Matt Tobey is one of my favorite musicians, and he should be one of yours too. He is best known as one third of the positive power-pop trio Good Luck, adding his distinctive vocals and guitar-based gymnastics to the mix. Recently, he has started a new band called Memory Map that I featured on my list of recommended bands for 2011 here on Mind Equals Blown. Both bands are currently in the process of recording new material, so I caught up with him to ask him a number of questions.
MEB: Hello Matt, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today.
Matt Tobey: Yes, you’re very welcome. It’s great that we can do this from across the sea, and it’s so easy! My mind is still always a little blown by the existence of things like Skype.
First off, I found this very early picture of you online, and I wondered if you could explain what was going on.
Wow, it even has the date on it! 2000? I was 15. Geez. That is a little confusing, isn’t it? To be honest, I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing! I would assume playing harmonica, which was something I liked to do back then. Can’t really tell from that picture though, and I don’t actually remember playing harmonica with Canine Sugar! Where did that picture come from?!
It came from the Canine Sugar Angelfire page!
Well, I didn’t know that existed! Very funny. I’ll have to peruse that!
Was this pretty close to your starting out in bands?
Yeah, it really was. I started playing in Abe Froman when I was 13, and I think our first show happened when I was 14.
…and this all happened growing up in Lansing, Michigan?
Yes, a relatively unremarkable capital city.
Could you guess any of the other connections I found that you have to the state of Michigan?
hahaha…let me think…Thrash*a*Thon?
Sadly not, but I’m intrigued to hear more about that!
I can send you a picture! It was a short lived skateboarding-themed hardcore band. I didn’t even really skateboard…
Wow, so when was this?
It was with Ryan from Abe Froman and our friend Josh who is now a doctor researching cancer. Let’s see, this photo was from March 2002. I’d say it lasted about a year.
It’s interesting that you mentioned Abe Froman, because the connection I was thinking about has something to do with Abe Froman!
Lay it on me!
Did you know that in Michigan, the city of Colon in the 1930s claimed itself to be “the magic capital of the world”?
I was not aware of that. I don’t think I’ve even heard of Colon.
It’s about 2 hours away from Lansing according to Google Maps. The magician Harry Blackstone lived there and pioneered the vanishing birdcage, dancing handkerchief and floating light bulb tricks. That is in Colon, Michigan, and I strangely found out about it in an article by another Matt Tobey.
Oh yeah! The other Matt Tobey! He has www.matttobey.com or something, right? A blog writer?
Yeah, that’s the one. He writes for The Black Table. I thought you would be a fan of magic because the text on the front of Abe Froman’s album is an extract from the book The Once And Future King by T.H. White, and I also saw a clip of you performing solo on YouTube with a Harry Potter book sticking out of your guitar case!
I would consider myself a fan of magic, yes. You know when that album came out I hadn’t even read that book yet, though my sister had. Now it’s one of my favorites! And yes, that MPC show in Gainesville was the night the last Harry Potter book came out. I was really stressed out all night, because I didn’t think I was going to be able to get the book, but there was a tiny bookstore across from the venue that actually had a bunch of copies, and no queue or anything! I was so happy, I had to display it while I was playing.
On the last of the Lansing questions, are you responsible for Defiance, Ohio becoming famous?
Definitely not, though I did witness a lot of their first shows when it was just Ryan, Will, and Geoff. They actually played at my high school graduation party, with a bunch of other punk bands from around the country. It was epic. Who would have thought a little pavillion in a park in Dimondale, MI would host a punk show?
Yeah, the show was on May 24th 2003 with Carrie Nations and The Devil Is Electric, according to their tour dates.
Yep, it was Soophie Nun Squad, Carrie Nations, The Devil Is Electric, Abe Froman, Defiance Ohio, Matty Pop Chart…I think that’s everyone? This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb and One Reason were supposed to play, but not all the members of those bands actually made it. Really it was a long way to go for all of those bands, and I feel so lucky to have made friends with such amazing people so early in my life.
Man, that sounds like such a great show.
I really couldn’t have asked for a better graduation party. EVER.
Lets talk a bit about your current bands. Your band Good Luck seems to be a real Bloomington-based enterprise, since your CD packaging was made there and your album and EP were recorded there too. How important is local sourcing to you?
It’s definitely very important to me, though in the world of producing albums, a process containing a multitude of steps, it can be pretty difficult. We do our best. We’re pretty lucky that our small town of Bloomington is home to such a wide variety of music-related enterprises. We’ve recorded everything we’ve done at Russian Recording, and because of that Mike Bridavsky (who runs it) has become one of my very best friends. Bellwether, the company who produced our CD, is located in Bloomington, but they don’t actually print things here. I believe the printer they use is in Canada. When it comes to producing hundreds or thousands of physical copies of an album into the world, there will always be some amount of environmental consequences. But doing as much locally as you can and trying to use recycled materials whenever possible can at least help ease that burden a little bit.
You mentioned Mike Bridavsky, who is now your bandmate in Memory Map. Was it through recording with him for Good Luck that Memory Map got started?
