Matthew and the Arrogant Sea Songwriting, Live Shows, the Weird & the Weirder…

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Following the release of the beautiful Traveling Show, we caught an interview with the superb act that is Matthew and the Arrogant Sea. Talking in depth about songwriting, performing, indie verses mainstream, muppets, SNL, and all things creatively MATAS – here’s the conversation in full. 

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Hey – thank you so much for the interview, the Traveling Show release is stunning, as is The Glooms Pt 1 album, I’m an absolute fan. Let’s start a little further back though – how did Matthew and the Arrogant Sea come to be?

You’re far too kind! Thank you so very much for your sweet words. MATAS came about around 2000 (officially 2001), it started as a dream that grew out of a bedroom in my parents’ house (in Fort Worth, TX) that slowly led me to the a little town that would change my life forever. Denton, TX.

The band began as a friends and family unit. led by Myself (Hi, I’m Matthew) my younger brother Caleb, my 14 year old nephews Jacob and Tyler – mixed in with a few good friends. That was largely the band for many years. Over time it became clear to me I didn’t want to be in some formulaic act, that was always the same. I wanted the mystery behind improvisation and the magic of a well rehearsed band to come together… and thus, MATAS grew into more of a collective. Always offering up a new styling (or a strange one) to make the live show less rehearsed, and full of heart. That spirit has very much so carried over into this current line up. Featuring Blake Vickrey on Bass/Guitar Tony Whitlock (Lead Guitar) Alexander Hughes (Drums/Percussion) and myself (remember I’m Matthew, we’ve been over this).

In what ways has your sound evolved over the years?

I feel like we go into each record with a new energy. We were much more “minimal” back in the early days, then we are now. Things are much more orchestrated, so we can really reign in on the energy of the moment and hopefully create something that we believe in. That’s always been my number 1 goal with writing/creating music in this act. I refuse to release any music that I don’t fully believe in. Music should be visceral and beautiful, it should sting, while reminding you how lucky you are that you get to listen.

I hear a little Starsailor in your music, vocally and melodically, among a few other nostalgic blessings. Who or what would you say originally inspired this sound that you have?

Back in the early days we were rather inspired by SWANS and really everything M. Gira had to offer. I would venture to say our sound was initially inspired by SWANS mixed in with a lot of Daniel Johnston and Arthur Russel.

What’s the songwriting process like?

Each song for me is most definitely a completely different beast. I’m the type of writer that truly tries to purge myself as I write, sometimes a song writes itself in a few moments. Other times, you sit on one song for three years until it comes to a fruition. My favorite though, is when you sit down and ink an entire record in just a few hours. It’s better than sex.

You put a lot of creativity into both the music and the video side of your releases, do you think it’s important to have a set of visuals that connect with the underlying concept of the song, and how easy is it to do this?

Thank you for noticing! I can’t say that it’s important. For me, it’s less important and far more strategic. To carry the story on from one record to the next. I myself tend to approach the underlying concept, less like a concept and far more like a conversation.

That in itself has taken me many years to perfect. My advice to the struggling, or frustrated writer. Stop overthinking it.

Does your creativity manifest itself in any other ways?

Yes indeed, I’m actually an aspiring filmmaker myself. I have directed a few short-form videos, and since then I’ve wanted nothing more than to direct/write a feature myself. (pssst. a feature is in the works).

Where did you first stumble upon the Bukowski quote, and what does it mean to you personally?

Years ago, on a tour I was passing through Berkley, CA. I stumbled upon this amazing old book shop. The owner actually was friends with Buk. He spun a few tails and then sold me a first edition. The very first thing I read, as I skimmed through the pages on the ride to L.A. were “You have to die a few times before you can really live” that quote has resonated with me, and I’ve held it close, ever since that day.

What do you think makes a truly powerful song?

I think a truly powerful song must come from somewhere real. If it doesn’t hurt when your inking it out, you’re doing it wrong.

Is live performance an important part of what you do, and what can audiences expect from a live show?

The very foundation of this band was built on being a live band. So it’s most definitely a big part of what we do. We’ve got some fun surprises in-store. Lets just say Carlos the Muppet may be joining us on a tour in the near future.

What’s the music scene like in Texas right now, and Denton specifically?

Denton has always just had this natural electricity in the air. On any given night of the week you can discover something beautiful, and unique. We have so much beautiful music to share.

Having been involved in music for a while now, what are your thoughts on the mainstream music world in comparison with that of independent music?

That’s a hard one for me. I’m Mr. Anti mainstream music. For many reasons, bust most specifically, because it’s rather bland. I’d much rather be apart of an underground indie rock community that celebrates the weird, and the weirder. Which is probably where you can find us in another 20 years.

What have been some of your proudest or most memorable moments in music so far?

I had the opportunity to play to a sold-out house at The Great American Music Hall in San Fran. That one just completely took my breath away. I’ll never forget it.

Are there any mistakes you’ve made that you might advise up and coming musicians to steer away from?

Mistakes? Absolutely! I myself am out of room on my list of the mistakes I have made. but let me tell you something, I have no regrets. Life is for living, and sometimes living means you make a mistake. Get up, and fucking write man.

What are your hopes over the coming months and years, creatively?

We’re knee deep in the process of making a new LP and working on a soundtrack for a feature film.

We hope to come visit our fans overseas the coming months ahead. So much to share, keep your eyes peeled to makeamericaweirdagain.com

If you could play any venue or event in the world, which would you choose, and why?

I guess for me, the dream gig would be SNL. Why? Because thats the ultimate audience. You have millions of eyes and ears, and three minutes to be amazing. One day, I’ll get my shot.

What should we look out for from Matthew and the Arrogant Sea throughout the remainder of 2018?

We’ve actually got a pretty big surprise coming for our fans this October. I can’t say much, but let’s just say “Mock Origami rides again”.

Is there anything else we should know?

I just want to take a moment to thank you for your kind words, and for asking such wonderfully unique questions. If I may, I’d also like to take this moment, to once again thank our long time fans for their longtime love and support. Thank you x1000.

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Huge thanks to Matthew and the Arrogant Sea for their time & insight. Stream their music on Spotify. Find & follow them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Visit their Website for more information. 

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Musician & writer with an MA in Songwriting.

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