Matthew Dear


Written by Suzie McCracken
07 Monday 07th May 2012

Welcome back to London! Do you enjoy performing here?

I do, it’s always a lot of fun. Last time we were here we played Corsica Studios, which was great. Soundcheck for tonight was great - they have my favourite sound system.

You have a surprisingly big presence on stage, most people who start with DJing don't feel comfortable enough to come out from behind the decks. Do you prefer performing for people’s eyes or ears?

That’s a good question... I prefer ears, but I think in the beginning I realised you have to perform for eyes as well. You can just stand up there and do nothing behind the table but I feel like it's theatre to a certain extent and you owe a show. If you’re in the audience, you want to see something fun. I’m not saying that’s silly or crazy, but I think for me it was about figuring out how I wanted to be myself on stage as well as what music I wanted to play.

The Headcage EP has its own narrative and clearly isn’t just spare tracks that you couldn't fit onto Beams. What was the impetus behind the EP? Did it take shape organically or did you want to create something specifically for Record Store Day?

I get really jealous of other bands when I don’t have new music out. I went to the label and said I have all this new stuff, if we can’t get the album out until point X, let me put something out. And I mean, I’m with the label, so it’s an easy thing. Headcage will be on Beams, but other tracks won’t. It exists in its own Extended Play which is rare these days; you don’t have many EPs anymore. I remember some of the best Beatles singles were just singles, they weren’t even on the album. It’s fun to just give people in-between moments and keep interest.

Was ‘In the Middle’ always intended as a duet with Drums' Jonny Pierce?

No, I wrote the song and actually had a version where I sang most of it. Then Jonny came over to my studio in Brooklyn and I showed it to him. He said “Ok, let’s try it,” and I took out my vocals and let him do his. He did my verses and then he wrote his own verse. It became this weird mix of him singing my melodies and him doing his own melodies. Then I came in and did backing for his melody at the end. It was a pretty cool combination.

What can you tell us about Beams? How does it compare to Black City?

It’s a turn towards the light I guess. It’s not rainbows and sunshine, but it’s somebody in a darker world dreaming of something a bit brighter. But I dunno, I hate putting words to it, it’s hard to describe.

I’ve noticed that your vocabulary when it comes to describing your songs is actually quite expansive. It’s less vague than most bands. Is that just a product of a decade of explaining your music to people or does that come naturally?

A little bit of both. I wanna try – some people just say “Fuck it, I don’t know what it’s about.” I gave up on that a long time ago, it’s not interesting. But talking about my music isn’t something I do normally. I don’t sit down to dinner with my wife after I make a song and say “Let me tell you about this one”. The only time I really talk about it is when I’m talking with you. I’m at the point where I look at this as a musical therapy, so I try and dissect things. I might not always hit the mark but by exploring lyrics and what things are about, sometimes you do get to an understanding of what a song was about of which you previously had no idea. It’s like, “Wait a minute...”

You get a lot of respect from other musicians, for instance, we did an interview with Death in Vegas in January who happily name-checked you. Which of your peers inspire you?

That’s cool! I guess one of the biggest contemporary bands that I really love is Animal Collective. It’s an easy answer but it’s easy for the right reasons. They are so creative and powerful with what they do. Seeing them live at Primavera really brought that home.

Last year at Primavera you were looking pretty suave in a white suit. My friends and I were interested in what colour socks you wear with it? Maybe a pastel or a fluorescent hue?

Black. I always have the coloured socks at the back of my head, I always think I’m gonna do it. But I never do...

Beams comes out this summer and you can find the Headcage EP here.

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