Right on the heels of releasing his latest EP, singer Matt Webb performs at the Memorial Centre March 23.
If Webb’s debut as a solo artist with 2011’s Coda and Jacket presented seven sides of the Vancouver-based musician, from the ‘80s guitar pop of Cinnamon to the irresistible snap of Bad Girl, this year’s project is more direct in its approach.
“You just have a mix of songs. It’s pop stuff; it’s rock stuff; and you haven’t really found your stride yet. With this record, I had a really clear idea of how I wanted it to sound.
“I just used one or two guitars on the whole thing; the same drum set up, the same guitar set up; and a really organic feel to it.”
After wrapping up his touring schedule with Marianas Trench, Webb headed to Armoury Studios with producer and co-writer Kevin ‘Kevvy Mental’ Maher, drummer Al Glassford, bassist Peter Davyduck, pianist Andrew Belson plus four new songs that take a turn from the level of precision, planning, and craft that the Trench exudes.
“Over the years I’ve had some stuff brewing inside that wasn’t necessarily Marianas Trench sounding, so recording on your own is just another little creative outlet,” he explains. “Since the release of my first EP Coda and Jacket, I’ve had nearly three years of new experiences to draw from. Both Marianas and personal life left me with plenty of inspiration.
“I wanted to hear more mistakes, I wanted it to be raw,” he explained. “It’s a different genre.”
His intent is made clear in the title track Right Direction, a straightforward pop tune that coasts along with an attractive and catchy accessibility.
“That track in particular – we went for a kind of Tom Petty feel to it, and I told Al, ‘No cymbals allowed in this song!’ It’s sort of an atypical approach but it helps to build some suspense.”
Webb added that the Kevvy-coined, “Matt Webb rule of simplicity’ became a running joke in the studio.
Heartbreakers kicks things off with a compelling, acoustic simplicity bolstered by a hooky chorus. Webb sounds perfectly at home in the stripped-down wall of sound enriched by a terrific acoustic guitar line. 123 offers Webb a crystal-clear showcase for his vocal ability as well.
Webb’s love for music was born early on. His folks put him in piano lessons when he was very young. “As I became more aware of things, I picked up the guitar because I thought it looked really cool,” he adds with a laugh. Stints in bands and choirs followed as his teen years passed.
“I’ve always had the musical bug. My immediate family wasn’t super musical but my grandfather was a big inspiration of mine. He taught me a lot about the piano – he had the gene.”
He eventually ended up studying science at the University of British Columbia, while juggling an increasingly busy music career on the side. But it was challenging to apply himself fully to both worlds.
“At the time we were working in this beautiful studio in Vancouver and on the floor above us, R.E.M. was actually recording. I was sitting in the lobby studying chemistry. Michael Stipe came walking in and asked me what I was doing – my jaw dropped. I said I was studying for school, and he said ‘You got to pick one or the other, man’. So it was right then I decided I’m out of here – it was music from then on.”
Marianas Trench has opened all kinds of doors for Webb, and he counts his bandmates as a solid source of support. He’s perfectly free to craft his own music as well as pouring his heart and soul into Trench’s extraordinary projects.
As for his latest offering, Webb and Maher built a studio in his parent’s house to complete work on the EP. It’s like a full-circle kind of thing – back in the space where so many dreams of musical ambitions were sparked. Memories of his dad yelling upstairs to keep it down would surface now and then, he laughs.
“My goal was to create a cohesive and organic sounding record, something that I could crank in my car while driving at night – that’s it. I can’t wait to share this stuff with as many people as possible.”
He’s grateful for the fans as well – and their growing support for his various musical explorations. “As long as I keep getting those smiles and having that support – it’s a lot of fun.”
Meanwhile, being a part of a popular band and then hitting the road on your own certainly presents its challenges, but Webb is up to the task.
“I’m used to rocking it on a stage in front of a sea of people, and I’ve got Josh to lean on and he sort of carries the show,” he explains of Marianas Trench’s typical mode of operation in terms of touring.
“But I’m excited. I’ve definitely been standing in front of the mirror practicing my rock and roll looks.”