I sat down with Blackbear (Mat Musto) a year after our first interview after his performance in Eugene, OR as part of the All I Wanna Do tour, featuring headliner T.Mills. His debut album, The Afterglow comes out on 4/20.
-- It's been a solid year since we've done an interview - what's the most significant things that've happened in the last year?
Well, making my album and re-making my album and so-forth. Learning has been a huge thing. I dunno, [thinking about] questions like “What the fuck story do I want to tell that no one has told before”, “Why am I here and what's the point of life?”...questions like that. That's pretty much what's changed - went broke, got rich, now we're eatin'.
Unless I'm mistaken, you didn't tour a whole lot last year.
No, I only did LA shows.
I remember last time we spoke, you mentioned that one of your biggest goals in 2013 was to tour and build some recognition for yourself.
Yeah, these kind of shows are perfect, exactly what I was envisioning - 500 to 1000 cap rooms, sometimes a little bit bigger. Really just kind of hitting the markets and seeing the kids and singing with them, because it's really just been the internet [up until now].
You're currently doing this west coast run with T.Mills - why does this tour make sense for you as an artist? I've always thought I'd see you out with Machine Gun Kelly, Issues or a Roy English tour. Why this tour?
This tour specifically? Me and Travis click really well, and we're good homies - every time we see each other, we talk, smoke, and never actually get around to doing shit. So that's why we've gotta spend a lot of time together, we gotta get work done too. We're five days in, and we already did three songs on his bus and then I've been recording in my hotels.
These songs you recorded with him, are they for an album or a mixtape?
I recorded the intro to my album today, finished it, and sent it over to the guys Basecamp, who I'm actually co-producing the album with. I'm opened up enough to actually someone in, and I really respect what they're all about. If you're not familiar with Basecamp, they just got off tour with Chvrches.
Is there an ideal tour that you're envisioning for this year? Maybe like a MOD SUN tour?
Yeah! A MOD SUN tour would be cool…
He's actually on the other half of this tour as well.
Yes, officially doing the entire "All I Wanna Do" tour.
What sort of artistic direction are you striving for with this short film?
If I could put it into a couple words? “Hotel California” like, all the titles of The Afterglow are named after California things - “Grey LA”, “Valley Girls”, “Hotel Andria”. The in-betweens are about the bell desk and the lobby. It's practically a 4 song EP with four interludes, so it feels like 8 songs, it's this really long progressive thing. I just started writing the treatment for it, we're shooting where they did “The Devil's Rejects” in Lancaster, so it's going to be that kind of vibe, as if I collaborated with Rob Zombie.
The Afterglow is set to come out on 4/20/14 - has that changed, or is that still the date?
Yeah, that's definitely still the date.
Is it going to be released independently?
I guess we'll see, haha!
How do you plan on releasing this? iTunes? Soundcloud?
We're trying for Netflix.
Have you met with them before?
No. We might just sell it as a music video on iTunes which is the same price as an EP, so for $5 you get a 22-minute short film, that'll be cool.
Ideally, after someone listens to this for the first time, what should they take away from it?
I guess it depends on whether they're listening, or watching. If they're watching, they'll probably just become fans like people become fans of authors, books, or directors. It's more of a piece that you take what you can from it, like a museum piece. In this album, it's all real, 100% of it - the first song is called “New Years Eve”, and there's voice notes from this past NYE where I was out on drugs and alcohol.
Where were you on NYE?
Studio City across from Universal in Hollywood, I was at a party. It starts at the end, and the girl that's the reoccurring one in the movie is not there, and I'm all by myself watching these fireworks, and nobody knows they're there. I'm capturing the moment while I'm there, and I made this song to let them know that I was thinking of them and this is the introduction the album.
You had mentioned that you didn't experience a lot of growth from the EP to the Mixtape, citing that you paid more attention to what was playing on the radio. Surely you've grown a lot from the mixtape to this album…
I've grown so much it's almost intimidating. I've raised the bar so fucking high for myself and pushed this album back twice already because I kept setting the bar higher and higher. I have to have a reason to put this album out - it's not a mixtape, it's a new…I'm viewing it as my debut release. The mixtape is off Spotify, and I didn't plan on putting it back. I plan on pretty much starting everything off with this album.
With Spotify, did you receive a lot of positive buzz from having your mixtape on there?
I experienced a lot of positive money from Spotify, they pay more than Pandora. For anyone reading this, I'm sorry I don't have a Pandora station, I've been turning them down for a minute. I don't want a Pandora station because when I got the first paycheck back from [Justin Bieber's] “Boyfriend”, which got 31 MILLION plays in the first month, and I got $120 of it…I own a quarter of that song. 31 Million plays and I got $120?
I'm assuming you're going by yourself on this album, no features whatsoever.
