Interview: Blue Skies for Black Hearts’ Pat Kearns

Next Tuesday, May 24th, the Banana Stand is releasing our biggest album to date: Blue Skies for Black Hearts – Live from the Banana Stand. To say we're pumped would be an understatement. It's an amazing-sounding album from a terrific live band, and we're know you're going to love it. Make sure you grab it up next Tuesday!

To get ready for the release, we caught up with Blue Skies front-man Pat Kearns, who also mixed and mastered the album at his studio, PermaPress Recording. In this email interview, Pat told us about the band's recently released album and short film — both called Embracing the Modern Age — and let us in on what's coming next for Blue Skies for Black Hearts.

Banana Stand: You guys have been super busy since last we chatted. What all has been happening?

Pat Kearns: The new LP has been released, we finished and showed the first edit of our movie, we've been playing shows up and down the west coast, and we've been planning a tour of the east coast for October of 2011. I've also been writing a lot and we've been talking about starting to record the next LP before we even finish touring on Embracing the Modern Age. 

BS: It was really great to see so much positive press around the Mission Theater release show. It was a great event. How'd it all come together?

PK: It was kind of unusual for a record release show. It was important to me that the film was shown to an audience that was ready to see a goofy short film filled with non-sequitors and tons of references to other movies and TV shows. The evening needed to be an event in contrast to a cold showing of the short film followed by a couple of performances from Blue Skies and The Midnight Callers. I asked friends who are involved with Atomic Arts Theater Company (Adam and Amy Rosko), Curious Comedy Theater (Laura James), and my cousin, Jon Jolin, who is an actor in LA, to help with the evenings entertainment. The big catch was that the audience had no idea what they were in for. And it turned out great.

The night started off with Von Hummer introducing the show from the movie screen. He ends up getting into a fight with two hecklers in the audience, Laura James and Adam Rosko. The audience thought the hecklers were real for a bit….at least until one of them ran back stage and appeared on the movie screen along with Von Hummer. We had The Satin Chaps playing music in between each one of our actors' short performances. Blue Skies also played Old Friends with The Satin Chaps. The Midnight Callers played a fantastic set and we got to show the movie to an audience that was primed for total weirdness, which is exactly what our little film is. We played after the film, people danced, shouted and hollered. It was a really good time.

Considering how ambitious our plans were, I am very surprised it went off with only a few minor hitches. The guys in the band were so nervous ahead of time that I was overextending ourselves with the show, so I had it secretly filmed without telling them. We get to see the footage of the show later this week. I'm really looking forward to it.

Photo by Justin Dylan Renney

BS: For those that don't know, the Mission Theater event was both the release of Blue Skies for Black Hearts' new album Embracing The Modern Age and the premier of their short film of the same name. Can you tell us a bit about the film?

PK: I wrote the song first, which sparked a conversation between Kelly and his friend, Matt Fulkerson, about the future of mankind and how, in order to survive, we will become robots. Matt drew a cartoon of a monkey handing a robot a banana to go along with his theory. Kelly tried to turn this basic idea into a concept for a video for one of our songs, but very quickly, the concept grew into three videos for three separate songs. The video concept was eventually pitched to Jonathan Griffith of Valley Video Services in La Grande and he convinced us to do it as a movie. Kelly hashed out the screenplay with help from the band while we were on a 3 week tour in March of 2010. We filmed the whole thing in three days with locations including East End; I84, Maryhill, WA; and La Grande, OR. 

BS: What about the new album? You recorded it to tape, correct? Tell us a bit about the production process.

PK: We actually started out recording in digital. I was installing a new tape machine at PermaPress Recording, where I work. We cut two songs on the tape machine and realized it was the sound we were looking for. It was so much thicker and more rock and roll sounding than the digital recordings we had done up to that point. Also, in contrast to our previous records, this one was more rehearsed. In the past, I would show new songs to the band often on the same day that we cut the basic tracks. This time, we worked up tunes ahead of time and because of that, I had the opportunity to rewrite many of them. I think we actually threw away the first six songs written for this record. Parts of them were incorporated into other songs on the record. I was really able to zero in on making all the songs really great. I think that's the biggest strength of the record. The tape didn't make getting good sounds always easy. We had some technical problems with the tape shedding and becoming gummy. It made the process of recording very slow because we had to stop a lot to clean the tape deck. But I think this also made every performance count. Every performance had a feel of desperation to it because if you didn't get it right on the first or second pass, you were going to be taking ten minutes while the engineer cleaned the tape deck again. 

BS: What're you all up to in your spare time? Any projects beyond Blue Skies right now?

PK: My wife, Susan, and I have a studio project called St. Cloud. We have a song out on YouTube called You're Profile Says Today Is Your Birthday. I'm also working on several other bands' records at the studio. I finished up a new album for Buckley yesterday, I'm working on the next Welfare State record, and I'm hoping to start working with this killer local band called The Reselectrics really soon…and that's really only scratching the surface with me. Mike is just beginning to write the next record for The Very Foundation, and Kelly has been doing some one off shows around town with his wife, Katy. I'm pretty sure Blue Skies is going to be starting our next studio record late this summer. We definitely have the songs. I'm just waiting to see when I can squeeze us into the studio's schedule between my job and the band's touring.

BS: What's coming up next for Blue Skies for Black Hearts?

PK: We play a bunch of shows throughout the NW in late May and June including the PDXPOP compilation CD release show on June 2 at Holocene. We have another short west coast run also in June. We'll be going to Sacramento, Fresno and the Bay Area. We play our first all ages Portland show in a long time. It's not confirmed yet, but I believe we'll be at Backspace with Your Rival on July 8. We're planning shows for the east coast in October. And I'm doing lots of writing. I think our new batch of songs is really cool. I can't wait to start recording the next record.


Big thanks to Pat Kearns from Blue Skies for Black Hearts for participating in our interview. Blue Skies for Black Hearts is Pat, Michael Lewis and Kelly Simmons and Paul Noel. Their live album, recorded before a live audience here at the Banana Stand last August, comes out Tuesday, May 24th. You should really, really grab it

em>Check out more of Blue Skies for Black Hearts at and on Facebook and MySpace.