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Matthew Logan Vasquez: Sons and Fathers and Sons

Few album titles are more appropriate than Matthew Logan Vasquez’s Does What He Wants. Still on hiatus from his regular gig as Delta Spirit’s frontman, Vasquez named his third solo release in response to having the freedom and being completely responsibility for making his career decisions rather than relying on a band’s democratic practices to move some matters along while putting others on the scrap heap of unused songwriting ideas.

Like the 11 tracks on the album, Vasquez is open, self-aware and a combination of idealistic, pragmatic and critical. In other words it was as much a fun conversation as it was a discussion of his latest album as well as his earlier, grittier solo releases, his journey to a better creative place and how it all correlates to family ties of the past and present.

JPG: Thematically, this record goes from father to son and then to son.

MLV: Yeah. There’s a lot of that. I almost called the record Fatherhood, and I probably should have…daddy vibe. Obviously, that was a big impact. Solicitor Returns (released in 2016) was written before I knew I was gonna be a dad. It’s where I was at in my career.

This record covers [fatherhood] a lot. Solicitor Returns is such a reaction to Delta Spirit; the things that I wasn’t able to be in the band. This is (slight laugh) in a lot of ways like my idea of Delta Spirit, what I bring to the table for Delta Spirit.

I think it’s two of three things that I’m gonna put out on my own before I consider going back to the guys. It didn’t start out this long. I had every intention of getting back with Delta Spirit. I kinda had a crazy weird epiphany driving up to Dallas last year to play a show in Deep Ellum and somebody had decided to commit suicide on the freeway. And you’re just looking at this dead body and I have this collection of songs and things weren’t creatively gelling in the band right at that moment. It was just like, “Fuck this!”

We were gonna work on these songs and try to do it in the middle of my record cycle but it occurred to me that that’s not what I need to be doing. I need to just focus on the material and finish it. So, I did. And I brought in some really cool people to do it with me.

JPG: You mentioned working during the “Solicitor Returns” cycle. I watched a video of you during that period and you mentioned that you were working with Delta Spirit on a new album. That was six months to a year ago. So, hearing you now, obviously, things changed in a big way.

MLV: Yeah, must have been a year ago because we were talking about putting out the record…Initially, I was just going to do the Solicitor Returns record, and then I wrote that song “Austin.” So, I made an EP out of it because I thought that would really be fun to make, and it was the only way it was going to come out was if I made it.

I had every intention of coming back to the band and…you get the gut thing. It proved to be good. We all really needed a break from each other and to focus on different things and different aspects. Kelly [Winrich] is producing bands. Will [McLaren] is in bands and producing bands. Jon [Jameson] played in Muna who played Lollapalooza last year and toured Europe quite a bit last year. Brandon [Young] has been DJing and playing drums, figuring his thing out. In a lot of ways it’s just life shit and organizing and…it’s good to step away from the corporate clique. I thought it was going to be shorter.

It just came to the point where I’ve had so much material and I haven’t been able to release it and give it what I believe that those songs had. Part of that happening and proving me right was the Middle Brother thing and having “Blue Eyes,” the song, be so popular. That song, we passed on it for “History From Below” for Delta Spirit. It wasn’t that it’s a bad song. It’s not like the guys’ opinion ever is that a song that I write, that I bring to them, is a shit song. It’s more that it doesn’t fit the ethos of what the band is.

JPG: What would that be?

MLV: The ethos of the band is…it’s funny, it’s like a full true democracy, creatively at least. Songs that I see don’t make it, sometimes, are the ones when everybody collectively doesn’t have a lot to bring to the table. Sometimes it doesn’t push a song through. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter like “Yamaha” (off 2012’s self-titled album) was a song that largely everybody was like, “Oh, I love that! Great! Awesome!” With a song like “Blue Eyes” it was like, “Okay, well that’s a fingerpicking thing” and there wasn’t much thought on it other than, “That’s a nice one.”

JPG: Well, there are songs on Does What He Wants and even Solicitor Returns that sound as if they could have been a Delta Spirit song, like “Headed West.

MLV: Yeah. Totally. “Headed West” was definitely a possibility of being a Delta Spirit song. “Personal,” I wrote when I was 19 years old and I’ve been trying to put that on a Delta Spirit record since Ode to Sunshine [in 2008] and haven’t been able to fit it on a record. (slight laugh) “Old Ways,” that’s an old song, too. That was about the same girl that the Delta Spirit song “California” is about, and I kinda wrote it from Kelly’s perspective. It was like, “You fuck with my friend, you fuck with me, too.” I’m gonna write this mean song. So, I wrote one. It felt really good. A lot of chords in that song.

Sometimes, I think our band can step on its own foot because there are four other really brilliant musicians in my band and it’s hard to get shit done. I was able to record Does What He Wants in three weeks and make all the decisions and just get things done.

Part of that I needed to happen for the sake of my family. I spent all last year living with my mom and financially restarting when we moved to Austin. Not all the opportunity that we had hoped for as a unit – my wife and I – came through and it was a slower year for Delta Spirit because we played smaller venues because we wanted to do this intimate thing but you end up not coming home with as much money.

It’s crazy. The bigger things get, the more you build this, it becomes a big ship. You’re paying a lighting guy, a front of house guy and then you have a big management company and a lawyer and a business manager and all of sudden that ship gets really hard to turn. It starts leaking money. (laughs)

But I found some really great musicians in Texas that play every day and play around a lot and I’ve had these great experiences playing these smaller places. I had no bones about the fact that this job isn’t all super fun and lots of money and celebrity. If I wanted that I’d live in Hollywood still.

JPG: When you mention other musicians, you’re touring with a full backing band?

MLV: I have to play in a full band to present this music. For the last two years I had a California band and a Texas band. Now, I just play with the Texas guys, and they’re great: A. Sinclair’s rhythm section and Spencer Garland who’s a fantastic piano player and electric guitar player. They’re cut from the Austin scene, grew up all over Texas and play good music. Five-part harmonies and I get to be Napoleon. And we all know how that ended. (laughs)

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