Matt Krefting has been an influential man on the Western, Massachusetts scene for nearly a decade. Starting as an avant-gardist at Hampshire College (he wrote his Division Three Project on the sound art of William S. Burroughs) and working his way through many bands, he is now set to release his first solo album on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace! label this June. The album, “I Couldn’t Love You More” is a covers record in the straight-forward rock and roll vein, a shift for Krefting.
The album features friends of Krefting: John Moloney, Phil Franklin, Ron Schneiderman and Rob Thomas (of Sunburned Hand of the Man), J Mascis, old friend, Son of Earth co-member and Gladtree Collective founder John Shaw, among others.
Some tunes covered are “Sip the Wine” by Rick Danko and Calvary Cross by Richard Thompson.
Krefting continues to play in the anti-folk “quiet music” project Son of Earth and “played” guitar in The Believers, who opened for Magik Markers on a tour in 2003.
What follows is an un-edited Q and A.
Q. Where did you get the inspiration to make such a radical shift in the type of music you play?
To be honest, I don’t really think of it as a shift, but rather a broadening of the palate. I still make experimental music, but working on this more song-oriented stuff is something I’ve had in me forever. And, even though it hasn’t always been public, I think there has been a very distinct development involved. If you look at it historically, there was Son of Earth, which is very far out, then the Believers, who were like a demented rock band, and now this, which is really straight ahead. And there are plenty of steps in between, like a capella singing I’ve done at readings and my still-unreleased Dead Girl’s Party project with Scott Foust. These things in particular gave me a sense of confidence with my singing, which was a terrifying thing to do.
Q. What do you enjoy about covering tunes, as opposed to writing your own? What are the different emotions that you feel?
I love covering songs because there is an element of fantasy involved. I think everyone has, at one time or another, imagined what it would be like to BE the person performing their favorite music. I used to dance around my room like crazy as a kid and imagine that I was in the Allman Brothers or the Beastie Boys or Sonic Youth and stuff. And as I got older and kept getting turned on to more and more music, I found a whole ocean of songs that I could relate to very directly. By choosing to cover songs that I relate to so completely, I feel like I was able to say things about myself in a very honest way.
Q. How has your taste in music changed over the years? What do you listen to now as opposed to before when you were making ambient and experimental music?
Well, as I said before, I still make ambient and experimental music. I certainly still listen to a ton of that stuff. There was a long time when I was a militant avant-gardist, but those days have passed, and I’ve reintroduced a lot of what I used to listen to, more “classic rock”-type stuff and jazz. Also classical music is something I’ve listened to a lot more over the last couple of years. Of course as I’ve become more interested in that music again, I’ve found plenty of things in that vein that I never knew before. And to have a fairly broad knowledge of experimental music has helped me hear “regular” music with much more nuanced ears.
Q. What’s it like being a part of the Western Mass scene? What is that scene like?
The “scene” is an interesting thing. I’ve met a lot of really interesting people and have heard a lot of really interesting music, but I’ve also heard a lot of stuff I really have no interest in at all. It’s a balancing act: I want to stay involved and always check out new things, but it’s important to me to keep living in my own obsessive world away from everything so I can keep trying new things and finding out about myself. And at other times being super-involved is how I find out about myself. When I was in college, I just booked shows constantly, went to shows constantly, and soaked in as much as I could. I was seeing a hundred shows a year easy. That becomes exhausting after a while and doesn’t leave much time for being with myself and thinking about what I like that might be independent of all this other stuff. Certainly things changed after the New Weird America article in The Wire, too. Certain bands gained a much wider exposure after that and moved on to what looked more like “careers” (a term I use very loosely — no one is getting rich off this stuff). But, for example Son of Earth was mentioned in that article, but it didn’t change shit for us. And I’m fine with that. We are an outstandingly lazy band and it really suits us to work slowly and far away from any kind of public eye. But that’s Son of Earth. This rock music is a different story. Just look at this: an interview and the record isn’t even out yet! Weird.
