Matthew Sikora is best known as the lead vocalist for Phathom, a long running DIY band who has amassed quite a following over the past several years. Taking the time to go solo before Phathom’s next album The New Piracy arrives, Matthew Sikora’s self-titled effort is an intimate adventure through the passages of time. Consisting of songs Sikora has written over the last few years, there is a sense of excitement and discovery to be found within the confines of the music. Here is a recent interview we conducted with the artist in the midst of the 2010 holiday season. Read on…
What made you decide to do a solo album and how does this music compare to what you do in Phathom?
The 2 main factors that made me really decide I was going to move forward with the solo album, which is something I’ve always wanted to do, was the fact that all the songs I write are not always going to fit with Phathom and the undecided future of that band, at the time.
The way the song is conceived differs from that of Phathom. In Phathom I usually write the core or skeleton of the song then collaborate with the rest of the band. We put the meat on the bones, rearrange parts in the lock out until the song moves all of us. With the new solo endeavor, I see my vision all the way through to the end.
I feel like the first two songs on the solo record is a bridge or a pathway from Phathom. It’s not an automatic 180 on the listeners.
Phathom aims for a specific type of anthematic sound, where the solo album is more personal and intimate. Occasionally a stripped down approach. Don’t get me wrong, if the song called for a full band or a string arrangement to reach it’s full potential, I wasn’t going to deny the song of that.
How has it been performing the solo material and were you nervous at all about presenting this new music on your own and not having the other members of Phathom around you?
To be honest, I was more excited than I was nervous. I do some shows completely solo and other shows with the back up band that we’ve all dubbed MATTHEW SIKORA AND THE BOSTON STREET TIME KEEPERS. The first show with those guys I was somewhat nervous cause I wasn’t sure if it would click on stage like it did on the record and in the practice studio. It’s really fun performing solo, I would love to tour the world with just my acoustic guitar and harmonica or with the BOSTON STREET TIME KEEPERS.
Who are some of the members you’ve worked with in your new band?
Ryan Fogle accompanied me on Drums. Ryan was actually the first one I started to jam with of the group. This was at a time when I wasn’t sure if the album was going to have a full band or not for some songs. After jamming for a while I started to show him the songs that could have a full band on the solo record. He was really excited about playing drums on them so right then and there I asked him to play drums on the album. The drinks could of fueled quick formation. Making the decision to make some songs full band. Long time bass player Terry Linvill, who played with Chuck Berry and The Captain & Tennille, was a friend of my father. He was interested in becoming a part of the project after playing some songs for him. J.P Gonzalez, of Elegy also jumped in and was manning the keys. J.P and I go way back. He actually came with Phathom on Warped Tour 06 and 07. Back then I would play him some of the solo songs and he would tell me I gotta do a solo album. When we got back from Warped he would help me demo some of songs and encouraged me to move forward with the project.
Tell me about the opening song Undone and what inspired the lyrics on that one?
Undone is the only song on the record in a drop C # tuning. The main riff always reminded me of a train or some kind of locomotion. The working of gears, interchangeable parts. It’s the idea of the machine falling apart. The workers in the assembly line start to come down with a case of the “Fuck It Syndrome.” Who’s to say the world might be a better place if it went back to the ways of old before it was modern…
Who is Dr. D and what inspired the lyrics for that song?
Dr. D and I go way back. Dr. Device is it’s name. Also known as M.D. Device inspired by a weapon in the book “Ender’s Game.” You see Dr. Device is the name of the band I started with my best friends. We are actually going to finish our first EP soon. We would stay up for days and nights recording music, live takes in a tiny little room in the Los Feliz area (LA). We came up with so many ideas, themes, paintings, stories, lyrics, poems, songs abstract and pop based. The bass player lived with an awesome DJ back in 2007 / 2008. You’d walk into one room it was electronica, drum and bass, anything up that alley then walk into the next, Dr. Device would be in our room creating some sort of music etc… throughout all hours of the night. I wrote that song in honor of that band, my best friends, and about our idea of western medicine. The book “Behold a Pale Horse” was being passed around a lot at that time also.
Please select two other songs from your solo album and tell me what inspired the lyrics?
The Lyrics for Quicksand were actually written along with the lyrics for The Loc, which is a Phathom song off our 2nd record, Zombie Love. Too many lyrics to fit into one song about La Crescenta. Quicksand and The Loc are what I like to call brother, sister songs. Born at the same time, but separated at birth to become completely different songs.
Bring Me Back is inspired on the cycle of change, the seasons of the Earth. Or on the grandest scale, assume the idea of the universe expanding and imploding back in on itself only to go through another big bang, and this cycle repeats.
Is your solo project a one time effort or do you think they will be other music in the future? Many of these songs date back quite a few years.
There is already enough material for 2 more solo records at this point. I have this Idea to release the next 2 albums around the same time and make the tangible CD a double disc with a theme that connects them. This is an idea I’ve been brewing in my head for a while now and demoing all of these songs on garage band.
Where did you shoot the fiery clock cover picture and what inspired that photo shoot?
When the team was assembled to work on the solo project there were 2 items that everybody had about 3 or 4 months before the first day in the record studio. The first item was a CD of 16 songs I recorded on garage band. The demo versions of all the songs for the album. The second item was several pages stapled together with the track list of all 16 songs from the demo CD with the lyrics for each song following.
During one of the late night recording sessions at Total Access in Hermosa Beach, Ryan Fogle, the drummer on the album, tells me he has this idea for the cover of the album. He brings it to my attention that “time” is a theme that is revisited throughout the lyrics on the album. He continues to describe the cover of the album that you see today. He found the grand father clock and took it upon himself to shoot the photo. His idea clicked with me right away. It was a pleasant surprise to see Ryan’s talent in not only drumming, but photography also. There’s an awesome behind the scenes video about the cover shoot of the album under MEDIA at www.matthewsikora.com
How did you wind up getting some of your songs on KROQ and how did you feel when you first heard them blasting on the radio?
I got the call from my manager saying that Kat Corbett is going to play Dr. D on KROQ during the Locals Only Hour. It seemed not long ago when Phathom first heard Moving Slowly on KROQ.
Honestly, I didn’t think KROQ was going to play anything off the solo album. I thought it was a stretch, but I was aware of Dr. D getting some radio play in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, North & South Carolina, and Hollow Day got some radio play in San Francisco. I hoped, wished, and dreamed of hometown radio play, but it didn’t hit me till I was driving back from Phathom practice to join a celebration party for the occasion of Dr. D being on the radio when Kat Corbett did a preview of what was going to be on Locals only. She plugged Dr. D and played a clip of the chorus. I looked at my friend Daniel who was riding with me and we started to freak out about it. Pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. For some reason songs always sound better on the radio.
Would you want to take your solo music on the road or onto Warped Tour?
Absolutely, I would love to take my music on the road. It would be really easy just taking an acoustic guitar and a car instead of a van and a trailer full of equipment.
How close is The New Piracy to coming out and how will it compare to the previous Phathom releases?
The New Piracy is done, it just got master last week. We are planning for a March release.
The New Piracy is a melting pot of everything from the Section 8 releases to both Phathom albums, and new inspiration we’ve acquired since 2007.
What do you think has kept Phathom together for over a decade?
Good question, too bad it’s a secret.
Do you have any messages for your fans here in the Los Angeles area?
Happy Hollow Days and Holidays! See you next year!
(Interview by Kenneth Morton)
Matthew Sikora Official Home Page