We tap into the insatiable creative hunger of Matty
The architecture of Matty Tavares‘ creativity is meticulously carved, emotionally detailed and resonates with a multitude of differing musical eras. Apparent in his composition and production predominantly via jazz/hip-hop aficionados Badbadnotgood, the [musical] keyboard warrior extends his virtuosity with solo project, MATTY.
Constantly exploring and testing limits, we uncover a fresh angle of the musician in this pursuit, for the context of Matty focuses less on technicality and more on attuning to the raw vulnerability that lingers inside us all. It’s about pulling that person out of the dark and offering resonance and utter honesty for both the listener and artist. Tastefully intrepid fostering spirituality, the product of this energy sees Matty release his debut record Dejavu through Matty Unlimited via AWAL.
Comprised of nine tracks, Dejavu is reflective of not only Tavares‘ relationship with certain figures in his life, but also his own characteristics. Taking a step back from touring with Badbadnotgood in 2016 enabled Tavares to complete Dejavu, with the help of longtime friend and esteemed producer Frank Dukes. Openly addressing the nature of an overwhelming turnstile in his career, Dejavu is a product of therapy as much as it is an anticipated goal; exemplifying the beautiful mind of Matty Tavares.
Since releasing the final single before Dejavu‘s scheduled release of Friday, 15th June, we appreciatively shared a really wholesome and insightful chat with Matty Tavares.
It must be a strange complex wanting to create so much, but not being particularly into performing to a crowd. Will Matty be a project you tour much?
I’m for sure playing four shows in Europe, but I don’t think it’s something that I’m really going to tour that much. First of all, I don’t even really know how it’s going to be translated live, because there’s so many overdubs on the record and string arrangements… Essentially a lot of the songs are going to be hard to pull off live.
I’ll be tackling these shows in Europe so we’ll see what happens. I think definitely the live show is going to be pretty weird in the sense that it’s going to be like all the songs how they are but when I’ve been rehearsing it’s been very, very intense; kind of like jazz jamming almost as well. So, it’s going to have some of that sort of quality stuff too.
Will you be sampling a lot of that stuff in the live show then, or have lots of members on stage performing different parts?
Right now we have five people in the band, including myself. It’d be cool to do a show where we need people to do like a string section or something, but also, performing live wasn’t something I ever wanted to do to be honest. That’s why I kind of stopped touring with Badbad[notgood]. I still play some shows with them, but my old roommate James [Hill] fills in for them mostly now. I just want to make stuff. Like there’ll be some shows that I think will be really cool and I’ll definitely put as much as I can into them, but for the most part like 99% of my energy is focused on creating music – constantly; for other people, for Badbad, for myself. That’s really what I want to do.
The musical style that we hear on the album is one you’ve been playing with since your teen years. Are any of the tracks on Dejavu a product of that time?
No, I mean some of them were written about four years ago, but none of them are from when I was a teenager making similar music. All those songs that I made when I was a kid are like so bad, you know what I mean? Like, yeah whatever I like making stuff like that, but I had a couple of years of experience when I was a kid.
I think I had a lot of taste, I was listening to a lot of records that I got put onto because I was pretty isolated growing up in the suburbs. I had a lot of foreign stuff and these really cool jazz records, Brazilian records, you know, really interesting stuff. The problem was that I was trying to replicate what I had barely the ability to make. So no, none of this stuff is from when I was a kid, but then again, tracks like ‘How Can He Be’ is about four years old.
Some of the songs are songs that I’d written way way before I’d stopped touring, just random things I was devoting my time to besides Badbad.
If you hadn’t had stopped touring with Badbadnotgood, do you think Dejavu would have ever surfaced?
No, for sure not. After I stopped touring, this record was basically my main, main, main priority. It took almost a year to finish after I stopped touring. I probably had a song and a half done before I stopped touring that I had worked on with [Frank] Dukes. This other song that didn’t make the record and ‘Clear’ were almost how it does sound as the finished product. I obviously redid a bunch of stuff with other musicians so they weren’t just demo-y kind of things.
