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Matt Adams of the Blank Tapes is one of those people who sounds as if he's running a mile a minute, even via email—and that's not a bad thing if you're leading a band that has been all over the place—or at least all over the state. Having started performing in Orange County years ago, before getting things fully going with his band in San Francisco, Adams and the current lineup of his crew of psych/garage/frug performers are back, leading the regular Monday-night Detroit Bar residency for this month. As Adams notes, although he had been thinking of it for a few years, he finally moved back to Southern California for a good reason: "I met Pearl Charles, an LA girl with a beautiful voice who now plays in my band."
He continues, "I still tour up to the Bay Area at least once a month, so it's like I never left."
Keeping his band together has always been a struggle. "It never gets easier," Adams says. "That's why I have a different lineup almost every show, and the only constant member is me—although lately, I've been playing with a pretty regular cast. Keeping things fresh by playing the songs a little differently, with different players, is part of what keeps it exciting."
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Said freshness might explain why the Blank Tapes have been releasing a steady stream of albums over the years, including 2010's enjoyable Home Away From Home, a good taste of Adams' magpie-like ear for the 1960s. He ascribes it to both a learning experience over the years and a willingness to go back and start over.
"Some of my earlier albums felt like mixtapes—with different artists from different genres—because I've always been just as into writing mellow acoustic folk ballads as I have been into writing psychedelic riff rock," Adams says. "[I hope that] whatever I do, my singing, songwriting and playing style are distinct enough."
After spending years up north, is Adams now wiser? "A lot of my newer songs are more humorous, which is something I used to do when I first started," he says. "Fairly odd things seem to come to my mind, and before I know it, I've written a song about it. That's how songs such as 'Puppy Cuddles,' 'Brown Chicken Brown Cow' and 'The Biggest Blunt In Brazil' came about. Although funny music is dangerous territory, certain writers such as Ray Davies and Stephen Merritt do it amazingly well!"
Following the Detroit Bar residency, the Blank Tapes will return to the Bay Area, but they'll soon be back, with Adams all fired up by the change of scenery.
"It seems SoCal has been up to some really cool stuff while I've been away, what with all the festivals and shows out in the desert. Also, it seems the lo-fi, '60s/surf/garage/soul/rock music scene is huge right now, which is great—much bigger than in the Bay Area. Since I've been back, momentum has been picking up, and things have been snowballing! I'm spreading the word that I'm back in town and ready to rock!"
This article appeared in print as "Prodigal Son: Matt Adams' Blank Tapes are back from Northern California, making another go at it in Orange County."