Roy Blair was a name often associated with either Brockhampton or Kevin Abstract, but his latest album Cat Heaven, sees him stepping out to reclaim his musical identity. As a whole, the album is the true reflection of Roy’s ability to mix genres and craft an engaging personal narrative that is drenched in catharsis and emotion. Humble as ever, Roy knew it was only a matter of time until he became his own artist.
Having released his debut album in 2017, the LA-based singer-song writer’s album seemed to fall under the radar but is finally receiving the recognition it deserves. In his distinct sound, both the album and artist struggle to find a clear-cut genre, often overlapping original sounds that somehow feels reminiscent of alternative 90’s music, but yet offers a clean mix of contemporary hip-hop, R&B, and some indie-pop.
As a young artist, it became clear the direction and composition of Cat Heaven were essential to Roy. While many of his songs centre around personal or emotive experiences, it is these moments which seem to resonate with Roy most. “I think Jay-Z said: ‘you spend your whole life until you make your first record because it is like all of your experiences in your life so far until your first project’, which is kind of an interesting way to look at it,” Roy says. While experiences also shaped the record, Roy admits his parents had an influence: “when I started playing with guitars and thinking ‘oh I want to make this alternative 90’s rock like hip-hop, R&B record’ I sort of realized the reason I was leaning towards the rock influences was sort of what my parents played growing up. I realised if I’m getting this nostalgic feeling from the music I’m into then it kind of goes hand in hand with the storytelling.
The title of Cat Heaven might give the impression of a soft indie-pop album, but it’s anything but that. Roy’s debut offers a fluctuating exploration between various emotions and the bittersweet experiences of growing up. Throughout the album, Roy is able to capture specific moments that evoke the nostalgia of childhood and the relatable familiarities of growing up. A brilliant example is one of the later tracks of the album, ‘Switchblade’. The track is nestled further down the album, but its unfiltered honesty offers “a cathartic type of track,” Roy states. “It would be like the scene in the movie the big thing happens, the climax that would be the ‘Switchblade’ to Cat Heaven. It’s about anxiety, fear and isolation, and growing up in a town where no one really listens, your parents don’t listen, you feel like you have a voice, but it is not really heard by anyone around you.”
Writing such a layered album came at a consequence as the album’s release was initially delayed, but it seems like it was for the best. Roy explains how the creating the album was equally frustrating and rewarding: “It was like a matter of like, I didn’t know the story I wanted to tell, but sonically I knew where I was going the entire time,” he says. “I spent like a year and some writing songs over and over again trying to see where they took me just to finish the record and finish the record and make the story stronger. It was sort of trying to make a whole record and sometimes you had to let the music take you to different feelings.”
With a year passing since the album’s debut, there’s been enough time for Roy to reflect on his favourite songs. “There’s definitely a few that I like the most. I really like ‘September’, ‘Happy’, ‘Grand Theft Auto’.” When asked why he chose these songs, “those are the strongest emotions or representations of the emotions I was feeling. I also feel like, from a lyrical standpoint, they are well written” he replies. When asked about new music, Roy doesn’t say much but that he’s always working on new material, but he does give a little insight about a possible UK tour. “I don’t know when about the UK, but they’re talking about it!” he says, “and for the US, I’ll be doing a few dates at the end of the year.”
While Roy is keeping quiet about new music, I ask him about the recently released music video for ‘Happy’ and why he chose to create a video for specifically that song. “When we were talking about doing another video for cat heaven, ‘Happy’ stuck out visually to me the most,” he explains, “the car crash imagery really got me excited and me and my writer who I work with on everything, David Keaveny, started drafting stories immediately.” When talking about creating the video, Roy describes the experiences as ‘electrifying’ as it was his “first professional music video and there was an intense learning curve”, but he’s ‘excited to take everything from this and put it into something even better with upcoming projects.” Last, of all, I ask Roy about a distinct scene in the video where Roy encounters a younger version of himself and if there was any significance behind it. “That scene is supposed to have a certain 2001: A Space Odyssey quality to it,” Roy tells me. “It’s an existential moment. The younger version of me is something I’d love to leave up to the audience to pick apart.”
Roy Blair might not be your typical artist, but that’s what makes him so interesting. You can stream Roy’s new music video for ‘Happy’ bellow.
Photography by Undine Markus
Words by Zoya Raza-Sheikh