Stoked you’re down to chat from afar while both being quarantined away. Your band Haggard Cat just released ‘Common Sense Holiday’, congrats! It’s a killer record, what can you tell us about it?
Matt: Why thank you! We’re both very proud of it! It’s certainly was the most intense writing and recording process we’ve ever entered into. I think from the very first track that we wrote (First Words) we knew that we were potentially looking at something very special, so we set out to make over very own Dark Side of the Moon. I think it’s my favourite album that I personally have ever been a part of. The song writing feels more evolved and mature.
We never want to relax into being the type of band that releases the same record twice, as I’m really not interested in releasing an album where a listener will already know exactly what they’re getting before even hearing a note. Some bands do this very well, but I think it makes the whole scene quite a lethargic place to be. So I never want us to stop moving, I want to take in as many different types of music from different places and allow it all to become absorbed into what we do!
In particular, now that I’m able to stand back and look at the album more critically, I’m very proud of the work I did lyrically, I think each of the songs has it’s own thing to say. I actually isolated myself to write the bulk of the lyrics (which seems quite ironic now given “the event”). I was away for a few weeks in Christchurch, New Zealand – so I set myself the task of cutting myself off the world and really honing in on what I was writing. I went a little stir crazy, but I think it really gave me a unique perspective on what I was writing about.
To sort of recap a bit, how did Haggard Cat come about in the first place?
Matt: Haggard Cat has been mine and Tom’s passion project for almost 10 years. It has basically always been our method of writing songs, and practicing material to get it up to scratch no matter what project we were working on at the time; just the two of us going into a room and playing loud. So it only made sense for us to embark on making this our full-time project. It’s definitely the most honest form of us making music together – it’s what comes out naturally. We’ve been playing under the name Haggard Cat since the middle of 2017 when Jamie Lenman took a punt and decided to get us to support him on tour, since then we’ve pretty much been coerced into becoming a real band. Long before any of this ever happened we used to stand a bottle of Bourbon on a wooden stool (named Chris who still comes with us to every show to this day) and we wouldn’t finish the show until the bottle was empty. Hazy, hazy days.
Have you always been into music?
Matt: A friend of mine at school’s parents bought him an electric guitar. I remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever, so basically I copied and begged my parents to get me one too. From that point on I did nothing but play guitar. I’d play in between lessons and at break times I would stay indoors and play some more, I would play non-stop after school and I even got our music teacher to write me a note excusing me from PE lessons to practice. I just loved it, and since then making music is all I’ve really had a true interest in doing.
As a guitar and drum two piece, what would you say you find the most challenging?
Matt: This could sound a little pretentious, but the hardest thing is staying as far away from the 2-piece band stereotype that seems to precede any duo’s reputation. There’s definitely a pre-conceived notion that there’s only so much you can achieve between two of you and I think it’s a lazy idea. That was our main mission statement on CSH, to sound as far away from the typical “rock and roll” duo people have come to expect. We treated the production almost like a hip-hop album, and wanted to have a revolving door of collaborators and musicians that would come along and add their own flavours. And then as soon as it came to playing something live it would be an all together re-imagined different beast, kind of like Dylan would do in the 70s, or more recently what the Raconteurs do to their songs live.
On that note, what do you look for in an amp, and what’s your current set up?
Matt: I put an unholy amount of bludgeoning low frequencies through my amp, so what’s always been important for me is having something that can tackle those with ease and spit them out with some balls, grit and above all clarity (with the added bonus of being able to do it at ear-splitting volume). My current set up relies on my trusty Orange Thunderverb 200 as its backbone, along with a 1973 Fender Bassman 135 for extra rumble. I also use an Orange Rocker 30 blended in there for a bit of extra sparkly grit, and on the album I use a vintage Roland Jazz Chorus for some spacey wobble. I run all of it through a bunch of tough as a brick-shit-house Orange Cabs loaded with V30s (as is tradition).
What’s your best quarantine activity?
Matt: Listening to records and drinking whisky. Yes, I’m a cliche.
Haggard Cat’s heading out on tour in September, after having to cancel their original spring tour due to Covid-19. Full touring schedule below, something to look forward to hey?!