In Austin, Texas, there's a manmade lake called Lake Travis, and sometimes, depending on the fluctuating tide, small islands can be seen poking out of the lake. These part-time islands are the inspiration behind the Los-Angeles based (via Austin) multi-instrumentalist and producer Matt Blankenship Jr's moniker. "I thought it was a good metaphor for sometimes it’s just a one-man band, and sometimes I have a bunch of people with me," Blankenship explains about the meaning behind his latest endeavor, an indie electro-pop project, threaded with summer vibes. While we recently chatted with the well-versed musician, we heard about his upcoming EP, his journey as a musician, his tour survival tips, and more. Get to know The Sometimes Island now!
He Decided To Do Music As A Profession at 14 Years Old
Blankenship’s musical journey stretches all the way back to the age of 7 or 8, when he says he asked his dad to let him play drums. “My dad was pretty smart. He was like well, I’ll get you this little drum practice pad and as soon as you can do a drum roll, I’ll think about getting you a drum set and getting you drum lessons. I was like 7 or 8 and I had no idea how to do a drum roll,” Blankenship recalls. As the story continues, his dad then offered him piano lessons, which he continued to learn for about seven years. Blankenship reveals that he’s since been dedicated to music 100 percent for more than half his life, saying, “I think I was around 14 when I was like ok, I think I’m just gonna do this for the rest of my life, as a profession. I’m 30 now.”
It's been a winding road since then, with other bands and past projects, but Blankenship describes the formation of The Sometimes Island as a natural progression. "These songs...this project in general has been something that I started working on about three years ago. I was in another group at the time, that was much more electronic leaning. This was my way to have an outlet to make this beachy kind of catchy music. I have bubble gum in my veins. I love a good pop song, so I was writing these [songs] and they weren’t a good fit for the band I was in. It came down to that band breaking up and me focusing on this full time for the last year," he says.
He's Focused On The Community Around His Music
Having played music in the buzzing scene that is Los Angeles for more than 11 years, Blankenship says he's learned a thing or two about the business side of things. "I spend more time marketing myself than making music. Which to make enough music just means that I do this constantly," he confesses. He continues to share his wisdom, adding, "The biggest lesson I’ve learned is you can make a Facebook event and invite people to a concert, but if you just do stuff that works on a small scale, like calling a friend and saying 'Hey, I have this show. Would you like to come?' That’s the kind of hustle that you have to do to get people to actually go." Blankenship emphasizes the overflowing market in Los Angeles, saying you really have to go above and beyond to create something unique and memorable. "In this town especially there’s no shortage of really talented musicians, and they’re all playing shows and you have to create an environment where people want to go to your show not just because the music but because there’s like a comradery. And the other people who come see you play kind of create a little scene, and that’s how you get something going. Rather than just being like hey this is a really good song, listen to it! People will listen to it and forget about it. But if you create a community, then you have something going," Blankenship advises.
He Hoards and Repurposes Old Material
So while Blankenship may have started writing material for The Sometimes Island years ago, it doesn't mean he's released all of it. In fact, Blankenship reveals that he obsessed over the songs on the upcoming EP, called Bad People. He elaborates on the EP songs, saying "I spent way too long on these songs. They’ve been around for so long and I didn’t have anyone to bounce musical feedback off at the time. I obsessed over them, and they’re good for it, but I learned a lot about just writing off the cuff and improvising. Just because I worked on something for 10 hours doesn’t make it better than something that came from maybe 15 minutes. I’m really hard on my music and I’m actually proud of these songs, which is saying a lot for me."
Blankenship also reveals that he saves the material that he hasn't deemed as ready for release. "There’s also a huge value in tying a bow on something and saying this is done and listening to it objectively. If a song isn’t good, then you don’t have to release it. But if it’s pretty good, you might have worked all the good out of it had you kept going. If you make a crappy song that has a really good part, I’m very into cannibalizing my old material for a new song. There’s some parts of songs where I’ve been like this would work really well, and I never released that old song...," he says.
African Funk Music Is His Jam
Blankenship talks about his influences, saying, "I spend a lot of time looking back on the past. There’s a lot of great music out right now, but The Beach Boys are a huge inspiration to me. I’ve been putting a lot of harmonies and vocal soundscapes into my music. I love the sound of chillwave from around 2009."
As far as his favorite music just to listen to and absorb, Blankenship gives props to the genre of African Funk music. "As far as new stuff that’s coming out...I don’t even really know what’s new anymore with Spotify. If a song is new to me I’m like did it come out a week ago? A year ago? I’ve been really into trying to get out of my pop music space, so I’ve been listening to a lot of African Funk. Which is great music to have on. The songs are extremely long, really jammy. It’s great music to just sort of have on while you’re doing other things, but it’s also great to listen to directly. African Funk, man, that’s been my jam."
He Stays Tame During Tour
Blankenship will be hitting the road at the end of July and early August, but he admits the tour won't be all that wild. "I’d love to do the whole rock’n’roll party all the time thing, but I gotta make sure I’m not drinking too much, I’m getting enough sleep. Because this tour is particularly packed. It’s one gig after another. And if I’m tired for one, chances are I’ll be tired for the next one. I have all the time in the world to party when I’m not on tour. So I’m very regimented about it." As far as which cities he's most excited to play in, he says, "I’m definitely excited for all of them. I don’t want to sell anyone short. I’m particularly excited for the Seattle gig because I’ll get to play a show with my good friend Claire George. So I’d say that one I’m particularly excited about."
Blankenship also gives a teaser about some of the songs that will be included in the setlist this tour, saying, "I think 'Bad People' is a lot of fun. That’s gonna come out as a single in a couple weeks, and it’s the namesake of the EP. It allows me to go off on a bunch of crazy vocal stuff. And I really enjoy playing a quieter song that will come out on the EP that’s called 'Mornings Are The Worst,' that’s just sort of very acoustic. I don’t really believe that mornings are the worst. I wrote it on a morning where I hadn’t slept at all, so the sun rising was a bit of a bummer. That’s a song that just sort of wrote itself. It became sort of a critique of who I was at that time, in retrospect."