Download: Matt Singer - The Poet (mp3)A few months ago, I wrote a review of Matt Singer's latest EP, The Drought. Then I heard about a residency he had at The Living Room during December, so I went to check out a show. He played a bunch of stuff from The Drought, a few songs I hadn't heard before, and even found time in his set for an audience participation dreidel tournament. The way every rock show should go, really. I'm a total jackass for never getting around to writing about it (blame Left 4 Dead), because I was going to call the post "From the dreidel to the grave," which would have been a big hit, I think.
Also check out: myspace.com/mattsingermusic
Anyway, a week or so later, Matt emailed me a quick note about the first review, and I asked if he'd like to do an interview. He very graciously consented.
Mike McClenathan: When you meet strangers at parties and they ask what you do, how do you describe it?
Matt Singer: Ferocious sensitive 90’s folk rock?
Actually, I always feel like I’m answering that question for the first time, so if you’ve got any good ideas, please let me know.
MM: You write songs on a pretty wide range of subjects. George Bush, American Idol rejects, The Catholic church, amazing dongs. What really gets you fired up to write? Or, perhaps a better question: is there anything you won't write about?
MS: I can never really predict what is going to grab me. About five years back, it’s clear that church scandals, the Iraq war and the statewide bans on gay marriage were on my mind, but looking back on that time, I realize that those songs were just as much (if not more) about personal stuff… romance, loyalty, my own craziness… The same stuff still seems to be happening in my writing… I just finished a few songs that touch on the lives of refugees and the challenges faced by immigrants, but they’re still totally personal somehow, even though I’m a relatively spoiled suburban kid.
Nowadays, it seems that for every new book I read, a song comes out of it. I’ve been reading a lot of different stuff… Dave Eggers, Alison Bechdel, Cormack McCarthy… so my songs are pretty varied. Then again, with me, they always have been.
As for dongs and sex on restroom sinks, that’s all just an over-active imagination. And wishful thinking.
And no, there is nothing I won’t write about. Except pate. Don’t care for it.
MM: You've been at this a while now. What would 2008, fresh-off-a-Living-Room-residency Matt Singer say to 2003 Matt Singer if he could?
MS: Avoid cruelty, floss daily, and take occasional deep breaths. But not too deep. Oh, and do some recording on your own, Matt… It’s great that you’ve got ridiculously talented friends who do you favors, but buy a freaking pre-amp and a decent microphone, and make it happen, for God’s sake.
MM: How much does it burn you that myspace.com/mattsinger is some other dude that plays music, who claims to sound like "ten thousand farts through paper towel tubes, all in unison"?
MS: Yeah, there are actually quite a few Matt Singers involved in the arts, including a guy from North Carolina who harassed me once for not promptly responding to an email about how cool it is that we have the same name. I like to think that I shoulder this heavy burden with grace, although I’ve been typing the hyphen in my own website for years now (matt-singer.com), and it still makes me a little queasy. Hyphens suck.
MM: Aside from the other Matt Singer, who do you listen to?
MS: Mostly, the folks from the same music scene as me… Lowry, The Blood Sugars, Pearl and the Beard are a few.
MM: During your residency at the Living Room, you were collecting different charitable donations (canned food, toys, warm clothes) each night. What are your favorite charities?
MS: The New York Immigration Coalition and Generation Q do great work. Not sure if they qualify as charities, but they are fabulous organizations.
MM: Where and when can we catch you next?
MS: Union Hall (Brooklyn), Fri. January 2nd
The Dahlak (Washington, DC), Sat. January 10th
Rockwood Music Hall (NY), Mon. January 26th