interview: Blasted Canyons

BLASTED CANYONS are formed by Heather Fedewa (Wax Idols), Matt Jones (Master Slash Slave), and Adam Finken, and recently put out their debut s/t record via Castle Face after forming over a year ago and playing a series of gigs with the likes of Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, and Fine Steps. For a band that lists “weed” as one of their influences, they are a trio that plays inspired, decidedly nonpassive music that lurches between hardcore and krautrock but, taken together, settles on a self-described “weird ass” amalgam that is one parts garage, one part punk, and three parts synth. Their sound has drawn references to the late Jay Reatard’s epic Tennessee outfit, Lost Sounds. We had a chance to sit with the band one evening and talk about sriracha and OKCupid.

There’s a great Lester Bangs quote where he says that “the first mistake of art is to assume it’s serious.”
HF: I was going to sum up everything by saying that this band started as a joke. And that’s how it will stay. It continues to be a joke. I mean, we love it, it’s fun, a lot of people like it but we recorded a song today, while I was eating lunch, because I had too much Sriracha. It’s called “Mouth on Fire”. It’s about eating too much Sriracha. That’s what our songs are about. It’s about nothing. Matt’s the only one who writes…

MJ: Good lyrics?

HF: Good lyrics, I guess.

MJ: You guys are making me blush. To be honest, to be able to let go, and not to have complete control over something, is I think what makes this band so good. Cause we’re all kind of like – I mean it sounds stupid to be like, this is more of a “band” band – everyone kind of writes songs, we really try to keep it loose.

HF: Yeah it’s more of a Communist band, cause we all play everything, we’re all responsible for all the gear, we all have to write songs.

AF: It’s the perfect democracy. If somebody says I don’t like this song, and somebody else says I don’t like this song, we don’t do it.

How did you guys initially meet?

HF: Well, our friend Max was doing an artist installation at the MoMa, and I was working for him and for the opening he wanted bands to play. I was just kicked out of Bare Wires, didn’t have a band anymore, actually – no – we met on John’s stoop, and  then we met at the Knockout, but we met a couple times. I was working with Jen, [Matt’s] ex-girlfriend. We became friends, and then Jen suggested we start a band together.

AF: I met Matt, 4th of July, two years ago. A month later, ironically at the Knockout, he approached me and told me to come check out this new thing he was doing with Heather. I had never met Heather, and I saw their set at Amnesia and we ended up getting together and playing a show the next night at a house party. I had one four-hour practice, five songs [before that].

How did you first show go [at their friend’s artist’s reception at the MoMa]? 

MJ: MoMa shut it down. They told us we couldn’t have a reception in here and that we definitely couldn’t have music in here. Then one of our friends pulled it together, and she said she knew someone at Matador bar, the bull-themed bar. Arrow bar? Whatever it’s called. So anyway we moved it over there, and 30 minutes later we were shredding and by 9 o’clock it was done. That was actually really fun.

Do you feel like there’s a need for something like The Smell? A DIY, all-ages venue in San Francisco?

MJ: That’s an interesting question.

HF: Yeah. We are missing something like that here. I have a legitimate teenage fan base that’s bummed they can never see me play. There are some certain warehouses, but they sound like shit and are always organized poorly.  I think it’s because a lot of people are just too busy. Or too stoned.

Adam, you are the only classically-trained musician in the band?

AF: (laughs) I took a bunch of theory classes at community college. I don’t really apply too much of it. Just little knowledge of keyboards.

HF: He knows how to transpose key signatures on keyboard, which has been a big help.

Do you guys intend to keep the same set-up where each member rotates and plays a different instrument?
AF: Yeah. We all have our weaknesses with each instrument. And we definitely don’t write songs to play to our strengths. Whatever we think will be the best combination for this particular song.

HF: We basically forced [Adam] to learn how to play drums.

AF: Basically I just model myself after Fedewa (laughs).  I try to rip her off on the drums. On the record, I play drums on one song: “Lasers versus Lizards.”

The new record’s out — is there going to be a digital format besides what’s been released with the Castle Face flexidisc? How has it been working with John Dwyer’s Castle Face Records?

MJ: Well to start out we just wanted to put out the record first. We made CDs for promo but I just think making CDs is dumb. Maybe when we repress it we’ll do digital download cards, people really like those. I didn’t really anticipate quite so much interest right off the bat – which is great. That’s where we want to be.

AF: We just like keeping it simple and working with people we are more or less close to. Matt and Heather are pretty close to John.

