More about: Mattiel
“I’d listen to the same cd over and over whilst driving to school. I wouldn’t change it for weeks at a time as I couldn’t stop listening to it. I was dissecting the songs in my head without knowing it. So now when I listen to Elephant or White Blood Cells I can remember every single part,” says Mattiel, to Gigwise over the phone from her home in Atlanta, Georgia, where she works as a designer at Mailchimp HQ when not touring.
We’re in conversation with the singer about Jack White because he hasn’t remained a formative influence from afar; he’s become a supportive mentor. After a Burger Records mailout caught the eye of Ben Blackwell at Third Man, Jack White became a fan and invited her to play a gig at the Third Man HQ - and later booked her to support his new solo band on tour. A dream come true for her, especially since she learned music through listening to his albums.
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Mattiel’s route to American alternative label Burger Records, that sparked the Jack White connection, stems from her connection to The Black Lips who are also from Atlanta. For the uninitiated Black Lips are a punk band once signed to Vice Records, have Rough Trade publishing, produced by Sean Lennon, loved by Fat White Family, and are all round one of the greatest bands on the face of this earth to see live.
That talent run in the family and it’s Jonah Swilley, the brother of Black Lips frontman, who plays in Mattiel’s band. Jonah has a natural bond with Sean Bohram, founder at Burger records, and upon hearing the debut album by Mattiel with its 60's soul and rock 'n' roll tones, and poetic and, at times, painfully honest lyircs - the single ‘Count Your Blessing’s is especially revealing of her insecurities - it must have been a no brainer for him to sign.
Of how this golden connection to Jared Swilley started she says it was through a musician named Randy Michael: “I had seen Randy when I was 17 play in a parking lot in Atlanta in a band called The Booze. I thought they were cool” she says. “They were a retro throwback band with a frontman who sounded a lot like Mick Jagger – it was good music. It was memorable to me”
“He [Randy] moved to LA for a long time but when he was back he had moved not too far from where I was living I sent him a message and I went over and recorded a demo with him,” she says. “I met Jonah through him because they had just gotten off tour as session musicians for Curtis Harding.”
That relationship started on that first demo blossomed and Jonah and Randy, who run a production company and have a love of vintage studio gear, started to work with Mattiel as bandmates - and not guns for hire - on what would eventually become the debut self-titled album; first released on Burger and later on Heavenly Recordings. The album was signed to Heavenly because James Endeacott spotted something Third Man posted about her and Heavenly in turn add yet another stunning artist to their roster.
Of how good of a match Jared and Randy are, and why she hedged her bets to work with these guys, she says: “There wasn't a whole lot of people in Atlanta doing music I was interested in. It was all very like drone-y and very shoegaze-y, referencing things that I don't quite care for too much. It was nice to have some people in town who were doing stuff I am interested in.”
Prior to starting the band proper Mattiel wasn’t really involved in music at all. She spent time at University and some months in Brussels before dropping out of University to moving back to Georgia and work as a designer. She tells Gigwise that the band Mattiel is the project that keeps her sane having creative control away from the money making gig.
As for singing in a band and not playing all the instruments herself, is it difficult to maintain that vision of doing things exactly the way you think work best?
“With the first record I didn't really know how much control I should have or how much I should drive the ship. With this next record that we've written I think it's a much bigger better example of what we can do as I stepped up more. I’m throwing my weight around a little more now”
Any hints as to where the second yet-to-be released album will take the sound?
“You can tell it's still us. But it's a little more now. A lot less nostalgic composition. We're not using a lot of brass on this record as we did. We’re not changing that much but we're not doing full on Nancy Sinatra / Tarantino cinematic thing. We used all the same equipment as the first album and some of the songs are cinematic in a way so maybe you'll hear it.”
She brightens up when talking about the second album, revealing the chasm between what the industry is marketing and where her artistic head is at. When she says “All those songs were written a long time ago and it was a pain in the ass to get people to pay attention to it,” it’s clear she’s moved on.
But the second album is yet to have label details finalised despite being finished so she keeps the title details under her hat. And says she’s yet to make the cover art, something she invests as much care as creating the sound. The first album cover shot is a truly striking image and tells us a lot about her life. Of what it was like standing up on a horse to make a cover she says: “That was a rented horse in Morongo valley near Joshua Tree in California. I wouldn't have stood on that horse if I wasn't sure he wasn't going to buck me off because he was really great. He was one of the greatest horses I'd ever ridden. “
Mattiel’s closeness to horses as she moved with her mother who gave up a career in the film industry to live on a five-acre farm in Brooks, Georgia. She learned to ride westernstyle when she was six, seven years old.
Her strong relationship and inspiration from her mother seems to drive her forward. “I’d definitely inherited my work ethic from her” she says in her bio. And she delved deep into her record collection listening to the likes of Donovan, Peter Paul and Mary and Joan Baez in her childhood and early teens, before discovering the White Stripes when she had a driving license and began to drive up to Atlanta where she could diversify her passion for music and discover, against the odds, cool bands like the likes of The Booze that she would soon penetrate the inner circle of.
Being the talented vocalist she is with an outstanding voice of rare power it’s no wonder he heroes nearly immediately are open to working with her when the she gets in touch. Plus the sincerity of working with an artist who wants nothing more from her music than to present something true to herself is appealing. This labour of love is one that’s struck a chord and the tremors are starting to be felt in all the right places around the world. Heavenly are right in saying "it's the most exciting rock’n’roll soul record of the year". Wrap your ears around it, you won't regret it.
See Mattiel Live in Europe:
May 30 – Lille – L'Aéronef
May 31 – Paris – L’Olympic Café
June 2 – Nimes – TINALS
June 3 – Barcelona – Primavera Sound Festival
June 6 – Marina di Ravenna – Beaches Brew
June 8 – Porto – Primavera Sound Festival
June 9 – Hilvarenbeek – Best Kept Secret Festival
More about: Mattiel