Published: September 23rd, 2012
BLAUS brings their brotherly energy to WMATT, talking shows, San Francisco, and most importantly... booty.
Booty. Family. Energy.
Ask the boys of Booty-House duo BLAUS to describe themselves in three words, and that’s what they’ll come up with …eventually. It just takes some friendly bickering to get there.
“Alright,” begins Nathan confidently, as if his answer was already somewhat planned out. “My first word is “booty”. My second word would have to be-”
“Erotic,” jokes his partner Zach, flashing a devilish grin.
Nathan doesn’t even bother to shake his head. Nor does he distinguish Zach’s word choice with any more than a simple “no”. Zach tosses out silly ideas, then Nathan exercises discretion and chugs ahead in search of a more proper description.
Perhaps the “Booty” was to be expected, since it’s part of their genre. They make BOOTY house. Not just normal house. No, they want you– implore you –to shake your booty, unless (says their website), you’re a paraplegic and have an excuse not to. And “energy”? The way they both light up when talking about their music, shifting excitedly in their seats when discussing the magic of sampling or how good it feels to produce quality music, practically conducts a surge of electric excitement to anyone listening to them. But the most important component of BLAUS? Family.
Nathan and Zach Blaustone are brothers, and they never imagined life without music. From an early age they were exposed to music by their parents, worship leaders at a number of churches when the boys were little. They followed their parents, and music followed them. “We didn’t really have a choice of playing music or not, we just kinda grew up playing piano and guitar,“ says Nathan, who also credits his father with the invention of their band name. “Dad was like, “call yourselves Blausey,’ and I was like ‘Blausey? How about BLAUS.’”
Although they had family support, and plenty of musical know-how, joining forces was not an immediate decision for Nathan and Zach. “I was always in bands, never with him, and he was always doing music, never with me. I started making dance music probably… the beginning of high school. Freshman year,” recalls Nathan. He attributes this time apart partly to a lack of any real musical aspirations. “We were both pretty young.”
“Really emo, very Dashboard Confessional style” bands took up Nathan’s time, while Zach operated more as a singer-songwriter, even putting out an acoustic EP several years ago under the simple moniker Zach Blaustone. I tease Zach by saying it’s slightly less exciting than BLAUS, and he agrees. “Yeah, it’s definitely more relaxed than BLAUS. Too many emotions in that music. You listen to it and you’re like ‘this kid’s sad, he needs some help.’” The younger Blaustone even ducks his head with exaggerated angst, as if reflecting the sad attitude of an emotional young singer. A minute later, he whips his head back up and both Blaustones enjoy his joke with hearty laughter.
“I don’t know,” begins Zach again, this time seriously examining his musical transition. “I feel like we always enjoyed dance music so much, but we never thought we could actually take it somewhere. We just loved to go to shows and we loved the energy. Then my friend was doing a show at the Phoenix, a small venue in Petaluma, and I was like ‘dude, let’s do our first BLAUS show there and see how we feel,’ and the energy we had felt so natural on stage that we just had to drop everything music-wise and do this. It’s working out.”
It certainly IS beginning to work out for BLAUS. Slowly but surely their name is gaining recognition within San Francisco, thanks in part due to a recent gig at Do415’s Scene Unseen festival. Nathan recounts the scene as hectic. Exciting, but hectic. “We didn’t even get a soundcheck!” he recalls. “The dynamics of the event weren’t that good, and the promoter, the guy that was putting it on– I won’t say anything rude –but he was just being really difficult. Even though we won this competition, no one really seemed to care as much.”
Not that a few bumps in the road could stop the boys from putting on a great show. A ridiculously packed house, mic troubles, having to yell out a band introduction at the top of his lungs… none seemed to faze Nathan. In fact, he recounts the show as a dream come true regardless of its numerous difficulties. “We were so excited that we won the competition and that all of our friends supported us as much as they did that we didn’t really care how it went. I guess we were just excited to play, so with that mindset nothing really got in the way.” And just in case you don’t believe that he had fun, the elder Blaustone maintains he even blacked out from excitement at one point. How’s THAT for rock and roll?
The topic of rock and roll brings up yet another intriguing aspect of BLAUS: the varied mix of genres that serve as musical influences. If you’re looking for Steve Aoki or Knife Party on a list of their influences… well, you’ll find them. But they’ll be alongside acts such as Tony Bennett (“A huge part of our lives,” says Nathan), Etta James (“We grew up with a lot of classic jazz), and even Thom Yorke (whom Nathan values for his mathematical pioneering in the music scene).