MJ: To be honest, to me it was ideal that Castle Face would put it out. All of their stuff has been air-tight so far. And I’ve worked with John on — basically from the beginning with Castle Face on pressing their records, taking on a bit more. John and [Brian Lee Hughes] are both pretty good friends of mine. So it’s pretty natural that it happened that way.

HF: You know we all work at Pirate Press?

That was my next question.

HF: He [Matt] really works there.

MJ: I’ve worked there for 6 years and then I got these guys jobs.  We send stuff to distributors, basically we work with labels. We’re a manufacturing broker. With the exception of flexidiscs, which we manufacture ourselves. That’s what they do and that’s what I’m in charge of now.

AF: Like that flexidisc book. It’s our book.

HF: We worked on that forever.

AF: If I ever saw anybody mistreat one I’d be like “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

Comparisons have been made to you and Lost Sounds, Jay Reatard’s former synth-punk group. Is there any special kinship you guys feel there?

HF: I got Matt into Lost Sounds. I was really close with Jay and he was a huge influence on me in many different ways. I met him through friends over the years but we really got close when I was on tour with Bare Wires, and we were in Memphis for four days and Jay was there and he kind of took me hostage and we dated for awhile but mostly we were just friends. He was a genius. So I’ve listened to the Lost Sounds for a long time – it was never my intention to sound like the Lost Sounds but when somebody takes punk, garage, pop, and weird ass synths – that’s what you get. I don’t mind. That is an absolute honor to me, to be compared to Lost Sounds in any way.

Heather what does this project mean to you in relation to Wax Idols?

HF: They basically started the same time. Wax Idols, I had been doing that by myself for years. It was kind of like a secret, personal thing. But both bands came to fruition at the same time. But what’s different for me is that with this band, like we said, we all write songs — it’s a total democracy — whereas Wax Idols is like a regime, everything is up to me. I’m able to have tunnel vision with that, whereas with this I can relax and have fun. But I have fun with Wax Idols too, I do. Its just easy for me to do both because they are so different. And I’m a multi-instrumentalist – so when it comes to playing live, I am able to play drums, synth and guitar. Honestly, [Matt and Adam] would have to call it quits. There might be a period of time in the future where we can’t be as proactive because I’m gone with Wax Idols, but I would never be like, I won’t tour with you guys because Wax Idols is it.

AF: Somehow we ended up as best friends.

HF: I would say more like a dysfunctional family.

AF: We look out for each other. We always end up ganging up on one or the other.

MJ: It’s usually me.

Where do you want to take Blasted Canyons?

HF: Japan.

MJ: Yeah Japan would be sick. I think Japan and Europe would be awesome.

HF: We just want to travel. Finken and I haven’t got to do shit. Matt’s been able to tour [with Jonesin’].

MJ: I think Europe would be possible, I think Japan would be possible. It would be cool.

HF: We’re working on an EP too. It will probably be out in the Spring.

A lot has been made about the current generation of artists that call San Francisco home. What bands are you listening to right now?

HF: Total Control is the best band in the world. They are based in Australia but I would tour with them for the rest of my life if I could. They are my favorite band on the planet right now, so good.

AF: There’s a lot of good bands up here right now. I fucking love Culture Kids, they are rad, and High Castle rules. And the cool thing about all of these bands is that everyone gets along. Everybody has to be kind of homies, there’s drama here and there, but it seems that everybody gets along pretty well.

MJ: I agree. You know what,  four or five years ago, there was nothing. There were the wackest bands playing around here.

AF: I was on OKCupid for a couple weeks, and some chick from New Zealand added me, and her whole profile listed every Bay Area band. And so I was like “hey…check out our band.”(laughs) “We PLAYED with Thee Oh Sees!”

Anything else?

MJ: Come to our show in Oakland. And we didn’t even mention the fucking Terry Malts. Hello? Amazing fucking band.

Blasted Canyons is the opening band on a stacked bill that includes Mike Donovan (Sic Alps), Royal Baths (who are moving to New York and will be playing their final show in San Francisco for awhile on August 6th at the Verdi Club), and Thee Oh Sees, at the Uptown in Oakland July 28th. Tickets here (21+). They play the following week at Engine Works (17th & Capp) with TMRS and Twin Steps, presented by LEAF (also 21+). Facebook event here.

Their self-titled debut album is available through Goner Records. The holographic Flexidisc book produced by Castle Face featuring exclusive tracks from Blasted Canyons, Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin, Thee Oh Sees, Bare Wires, and The Fresh and Onlys can be purchased from Midheaven. Listen to “Death and a Half,” the fourth track off the new LP, below.

Blasted Canyons // 
“Death and a Half”

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