Tuesday, 16 February 2016

An Interview With Mike Patton (Vista Blue/The Robinsons/TheLoblaws)

 Another interview today, this time it's thanks to Mike Patton for taking the time to answer my questions. If you've been paying attention you'll have noticed me salivating every time his new band, Vista Blue, releases new material. They may not be the fastest or the loudest band in this blog but I doubt you'll find one that make catchier music.......

   If I was to guess at your influences, I'd say that you're a little like Joe King (of The Queers) in as much as whilst you're influenced by 3 chord Ramones style punk, you're equally as much a fan of bands with big harmonies such as The Beach Boys and more recently Weezer. Which bands made the most impression on you growing up and led you into wanting to make your own music?

  It's everything! Yes the easy answer we always give would be the 

main four influences of Beatles, Beach Boys, Ramones, and Weezer. I've

always written songs, and I grew up in a house with music playing 

24/7. I loved the Carpenters cause of my mom, bands like Iron Maiden 

and Dokken cause of my dad, and thenthe stuff I probably tortured 

them with, like Rick Springfield. I always liked the Beach Boys and the 

Cars, along with more obscure stuff, like Billy Squier's amazing 

power pop band, Piper. In middle school it was a lot of Smiths and 

Depeche Mode, stuff like that.

Of course when I was in high school, Dookie and the Blue album came 

out and changed my life, kicking off an amazing run of bands that we 

fell in love with, like Fountains of Wayne, Superdrag, Better Than Ezra, 

and Nada Surf. I know my friends hear some of this in my music. And 

then there is the inevitable influence of friends, like Wyatt Funderburk, 

who was my Loblaws bandmate and is probably the most talented dude 

I know. Also, you mentioned Joe, guys like him and Dr. Frank have 

always been so great to us, sharing our music with fans and offering 

encouragement over the years. 

Another positive influence has been songwriter Paul Sanchez, who was 

in the 90s rock band, Cowboy Mouth. It's made me more comfortable as

a writer to have gotten great feedback from writers I admire.
I guess I hope my music is something of a combination of all that I just 

mentioned and more, even if it does only sound like three-chord pop 

punk at times!

I read that your first band was called Park Bench (who I'll admit that I've never heard of) and I know you were in The Robinsons and The Loblaws (pictured above) who I've heard some songs by but not as many as I probably should have. Are there any others I've missed and how would you say your sound has progressed from those Park Bench days through to your new band Vista Blue?

Man, Park Bench (1998-2000) was a typical first band. It was a great 

way to learn about playing shows, booking bands, making friends, 

breaking down on the interstate, and everything else that comes with 

being in a band. But you're not missing anything, believe me. No one 

needs to hear any of that.

The Robinsons were super busy from 2000 to 2002, with several 

reunion sets thrown in over the next few years.

From 2002 to 2005, I was in a fun New Orleans power pop/indie rock 

band called Sally Stitches with Brett from the Loblaws, Dave from the 

Robinsons, and our friend Richard Bates. We did an EP, and I think I'm 

going to get that posted on bandcamp soon actually.

Brett and i started a project called The Sunflowers in 2005, and we did 

some demos and played a few shows, but Hurricane Katrina blew 

through just as we got going and everything changed after that. When 

things settled, we just played as the Robinsons again, instead of trying 

to launch a new project during all the rebuilding of our city and our 

scene. I moved to Nashville shortly after that, and we 

started The Loblaws.

Our sound has not really changed a whole lot. But with the Loblaws, we 

specifically tried to fit right into that pop-punk community, just adding 

the harmonies that most bands weren't doing. Vista Blue is more about 

the "pop" part of pop-punk. We want this to be a little different and 

open to pretty much any kinds of songs we feel like writing.

 Talking the whole first year to only release baseball (and then finally,

Christmas) songs was sort of our way of saying "anything goes." It's 

still us writing the songs, but we're not trying to appeal to any certain 

audience here.

One of the baseball songs that Vista Blue released, Johnny's Gonna Strike Out, features your wife Donna on vocals. Like Weezer's I Just Threw Out The Love Of My Dreams it's a curveball having female vocals on just the one track but I love it as much as I do that Weezer classic. Are you planning on letting Donna sing again?

Right, Weezer has done that, and of course the Apples in Stereo and 

Belle & Sebastian do it on every album, so we try to do it sometimes 

Donna has a music degree, and we played music together throughout 

high school and college. She played off and on in our first bands. She 

sang an early Robinsons song called "All the Time" that got played 

fairly regularly on Tulane University's radio station, WTUL in New 


So yeah, again, this was about being up for anything with Vista Blue. 

