THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 04, 2016 |
Posted by: Don Saas
There are few scenes in music right now that I find more exciting than the British folk revival. Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons, Frank Turner, Ben Howard, Noah and the Whale...I could go on for a while. They took a genre that was almost completely dead in the States, and suddenly made everybody care about folk again. Of course, that scene started blowing up years ago now. To give some perspective, Sigh No More turns seven years old this year. And so who are the new faces that will help to define the British folk scene? We've met one and they're called Matthew & the Atlas.
I wasn't talking about Mumford & Sons for no reason. Matthew & the Atlas are signed to Communion Records, the record label founded by Mumford's pianist, Ben Lovett. And when I heard Matthew & the Atlas's latest track, "Elijah," I knew that Lovett and everyone else at Communion were working with the next band to help shape the course of that field. Dig the track below
"Elijah" is a name with a lot of religious connotation, and the song itself contains the line "don't fade out on the cross." Were you trying to explicitly evoke that sort of biblical imagery?
Matthew Hegarty: The "don't fade out on the cross" is a metaphor for a burden the character in the song has to bear. I was aware of the religious connotation when writing it, which I didn't mind, but it wasn't meant in a religious way. It's just a strong image.
You're signed to Ben Lovett's Communion Records. Has being part of that team had any effect on the way you approach your music?
They are a very supportive label. Ben and Kev (the other label founder, who is in the band Bear's Den) offer advice when it's needed but have always given me the freedom to do what I want creatively. That has allowed me to just continue to write songs and try to develop and get better at it. There is of course an inherent structure that comes with being on a label, which means I've had to speed up a bit! But that has definitely been a good thing.
"Elijah" feels deeply rooted in the British folk scene, particularly some more dramatic/theatrical acts like Laura Marling. What does that scene mean to you as a musician?
There were definitely a lot of talented songwriters who seemed to all come together at the same point a few years ago in west London. I admired a lot of the music that came out of that time, but in truth I wasn't really a part of it. At that time I was still just playing open mic's in and around London to empty rooms!
Your vocals on the track transmit a world of longing and desperation and perhaps even a hint of regret. What were some of the emotions you were trying to convey in this piece?
It's quite a simple song about a friend of mine who was having a bit of a hard time for a while, so I was thinking about that when singing. I generally don't approach songs with a decision on what emotions I want to convey; it's more a case of being present and connecting with the song when I'm performing it. I did want it to feel direct, but that was more to do with having no reverb on the vocal and acoustic guitar!
Any message for folks in America who may not know your music yet but find themselves excited by the atmosphere of "Elijah?"
The album "Elijah" is on, is going to be out in April. Stylistically there's quite a range on the record, but there are also a few other tracks with similar vibes to "Elijah." Thanks for listening and hopefully we'll be playing some shows in the US later this year.