Check out this extensive interview that I conducted the other day with Matthew Haggarty, drummer for up-and-coming Bay Area rock band Fritz Montana!
Your song “Let You Down” has been featured on the latest Lucy Out Loud compilation. What made you decide to include this as the first single from the new album?
It’s actually kind of funny how that came to be the first single on the new album. We had shopped the album out to a couple people and the song “Scaredy Cat” was actually the song that a lot of people were really interested in. We had actually designed that to be kind of the single. We recorded a demo version of that about six months ago. We went on a local radio station in San Francisco. We showed them the demo of it, and probably no one really listened to it because it was just broadcast to their local following and a couple of our fans.
So when we were actually choosing the first song to put out, Pure Volume wanted an exclusive premiere. Our manager had mentioned that, technically, since we had released the demo of “Scaredy Cat” about six months ago that we might want to release something else, and then we can do a video premiere for “Scaredy Cat.” There was a lot of debate about whether or not “Let You Down” or “Scaredy Cat” was going to be the first song we were going to release.
We ended up releasing “Let You Down” because that was kind of what our go-to song was before we started shopping out the album. So it was kind of one of those things where we battled between the two songs, and then we came up with this plan with our PR guy, Robbie, and our manager. “Let You Down” was the first song we released. It was planned to be our second song, but it was the one that no one had ever heard before. That’s how we decided to choose it and it worked out pretty well.
Lyrically, what was the song “Let You Down” about?
So Dave writes all of the lyrics to the songs. They all kind of start as a free-flow jam when you’re playing. It’s really funny, I know a lot of the past bands that I’ve been in would write a song, and maybe start writing the melodies and stuff later. The first time Dave and I jammed, he kind of already had the melodies in his head and he’d start singing along.
The song is about the conflict of being in a relationship, and kind of wanting it to succeed, but also wanting to sabotage it in order to get out of it. Dave mentioned it was based on personal experiences when he was younger, and I think the thing that’s funny about that is that even if Dave did have that feeling when he was younger, it’s still something that a lot of people deal with today. That fear that a relationship is almost sinking, and that debate about whether or not you want to bring it back up, or whether or not you want to get out of it. There’s that moment where you just don’t really know whether it’s positive or negative.
The idea of “Let You Down” was kind of just about taking that route, and potentially sabotaging a relationship in order to get out of it, almost to save the relationship. I know that Dave writes all about personal experiences, but he also writes in a way that people can relate to them.
Tell me a bit about the writing process for your sophomore album, Scaredy Cat, which was just released on July 26.
Yeah! It’s a pretty cool story, actually, that no one really knows. Last summer, we released our first EP. We were really in this writing process. We wrote about ten new songs, and then we went up to Chico, where we wanted to demo them. We had actually gotten contacted by the manager of The NGHBHD, and so we kind of had this idea to demo some tracks and send them over to him. We went and demoed them, a ten song demo, in one day. We sent it off to the manager, and he wrote back saying “You know, this is alright.” So we kind of ceased conversation with him after that.
After that, we kind of took a step back and realized that maybe we weren’t harnessing our full potential with our music. Maybe we had rushed into this demo and maybe we weren’t really writing the song that we needed to. Maybe we had tried to stay on this track that we thought we needed to. But we actually scrapped the demoes, took about a week of talking about where we wanted to go with that, because that can be kind of a weird moment when you know someone of high authority says something is “just alright”. You want to break into the scene and you want everyone to say that they’re awesome. Dave spent like a week or two just writing a ton of new songs. We looked at the demo that we had recorded, and we saw a couple of songs on there that we wanted to change because we knew that they were still going to be great songs.
The title track, “Scaredy Cat”, was on that demo, so we changed up a couple things, and Dave actually changed up the key that he sings in. We just made it a little better. When we fixed those songs, we started writing the other songs. You can kind of tell that it was on a much different level. We wrote those songs last summer. Wanting to put out seven songs that you’ve been writing after an entire year really shows that you’ve been through a lot and are ready to put them out.
