Posted Jun 1st, 2009 (4:11 pm) by Derek Duoba

Matthew Loiacono is a busy, busy man. Along with running Collar City records and publicizing the Albany music scene as much as possible, Matt recently released a solo EP and begun work on the soundtrack to a locally-produced documentary. We sat down with him to talk about the Penny Riddle EP, as well as the state of indie in Albany. In reality, the former banjoist for the Kamikaze Hearts is quite possibly the best thing to happen to upstate music in recent years - read on and you'll see why.

InYourSpeakers: It’s been about a year since your release of Kentucky - what can we expect as far as your next release is concerned?

Matthew Loiacono: I recently recorded an EP of eight 1 minute songs. The process it was actually really great for me because with Kentucky, I chose to challenge myself by only using the mandolin and pedals. So, I was finally to go back and record with all my instruments, which is a really big deal. It was like suddenly “oh, I can use a banjo” or “I can use this guitar,” instead of being constrained to just one instrument. I also used Reason for the first time to make some beats for Penny Riddle. Before, I had always looped organic things, but for this record I used electronic sounds and stuff – I’m really excited about that, because a lot of the music I listen to now lately has a synthetic feel to it, you know?

IYS: So will it be totally divergent from Kentucky?

Matt: Oh, it still has that emotional quality to it, but there are some new blips and blops to it. On the other hand, it certainly does have its differences. I felt kind of weird dropping an EP of pure experimentation, but after I finished it, I loved it; I’m really into short and fast songs – 1 minute, in and out. It’s only eight minutes long, so it’s almost like a long song, and it’s sort of sequenced in a way so it’ll all play together.

IYS: So you came into this project with the idea of releasing a one song EP?

Matt: Well, the mp3’s will all be separate, but yeah. Also, each piece is very different - so much so that you listen to each part on its own. As a whole, it feels crammed together, but I like the way it works.

IYS: When did you record the EP?

Matt: It was the first week of August, and it took 3 days. I tried to bang it out. When I did Kentucky, it took 22 days – literally from start to finish. And I want to work that way from now on, but I’m afraid that the quality ends up sounding like a demo. Now that I’ve had a year to reflect on the record, I just want to redo it; there are parts that just don’t sound right to me.

IYS: Are you actually going to redo it?

Matt: No, I’m just going to roll with it. It is what it is, and I’m just going to try to feel my way out through these new ideas and technologies

IYS: And regardless, lofi is pretty popular these days.

Matt: Well, it’s not lofi, it’s just not done right. [laughs] No, it’s fine, it’s totally fine. I feel like a lot of bands and artists are one step above what they’re recording. Like [Alela Diane] for instance, before her latest record, you could just tell that she was bursting with talent, and she’d be great live, but her recordings weren’t as awesome. Now, with her latest record, you can totally tell that the experience from extensive touring has finally carried over.

IYS: Yeah, one thing I’ve noticed about the music industry that the kids get so bored so quickly that the music which artists put out. There’s just so much pressure – do you feel any of that?

Matt: I actually want to keep up with that. If it was up to me, I would have had the EP out a long time ago. But I needed to get somebody to mix it, and I put a lot of projects in front of it. That said, I feel really good about it because I released it a year after my last release. And between these releases, I put out a live version of the Kentucky. In addition to the larger works, I release one song a week to my mailing list – I call it the Weekly Waah. It’s really challenging to releasing stuff week after week, but I do have a backlog of songs I haven’t recorded for an album yet.

IYS: That’s pretty cool; these days, its pretty important to keep putting stuff out for the fans. Speaking of other material, what else have you been up to?

Matt: I’ve been working on this completely different project – a soundtrack for this documentary about this farmer who’s had his land kind of tricked away from him in Brunswick, NewYork. He’s and old guy who gave the land to some of his farmer friends to take care of, but they ended up flipping it to a developer for a lot of money. The guy who’s doing this film - Nathan - he’s been following the story for 3 years, and he has recorded some really intense footage. He’s never made a [film like this before], but I’m really digging it; the imagery and settings are beautiful, and the story is really sad. The soundtrack for it is very instrumental – a lot of sad, drawn-out types of sounds. It may be a little bit of a step backward for me because it’s not electronic, but I really like it.

IYS: So a lot of mandolin work?

Matt: No, actually, there’s a lot of banjo and guitar.

IYS: Now, are you going to be dropping the soundtrack separately from the movie? Or?