If I had gone in the pace I was going while I was touring, it would have taken like 15 years to make the record. I basically just devoted like every single day after I stopped touring to work on this thing. I really wanted to do something that was just a completely different expression to what I do with Badbad, which I love, but I just needed to try something different, you know?
You worked with [Badbadnotgood’s] Chester [Hansen] and Alex [Sowinski] on ‘Embarrassed’. What was it like approaching that with those guys in a different musical light? Did it feel like a refresher?
Yeah it was interesting, that’s a good question actually. I also worked with them on ‘How Can He Be’ with all the guys. Yeah it was cool. Alex did his part in like five minutes, and Chester did his in like five minutes – those guys are pros. I already had the songs completely written and completely arranged, and they nailed it.
It’s hard to even think about what the experience is like, because it was just such an off the cuff like, “Hey, play on this,” and they were like, “Okay, [tapping noises]. Okay, done.” It wasn’t this big woah moment, if that makes sense.
So it was just prepared in a way and they just went about it in a professional manner?
Totally, yeah. They’re amazing. Everything on the whole record was very intentional. Even specific things that might sound like mistakes or something, was very intentional. At least towards the end, maybe not at the beginning for some of them, all of the songs are exactly how I wanted them to be. So when I got people to play on the record, it was just like, “Do this, do that.”
‘Clear’ was originally recorded on your iPhone. How many of these songs as ideas were originally jotted down in the same fashion?
Oh yeah, at least half of them. ‘Verocai’ was something me and Dukes wrote together in about half an hour. I mean it obviously took a while to write the lyrics and string arrangement, but the actual main piano part and chords took me and Dukes like half an hour on an iPhone. ‘Clear’ was on an iPhone. ‘How Can He Be’ – the entire song was originally demoed on an iPhone and then made into another demo, Dukes helped me finish that one. ‘Butter’ was entirely an iPhone demo, ‘Polished’ was an iPhone demo. ‘Nothing, Yet’ – that was an iPhone demo… So yeah, heaps were created from an iPhone demo.
Then say ‘Embarrassed’ for instance, I made the instrumental first and then listened to it on repeat thinking about what the melody could be and what I could sing on it, you know what I mean?
I’ve read that you take influence from retrospective styles and genres and then “contemporise” them. That’s something I’ve always felt listening to Badbadnotgood. Do you think that’s a subconscious style of songwriting that you hone into?
Oh totally, yeah! That’s another really great question. I don’t know what it is… When you learn jazz music, I think the way everyone should learn it is by transcribing, if that makes sense? You pick the people who you connect with and you copy them. Then you find out what they hear and eventually make that your own. That’s how a lot of the masters do it, you know, like they’ll copy the people before them and they’ll just completely create their own thing from that.
That was always my approach when learning piano, and I think that’s also my approach to writing songs and producing records, or whatever. I’ll listen to something I really like and think, “How can I do something exactly like it?” Once I figure that out, that knowledge is engrained in me and then when I actually do it for real, it just kind of seeps in there, along with all the other things that I’ve done.
Kind of like that theory that everything is “stolen”, nothing is original, in a way?
Completely, yeah! It’s not like I consciously stole anything being like, “Woah, I’m going to literally jack this thing.” But totally, yeah. How could it not be?
Each track was originally signifying a different person in your life. Did this concept unfold organically or was it planned?
Yeah just coincidentally. Here’s the thing, each track is about a different person, but three or four of them are about me. ‘Butter’ is about my parents and family, ‘How Can He Be’ is about a previous relationship… But then say ‘Embarrassed’ is about me. I think sometimes people think that’s about someone else and it sounds so harsh to think it’s about anyone else [laughs], because it was really like coping with feelings of being really depressed and having this self-conscious negative voice inside yourself all the time, and it was writing from that person’s perspective; but it could be [interpreted as] this really mean song about someone.
It’s a double-edged sword.
Exactly yeah, but unintentionally – it’s really about me. It was unconscious. I started making the record when I started going to therapy, and I think maybe just the therapeutic process of analysing myself and my relationships every week probably just led to me being like, “Well there’s a good thing to write about then.”