I think that’s what it comes down to though. You kind of have to take a step back and see if you’re writing the music that you think you should ultimately be writing. We have stuff in our bag right now that we’re really excited about. The new music is going to be a lot more blues-ey, Arctic Monkey style kind of rock. We kind of held off on a couple of those songs so we could release them later.
But it took about six months to write those seven songs. It took about another six months to record them and put them out. It’s definitely been a long process. Those songs were forged from a… I don’t know what you’d really call it.
It was really cool, because at that moment with the demos we said “is there anything else that we need to do? Do we need to add another guitarist?” We were thinking about maybe adding a keyboardist. Ultimately, we just decided that it was the music that we wrote where it wasn’t to our full potential, so then we just started writing those new songs. We were showcasing it to a couple of people so we’re really happy to have that out now.
That’s a really great story. The sophomore is definitely one of the most important in any bands career.
Yeah! I think another thing that was really important about the making of this album as well is the production quality. If you notice the production quality between the first EP and the second EP, it’s much different. We spent about maybe two or three months deciding on what studio we wanted to go to.
Ultimately, we decided to go to the Panda Studios in Fremont, which you know is where The Story So Far has recorded their albums. They’re working on the drummer from Yellowcard’s new EP, Basement, The American Scene. We just saw a lot of potential coming out of that studio, and that’s something that I’ve wanted to do for my entire life, record there. We met up with Sam (Pura), and our engineer, and we just really enjoyed what they were talking about.
Being able to connect in the studio with people really helps make your album. When you can believe that the one whose working with you is the one that’s going to take it to the next level.
The relationship that you have with the people who work on the album with you can make or break the experience. If they’re just as into it as you are, the album is going to turn out awesome.
That was one of the coolest things. Sam Pura was going to be working with us on tones and stuff like that, but ultimately it was going to be a session with their newest engineer. We were only the second band that he had recorded, so it was one of those things where we just vibe with people and it worked out really well. It was awesome. I love the Panda Studios.
Where does the album title Scaredy Cat originate from?
You know, Dave always tries to write unique song titles. With “Scaredy Cat”, he’s mentioned before that it’s not one of those things that you hear too much, but it’s actually said a lot.
I was talking to Dave about how an ex-girlfriend of mine had broken up. I talked to him about when you have that kind of weird longing to see her walking down the street, but also ending up hating her at the same time. That idea of like holding onto this person, but you don’t actually understand why. A week later, he actually wrote the lyrics to “Scaredy Cat”, and it was about that idea of holding onto a relationship that has already kind of fizzled.
I think the day that Dave called it “Scaredy Cat” we said “oh, what’s that?” He said, “I think it’s going to be called Scaredy Cat”. We said, “what the hell?” It was one of those things where you had to think about it for awhile because no one actually uses the terminology “scaredy cat” very much. But it fit perfectly with the song, and it wasn’t really stereotypical.
When we were coming up with ideas for the album name, it was actually one of the most difficult processes. Ever since we wrote that song, it’s just been kind of one of those songs where people connect with it the most. It just seems kind of fitting to tie that into the album. Plus, I think a lot of the songs kind of relate around that idea of being torn between two decisions. If there’s one thing that you’ve noticed about our band, it’s that a lot of the songs are written about relationships. But we try to kind of tone it down so that it’s not so sappy. I think that the name “Scaredy Cat” encompasses the whole idea of the album which is the struggle of relationships, which we focus on a lot.
The next two questions I ask to every artist that I interview. What kind of message would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
Oh wow! Hmmm. I don’t know if we’re really a band that tries to instill any messages. I think mostly that the music that we writes comes off jams. We started this band because we just love playing music. At the end of the day, that’s kind of how it is, too. As fun as it is for us to make music, I think that’s what we want people to get out of it. We want people to listen to the songs and have as good of a time listening to them as we did writing them or recording them. We put that into our live set as well. We put 110 percent into our live set.
