.
A note about the performance:
The song featured in the performance video is one of Matt’s many unreleased tunes. “I Wanna Make It Right With You” is actually an old song, according to Matt, that started life as an inside joke between him and a friend, with lyrics about Satan masturbatin’ by the side of the road. It reminded me of the story of how Paul McCartney jotted down “scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs” as a place-holder for the melody of what eventually became “Yesterday.” And much like Paul’s classic song, “I Wanna Make It Right With You” ended up in that category of troubled love ballad, only in this case, the girl hasn’t quite gone, but it would seem that she might if the guy doesn’t change his ways. It also has one of those unforgettable chorus melodies that keeps looping in your head for days. You’ll very likely see this tune on the next Blank Tapes album, but till then, you have this solo acoustic performance to tide you over, and of course, you can check out one of the band’s live shows to hear it too.
Matt Adams, “I Wanna Make It Right With You”
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Hear more from The Blank Tapes:
Buy some music from The Blank Tapes, why don’t ya!
- Daydreams (2009) – the mp3 album at Amazon is a sweet deal: 26 songs for $6.99!
- Home Away From Home (2010) – their latest and greatest, and Michael Fortes’ #6 pick in his list of best albums of 2010.
Find out more about the band at their official website: