Thursday, November 17, 2011

Local Spotlight - Matt Kiefer - December 2011 - Pittsburgh

Matt Kiefer is our December local spotlight of the month. We are posting a bit early due to vacations in December. Matt was kind enough to answer our normal barrage of questions. You can also find his music streaming throughout the interview. Also find links to his sites at the bottom. 

How did the band come together? Were you all friends that went to school?

Matt Kiefer Music is just me...Matt Kiefer playing, writing, and recording all the instruments. Ive been playing guitar and writing songs for about 10 years now. I picked up the bass and drums a few years back around the time I started getting into recording my own music. I got into punk rock when i was about 14 years old and all that aggression and angst made me want to play music because It was easy to play that stuff and it felt really good to be able to jam along with my favorite records and feel that sound coming out of my amp and to feel like I knew what i was doing. Ive got some childhood friends who are great musicians that I occasionally bring in for recordings when the drums are too technical for me to play, or the piano is real melodic up and down all over the keys, or the bass needs a super groovy feel that i cant lay down, that only a REAL bassist can provide! (laughs) The people who've been with me since day 1 though are usually the ones accompanying me for live shows and tours.


How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?

I would describe my sound as very chill and super melodic. Kinda like a lazy Sunday afternoon feel. Wake up late, lay around the house, just relax and enjoy the moment and all that you have. If i had to compare it to an already existing band, then I would say the songs probably most resemble Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon, which are some of my biggest influences, without trying too hard to sound like them (laughs)

Are you all originally from the Pittsburgh area? Families here as well?

Yep! Proudly born and raised right in the inner city of Pittsburgh right on the North Side. My family has lived in the same house since I was born. Top of Federal St. in the heart of Fineview. One of the best kept secrets for a great view of the city.

Do you all create music full time or is this more of a part time venture?

Yeah music is my full time gig. I do work part time to pay rent for the studio when I'm not touring on my music or filling in with other bands. I actually live in my studio on the South Side. I like it this way because it forces to me create whenever I feel lazy. (laughs) I look around at everything and think to myself "Sheesh, I should be utilizing all this stuff and really making something out of this!" 


 Do you have day jobs?

Yeah I do part time Proofreading for a mortgage firm. The atmosphere is super corporate but they're actually pretty cool about all my tattoos and letting me go on tours and being late all the time. (laughs)

How do you create your music? What is the song writing process?

The Songwriting process for me can either be extremely quick or painstakingly slow. It usually starts with me just messing around on the guitar or with a new tuning and coming up with some little melodies. From there I try to really think about what that melody is saying or describing to me, whether it be a memory, a feeling, or a past experience, without really thinking about it too much. I put more focus on the feel of the melody rather than writing it by "the rules" or some chromatic scale or whatever. Then I just noodle around until I have a song 2 hours later and Ive fully captured what it was that initially inspired me. The best songs, for me anyways, are usually the ones where I just pick up the guitar and press record on the board and whatever comes out I keep. Those songs that just come and take 15 minutes to write and record are usually the "hits," or the ones that everyone digs the most.

What are your goals for the band? What would you like to accomplish? Are you trying to get signed to a label?

Labels are nice because they expose music to mass amounts of people whether it be through mass distribution and marketing on a national scale, or through getting you on package touring deals opening up for bigger name bands that have a good draw at shows. Once you've inked the the deal, the label is always there when you need them...for the most part. Just remember...You got to pay all that money back! But being a completely independent artist these days has its advantages too. You don't have a producer in the studio with you shaping your songs and hindering artistic direction and telling you what "people want or don't want to hear," you get to keep all your own money from merch and cd sales and shows(laughs), and you don't have to meet the image guidelines of what some dudes in suits sitting in an office want, thinking they know what the youth or public of today can relate to or will buy. I mean, it would be great to be back on a label but its not really something I think about too all.

My goals are pretty attainable: Just to continue writing and recording music that is honest and means something to me and that will make me super happy when I listen back to it and keep traveling meeting new people and seeing new things all over this country. Ive always booked all my own tours so getting out on the roads never a problem, and I'm always in the studio working on new stuff so when Its time to release some new music Ive usually got a collection to choose from rather than sweating some deadline the labels pressuring me to meet. All I really want is to stay creating my own path, tour when I want, and give my lady some nice things.


What advice would you give to local acts trying to make it?

