Introducing: Matador Mike
In late December, I spoke to Daniel Reith about sophomore release 'Angry? No. Sad, Maybe.'
Set against the backdrop of a complete lockdown across the country, in 2020 Matador Mike released a record that somehow defied and in equal measure so often manages to capture the tone of that moment in time so deftly. Given that the record was written in the years proceeding the events of 2020, its almost hard to believe that the resonance in lyrical ties to isolation and separation from family which are entirely down to coincidence.
Often evocative, 'Angry? No. Sad, Maybe' presents a set of songs that are in equal part gentle and emotionally raw as they can be fired up and electric. Yet, the record holds together as a cohesive sonic journey of different vignettes that harnesses experimentation as a strength. It's meandering track listing is enhanced by regular lo-fi musings, thinking aloud ideas and fly on the wall recordings that bring an intimate quality to the listen.
Moments where the record doesn't shy away from bearing it's teeth (for instance on 'Fat Cats') shows a different side to Matador Mike that hints at how powerful these tracks under normal circumstances where they could fill a room with raw, electric energy. Yet, it's actually the more expansive tracks like 'Shipwrecks' and 'Skin' that show the true craft in songwriting and instrumental depth that make Matador Mike a compelling sonic experience. In these these expansive, escapist moments it's easy to overlook that this record was an entirely DIY affair.
It's exactly this contrast between expansive ideas and bedroom rock sensibilities that throughout the record, will have you forgetting that you're probably stuck indoors, unable to distinguish guitars from whale samples on a pair of headphones. It's this escapism through music, playful exploration and the clear joy in songwriting that makes the record unmistakeable.
Hey Daniel, for those that are new to Matador Mike, can you give us a quick introduction?
It was initially just a bedroom project. I wanted to release an album, and needed a name to release it under. But once I gave it a name, it suddenly became real and tangible, and that's when I realised that it wouldn't cut it as just a bedroom project. So I decided to move to London to turn Matador Mike into a full, live experience. Since then I've been putting together a band, and preparing for our first shows. It's taking longer than I expected, but I want to get it right. There's a visceral energy in the Matador Mike project that I feel needs to be experienced live, rather than just over speakers or headphones.
How long was the writing process for the 2nd record?
I think the whole writing process took about two and a half years. Mid 2017-early 2020. I tend to write a lot, and then piece together an album once I can see a narrative forming. From then on it's just a question of finishing off ideas, and turning it all into one cohesive body of work.
How did you find releasing a record during lockdown?
To be honest it was no different for me. With the first album, it had been finished for almost a year before I released it, which was pointless upon reflection. With this album I wanted to give myself a deadline and stick to it. Postponing the release of this album due to lockdown, would have made lockdown much worse for me. I don't like having finished songs just lying around in limbo, they feel like dead weight after a while.
Impressively the whole album was recorded and produced yourself, why do you choose to take this DIY approach?
In the first band I was in, we had a couple of recording sessions that were quite underwhelming. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth, and I've struggled to trust people with my music ever since. I've tried to learn as much as possible about recording and production, so that I can release stuff on my own, and still have the option to collaborate with people. It's an ongoing process though, there's a lot to learn.
If people had to listen to one track first, what would it be and why?
Tough question! The album is a real mix of emotions and styles, so it's hard to single just one track out. I think "Shipwrecks" best sums up the overall feel of the album, because of it's dynamic range and atmosphere. But lyrically, "Skin" is the most representative.
What are you up to at the moment and what's next for the project?
Right now I'm dabbling in other projects and genres. More minimal, textural stuff rather than just loud, overdriven guitars. I've been doing a lot of recording and engingeering recently, and that's helping me appreciate how important it is to understand what sound your looking for when approaching an album. I want new techniques and perspective to put into Matador Mike, and plan to start writing tracks for album no 3 in early 2021. If all goes to well, live shows will follow soon after.
You can find Matador Mikes sophomore release 'Angry? No. Sad, Maybe.' on bandcamp here.