Music recommendations, like choosing your favorite Beatle, is a make-it-or-break-it tryst with fate. For friends who rely on your musical preference, one misstep and you go down the drain, with Top 40 and all. As everybody wants to be in the business of being the connoisseur of taste, I rest on the one being on the lookout; searching for new sounds and new bands that I have yet catalogued in my collection. A chanced encounter in Bandcamp I came across Matthew and the Birds while getting a tad bit turned off by all the lo-fi fuzziness going on in music lately; craving for something fresh, light and most of all fun.
“You’re like honey that never go bad,” Matthew Ariaratnam sings in “There For You” which pretty much sums up the experience of listening to the fusion of jazz, 1930s swing era, ska and modern pop in Between the Waves. For a generation that does not even know who the Beatles are, Matthew and the Birds singing about a jam with Frank Sinatra does not necessary translate to coolness unless you have been nominated at the London Music Award for Best Pop Artist or shortlisted for a Jack Richardson Music Award like they do. Between the Waves in actuality does not need these appellations to introduce the music it has stored in its quality, recommended for a continuous listening from the life of the party “Suzie Suzie” to the reflective “Ships,” Matthew and the Birds promise no rough seas ahead. The feel-good, jaunty vibe in Between the Waves transcends to ebullient occasions; just like how fun should be in its intimate sense— good times a-rolling, high-five-ing everyone while the band “make the people dance.”
Few weeks ago I tried communicating with the band to discuss their music and have more insights about Between the Waves. Here what comes out of it, enjoy.
For starter, how did the band come together? I figure it is kinda hard to find young musicians who are interested in the kind of music the band’s making which is not lo-fi, ’90s revival sort of trend that is happening these days.
Matthew: The band kind of came together through jam sessions, with some friends, in a music class at Parkside Collegiate High School. I had just moved from Vancouver and I was itching to find some people who wanted to have fun and make some music together and the pieces seem to have fallen in place nicely. The band has had a few lineup changes but basically through the music program at my high school, I was able to find the most awesome and creative people to work with to make the music sound the way it does.
I found you guys via Bandcamp, and I was surprised to know that I was listening to a young band! Do you get that a lot from people? I mean not in a condescending way but the music is mature and sort of serious.
Matthew: We do get the “young band” thing a lot, haha, but we’re slowly getting older. Music is my main outlet and how I deal with everything the world can throw at me. I usually write the music and songs for myself with not much intention of it ever appearing to be a song played live or heard on an album. I mainly write to make myself feel better. I guess that sometimes provokes more serious music? It’s kind of like a journal entry of sounds, haha. I think we make the music that we do because of our influences but also because of our deep interest in music itself.
I get the feeling that most of the songs in “Between The Waves” pay homage to your musical influences in a way, was it a decisive factor upon recording it?
Matthew: What usually happens is I write a song with ideas in mind and then we kind of all just collaborate and clear out all of the bugs to make it work. We’d never really decided on a genre or musical sound we had to stay in or pigeon-hole ourselves into. It sometimes just boils down to improvisation and jamming and saying “Hey, that’s an awesome chord progression or lick” and we just go from there. So we kind of just meld all of our ideas into one. I never had the intention to sound like a certain artist. I kind of just picked up the guitar and those influences leak out of me. On the song “Sing it Sinatra,” however, I wanted to pay homage to Frank Sinatra who I think represents a great era of music. Music that made you happy and forget about troubles but still so deep and meaningful. We never actually officially decided to pay homage, I think it kind of just leaks out of you.
There are moments in the record where I sort of get a The Selecter, The Specials ,2 Tone feel in them. Do the band have some ska influences, too? Honestly it’s fun to get that vibe in music these days, where I feel it’s sorta lost or others are trying too hard.
Matthew: I don’t know if we necessarily have any direct ska influences but I mean we might try and replicate it subconsciously. Ska music has a wonderful way of organizing sound that makes everything sound energetic or optimistic. I’d say, there was a time I was very influenced by Gypsy jazz music and guitar player Django Reinhardt. I loved how they do similar upbeats on the 2’s and 4’s like in ska music. It’s really neat because accenting the beat like that can really drive a song and make it alive or it can make the song really mellow and relaxed. It’s the best of both worlds. I do remember hearing the song “Pressure Drop” by Toots and the Maitails in a Disney movie once when I was kid and loved it. It was one of those songs that kind of sticks with you.
What are the future plans for the band especially after the sophomore album? Shall we expect a third happening soon?
Matthew: The band is currently all off at school studying. Sophia (who plays alto sax and amazing vocals in “There For You” “Demons” and “Ships” -Ed.) and myself are both currently studying Music at Wilfrid Laurier University, Benjamin (plays the bass) is studying English at Western University, and our drummer, Corey Juck, is currently going to school for Police Foundations. We plan to be playing shows during the holiday season and this summer doing some festivals and things around Ontario and possibly across Canada. We just released this new album “Between the Waves” so I don’t know if there will be a new record soon, but who knows haha I’ve already started writing more songs that might find their way to some listener’s ears.
Matthew and the Birds are: Matthew Ariaratnam (guitar, vocals, bass, harmonica), Sophia Smith (alto saxophone, vocals), Ben Bandosz (bass, guitar, vocals) and Parker Booth (drums) with Simon Larochette (lap steel, snaps for Between the Waves)