I think it's awesome that traditional hardcore still has a place in the music scene today. While it doesn't have mainstream attention (and it's not supposed to), people are still flocking out to shows, screaming their fucking hearts out, and joining the family of musicians and fans that continue to make up the community. Matriarchs is one of the newer bands in that community, and they are certainly proving to be a force to reckoned with musically. I had the pleasure of speaking with their guitarist Ben about recording their debut full-length record Scandalouz Joints.
After listening to the record, out of curiosity, about how long did it take to create Scandalous Jointz as a whole? I feel that, particualrly with punk bands, whenever I talk to them, I think there’s almost always more songs that what’s represented in the final product.
Well, the album itself was basically, I would say, close to four years in the making. I really took my time. Basically, it started with just me. I wrote all the material musically. I was looking for band members for a really long time, trying to find solid people that you can rely on, get the work done and actually show up to practice. It’s more difficult than it seems. I was really just focused on making, what in my opinion, is really strong music, whatever that may be. Love us or hate us, the composition and quality is there. It’s just up to whether you like that style.
There are four songs on the album that are demos that we re-tooled and brought back. We had a demo tape that had come out about two years before that. We received a good response with that, so we redid them with Nick Jett [producer]. The instrumentals were all done, and then I worked with our vocalist. His first language is French, so his English is actually really bad. So he will actually write out the lyrics in French, and then I will use Google Translate and then get those thoughts that he has down in English, and translate it into English poetry, whatever that may be. That’s kind of how we do it.
That’s interesting, and that kind of speaks to how powerful and universal music is. There are lyrics that will go into it and there can be a language barrier, but tone-wise, it’s really cool to see that you can create something like that, even if you don’t speak the same language.
Yeah! It was a huge undertaking, but like I said, I had been trying to start the band for years. It took me two years to find our vocalist. He told me he didn’t speak English very well, but he knew the basic hardcore colloquialisms, the stuff that everyone uses. I try to stray away from cliche and give a little to the lyrics. It was a huge undertaking, but when I heard his tones, I thought, “I have to work with this guy. There’s no turning back.” We made it work!
You worked with Nick Jett of Terror when you were recording the record. Terror is a band that I think has had a significant impact on the modern hardcore scene. I’m curious to know what Nick brought to the table as a producer for you guys.
We were pretty rehearsed and pretty tight, but he really cleaned us up. He cleaned up our tone and gave us more of a signature and recognizable sound. We really cleaned up on our guitar tones and stuff like that. That was kind of his main focus. He let us do our own thing as far as songwriting; that’s all us. But he really was just on top of us to make sure that everything sounded really clean and on-time to make it sound the way that it sounds now. That was all him.
In terms of songwriting, were there any themes or messages that you felt were maybe a bit harder to address, or did it all kind of come naturally? I ask this from the curiosity of a songwriter.
To me, the way I feel with Matriarchs is that I’ve got this amazing mouthpiece with Richard (vocalist) to say whatever the fuck I want. (laughs) I write all of the lyrics. As far as the actual thing that you see on paper, it’s my lyrics. But as far as the themes and topics, that’s a collaboration between me and Richard, and sometimes with any of the other guys in the band. We’ve evolved over time. At this point, we are all collaborating on new material. On that first record, it was all me, as far as writing it goes.
Nowadays, we’re so cohesive and we know what we’re trying to do now that we can write the stuff in a collaborative way that’s natural. In the very beginning, it was definitely a one-sided creative thing. I was the initial force.
As a hardcore band in Los Angeles, California, I feel like (and this is coming from someone who is more used to the San Francisco Bay Area sceneLos Angeles is much more of a pop-culture hub and a “what’s in, what’s new?” area. I feel like that represents that area more than anywhere in the United States. As a modern hardcore band, a genre that isn’t really considered, “trendy”, how would you say you guys have been able to shine through and go through all of the success you guys have had in a scene like that, if that makes sense?
Yeah! It’s very difficult, and it’s more difficult now than ever. There’s more people evolving in talent and just having a roadmap from day one in terms of how to get things going that we didn’t have when we started. All of us have been in bands before, with each other, at some point. It’s not our first rodeo at all. There’s been a lot of pitfalls along the way that have brought us to here, where we’re finally (and thankfully) seeing some modern success. These kids are learning faster, they’re better, they’re doing everything to the max. It’s a new generation, and that’s just how it always goes. The thing that we have is the live performance. If you’ve never heard of us, and that’s very possible if you’re outside of our niche, we play and people just start paying attention because we’re tight, we’re heavy, and it’s honest. As long as you have that presentation, it really helps out and people will start paying attention.
Last two questions: first, what kind of message, if you have one, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
There’s a couple messages, really. I come from the old school, I come from the idea of making sure that people don’t feel alone. I like connecting with an audience. I think that our lyrics, while they have very strong themes, are very relatable. We like to keep things open so that the listener can make something out of our lyrics that belong solely to them. We like to make that connection; that’s our primary goal. We want to make sure that our listener feels like they’re not alone. That’s what hardcore is about: it’s a family. If you’re an outsider, there’s people going through the same shit, and here’s a way to get through it.
The other thing I want us to convey is to think for yourself. Individuality. Just go with the flow. Open your eyes to what’s going on around you and understand what it really is, not what they’re telling you it is.
Finally, what does music mean to you?
Oh man, how do you not sound like a douchebag when you answer this question? (laughs) In my opinion, it’s an always uncorruptable form of expression. Richard, our vocalist, is now one of my best friends. His English is rough so there’s still a bit of a language barrier. He’s one of my best friends, and the way that we connect is listening to music. Music is very much one of those universal languages that just connect people no matter where you’re from, or what language you speak. People have the same emotions, and when they connect to those emotions through music, there’s a bond there. That’s what it means to me.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.