Alt-folk-pop quintet, Matthew and Me, are just the breath of fresh air we all need in our lives in a world saturated by the mainstream. It’s always nice to come across a band that reinvigorate your belief in music, and Matthew and Me do exactly that. Their music ranges from wonderfully warm indie folk musings, to sparse, orchestral arrangements that shine in their grandeur to moving, melodious pop romps. You can catch the band playing The Great Escape festival in Brighton this Thursday and their forthcoming EP, Golden Charms, drops 16th June via Blanket Records.
I caught up with the band to discuss everything from their forthcoming EP, playing live, songwriting and much, much more.
I heard that you recorded each of the new tracks from the upcoming EP in one take, as a testament to capturing how the songs would sound at a live show. Do you feel that the recordings have another element to them because of this?
Definitely. It’s really rewarding to know that what is captured on those recordings is honest and represents us truthfully. There’s no smoke and mirrors. We’ve had experiences in the past of picking apart take after take under a microscope and piecing together the best bits of each take. At the end you have something really neat and tidy but with much less character.
Bruno Ellingham who produced this EP and the previous one (MMXIII) really believes in capturing a moment of togetherness rather than a slightly artificial and less human thing. We were all together in the live room at Rockfield at 2 in the morning playing the tracks as though our life depended on not making a single mistake, the energy in the room was palpable (also very gin fuelled). We loved the challenge and it’s truly reflective of how we play live.
Can you give us an insight into your songwriting process. Where do you start and how do you put a song together?
The process starts with Matt either having a subject matter he feels compelled to write about or a guitar idea that he will then develop. We have a bit of a home studio set-up now so we can bring the ideas to the studio and demo them. So when one of us has a day off work we can record our individual parts.
Usually starting with drums, then keys, bass and guitar. During this process the structure of the song might be fiddled with a bit as we go along. Once the demo is done we start rehearsing the song and placing it in the set. It’s taken a little while for us to work out the best process for songwriting. It can get too heavy if we start going round and round ideas in the rehearsal room. It can lose direction and become quite arduous. So now we differentiate between rehearsing the set for gigs and the songwriting process.
You’re on the heels of releasing your new EP, Golden Charms, can you tell us a little bit about the EP? Do you feel it’s a progression from your last release?
Yep, we definitely feel it’s a positive progression and we hope others will think so when they hear it. It was a bit of a reaction to some experiences (both good and bad) that we went through last year. There’s a lot of space in this EP, hopefully people can get lost in these songs. The dynamic range is pretty vast with moments where you can hear a pin-drop through to sonic chaos (in a good way we hope).
We are all unashamedly emotional human beings. We’re not afraid of that and it comes across in our music, hopefully people get something from that, as we do. This EP has been a catalyst for us realising how much we want to record a full album. We are really ready to do that, so hopefully something to aim for.
The lead track Golden Charms is inspired by the raucous life Matt’s great Uncle Ian led in Soho and the infamous drinking den he ran, The Colony Room Club, an institution for people seeking an alternative to mainstream culture. The track captures the boozy nights we’ve had out together over the last few years in Soho and that subculture that will always exist in places.
The EP was recorded between Rockfield Studios and The Distillery with Bruno Ellingham and was mastered by Matt Colton.
You’ve played in a lot of unusual and spectacular venues with Matthew and Me. Having said that, you must have gained some good memories from gigging over the years, what’s one particular gig memory that stands out in your mind as being memorable?
That is a tricky one. We have put on a series of events over the last couple of years in some unconventional venues. On a boat, underground at Carnglaze Caverns, Hoxton Hall in London, and Dartington Great Hall are just a few of those. These were all memorable gigs and to find a space to transform in to a gig venue and then perform in it was amazing both for us and the audience. It was also a massive learning curve.
We have also had some memorable gigs in the sense that they have been so terrible that we will never forget them. We have definitely done our fair share of toilet circuit style gigs, which is perhaps why we started to pick our own venues as a reaction to some upsetting experiences!
What’s your favourite aspect of performing live?
I think when you believe in something so whole-heartedly, you can get completely lost in the music and you know that you are on a stage with 4 other people who feel the same. We are lucky to be able to share that experience, there’s nothing quite like it.
Do you remember your very first gig? How did it go?
Our first gig as Matthew & Me was pretty interesting…Sam the bassist couldn’t even come to the gig! HA, we had to play without bass. The less said about that the better I think.
How do you feel the band has evolved since taking those first steps on to a stage?
Every experience, every mistake, everyone we’ve met along the way all builds in to this amazing, if slightly blurry but brilliant thing we’ve created for ourselves.
I think in terms of confidence we’ve come on loads, it sometimes feels like there is this pressure in the music industry to try and fit in with a certain scene, but we’ve figured out over time that we just don’t really fit in to any scene. We’re doing our own thing and we hope that there are people out there that enjoy it and can relate to it.
You’re on the bill for two very exciting events in Liverpool this summer, Sound City and X&Y Festival. How excited are you to play these events and have you been able to check out the line up’s, any artists that you would love to catch live?
Really excited! We’ll check out as much as we can. Liverpool is a really vibrant place in general so we’re just excited to be in amongst it.
Do you approach playing festivals differently to playing headline gigs?
Festivals tend to be a bit more chaotic, you have less time to sound-check and set-up and there’s always a period of scrabbling around setting up in a hurry straight after another band has come off stage. It can actually be quite hairy in the moment, then you go from chaos setting up to playing the gig to having finished the gig in what seems like 5 minutes!
I think a headline slot is perhaps slightly more pleasurable from a musical point of view but having said that, we are very lucky to be given the opportunity to play at festivals and it means you get to be part of a great line-up of acts.
We’re big supporters of new music here at Bitter Sweet Symphonies. Having said that, are there any new artists that have caught your attention recently that you’d like to share with us?
Our friend Simon aka The Livework Unit, is definitely worth checking out, he has the most incredible voice, he has an EP out which is brilliant, you can find that on soundcloud.
Other than that we’d love some recommendations for new music to check out! It’s hard to keep up as there is so much out there!
What are your hopes for Matthew and Me to achieve this year?
In the long term we would love to record an album, for now we’ll focus on releasing our Golden Charms EP in June and we also really want to tour a lot more before this year is over!
A special thanks to Matthew and Me for this interview and for more info on the band, check out the following links below.