Q. Is collaboration a big part of the artistic scene up there? It seems many of the bands share members….
Oh yes, that’s one of the most interesting things about this place. There are always weird, unexpected groupings going on. Some of them even turn into real bands, like Tarp (Josh Burkett and Conrad Capistran). And then that can go even further, like when Tarp, who started as a weird one-off band, played with the Believers, who were also a weird one-off band that kept going for years. When I think of all the different people I’ve played with from this area, it just boggles the mind. I can’t even do it.
Q. The dates you are playing in support of “I Couldn’t Love You More,” what will the sets look like? Will you play guitar?
Guitar? Well, I just played guitar in public for the first time ever yesterday. I mean like with chords and stuff. There might be some of that during the shows, but very little. I think that things will be a little wilder on stage than they are on the record. A lot of the stuff on the record is fairly precise, but I’m planning on challenging that in a live context. I’m going to have two drummers, two guitarists, and a bass player. We might add another guitarist, too, which seems insane, but why not? Mostly these will be guys from Sunburned Hand of the Man, plus John Shaw and John Townsend.
Q. Do you consider yourself a musician, or an artist, or something else?
It’s funny, for as much time as I’ve spent making music for the past ten years, I really don’t consider myself a musician, although that’s getting harder and harder to dispute. As corn-ball as this sounds, I really don’t think about labels like that very much. I guess I feel like if I started thinking of myself too much in one way it could hinder other things I like doing. I like to keep a balance between all of my interests. I’ve written for magazines, tiny zines, I’ve put out chapbooks, I’ve acted in a film, I’ve done song-based rock music, all kinds of weirdo experimental music, I’ve done a lot of stuff in between. I’d like to make a film some day, write a novel, write critical studies of things, teach classes on books about illness, etc. I like the idea of being “something else.”
Q. You’ve played with J Mascis (he’s on your album) and Thurston Moore. How do such cultural heavy-weights as these fuel your creativity? Do they give “advise”?
It’s funny. When I moved up to this area to go to college, I had no idea that those guys lived up here. I was the biggest Sonic Youth fan at that time, and when I looked up from my pedals one night after a Son of Earth set and saw Thurston sitting there clapping, I was really intimidated. Then he bought a cassette, and I was really freaked out. Now I’ve known him and Kim for many years and it’s not weird at all. Thurston seemed especially impressed with The Believers, and that’s when more collaborative possibility opened up on that front. I’ve done some noisier music with Thurston, both live and just messing around in his basement, and also some song-based stuff. He asked me to sing with him when he opened for Lou Reed last year, and that was really exciting. He knows I’m a Lou freak, so it was really nice of him. And of course I’d never have done this record without Ecstatic Peace. Andrew Kesin has been really instrumental in building this whole new phase of the label and does a ton of behind-the-scenes work that really makes a lot of this stuff possible. I had plenty of conversations with him and with Thurston during the course of this project, and they both gave me “advice,” but I certainly never felt pressure to do anything other than exactly what I wanted to do. Which is what I did.
Mascis is a different story. I’ve liked Dinosaur for a long time, but never really knew their stuff that well. I think he’s just an amazing guitar player, and he’s always been very friendly and willing to do stuff. Now that I’m thinking about it, here’s the whole story: John Moloney (of Sunburned) asked me to do a show with Baby Dee in Florence. I decided that I wanted to try out doing songs with a band. I got Moloney to play drums, John Shaw to play bass, and had Thurston playing guitar. We worked through the songs and were all set to go, when Thurston had to leave town the day before the show. He said something to the effect of: “Why not ask J? I hear he’s pretty good at guitar?” So I did, and J was a trooper and learned the songs in an afternoon. Shaw and I went over to his house and walked him through the stuff. He picked it up in a matter of seconds. Then he showed us Nelly’s “Tip Drill” video. The show went well, with Rob Thomas (also a Sunburned) and Josh Burkett sitting in. Then, when it came time to do the record, it seemed natural to ask J, and he came in and hung around and played on some songs and it was great. Really informal and the stuff that he played was just amazing. And, he sang on a song, which was really cool too. I was astonished at how our voices worked together.
June 25, 2009 – Easthampton, MA Flywheel
June 26, 2009 – Allston, MA O’Brien’s Pub
June 27, 2009 – Brooklyn, NY Union Pool
June 28, 2009 – Hoboken, NJ, Maxwells