Matthew E. White Interview
Ahead of his Roundhouse performance, we caught up with Spacebomb Records impresario and soul sensation Matthew E. White
The first full-length album that White put out was his own. On Big Inner, he took his crown as the reigning king of the sizzling slow-burner, and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be usurped any time soon. Since then, he’s put out music by funk aficionado Howard Ivans, and psychedelic tomfoolery courtesy of the peculiarly named Grandma Sparrow & His Piddletractor Orchestra. In 2015, Natalie Prass, the latest member of team Spacebomb, saw glowing reviews roll in for her ‘70s inspired soul debut.
Fresh Blood, White’s second album was released this year on Domino Records, and saw him master his craft. Those irresistible, unhurried grooves are still in place, but are thrown into relief by some punchier numbers, and more emotive lyricism.
We caught up with White ahead of his Roundhouse gig on January 30 to discuss Spacebomb, his influences, and what we can expect from him in 2016.
There’s a tight group of artists associated with your label Spacebomb. How does this community effect the music that you make?
Music always sounds like the people who make it, their strengths and weaknesses, schedules, personality, mood, ideas, and energy all contribute to what the music sound like. So for Spacebomb, our records sound like our community, we try and maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses, and that contributes very directly to the sound at the end of the day.
Could you talk me through your song-writing process? Do you tend to write alone and then collaborate later, or to write in a group?
I write alone and sometimes collaborate later. It can start anywhere, I try and not keep the starting point too consistent, but also do what works. Sometimes I write from a lyric, other times, from a melody, could be from a beat I made, or riffing off another song. Just try to keep the channel clear.
How do lyrics fit into this process? What are your particular concerns?
My concern is mainly that the lyric is true, in a broad sense. I also like the words to be fun to say, in a tactile way. I like for them to set a mood, to match the production and vice versa. They are the most direct part of one’s palette so you have to make sure that their directness is channelled appropriately, that the balance is right with the rest of the song elements.
Which musicians do you find yourself most inspired by?
Kendrick Lamar, Ligeti, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson
How do you feel that your music has developed on ‘Fresh Blood’?
I think I’ve fine-tuned some of my tools. My goal was to develop the songwriting, the arrangements, the rhythm section, my vocals, the background singers. I wanted to develop and expand that vocabulary especially.
What’s in the pipeline for next year?
A handful of production and arrangement jobs. Making some new records with Spacebomb, a lot of writing, and maybe starting on a new record myself.
Matthew E. White plays the Roundhouse on January 30. Tickets are available now.