It’s kind of comforting, yet isolating all at once then.
Totally, yeah. That’s how I feel all the time you know [laughs]. Like, “Oh this is nice” or, “Oh, I’m alone.”
Is Dejavu to be the only Matty album, or can we expect to see more of the project in the future?
Ideally if things pan out, because it does take so long. I think there for sure will be a next record, I’m already working on a bunch of stuff, but it will sound literally nothing like this record. The stuff I’m making now almost sounds like avant-garde free jazz, and modern classical music with vocals on top. I’m sure in a year from now though, maybe 10% of the stuff I’m working on now might eventually incorporate itself onto a record.
I get so obsessive and my tastes change so fast that I just want to learn and play everything, that I really don’t know what the next record is going to be like.
You’ve released Dejavu independently under your own Matty Unlimited imprint. Is that an integral factor to you that the record is pushed out on your accord?
Totally, it was the most important thing for me. I mean I have a distributor and stuff, but yeah. Originally me and Dukes were going to release it together, but that just didn’t work out enough in time; he’s just such a busy guy now, he’s one of the best producers in the world. So basically, it was either me and Dukes were to release it together or I was just going to release it.
It was really important to me in the sense of the entire process. That’s why Dukes has been such an amazing person. I think he is the only person who really understands me, musically. This whole thing was so self-directed, so if there was one person who really made the record with me, it would be him.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt from working on a solo project?
So, so, so, so, so much. It’s really hard to explain. Making this record – especially that year that I took off from touring – I made like 200 things. Just trying out so many different things in terms of learning instruments and how to sing, how to produce and engineer stuff.
But then also maybe the biggest thing is that before I started working on the record, I kind of thought that part of a facet in being good was some kind of intellectual component which, unfortunately, I kind of got from going to music school where it’s like, “Yeah this is cool but are the chords complex,” or “Is there some sort of cleverness that needs to be interpreted in the music?”
Even with Badbad stuff, there’s a lot of that. It’s like, “Well the song is cool but woah, these chords are crazy also. This is so insane without technicality.” Making this record was like, “Oh okay I need to focus on being as honest and vulnerable as possible,” because at least for this kind of music, I think that’s the key thing. If I put myself out there and even do something like sing – which I’m not even really that good at– maybe that vulnerability is what someone will tap into, and maybe it’s what will make someone feel less alone; just like there’s so many records I listen to that make me feel less alone.
You kind of owe it to yourself to tap into these things too.
Yeah, 100%. I almost should be obliged to, you know, what a privilege I have. I’ve grown up in a culture where I’ve had the time and ability to make music. Why would I not make it as honestly as possible? To make this art-form that’s really a luxury to be able to do – especially for a living. To do that for any reason other than to be honest seems kind of terrible.
You’ve collaborated with a bunch of artists of various natures. Is there one experience in particular that’s been really rewarding or just a crazy moment for you in your career?
This may sound really safe, but it’s honestly the truth in a sense that the most meaningful collaboration has been Badbad for sure, and Dukes so much. I mean the band is obviously like yeah, we love each other, but outside that Dukes has been the most meaningful person to collaborate with, he’s completely changed my perspective. I’ve learnt so much from him, he’s just been such a powerful figure in my musical life. Sure, it was cool to do a bunch of cool stuff that were big songs and to work with big artists, they were great experiences, but nothing has been more important than the relationship I have with Dukes and how much he’s taught me.
So, what’s next for you? I heard you’re working on a documentary soundtrack?
Yeah, I’ve done a few that are all coming out soon actually, but I did this documentary soundtrack on videogames which is this super crazy, 10-part, really high budget, really well researched complete history on video games. It was a fun experience, because basically the director gave me complete creative control – I mean obviously I needed to match the tone, but it was cool. It never gets that intense; I probably made about 50 original ideas for it, which was interesting. And even that was a learning experience! Now I’ll probably make something where one thing I learnt to do in that soundtrack will be incorporated, whatever it may be.
Dejavu is out June 15 via Matty Unlimited/AWAL.
Words by Hannah Galvin.
Photo credit: Matty Tavares