Following the success of his 2012 debut EP ‘Don’t Fear The Beard’, Sunshine Coast’s blues and roots artist Matt Stillert has returned and is about to put out his first full length album ‘Shoe Boycotter’. Tomatrax caught up with Matt to ask a few questions.
You’re just about to release your debut album, what’s it like to have it finished and almost out?
Absolute elation. The energy that has gone into Shoe Boycotter has been immense, so it’s extremely rewarding to see the finished product, and the reactions I’ve received from the few who’ve already gotten their hands on a copy have been so positive.
What made you pick ‘Shoe Boycotter’ as the title track and single from the album?
I feel it is the strongest track from the album musically, and the many messages I’m attempting to convey are very important; I’m letting my protest side out on this track, pointing fingers at the powers that be for pulling the wool over our eyes for too long.
How will the album compare with your previous EP?
I’ve certainly found my feet in the studio since my first efforts in 2012. On Don’t Fear The Beard I had very limited experience recording, but since then I’ve learned the indispensable value of pre-production, and how to produce myself. I’ve also been playing live full time since the last release, constantly writing and developing my sounds, and this definitely shows in the new material. There’s still a blend of the those high energy crescendos and soothing melodies, but Shoe Boycotter focuses on more of the foot stomping, blues-rock side, although I will say there’s definitely something for everybody on this album.
You produced the album and performed almost every instrument, what made you decide to take on everything yourself?
I feel the more the artist can do themselves, the more the end result speaks directly for them, and the listener is more likely to get a feeling of connection to the artist personally. I also think that hard work is often wrongly placed as less important than talent; anyone can be born with a gift, it’s how you harness that gift and act from a position of gratitude for that gift, which decides how it will flourish (I would say I was one of the least talented in my music class at school). So I take on anything I think I can handle, from writing, performing and producing, to designing posters and networking.
On the track Big Old Bear, I was given the opportunity to work with a fantastic producer Wayne Ringrow, who revealed to me the endless possibilities of how to bring the best out of your songs. After picking up some invaluable knowledge from Wayne I figured “I can do this”, and approached my songwriting with a whole new angle, the self production becoming just another extension of my creative process.
Is it hard to play every part on the album?
I wouldn’t say it’s hard, I would say it’s exciting and can sometimes feel a little overwhelming, but as I’ve become more confident in the studio I’ve become addicted to it, watching your babies come into bloom is very magical.
Was it hard to pick what made it onto the album?
Not really, I went through a bunch of lists over the last couple years with potential tracks for Shoe Boycotter, but it just found its own feet.
You’re about to play some shows in support of the album, what can fans expect from your show?
Well the album launch at Solbar will still see me doing my solo thing, but with the addition of a drummer and pulling out my electric guitars and a wall of amps, it’s gonna have a whole new dynamic. As well as a bunch of new songs very few people have heard. I always put a massive emphasis on giving an electrifying, spontaneous show, and playing as if it were my last day on earth, so people can always expect this of me, when the day comes I’m not playing in this fashion, I’ll retire to my veggie garden.
Is it hard to transfer the studio version of songs onto the stage?
I have always presented to people that the studio and stage are completely different realms; where in the studio you are handed a million possibilities and creative mediums to work with, it opens up a whole world of possibilities that should be harnessed to capture something unique. But onstage there are no second takes, everything is in the moment, I wanna see my fingers bleed, I wanna see electricity in the air between us. Of course people will want to hear a particular song, riff, melody, groove, that they know of yours, but within those songs, lies endless ways to stuff it up or nail something you’ll never nail again. So I don’t compare the two, they are each different places in music.
What’s the music scene like on the Sunshine Coast?
When I first came to the Sunny Coast I was invited to an open mic night by Ayla, whom introduced me to the warmest group of musicians I’ve ever met in Australia. You know when you come into a new town and you say this place is “Clicky”, you could never say that about the Sunshine Coast. Only six months after arriving, I fractured my skull and was out of work for a stint. The crew at Solbar and Debbie Parsons organized a fun raiser with local musicians playing for free to raise funds to get me through, I was so touched. That kind of love speaks volumes of the values in a community.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Yes, especially whilst in the recording process. And, when I’m playing the record to someone else, I love to see their reactions or even dance with them. I know a lot of singers would say they can’t stand hearing their own voice, and I can relate, but I just think if you don’t like how it sounds played back, then you should strive to sing in a way that you would like to hear it as a listener. I’m getting to a place where I’m really starting to enjoy hearing my singing voice, even if that sounds a little vein. But why shouldn’t you enjoy the music you’ve made?
What other music do you listen to?
I will listen to anything, within reason. I love Aphex Twin, and many experimental electronic artists, I always go back to Manitoba. I love anything Tom Waits has ever spat out. Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Led Zep, Captain Beefheart, Jack White, Frank Zappa, all of Rock and Roll to the old pre war blues like Skip James, Son House and Howlin’ Wolf. Hip Hop like Dialated Peoples, Gorillas, Outcast, Tribe Called Quest, Gangstar.
What do you plan on doing once the album is out?
I have a few shows from the Sunny Coast to Northern NSW up until Christmas. Then I’ll be volunteering as a butterfly wanderer at Woodford Folk Festival (if your at Woodford come say hello). Then the New Year sees me touring from Goodna in QLD, The Gold Coast, Northern Rivers NSW, down to Newcastle and Sydney from January 21st -31st. Then VIC and Melbourne in February, I have a residency at the Quicksilver shop in Torquay. Then back to Adelaide by March for a long overdue home coming, I’ll be getting the old band Madclassic back together and we’ll do the Matt Stillert Band thing around Adelaide for a couple months. Then I’m heading to Canada to busk from West to East. Then back to Australia for another Tour/Recordings, who knows when, time will tell.
Upcoming shows are listed below. Check out Matt Stillert’s website to find out more!
Friday November 13 – Quicksilver Shop, Coolangatta
Saturday November 14 – Yamba Shores Tavern, Yamba
Sunday November 15 – Lennox Hotel, Lennox Head
Saturday November 21 – ‘Show Boycotter’ Album Launch @ Sol Bar