You've got to work hard. Especially in this city. You've got to always be writing and recording and just working on new music and playing lots of shows, promoting yourself to everyone and bringing the music to the people. Find out who your supporters are and cater to them. Let them into your world. Make youtubes, talk to all your supporters on twitter and facebook, make a mailing list at shows to stay in touch and let them know that you really appreciate their support, and don't stop giving them new music to listen to. Sometimes you got to keep all the parties and all the girls and all that stuff on the back burner and keep focus on what it is youre trying to achieve because all that other stuff can slow you down quick. In this day and age where anyone can record a great sounding album at home affordably and book their own tours, you've got to really have something unique that stands out from everyone else. Dont lose sight of your path, stay in your lane and be sure to commit to what youre trying to accomplish. Dont ever allow anyone elses grief or negativity to affect what you love.

Have you all toured nationally? Or do you usually stay more regionally?

Yeah ive been all over. Pacific Northwest, like Seattle, Oregon...absolutely my favorite places. California and their Medical Laws are pretty dope too! My friends take good care of me when I get out there. The Northeast New England area is probably my second favorite region to get to, especially in the Fall season. Never made it to Wyoming, Montana or Idaho though. Not sure if anythings even going on over there! (laughs)

Being in the Pgh area, do you find it more difficult to try and succeed?

Well, hmmmm... thats a hard question to answer. Pittsburgh is not a super hip town but at the same time its very interesting and is home to a lot of diverse cultures. The night life is usually closed up by 2:30 a.m. around here but the art scene continues deep into the night. Without offending anyone Id have to say the music scene isnt that thriving here but yet theres always a local show to catch. I'm only 24 but Ive been in this 'scene' for 10 years now and to this very day things are still the same as they were in 2001: Lots of cover bands, lots of standardized Metal bands, and lots of Pop/Punk and Pop Rock bands. If you fit into any of those 3 genres then you shouldnt have a hard time gaining some interest from people in this city. People here just want to go out on the weekends, have some drinks, hear some catchy tunes in the background while bullshitting with their friends and watch Sports. Nothing wrong with that at all. I do it 5 nights a week (laughs). Pittsburgh lost a lot of great music venues in the past few years which probably has effected the type of local music thats being created. Shit, Don Caballero said they moved to Chicago because there was no place for them to play around here. But thanks to people like Manny at Garfield Artworks, the crew at Mr Smalls, Josh Bakaitus and the Drusky Ent. team, and the good folks down Club Cafe as well as all the other venues, we're starting to see a resurgence of live music not only from local bands but also from national acts returning often throughout the year. Pittsburgh has also been getting a lot of attention from the Mainstream world as of late with movies, rappers, and sports. I think Pittsburgh is the next big city to blow up. I just hope I'm here and not out on tour when It happens! (laughs)


What are some of the obstacles you face trying to create some 'success' in Pgh? 

Sports, drinking, and dance club scenes are more of what the majority of the locals are interested in. But again thats ok. We are entitled to do whatever we please. Also, despite there being more places for local bands to play, theres usually always some sort of ticket sale requirement. $10-12 for a local show? Doesnt make sense. You go to Chicago or New York or Texas, hell even L.A. and the local shows are usually no more than $5-8.

For a band trying to gain exposure in this city, ticket sale requirements are holding them back. I used to hate hitting my friends up with tickets all the time. If a band wants to play out every weekend, your supporters are spending roughly $50-$75 a month just on ticket sales to get into the club to see you play. Rough.

What are the positive benefits of being in the area?

Everyone knows everyone here or knows someone that knows someone and word of mouth spreads very quick. This city is made up of hardworking, blue collar respectable people and those are the kinds of people you can trust and rely on. There is an underground community here comprised of Tri-State area transplants, art-school drop outs, musicians, poets, and street dwelling urchins alike that all just want to have some drinks and good conversation. I recommend checking out this House Venue in Mt. Oliver called 222 Ormsby...You'll see what I mean. Oh...and its also insanely cheap to live in Pittsburgh which makes touring, even in this economy, pretty stable.

Is there a venue you have enjoyed playing more than others in the area?

I wouldnt say theres any place I enjoy playing more than others because they all are extremely fun and its an honor to be able to play for anyone in a room with a PA system. I really like what the Smiling Moose did with the upstairs, building a stage and buying some rad lights. I'm glad Altar Bar exists now because its super dope and the sound system is superb. Mr Smalls was the first of its kind and for them and those kind folks I'm forever indebted and extremely respectful of. I really do enjoy the smaller venues a bit more though. The Garfield Artworks, 222 Ormsby, and South Side VFW shows, etc. are always just so intimate and its not hard at all to instantly connect with your supporters in the crowd.

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