AudioFuzz Interviews Indie Pop artist Matt Stamm

matt stamm
Lines and Waves is the 6th solo album from NYC-based singer-songwriter Matt Stamm. Recorded in its entirety at The Apartment – Stamm’s home studio – and mixed and mastered by Joe Rogers at Room 17 in Brooklyn, Lines and Waves is an emotional indie-pop ride that will surely become the soundtrack to your life with its honest and relatable lyrics, lush harmonies, and hooks at every turn. The origina… See More
1.  How long have you been performing?  Do you prefer a solo situation or a band context?
I’ve been performing since 1996 when I went to college and started my first bands with different friends I met there in Boston. It was a great music town, and there were so many opportunities to write and play, whether it was in the dorms, at house parties, busking in Boston Common, or any of the countless coffee shops and clubs there.  I’ve always preferred playing as a full band over performing solo.  I really like being on stage with talented musicians I’m friends with – it’s more interesting and exciting to have those musical interactions, and I think that always translates out to the audience.  I enjoy it even more when I’m not even the frontman, like in some of the bands I’m in now. When I get to be one of the backing musicians and just focus on the music it’s easier for me to get completely lost in what I’m doing, and I think that’s when the best musical moments happen.  When I’m solo, there’s so much more for me to think about, and it makes it a lot more difficult to be in the moment.  It’s possible, just not as common for me.
2.  What instruments do you play?
I started out as a kid with piano and saxophone lessons. I haven’t picked up the sax in a while, but I can still play. Mainly I play keys, guitar, bass, and very basic drums.  I’ve played accordion and ukelele on some recordings, but I wouldn’t necessarily put those on my list.
For covers, I think it’s so important to pick songs that mean something to you and that you really connect with, and then making them your “own” comes pretty naturally. It might be the song topic, a memory connected to that song, or something special about the artist that makes you admire them.  To be honest, I started this batch of recordings with the plan to release 52 songs in 52 weeks – one each week.  The writing doesn’t take me too long, but the recording is definitely my rate-limiting factor, since I do it all myself.  Eventually I got impatient and realized it would take a really long time to accomplish that goal. So I decided to put out an LP now – that became Lines and Waves.  When I got to the point of having 30+ songs written for that 52 song project, I decided to try a cover or 2 to change things up.  The first one I tried was “Always Something There To Remind Me”.  There really wasn’t a ton of thought put into how to make it sound like me, it just came out the way I sang it on the 1st or 2nd try. And when I sat down to produce it, it really guide me towards the way the entire record would sound. So in the end the covers weren’t just add-on tracks or anything like that – they were really important for helping me shape the vibe and sound of Lines and Waves.
I picked “Always Something There To Remind Me” because it connects me to my youth. When it first came out in the 80s I was at the age where I was going to birthday parties at roller skating rinks. And that song used to play ALL the time.  So oddly, the memory that song connects me to is…roller skating. The song’s about lost love, but the “something” it “remind”s me of is being a kid and having crushes on girls at roller rinks, and it was all really simple and fun.  And now it’s more complicated.  And the beauty about that cover is the one we all know by Naked Eyes was actually a cover that they TOTALLY took in their own style!  Burt Bacharach and Hal David actually wrote that song in 1963, and Dionne Warwick was the original artist on the demo.
I chose “I’ve Just Seen a Face” because I – like most human beings – admire The Beatles, and that’s one of my favorite songs by them. I know it’s an original Lennon/McCartney, but you can hear that country influence in there big time. They were emulating their favorite artists and paying homage to them, so I decided to do the same.
There’s a 3rd cover on Lines and Waves by an artist named Yuna. The song is “Deeper Conversation” I chose that because I really admire her as a songwriter and singer, and how she’s such a great example of actual talent and hard work paying off. I spent some time listening through her catalog, and I loved that song. I honestly don’t feel a huge connection to the meaning of the track, but I thought it was a song I could cover well, so I went for it.
