INTERVIEW: The Sometimes Island On ‘Bad People’ and Living The DIY Life
Upon first listen of LA’s The Sometimes Island a few images come to mind: summer, a secluded beach and the future of synthpop. The moniker of Austin-born musician, Matt Blankenship Jr, The Sometimes Island specializes in dreamy soundscapes with hard-hitting lyrical content meant to make you stop and think in the midst of a party. New EP, Bad People – released just last month – is a surefire hit and meant to be played at full volume during all of your summer soirees.
We caught up with Blankenship to chat about music scenes, Bad People and his views on the DIY life.
You’re originally from Austin but now reside in LA. What differences have you noticed about each city’s music scenes? Do you feel LA best represents what you’re trying to convey?
Austin and LA have very different flavors. I came to LA, like a lot of aspiring artists, to be where the industry is and give myself the best chance to make it as a musician. Today, a lot of people are moving to Austin for the same reason. Austin will always be my home and where my heart lives, but I’ve learned to love LA too. The thing is, LA is so many different places. It’s huge. There’s a negative stereotype of LA — a blind hunger for fame — that people refer to when talking about the city, and that’s just one aspect of this crazy, amazing & diverse place. I’ve met so many different people and learned so much here. There are also beaches and palm trees. So to answer your question, sort of.
Your new EP, Bad People, reminds me a bit of MGMT meets the tropical elements of St. Lucia — perfect for this time of year. What was your initial vision when starting The Sometimes Island? Has that vision/sound changed since forming?
I’ve always wondered what it would be like if MGMT and St. Lucia had a baby together, but were too busy touring and The Beach Boys ended up raising her. My sound will evolve over time, but it’s pretty cool where it is now. My initial vision was to create the best music I can, by myself, and do everything. So far I’ve done that. I see now how overextending and crazy that is. So, yes the vision has changed…for the better…and I’m excited to put a full band together with amazing, creative people that challenge me like I challenge them. It’s better together.
I find it to be so cool that you played coffee houses with Banks during your college years! What a small world. You’ve also shared the stage with Alien Ant Farm & Fred Falke. What would you say each of those artists has taught you about yourself and what kind of musician you want to be?
I am in awe of Banks and so happy that she is getting the recognition she has always deserved. It kind of blew my mind the first time I saw her at Coachella…she’s doing it! She’s really actually up there right now and doing this!! The second time I saw her at Coachella, her show had evolved into something new and completely her. She’s no longer playing her songs, she’s delivering an experience. Her voice and her songs have always been great and now her outfits, dancers and the production are truly something to witness. She’s taught me that no one will believe in you unless you believe in yourself.
I love the raw honesty of “Mornings Are The Worst.” Which song off of Bad People is your favorite? Which was the hardest to construct?
Thank you!! “Mornings Are The Worst” is one of my favorites too. Do I have to pick a favorite? The other songs will be jealous, and they’re my kids… still growing up. For the first time, I played and sang “Can’t Move On” on an acoustic piano last night and I learned a little bit more about it. It’s funny because that song, or rather the synth part during the explosion bridge, was definitely the hardest thing to make. I spent entire days crafting it, and when I finally got it I broke down emotionally. I was like…this part is so important and everyone needs to hear it. Now it sits comfortably behind the vocal, not even the focus of that part of the song. As a songwriter, your songs continue to surprise you.
It’s no secret that the DIY life is the way to go in the industry these days. What would you say are your biggest frustrations producing your own music, if any? What are your favorite parts of not having to rely on someone else in your ear?
It really is, isn’t it? I will be at the CD Baby DIY Musicians Conference in Nashville. It’s funny that no one wants to be signed anymore. The big players in the music industry had been accumulating some bad karma. Now we have to do this on our own terms, which is actually amazing. I’m enjoying the journey and not really frustrated. The freedom to create without arbitrary rules is really nice.
What can listeners look forward to in the coming months? Any more new music, videos or tours we should look out for?
There’s a video coming out in the next couple months. Lots of touring on the horizon too, I’ll be playing shows not just in California over the next few months but also Texas, Denver and NYC. I want to say sleep is overrated, but it’s clearly amazing and I need more of it. There are some new singles waiting for their time to shine and I’m so, so excited for them.