I have that collaborative thing between Basecamp and because they're in a way DJ rooted, and they've already done a bunch of BBC mixes, and they remixed a lot of songs. Their EP was a lot like what I'm doing where it's just one song, and I was like “You know what, I want to do that, let's do that for me…only more R&B/Alternative”. You can hear the influence from Usher to Alkaline Trio. That's kind of the thing behind it, the carefree “whatever” vibe I have to this album definitely shows the “punk rock” side to it.
Can you explain the significance of Alkaline Trio to you as a person? I know you have a tattoo on your arm.
Since I fell in love with them in middle school, I've always wanted to get their logo tattooed, it's one of the sickest logos. They were like the “dark Blink-182” for me. I've always kind of felt like a darker person - not to be goth or anything, but I felt personally connected to them as a fan, they might've been one of the first bands that I felt like I was a part of something.
Were there any other bands in the genre that you felt connected to?
Yeah, that whole period of my life…I was a little bit into ska, but besides that, I listened to a lot of Anti-Flag, Rancid, and even like Comeback Kid. There was Millencolin, Midtown, the throwbacks. I definitely have that type of influence, and once I finally started making my own solo music I fell more in love with this….I could just see a future where this music that I love so much could translate to everyone, but I realized that it was loud and not pleasing to everyone; so I decided to make music that had the same type of messages and feeling but has cool production.
All those bands you listed are sort of in the “Warped Tour” genre, or at least were at some point. Did you grow up going to Warped?
Yeah, my first one was when I was 14 years old, and it was the year that Rancid, The Used, and The Starting Line were playing. I was front row when Rancid played, and I actually passed out from dehydration and I woke up in the medic tent.
Could you see yourself playing that tour, even if it's for a few weeks? Your buddy [Mike] Posner even did it for a summer, as I'm sure you remember.
I'm scared of what I'm doing artistically because I'm scared that the other brands like Warped don't fit with mine anymore. I've already kind of envisioned something more artistically advanced where it's kind of something why someone like Frank Ocean wouldn't play Warped.
Well, Mike had just put out “Cooler Than Me” when he did the tour, and perhaps you're approaching that point right now…
Yeah, and they had asked me to start doing Warped Tour stuff the year before last, I went to Kevin Lyman's house - Posner's manager actually brought me there and they were like “we want to pass the torch and have you play”. I didn't feel like I was ready two years ago, I was still making the mixtape. I would be ready for it now, but at the same time, I just…my vibes are different. I don't really play the “sunny, jump up and down” music anymore as much, the album is more progressive - I'd rather play a movie theater.
I was looking through Rdio recently, and “The Afternoon” was a single that just dropped a few days ago. Is this song a transition point between the Mixtape and what the album is?
Exactly. But I assure you that The Afterglow is nothing like any of that. It's cool because I'm getting people warmed up to the weirder shit that I'm going to be doing, but at the same time, people will be very taken by this.
I think it's funny, because people had such a weird reaction to the Matt Theissen (Relient K) track on the mixtape.
Oh, “Cold Coffee”?
Yeah, because a lot of the Relient K fans were like “Oh, why would you work with this guy who names his mixtape SEX?! I thought you were different, Matt…”
I don't know, Matt is at a point in his life…nobody has made more of an example of what Jesus would be like than he has. Of course we're all sinners and everything, and I'm not saying he's not a sinner, but he doesn't really care who judges him - he knows that God judges him. And I think that he liked the song, liked my voice, and just wanted to help a friend out. Every since we worked on that, we have stayed pretty close - I'm glad we did it. At the same time though, I'm sorry to the fans that wanna talk shit.
Can we expect you on any singles or albums aside from your own stuff? I know Posner has Sky High coming out maybe this year…I don't really know anymore.
Well, I did a bunch of stuff with him on that album writing-wise, I got a great one with him and Bieber. But I sang on a new Machine Gun Kelly song for his new album, hopefully that one makes it, I've been working close with him. I have a bunch of shit with T.Mills coming out.
I dunno, feature-wise, I've been kind of fucking with people that I feel are cool, and makes sense to work with. I'll get a feature from an artist that's a producer, and it won't have vocals in their track, and that'll be their feature, you know? I have some things coming out on Soundcloud for the Hypem type of fans.
Wrapping up, let's pretend that we're at the very end of this year and it's gone your way. What sort of things have happened to make that statement true? The album comes out…what else?
I'm being considered at the Grammy offices for an award? I mean, I'm so wrapped up in good vibes and visuals and things that I think about all day, I don't know. I don't think about people or things like that. I make stories in my head all day, I can't really explain it though. Looking back though, I know I'll be proud, because I'm proud at the end of every year because I work really hard. There's a bunch of things in the works, God has really blessed me for this year, I just hope I can keep him happy.