4.  Did you enjoy working on your own?  Do you like production or performing better?
In the studio I enjoy working on my own, to a point.  To collaborate in the studio there needs to be a lot of trust, and a lot of give-and-take. Whatever winds up in the mix is forever, and when you’re working with others it’s not always easy to strike that balance of combining visions about what things should sound like.  That’s why people bring producers in to work with bands – someone with an outside perspective needs to steer the ship.  I’ve worked with producers on my other solo records, and they have steered me in directions I thought were right at the time, but when I listen back I know I would have done things differently. One example of that is my vocals. I’ve worked with people in the past who pushed me to write material that wasn’t suited to my natural singing style, and then in turn I was really pushing my vocals into a style I wasn’t comfortable with.  I found myself trying to be a type of artist I’m really not. At the time I thought that pushing my limits and growing as an artist in that way was the right move, but now I’m not so sure.  So for Lines and Waves I went back to the way I’ve always wanted to record my vocal, and I wrote songs accordingly.  I know it’s not for everyone – it’s certainly stylistic, and some folks aren’t into the way it sounds. But frankly, I don’t really care. I like it.
As far as production, at this point in my career, once I get flowing with ideas I usually don’t hit too many stumbling points; that was the case with the majority of this record. However, when I did get stuck on a few tracks, I sent what I had over to my good friend Christian Linsey. He is an amazing drummer in 2 other bands I play in, and he also writes and produces his own, incredible, solo music under the name Tre Moody.  He sent me back a few ideas, and those ideas gave me the re-direction I needed to polish off those songs.  And then on top of that, he did the artwork for the Lines and Waves cover, which is one of my favorite things about this record.  Seriously, can’t thank him enough.
Production vs. performance?  Production wins for me each and every time.  I love being in the studio. I’m really becoming kind of a hermit these days, and if I can spend a night in, recording, I’ll almost always choose that instead of going to a venue.  I know I should probably get out and do some live dates to support this record, but I’ve already started recording my next one, and I’m currently involved in 3 other studio collaborations I can’t wait to release. So for right now, I think my time is much better spent recording.
 I also just want to mention that although I recorded and produced the record alone, there’s no way it would sound like it does if I didn’t mix and master it with Joe Rogers at Room 17 in Bushwick. Joe is so talented in so many ways, and he really helped pull everything I recorded into cohesive, dynamic mixes. I am so appreciative of his work.
5.  I haven’t heard such great material by a single person since Todd Rundgren’s Hermit of Mink Hollow?  Was he an influence on you?  Who else is an influence?  Any one out there you particularly like?
That’s very flattering, thanks!  Honestly, besides being recorded near my hometown (Goshen, NY) and being released the year I was born (1978), Todd Rundgren isn’t a huge influence of mine. I like his records, but as far as DIY artists, Pete Yorn is huge for me. When his Music For The Morning After came out, I listened to it over and over again.  I’m fairly certain he did everything himself on that album.  I’m definitely a Ray LaMontagne fan.  On Pandora these days my 3 favorite stations are Van Morrison, The National, and The Postal Service.  I loved Elliott Smith.  On Lines and Waves I don’t think I’ve hidden being influenced by Paul Simon, The Beach Boys, CSNY, and Cat Stevens as well.  I just got the latest Tom Petty, and I can’t wait to give that a listen – I’ve heard great things.  For me the ultimate writer/musician/performer combo is Dave Grohl. He’s one of my idols.
6.  Where can I find your music?  
It’s wherever digital music is sold and/or streamed.  On iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/lines-and-waves/id897364731?ls=1. It’s also on Amazon.  It’s definitely on Spotify, and hopefully it will pop up on Pandora soon. Waiting to hear back from them.
You can see my video for “Always Something There To Remind Me” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEBAU1Un9CU
7.  If you could be an animal, what would you be?
Maybe a turtle. I wouldn’t want to carry everything I own on my back, but wherever a turtle is, is home.
For more info, go to:
www.mattstamm.com
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