‘(A-Typical) Candidate [For Rampage Violence]’ by Matt DeMello | New Album, ‘Confetti in a Coalmine’
Exclusive video premiere of ‘(A-Typical) Candidate [For Rampage Violence]’ by Matt DeMello, taken from the latest album, ‘Confetti in a Coalmine,’ out via Salieri Records.
We’ve entered an interesting era for representing the self. With the rise of social media, the “self” is now splintered across three-dimensional existence and the cold world of internet platforms. Often, we try to present a pristine version of ourselves for online scrutiny. But, New York City’s Matt Demello doesn’t turn back from reality’s chaos. His newest single, ‘(A-Typical) Candidate [For Rampage Violence],’ doesn’t shy away from making a spectacular mess.
Leaving Providence, RI for Long Island in 2010, Demello began writing solo material. And in the past decade, he’s released a wide range of material. Working out of a recording studio beneath a Chinese Restaurant in Hicksville, NY, he completed his debut album There’s No Place Like Nowhere and then proceeded to pivot to writing lullabies for his fiancee’s kids. From live streaming collections (‘Jennifer’s Appendix, Vol. 2’) to Christmas double records (‘Cassandra Abandoned,’ I & II), Demello has proved his range as a songwriter and instrumentalist. And now, he’s released a collection of brand new prog-influenced material with the aptly-titled ‘Confetti in a Coalmine.’
‘(A-Typical) Candidate [For Rampage Violence],’ and its accompanying video reflect these unruly times. The song ascends from a piano-led ballad into a theatrical explosion of sound. As Demello howls and shrieks over a cascade of guitar feedback, he’s inviting us into the absurdity of 21st century living. The video moves from shots of Demello in his living room and animated sequences. Bodies fall from staircases leading nowhere to become apple trees. Chained hands approach hooded figures for an audience. Flames burst from footage of cats and waving flags.Demello sings, “Caffeine and THC, alcohol, melatonin in a symphony / sleep will be the death of me.” Moving from metaphors about daily existence to political musings with ease, Demello has crafted an anthem for chaos. A ballad for bedlam. A tune for turmoil.
It’s an interesting time to be living in America, to say the least. Demello sees the weirdness of our time and wrote ‘(A-Typical) Candidate [For Rampage Violence]’ as a response to the strange. In Zappa fashion, sometimes it takes an absurd piece of art to pull back the curtain. Catch a glimpse of what’s behind the blinds in Demello’s video below, then stick around for an interview with the artist!
What prompted the idea of switching between real life and animation in the video?
I was working for an AI vendor at the time. Even though it’s pretty well documented in a Google search for me which AI vendor that is, let me say nothing they were doing directly inspired the video beyond having to attend safety and security seminars — which every white-collar American does at some point. And even then, the thing that really came from the videos was watching this South Park-style crude, simple animation trying to teach you about sexual harassment and two-point authentication for data security.
The entire time, I couldn’t bring myself to associate that kind of animation with anything but fourth graders shouting profanities at each other before they’re abducted by aliens. My wife works in animation and I found the animators who worked on the video through her network, though I consider them both close friends.
This song has some really fever-dreamy elements, sonically and lyrically. Have you ever had any dreams that turned into songs?
I’m a big daydreamer and most anything that I turn into a song comes from a sort of losing myself in tasks during the day. That’s the deepest oil well of my creative process for sure, and always has been much to the chagrin of parents, teachers, and bosses. I guess you could say that when I wrote ‘Candidate’ my daydreams were sort of nightmares, which can come from having to work in international tax while the country is falling apart.
What do you hope listeners take away from this song?
I hope they feel less alone if they have these similar mixed feelings about where everything is going, why, and our place in it. I don’t think it’s a categorically negative video. Part of the reason for choosing the style of animation was to keep the tone zany and light-hearted despite the subject matter, much like the album itself. But just like a lot of songs on the album — no matter whether they detour to birthday songs or club anthems — what’s going on in the news and in the larger world is always lurking in the background as the source of anguish and insecurity.