Matt: Well, it really depends on when the movie is set to come out. If it turns out that the release date is a year off, I may not wait to put the record out. And the way he’s been touting it, it sounds like there is going to be a lot of left over music that won’t make it into the movie. He’s been giving me some suggestions, but I’ve just been throwing stuff at the wall. And that’s good - I’m using the documentary clips as an influence for most of the music I make currently.

IYS: Yeah, I dig – so in addition to putting out your own music, your run Collar City Records. What’s the back story with that?

Matt: Collar City Records started as a way to help a few friends put some albums out. We helped out our friend Brent Gordon put out a record which we absolutely loved, and another record by Mitch Elrod. As time has gone on, the label has started to put out more and more stuff though. Last year was a pretty gangbuster year; we put out 4 records: mine, Princess Mabel’s record, Ben Karis-Nix’s album and Ike Snopes’s record. They’re all great musicians who are making awesome music but may or may not have a lot of business drive. I just wanted to have a really nice place to feature it, and Collar City Records was born.

IYS: Is collar city records more of a community than a record label?

Matt: It sort of is. Where’s the line, you know? Even with the Benson folks, I love what they’re doing. I said this to Alex – why don’t we just do “Benson City”? The music community up here is full of love - I love everything they do, I love those guys, I feel like we can learn from each other in a lot of ways.

IYS: What do you have lined-up to come out this year?

Matt: Well, the first record we’re putting out this year physically and digitally on itunes is the Sean Rowe album. He’s been recording with Troy Pohl from the Kamikaze Hearts over the course of the last year. There's actually a studio named Collar City Sound as well; which is kind of our sister company. We're related tangentially, but not intertwined. The studio has been building up over the past few years and now has an impressive list of clients.

Anyway, back to the Sean Rowe record. His songs are really refreshing and the vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Al Green, believe it or not. The record is only 10 songs, but there’s been a lot of time spent layering and there is a lot of ambient guitar. And then we’ve got my EP, which we’ve already spoken about.

One of the things that I’m really excited about is the redesign of CollarCityRecords.com; I’m really, really psyched as to how it’s set up. We have this whole section set up for free music. We’re also going to be releasing free exclusive albums through our site. Martha from Princess Mabel doesn’t want to charge for her stuff it at all, but she’d still like to let people hear it. Hopefully this will lead to more artists getting involved – even people who don’t necessarily want to put out their own record.

IYS: So, the business of music is changing; it’s not necessarily a business anymore, it’s an art form which you’re sometimes able to make a living off of.

Matt: Exactly. And I feel like everybody involved in this “indie” movement knows that. All the people I know just love to make music and that’s all that I care about. When the money comes in, it’s awesome because those funds go to getting more mailers or advertising to get more people interested in our music.

IYS: Have you definitively decided to blow your label up as much as possible?

Matt: I don’t know. I just want to have a nice presentation and to continue to put out nice stuff. There’s no long term plan, I just want it to always be around. Throughout all this nonsense, I just want it to keep happening. I sort even want to keep away from the indie world in a way. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, and all the music I listen to is from indie-land, but I want to be a community thing. I want to bring cool shows to the area and I just want to become a brand that is comprised of musical excellence.

IYS: The Albany indie scene is booming. What do you foresee in the near feature, considering that you’re in the center of all of this?

Matt: Well, we’re in sphere, and there are other spheres that are circling around us. I think that with all of the Albany bands touring, we’ll be able to get the city’s name out there in order to bring in more acts from other places. There was an interesting post on alloveralbany.com that said wanted to find out why there weren’t bigger name shows here. There were 49 comments under the article, filled with people wondering the same thing. It’s obvious that people do care about music in the Albany area, but a lot of them don’t come out because they don’t know enough about local venues or the music scene. This is why we need to get our bands touring more often, and we need their names out there.

Again, I’ve been playing music around here long enough that I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs. I don’t know if it’s any better or any worse than it has been, but it’s exciting because the playing field is being leveled by the fact that we’re losing the old guard (like Times Union), who tried to keep things exclusive. Of course, it’s unfortunate that all of these people are losing their jobs, but I’m just more excited to see this. People have a lot of talent, and I think that this shift will force people to work harder. I think that there are a lot of talented writers out there, and if they all band together to start a website, I think it’ll be great. When there’s the death of something old, there will be the birth of something new; right now, we just have the world at our fingertips.

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