The first release, "Good Eye," had a definite Ramones-core sound, so I 

wanted to come back with something super poppy to kick off the 

second release. I was listening to some Phil Spector and thought it 

would be cool to do like a 60s girl group pop song, set at 

a baseball game instead of a drag race or whatever.
Todd was also supposed to sing the Pennant Race song he wrote for 

that EP, giving us three lead singers on the release, but he got sick 

while we were recording.

But yes, Donna will definitely sing on a Vista Blue release again. I like 

writing for her, and I like to pass off as much responsibility as I can!

Before we get to your new record(s) i want to touch on another of your passions, horror movies. tell me about your Body Count podcast and list your 3 favourite horror movies

Well, that started after Todd moved to Cincinnati and the Loblaws kind 

of ended. 

We'd had a couple of horror blogs in the past and decided it would be 

an easy way to stay in touch. Horror and music were pretty much the 

things we always did together. In the early days, if the Robinsons had a 

weekend off, Donna and I usually hosted a horror marathon.
So we started the Body Count Blog (http://bodycountpodcast.com/), and 

indie filmmakers started sending us their films, as I'm sure you hear 

from a number of bands these days. Brett and I launched the podcast 

soon after, with Todd co-hosting some early episodes and Wyatt 

recording our theme song. We soon discovered another whole 

community, very similar to the punk scene, with some dumb drama, 

but also lots of awesome people making films.

In 2013 we started printing our horror zine, which is lots of fun too. My favorite three horror films are kind of boring, I guess. I'd say 

something like Friday the 13th part 2, Halloween, and Dream Warriors. 

We're mainly into slashers, of course. Texas Chainsaw Massacre might 

beat out Dream Warriors. I don't know. 

More recent stuff that I've really liked would include High Tension, 

Hatchet, and The Descent. 

By the way, I also have a really fun sports blog (and occasional 

podcast) with Allen from the Robinsons and our friend Andy, called 

Grab Bag Sports (http://www.grabbagsports.com/). I'm trying to get into 

some soccer, so you might need to keep helping me out!

Your new album will feature both Vista Blue and Loblaws songs, tell me about that

Well the Loblaws stuff was only released on vinyl. We had four songs 

on the Mutant Pop record and a couple songs on the split we did with 

Sci-Fi Nightmares for Killer Records. Many people have asked about a 

CD release over the years, and that was the eventual plan with Mutant 

Pop, before Timbo put the label on hiatus again.

We had started recording for our next Mutant Pop release, and that's 

where our "Banana Stand" track comes from.

When Marc from RTTB Records asked about releasing the Loblaws stuff 

on CD, along with some tracks by our new band, I thought it would be 

good to finally finish a few of the Loblaws songs that were never 


Wyatt and Matt Drastic both dug for me, and Wyatt found the drum 

tracks we had done at Drastic Sounds. So the first three VB songs on 

the CD use those original drum tracks, making this release a perfect 

bridge from our last band to our new band.

This is actually going to be our first CD release since One Eye Records 

did a Robinsons discography release in 2005.
All seven of the Vista Blue songs from the CD are now posted on our 

bandcamp.  https://wearevistablue.bandcamp.com/

What's next for Vista Blue?

Well now we'll finally start playing live shows, I think! My friend Mark 

has joined up on bass, and he played on our last baseball EP and all the 

Vista Blue songs on the CD. We also have a drummer here in Nashville 

and plan to start playing live very soon. Todd's in Cincinnati, so if he 

can join us for any shows, he'd play a second guitar.

We were asked to play the Nashville stop of the International Pop 

Overthrow Fest, and that's in early May. So we should play at least a 

warm-up show or two before that. I'm excited to finally get back on 

stage this spring.

Some other things coming up include a cassette release of all of our 

baseball songs, hopefully by MLB opening day on April 3rd. We'll also 

have a fun Record Store Day (April 16th) release that we're involved in, 

but I don't have all of the details yet. In the summer, we're actually 

planning to jump back into a sports theme and do a Summer Olympics 


Mainly, we've been so surprised by how quickly our new band has been 

accepted by fans of power pop and pop punk. It means so much to us 

that blogs like Just Some Punk Songs have been so supportive, along 

with radio shows like the Ice Cream Man, Cat Beast Party, and a bunch 

of others.
We're looking forward to a great 2016. 

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