That’s how I live my life: I get horrified by the news and I go to a club to see a friend’s show. I get horrified by the world around me … and then I go to my goddaughter’s dance recital. I wanted the music on the album to reflect how much, based on schedule, we’re either putting on a face or letting it go. And in between, we’re all still trying to honestly react to what’s going on and have a human moment with it all. I think ‘Candidate’ is the latter — and trying to let everyone in on what that private anguish feels like at least for me.
You’ve covered a lot of ground in your work. Does it feel like whiplash to move from prog rock to lullabies to vaporwave? Or, is it just a day in the life for you?
My first interaction with the Beatles, or even counter-culture writ large, was seeing Ringo Starr and George Carlin play ‘Mr. Conductor’ in Shining Time Station as a kid. That the guy who drummed on the first heavy metal record and the guy who came up with the “seven deadly words you can’t say on television” showed as much concern for connecting with children as part of their art … there’s something about that that really isn’t typical rock star/comedy star behavior. It’s far nobler. I consider it the most sacred act of service anyone in their position can deliver.
When my now-wife first came up with the lullabies idea when we found out my goddaughter Zoey was coming to this world, the first thing I thought of was Ringo on Shining Time Station. My goals with the lullaby series have always been indoctrination, plain and simple. They grow up with me writing them birthday songs and when they’re old enough for the psych-Christmas 2xLP, I hope they get as much a kick out of it as I did hearing ‘Mr. Conductor’ shout “I’ve got blisters on me fingers!” on ‘Helter Skelter.’
As a 35-year-old and musician of nearly 25, I do love most prog, complex jazz, symphonic music on the basis of knowing how hard or easy it is to play. On the opposite end, I hold sacred traditions that are entrenched in simpler music like punk, folk, gospel, country, even metal — and I think lullabies fall in that range. But what gets me most about any kind of songwriter is range, and my own personal goal as a capital-S Songwriter is range: How far can I cast my net — emotionally? To the age range of whom I’m trying to reach? On the gender spectrum? On the class spectrum? When you start thinking like that then, in the end, everything you do becomes “genre-jumping” all on its own by default without forcing it. Because those are all the real genres, the ones we talk about are pure illusions.
To me, it’s making sure my empathy radar is operating at full capacity — in my relationships, and how I relate to my communities. I can work within those boundaries if I have to but I’m trying at every turn to undermine them and call them into question. More than anything close to paying my rent, that’s what I get the most out of music. It’s jiu jitsu for my empathy muscles.
Are you planning to tour on ‘Confetti in a Coalmine?’ Where can we find you the rest of the year?
I did about 8 or 9 shows in 2022 — all of them live with backing tracks — and got a lot of helpful feedback from people, a lot of whom are musicians I’ve been playing with for 15-plus years. The whole thing is still *extremely* experimental at this point and I can’t pretend I’ve worked out all the kinks, but that alone is a tremendous source of fun for me. Something that’s not fun at all and I’m still getting over is hearing the band behind me, people I love and would take bullets for, and they’re not really there. It’s very lonely and ghostly, but I think that adds to the Broadway-aspect of the music in a very Phantom of the Opera-like sense. And the hardcore followers of my work for decades know what Phantom means to me.
So, I’m going to spend this winter honing all the technology gaps, working on my musical chops with or without those layers, and coming back in Spring/Summer of 2023 playing down the East coast. See where it goes from there, I think I can go from about Maine to somewhere between North Carolina or Florida. I’m trying to stay very open-minded about where this kind of music belongs in terms of venue because some of the most important feedback so far has been “I don’t know if this belongs in a 3 band bill, maybe you need to start playing clubs or keep it streaming-only — for the sake of the environment.” And I totally get where that’s coming from.
I was out in the UK for my honeymoon and I’d kill to go back on a musical basis. Pete Murphy is among the most radical artists on the planet right now and his championing of my work across the pond is a kindness I’ll never be able to repay fully. I’d love to go out there, play some basements, and visit Strawberry Field again.
Headline photo: Jeanette D Moses