Before Christmas, Tom and Imogen went down to Band On The Wall to chat with everyone’s favourite Matt Maltese.
Obviously your songs are very personal to you and deal with intense emotion, do you ever find the topics difficult to write about?
I don’t really know whether I find it difficult to talk about those things, I find it difficult to say it in the way I want to say it. The process involves a lot of scrapping and changing things, I think what I want to do is talk about those things but concisely putting it the way I want to put it is the harder aspect. I just like talking about intense emotions.
Because they are personal songs, do you ever worry about how the audience will perceive them? Or do you feel you’re making the music for yourself? I try not to worry how people will perceive it, I don’t feel like I’m necessarily making it for myself, I think the best of the process is when people say that they like a certain song or that its connected to them, as that’s kind of the whole point, the human connection part. I guess your songs are always open to different interpretations, some of them might think I’m a nice guy, some of them might think I’m an arsehole, some things are just naturally open to that but I try not to worry about that because you can’t do anything other than sing your song and get up on stage.
I’ve heard you describe your music as ‘brexit-pop’, do you feel like politics informs the music you write? If so would that be in obvious ways or does it permeate the relationships between the characters in the songs and work in a less obvious manner.
Probably in a less obvious manner, I don’t feel like I have many brazenly political songs, most of my songs are just informed by living my life which is obviously to the backdrop of political turmoil.
Following in the footsteps of many great songwriters, the holy trinity: Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, do you feel a sort of pressure when it comes to song-writing to make it emotionally impactful or do you feel the emotion comes out natural?
Probably a little bit of pressure, I don’t want to write a song unless it talks about emotion in a way I want to and I don’t want to spread the idea that a song comes out in 10 minutes and that’s it, I definitely slave over the songs and will bang my head against the wall until it says it how I want to say it.
Do you feel that truth is imperative to your song-writing?
Yes, absolutely, I feel like it should be imperative to everyone’s, even people who are writing from a character. As long as they’re doing what they’re moved by and what they want to do, rather than being informed by anything else. I think that’s really important, singing your truth as that’s what connects it to people and that’s how people feel connected with each other when people are just open about being weak or strong or sad.
Definitely, the general public can discern whether something is true.
Exactly, I think that’s really true.
I recently attended a talk with the Guy Garvey and asked him a question which has always interested me, where is your ideal place to write? Do you write fragments and compile them or sit down at a candlelit desk and pen these heart-breaking elegies?
I definitely don’t have a candlelit desk, although that would be nice (laughs). I would say a lot of it is fragments but a lot of it is just ordinary, I guess, just things like sitting in my bedroom, like waking up and starting a demo, pacing around getting stressed out about it, having a coffee and spending the rest of the day finishing it more, but doing that for 2 months and not seeing anybody. I think that’s my ideal thing, to lock myself away, it’s not the most ideal way to live your life but I do get a lot out of it. I tried to go to Krakow this summer to write, it was the first time I’d ever been somewhere to write and it was just a massive disaster (laughs), I didn’t enjoy the isolation of Poland. I thought ‘it’ll be fine everything’s really cheap’ but I don’t speak any Polish and did not enjoy it. So I think I benefit more being in a familiar territory.
How was it working with Jonathan Rado on your debut record? Did his input change the directions of the songs you already had written and how so?
Absolutely, he changed the sound of the songs, the record wouldn’t sound the same without him. I feel really privileged to have found someone that can put their own personality into the soundscape of the song and I feel like its totally the way I wanted it to sound, so I was really lucky to find someone like that with the same outlook I guess and that could execute the production way better than I could ever do.
I just want to talk about tragicomedy. Guilty is one of my favourite songs mainly due to the funny elements in the story and the song-writing mixed with the pathos of the sentiment. When you write these funnier songs, do you write them to lessen the blow of the harder hitting songs?
I guess probably, I do that quite a lot as a person, making a joke out of the serious things I talk about. That’s often how I like things, when there’s a comedic sheen to these very deep things, it’s easier for me to talk about them without seeming like a blowhard. That’s how I consume deep things, with a sheen of comedy and I think sometimes that doesn’t help but its the way things move me the most, when they’re a little bittersweet.
Your music videos are always very interesting, do you ever have an idea for a music video that leads the song?
No, I don’t know if I do actually, its all song to video really. It probably happens at a similar time, the first record is based of situations I’ve been in so I think there was already quite a lot of imagery, pathetic imagery (laughs).
Lastly then, in terms of inspiration where do you turn to, do you tend to draw from film, literature, poetry or music primarily?
It’s hard, I guess a lot of the time is quite sporadic, I haven’t been listening to a lot of music recently but probably what moved me most this summer was having a little bit of time and just thinking about things, about the album and having headspace. I did watch a lot of films but its hard to know the moment that actually moves you. There was a moment in a series called Flowers, which is amazing, where Julian Barratt’s character was talking about his depression and that’s the one moment I remember wanting to write a song after seeing that. But that doesn’t always happen its very random, I think that’s what keeps it exciting but also terrifying because you never know when its going to come or stop coming.
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