Vista Blue play poppy punk songs in the same ballpark as those rare but magnificent bands that equally dig the Beach Boys and the Ramones. Mike and Todd Patton wrote nine songs about baseball, releasing Good Eye just in time for Opening Day this year (http://wearevistablue.bandcamp.com/). Post-game interview by Mark Hughson.
Zisk: You’re going to have to explain the band name to me.
Mike: Haha. Vista is the local playground we grew up playing for in Chalmette, Louisiana, just southeast of NOLA. When the parks had too many players for one team, they split us up and gave us colors. So Vista White, Vista Red, etc. Todd's last year playing basketball there, I actually coached his team. We were Vista Blue. We always thought it'd be a fun name for a band because no one would know what it was.
Zisk: But the album name has a dual meaning…
Mike: Good eye is obviously a baseball term, but also I'm mostly blind in my right eye. Then, while recording, my left retina detached. Emergency surgery, ten days in bed, all that fun stuff. But they saved most of the vision. So that's where the title comes from.
Zisk: I feel like amateur interviewers always ask bands standby questions like “Who are your influences?” or something. Since I’m also a hack, I’m going to ask, “What team do you root for?”
Todd: REDLEGS! But also, I always root for any Vista alumni. We've got a lot of talent out there. Most of them have normal jobs and are completely overweight and married, but I still root for my guys. We're both big LSU fans. They're number one in the country. No big deal.
Mike: Chicago Cubs! We grew up watching WGN all summer, and I think even Todd would admit to liking the Cubs at some point. I'm trying to think if Vista actually has any significant alumni out there somewhere, but I can't think of any.
Zisk: Yeah for some reason I got WGN for years here in Syracuse. So I've seen a lot of Cubs games on TV.
Todd: I tell people this all the time: In New Orleans, you're forced to like the Braves, Cubs, or White Sox. There is no baseball remotely close. I liked the Astros when I was a kid because we took trips to Houston a few times, a mere 7-hour trip.
Zisk: Astros are hot right now; they just finished a ten-game winning streak.
Todd: Damn, the Ghost of Glenn Davis lingers. He was my favorite player.
Zisk: Speaking of which, if you've heard the Baseball Project, the band cites specific players and events in baseball history, but Vista Blue does not. Is there a reason for keeping your songs general?
Todd: We’re not a very good band.
Mike: It’s supposed to be things that every fan or anyone who has ever played can relate to. We tried to cover everything from little leagues to the pros. But we kinda left a gap there. We’re going to do another baseball release around the All-Star break, focusing more on the “tougher” years of high school, college, the minors, etc.
Zisk: That definitely comes through. Even though the songs aren’t proper noun specific, the themes are the details most people don't think about (“Bullpen Catcher”). Also I like the fact that a player wrecks the water cooler and now the players have no water to drink, most people wouldn’t really consider that.
Mike: Yeah that one goes out to anyone who’s been on a team with selfish assholes. When I’d watch the Cubs, and Carlos Zambrano smashed the Gatorade cooler, I’d immediately think that twenty-four other dudes just got screwed out of Gatorade.
Zisk: Not that I’ve ever been in a band or have any authority on the subject, but if you don'’ want to be known as a baseball-themed band, you're going about it all wrong.
Todd: Haha. No one knows what the hell Vista Blue is. We know it’s sports related, but to anyone else it sounds like a normal band name.
Mike: Haha. Yeah, I don't think we really care what people think. This band/concept is so much fun, that the whole direction thing can be figured out as we go.
Todd: We should throw one curling song in the mix just to fuck with people.
Zisk: I mean, I’d love to write a curling song. I think an Olympics-themed album is not out of the question. I'm really into the Olympics, so why not.
Todd: I’m a huge fan of the They Might Be Giants Science and ABC albums—I'd love to do something like that.
Zisk: The Olympics seems like a good theme for a compilation. I mean, assuming it is done right.
Mike: Right. I think it's important to note that we don't tour or even live in the same city. We make songs on the internet, and it's just sort of a fun thing to do and let our friends hear it.
Zisk: You’ve been in a bunch of bands. Have you ever booked a tour around opportunities to see a baseball game?
Mike: The Robinsons and Loblaws played all of our shows no further north than Nashville (aside from the one Insubordination Fest). There aren't many MLB stadiums in the southeast.
Todd: I had so many opportunities to go to Orioles games but never did. I mean, we've been to a BUNCH of different stadiums: Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Boston, New York, and Arlington.
Mike: Yeah, we’ve been to a lot of games. And just for the record, I have so many baseball cards. Not important. I'm just bragging. I have a ton.
Zisk: The other piece I’m writing for the zine is on my baseball card collection. I’ve found it to be a very revealing experience. Which card is your favorite?
Mike: Ooh. We have a podcast (only four episodes so far) called Beers & Baseball Cards. It’s me and our other brother, Brett. He actually has a favorite card, the Frank Thomas rookie, where he’s like kneeling down by the base. I don’t think I have a favorite.
Zisk: Ah, yes. 1990 Topps.
Mike: He lost his in Katrina, so I recently had to find mine and give it to him before he moved back to NOLA last year. It’s funny, cause I’m sure all of these are like a nickel on eBay. But we would never buy cards on eBay.
Zisk: It’s probably a whole different world when it comes to collecting these days.
Mike: Our podcast is super fun, but tough. We open a fresh pack for each show, so it takes more planning to record. We have to find packs, buy them, and then NOT open them before recording.
Zisk: That takes a lot of willpower! I remember buying a case back in the day, thinking if I only open one or two a day, the fun will last longer. And then like 30 minutes later every pack is opened.
Mike: Haha. Exactly. We have a guy here who sells them three for a dollar. Packs with crap that no one would ever want. ’87 Topps, ’88 Fleer, ’89 Score. You know. Completely worthless. But I spend $5, and I feel like a baseball card god. Now that Brett moved back to NOLA, he ordered a few packs from Amazon for the last podcast. It was like seven packs for $10 or something outrageous. So I told him at least he was set for seven episodes. Of course, he opened them all on that episode.
Zisk: Another theme we are working on for this issue is reflections on the Bud Selig era (circa 1992-2014). Any comments on the previous commish, and favorite moments, players, teams, trends / changes during those two-ish decades?
Mike: I know there was the whole steroid problem, but I also will never forget how great 1998 was. It was my first year playing fantasy baseball, and then my Cubs were so much fun that season. All the home runs were just a bonus. If you've never read Mike Lupica’s Summer of '98, I recommend it. To me, that was the year that baseball came back into my life. After the strike a few years earlier and some miserable Cubs seasons in between, everything came together for me that year. I will always associate Selig with the good times, I think. And I don't remember any steroid questions being asked at that time.
I know there were other problems, like the All-Star game tie and the fallout leading to the idea that now “it counts” or whatever. But even that All-Star Game was fun to me. I remember we were at the beach and remember other things about that day/game. I don't remember too many specific All-Star Games, so at least that one sticks out to me.
So yeah, I’m fine with the aftermath of the whole thing. I like the fact that baseball is always on TV now, that the ratings are high, that I've been able to watch online for years now, that the teams are embracing the international players and putting money into player development in countries that could really use those kinds of opportunities, etc. Guess I’m pro-Selig!