Is rock n roll really dead? My conversation with Lolipop Records founder, Wyatt Blair
interview with WYATT BLAIR & LOLIPOP RECORDS
location ECHO PARK LOS ANGELES
words & photography EVANGELINA–ROSE
Ideally my first question would be: Can you live without being a charlatan, a sell-out? But on the surface, Lolipop Records has nothing relatable to that pompous edifice of what we call, the music industry. No vast halls encouraging the fantasies of the puissant youth culture. No carnivorous, unnerving business suits conning youth. No hyped talent-less rock “stars” with equal portions of obnoxiousness.
The red heart, with Lolipop! emblazoned across it, is more than just a logo. “I’ve always had the door open”, says Wyatt Blair, one of the founders of Lolipop and drummer of Mr.Elevator and The Brain Hotel. And it’s true. You feel welcomed the minute you walk in.
Situated in Echo Park, Lolipop Records is our hope for an authentic rock ‘n’ roll renaissance. “It’s about the music for us. That’s exactly why we are here”
Remarkably down-to-earth and serious in his comments on the music industry, Blair came up with Lolipop Records, while at his parents’ house in “communist” – as he describes it – Orange County. “You know, every house is the same and everyone drives the same car. And I think I was 20 years old and I was putting out my friends’ bands on cassette just because it’s cheap to make. And it just snowballed from there.”
Blair used to tour with his band Mr. Brain and The Elephant Hotel, but nowadays he just helps people make ideas a reality. “And that’s why I am here more now and I play less music. It just feels right. It’s hard to juggle everything, Blair tells me. It’s been really hard. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I am not a businessman. I’ve been learning from the sit of my pants how to do all these, make sure everything is on time and keep the doors open.”
There’s an interesting premise here. Music is mainly about beginnings and uncertainty. It is trapped in adolescence and it simply can’t grow up. Because when it does, it turns into something else. And I think, that’s the magic of Lolipop Records – uncertainty and a relative innocence.
"No expectations” is my motto,’ Blair says. I have no expectations. Not with anybody, not with any band, not with anything in my life. I just do it because I like doing it and if goodness comes from that, then sweet. But if we are in the same spot we are in a year from now and we are still putting out records that we love, I am great. That’s awesome.”
I applaud the lucidity, yet I still suspect a facile flash. That very first question still lingers in my mind because the music business was and still is the enemy. Naturally, it would only seem condescending for me to say that this young record man right here keeps a unique stance to such high-flown concepts.
So, I lam into him: “What do you think of Los Angeles, Wyatt?” I ask.
“Most people come here with stars in their eyes. And I hate LA for that. All they care about is becoming a fucking rock “star” and that shit annoys me. I don’t like that at all. I don’t like LA, to be honest with you. The only thing keeping me here is proving to be the goodness in this city of egomaniacs. It’s like my passive aggressive way to saying fuck you to LA, Wyatt tells me.
“And just for the record, what do you like listening to?”
“I like pop music; I like mainstream stuff on the radio”, he tells me.
Pop music? I am flabbergasted.
“Pop doesn’t mean mainstream, at all. To me anything that sticks with you, that like sits – yeah, that’s pop.” And he schooled me. Popular music is popular because a lot of people like it. It’s like arguing the merits of hot dogs and hamburgers – what the hell difference does it make?
Not one dullard reading this will fail to comprehend. So here comes the payload.
Here’s this punk conglomeration, that’s loose, liberated, righteous and ravenous – a sort of coup in the midst of American pompousness. “We truly want to just shove it to the music industry for completely capitalising on bands and taking advantage of them. And we also want to say fuck you to anyone that thinks they are a fucking rock “star” because they can get 20 people at their show.”
I ask the question. “Can you live without being a sell-out, Wyatt?” He chews on that on one minute. He looks me straight in the eye and tells me, “They are successful. They are not selling out. They’ve made it. And that’s the most fucking punk rock thing ever! Anyone who defines someone as a sell-out is a fucking sell-out.”
Encouraged, I go in for the kill, “what would you say to those who claim that rock ‘n’ roll is dead?”
He looks at me. For a second, I think he is about to laugh. He doesn’t. “They are dead!”