In a way, yes, I suppose. I didn’t know Mike at all before we recorded the first Good Luck album. He actually approached us, asking if we would like to record at Russian. I had heard good things come from there, but we didn’t know if we would be able to afford it. This was less than a year into being a band. We actually entered a local battle of the bands contest, and ended up winning! We got $1500 and a free day at Russian. I don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t win the battle, probably just borrowed money, but I like to think it was winning the battle of the bands that allowed us to do what we’ve done! Anyway we all got along really well with Mike, and it wasn’t for another couple years until we started Memory Map.
What sort of band was it that came in second place in this contest?
Oh who was it that came in second…I believe it was a rockabilly band called The Phantom Cruisers.
I was just curious if by winning you had robbed the world of another metalcore band.
Back to the topic of magic…Before the final show of the battle, we concocted a Felix Felicis potion to bring us luck. How’s THAT for Harry Potter nerdiness. And to make it extra nerdy, we almost didn’t do it because in the book, it’s illegal to use Felix Felicis before a sporting match/contest. We decided (after much debate) that it was okay, since we weren’t ACTUALLY going to be lucky, just FEEL lucky!
Haha, that has to be about the biggest Harry Potter endorsement possible. Read Harry Potter. Get a new Good Luck album.
Exactly. If there’s one thing in the world we could endorse in the world, as a band, it could very possibly be Harry Potter. I’m considering getting a deathly hallows tattoo. I don’t have any tattoos and have historically been against getting them, so that’s a big deal for me.
I understand that you’re also recording new Memory Map material right now. Why are you already in the studio when your first album is coming out?
Haha, that is a reasonable question. Well we actually recorded the Holiday Band record about a year ago, and released a small run of it on CD ourselves. Now it’s officially “out,” but we’ve been working on new stuff for a while now. Actually we pretty much have all the songs for a new album already, they just need to be fleshed out. Mostly it’s just very fun working with those guys, we play together really well and Mike Dixon, the singer/midi-bass/guitar player has a seemingly endless supply of cool riffs.
My favourite of those cool Memory Map riffs was at the start of the song “Stowaway,” that I named as part of my recommended Mind Equals Blown mix for 2011. Can you talk us through the process of writing that song?
It’s funny that that’s your favorite, because that’s pretty much the only song that started with one of my riffs! I actually wrote that riff during a Good Luck practice but it didn’t seem appropriate for that band. So I presented it at the first Memory Map practice, and it was one of the first songs we wrote. The song came together really quickly, it’s really only the two alternating parts. I believe Dixon wrote the progression for the chorus during that first practice.
Mentioning Good Luck, right now you’re also recording the new Good Luck album right? What are you hoping to bring to this record that was absent from Into Lake Griffy?
Yeah, I think we spent a total of 17 days in the studio for the new Good Luck record. The biggest difference, for better or worse, is that we’ve spent a LOT more time on the new record. Into Lake Griffy, all things considered, came together relatively quickly (it was finished on the exact one year anniversary of our first practice). It’s been difficult trying to follow that up, and consequently we’ve spent a lot more time trying to get every song exactly how we want it. I like the new record because the songs are a little more varied and have more interesting sounds, but at the same time have a more consistent lyrical theme that I think is more cohesive than Into Lake Griffy.
Could you tell us a bit more about the lyrical themes of the new record?
Well, without giving too much away, much of the album is about trying to be able to make decisions. To not be wishy-washy. To be confident and ultimately happy with your life and the choices you’ve made. I’ve had kind of a difficult time with that my whole life, and only recently have been coming to terms with it. It’s about the human tendency to regret, or to not do things for the fear of regret.
The way I see it, you’ve sacrificed quite a lot to spend your life entertaining people, whether it’s through music, or through a few online videos as well. I think it’s really admirable.
Well I don’t really see it as a sacrifice. Sometimes it can feel like that, but most of the time I feel very grateful that people care about the art that I make.
Rounding up a bit here, was the record cover for the Matty Pop Chart record Everyone Does Everything influenced by The Weakerthans’ Reconstruction Site album art? I’m asking because I heard that you once performed as a Weakerthans cover band.
The Weakerthans are definitely one of my all-time favorite bands, and yes we did indeed (Good Luck plus another guy) do a Weakerthans cover band for Halloween a few years ago. It was so fun. But I wouldn’t say the artwork for Everyone Does Everything was really influenced by that album’s art. The idea for that artwork sort of came about on its own. The face in the artwork is inspired by my dad, who has been wearing glasses and a mustache for my whole life. It was just something I had been drawing a lot, and decided to use that for the album art.
With your Good Luck bandmate Ginger opening up her own restaurant now, will there be more free time for a new Matty Pop Chart album?
Ha, well it’s possible! Though I’ll say it’s still a low priority for me. It’s just not that exciting playing by myself anymore. The last Matty Pop Chart song I wrote got turned immediately into a Good Luck song (“Contact”).
Thanks for taking the time to speak to me today Matt!
You’re very welcome Garry! It has been a pleasure.
Memory Map’s song “Stowaway” is available for free download from my 2011 recommended mixtape for MindEqualsBlown.net. You can download it by going: right here.