“It influences the booty house,” states Zach immediately. “We don’t make like, crazy electronic music that makes all the mollied out rager kids come to our shows. It’s more like, we make dance music that makes you wanna relax, but shake your booty at the same time. It’s influenced more by that jazzy, relaxed music that we listened to our whole lives.”
That the brothers are dedicated to music is no question. A black bass clef is tattooed on Nathan’s left wrist. A similarly styled treble clef rests on Zach’s shoulder. I’m told that both share an inked Italian translation of “music is vital.” The ink serves as a visual representation of their commitment to the musical arts.
But the brothers are aware that even with their tattooed allegiances to music, their stature as musicians will continue to be questioned, simply because of the genre they’ve chosen. A surprisingly prevalent disdain for those composing music with say, Macbooks rather than good ol’ Martin six-strings, exists within the musical community nowadays. “I used to think the same thing… well, not the same thing. But I thought it was much simpler to produce music through MIDI and compressors and everything like that,” admits Zach.
“I get that all the time,” adds Nathan. His calm tone abides even during the unpleasant subject. “The number one question is ‘Oh, you make beats like everyone else?’ or ‘Yeah, my friend makes beats’ or ‘My friend’s a DJ’ or this or that. People don’t realize that yeah, it’s simple to get on a computer and put some sounds together, but if you’re producing dance music, it’s just like any other band. There’s percussion, there’s bass, there’s guitar, there’s lead, there’s vocals, whatever, and if there’s one person doing ALL of that, that’s ONE person composing percussion, composing bass, composing guitar, vocals, lead, all on his own. That person’s composing an entire band by themselves, in a sense. So when people say it’s not music? I don’t understand that logic.”
Zach, ever the optimist, sees hope for the nonbelievers. “I think those people are just a little behind. They’ll catch up eventually.”
Perhaps if more detractors sat down with BLAUS, they’d be sold on dance music, simply by the brothers’ charm alone. Heck, future nurse Nathan has even used their music for the good of mankind!
“I played a couple of my songs a year ago, for this kid who– sad story, I won’t explain it all –who was in pretty critical condition at the hospital, and I was helping him to, I guess we’ll say ‘defecate’. It was a really emotional experience because he had no feeling of using the bathroom or trying to go to the bathroom. And it was my job to help him, so I was like ‘hey, do you like dance music?’ And it was, really awkward, but he was like, “I love dance music!” So I said, ‘let me show you my music while I work and try to help you. I played a couple of my songs and he was just kinda sitting there and it really worked! He really relaxed!’”
When Nathan’s not busy healing sick children, and Zach can make his way into the city from his home up north, the two are planning the next step for BLAUS: an album. “A lot of people in the scene don’t seem to release albums, and I feel like that’s a pretty critical thing in music. A good amount of material from one artist.”
For now, BLAUS’s catalog isn’t exactly extensive. A current Soundcloud tally counts only 6 songs posted, which is not exactly a “good amount of material.” But don’t worry, the brothers promise that business will pick up soon! …Or rather, as soon as Zach can move into San Francisco and remedy the distance issue that’s been plaguing their partnership. “He’s moving in with me. He’s got no choice,” jokes Nathan.
It’s only fair that BLAUS becomes a completely San Francisco based band, since it was in the city that Nathan fell in love with EDM. “I was 16 when I went to my first real rave,” explains Nathan. “My friend gave me Nike Airs and was like, “I want to take you dancing in the city, I think you’d really enjoy it,” and I was like, “alright, cool,” so I put on dancing shoes, and he gave me, like, a low cut v-neck and I had probably the most fun i’ve ever had in my entire life. It was the first experience I had dancing to dance music with a DJ and a lot of people, and from that day I was trying to come and dance as often as I could. I told myself, right when I get out of high school i’m going to move to San Francisco.” For Zach, however, San Francisco wasn’t exactly love at first sight. “I actually didn’t enjoy the city until [Nathan] had moved here, because every time I would come we’d just be like, driving in the city, and it was so busy I didn’t even enjoy it. But with him being here, i’ve opened up my eyes to everything. And like he said, going to clubs, you feel the life. There’s a lot of energy here. I like being around that energy, it makes me feel awake.”
“San Francisco’s probably the best city in the world,” adds Nathan. “I don’t think of any other cities. This is the only city.”
And what if San Francisco’s notoriously high city living expenses prove to be too much for the starving musician brothers? “I HAVE to pursue music, no matter what. Even if i’m a bum on the street, I don’t care, I just have to do some music, and the perfect place to do it is in San Francisco,” says Zach, gesturing wildly with his hands. Is he joking? Maybe half so. Is it an inspiring statement, regardless? Wholly.
Let’s hope neither Blaustone ends up on the street anytime soon.
/// Corie Schwabenland