Even at our CD release show, just having people come out and dance, being able to be one of those bands that people can enjoy a beer to, you know, just really getting into the music and soaking it all up. I don’t even know if that’s really a message, but it’s kind of just that…we hope that the music we’re writing is good music, and we hope that the other people listening will look at it as good music and enjoy it as good music.
The song lyrics and titles can be very broad, so connecting to them in your own way is hopefully what we want people to do. But at the end of the day, if people listen to it and think it’s a great song to play in their car on their way to work, that’s really what we care about the most. Even with our first EP.
We gave away our first EP for free. There was even discussion about doing it on this album too, because it’s not even about trying to make any royalties from it. It’s about getting it into as many peoples’ hands as possible. And while that’s a great promotional technique as well, just to get your band out there, we just wanted to give the music away for people to enjoy.
Honestly, I listen to my own CD on my way to work in order to just chill out, and I think that’s one of the coolest things, that people can just come to our show and soak in the music. We want people to have fun and enjoy it. Music is music.
What does music mean to you?
Oh man! There’s a lot of good answers that I can kind of come up with for this.
I always look back at a conversation I had with a friend in high school. We were in a band in high school. I read this saved AOL Instant Message from when we were in high school. I read it a year and a half ago. It was a conversation about my friend and I not wanting to go to college because we wanted to play music so bad. I think that was really funny looking back on it because the experiences I had in college ultimately helped me develop my music. I was in a band in college and that was kind of what I went to when I wasn’t something. There’s always something you need to go to when you’re not doing the certain things you’re doing in your life. Even when I got into college, I was looking into sales jobs. I had someone tell me I needed to take up a hobby, because the sales industry is going to drive me nuts. So I went through a really weird, kind of downward spiral in the sales industry trying to find a job.
One of the main reasons I started this band was because I was at such a weird point in my life. I met Dave through a friend, and Kevin contacted me the day after I met Dave to jam. We were jamming within like two days of all of us interacting. The first time Kevin met Dave was at the jam too. We all kind of went there just because of this idea that music is something where can take our minds off of all of the other things going on in our life. If you happen to connect with the people that you’re playing music with, it can ultimately turn into something else.
While pursuing this band has been one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done in my entire life, it’s also the most rewarding thing too. It comes with that struggle too. Pursuing relationships or explaining to your parents why you don’t have money or live at their house, or going to band practice at ten o’clock at night because you pay for a practice studio and that’s the only time you can practice, until one o’clock in the morning.
The band all started with three guys coming together because they needed to play music to not really think about the other things that were going on in their life at the time. It really showcases the power that music has, to be able to lift you up in certain situations. So, as stereotypical as it is for me to say, music is kind of like, an escape from the other things going on in your life, and I just happened to try and take it a step farther and pursue it as a career. At the end of the day, I think the reason that we’ve had so much success is because this is something we’re doing ultimately to make ourselves better people at the end of the day. I think everyone can really relate to that, too. Whether you’re listening to music or making music, if you can be happy for just a couple of minutes, that’s really what we take from it.
Those were both great answers. That was a great little history lesson about the band. Last question: what are the future plans for Fritz Montana? If there’s any new music, videos, tour dates, etc. that you want to let fans know about, go for it!
We’d really like to be an official artist on South By Southwest within the next year. Touring is still pretty difficult for us, because Dave is actually in grad school. He finishes up grad school this next year. Touring had been kind of postponed for a tiny bit, but we’re going to be playing a ton of shows around the Bay Area, hopefully. I think a little mini-tour on the West Coast is hopefully going to be planned for the winter. It’s just a lot of promotion right now, and hoping that things click in the next couple months. With a little assistance from record labels and things like that, you can do a lot more.
Fritz Montana's newest EP, "Scaredy Cat" is available now.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.