February 15, 2010
A four-piece band from Long Beach, On Blast are blowing up in SoCal right now. At it's core, their sound is a happy marriage of producer Tone Blair’s dance and hip-hop beats with songwriter, keyboardist and arranger Andy Kiddoo’s haunting melodies and retro vibes. L.A. music journalist Nicole Powers caught up with Andy to find out more about the force behind On Blast’s killer tracks.
Nicole: So how did you guys find each other?
Andy: I was in a hip-hop band, producing, and Tone was actually doing the same thing in a different project. We met at Long Beach City College in the recording program. We’d always share ideas, but we never really worked together.
We had a DJ in my band and one of his friends was Josh. He wasn’t doing anything musical except for just singing all the time. When we’d try to hang out he’d be off in spaceland just singing away. It actually got kind of annoying after a while. But I noticed that he had a good voice.
Josh was living in his car at the time and Tone got kicked out of the place he was at, so I hooked them up. Then I just went over to their apartment everyday and we started all doing music together. We came up with a handful of songs, some of which are on our first album. It was really quick, fast and easy.
Nicole: Initially it was just a studio project, right?
Andy: There was no way in hell we could play this live. We’d have to have seven hands to play multiple instruments. We eventually figured out a way to do it, but we needed a guitarist. That’s when we got Travis.
Nicole: You don’t have a drummer, so are you playing to a sequencer and triggering samples when you play live?
Andy: We’re doing a host of things. I’m playing keyboard sounds, and I’m triggering samples. All our samples are homemade. Some songs have strings on them that we had a string quartet come in and play, so we cut those up and assign them to a key.
We were inventing our own way to play our music, cutting up our samples for performance and then learning how to play them in a very unique way. It took us about two months to learn how to do that. It was very overwhelming at first.
Nicole: Somewhere along the way you bumped into Jerry Heller, who co-owns the record label you’re signed to, Streetlife Records. He’s worked in the industry since the ‘60s, with every genre from soul to hip-hop. How did you meet?
Andy: Well we used to play a lot of shows at the Vault 350 here in Long Beach. A guy named Pablito was there. He basically said, “I’m starting this record label with Jerry Heller, have you ever heard of him?” And we’re like, “Err, yeah!”
Nicole: Did being around that legacy influence your music?
Andy: I wouldn’t say influence the music as much as inspire our minds as musicians. It’s really fascinating to know that this guy had a hand in many great people’s careers and he is interested in ours.
Nicole: Even though Long Beach is just a short freeway ride away from L.A., it has a scene very much of its own. Where do you hang out?
Andy: Long Beach is so diverse. We mainly hang out in the 4th Street bars. We stick to The Prospector and Alex’s Bar. Alex’s Bar is probably my favorite bar here. They have a decent sized stage and good bands come in and out.
There’s a variety of good bands from here. I’d appreciate it even if we could do half as much as one of those bands, but I hope we do something equivalent.
Nicole: Where do you stand on the whole downloading debate?
Andy: Realistically, the advancement in technology that led up to this whole new experience has actually helped us out. I mean, we recorded our whole album on our own in our apartment. It goes hand in hand with people being able to download. It’s just the advance of technology is too fast. You can’t stop it.
All in all it’s a good thing, because an unknown band like us is able to get out there somewhat. However, once we go to a bigger level I’m sure I’ll feel a bit different. But you can’t really change the game. It is what it is and you’ve just got to roll with the punches and hope people like our music enough to buy it. That’s what matters. If people like it enough to buy it then we’re doing the right thing.
Check out more from On Blast