Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby caught up with The Keys singer Matthew Evans via email to discuss the bands new album, influences and their upcoming tour in June…
Cat On The Wall: For those of our readers who have yet to discover The Keys can you tell us about yourselves? How did you meet? Is there a story behind the name?
Matthew Evans: We are a four piece but sometimes a five-piece band. I met Jim at an El Goodo gig he was wearing a Suicide t-shirt so I started talking to him and it turned out he played bass but wasn’t in a band so we started jamming together. The name is just something very simple. But I like the musical connotations.
COTW: You’re about to release ‘Fire Inside’ on the 7th June. Is this your first album? Are the tracks a development on from the ‘Le Mans EP’ release or something a little different?
ME: Fire Inside is our 2nd album but it might as well be our first because it’s been 7years since we did our first album and that was just myself and Gwion the guitarist with a couple of friends. This is the first album we’ve done as an actual band as opposed to a studio constructed band. Initially we were going to release the ‘Fire Inside’ album first. But we happened to do a live session for the Adam Walton show at Carl Bevan’s studio in Newport and it was pretty much the first time we had been recorded live and we loved it, Carl did a great job of capturing some of our more rock and roll spirit. We loved it so much we thought ‘we’ve got to get this out now!’ so we thought the ‘Le Mans EP’ would be a great “first” release on the ‘fire inside’ campaign. I would say the ‘Fire Inside’ album has more in common with our Xmas EP which we recorded ourselves and has a little more of the sonic feel of ‘fire inside’.
COTW: Where did you record the album? What was the creative process when recording? Is there a key songwriter in the band?
ME: The album was mainly recorded in an old cinema in Resolven – a small village in south Wales where I’m from. But we also did a couple of tracks in our own studio in Cardiff. We got Pixy in from El Goodo to help out with the recording, he has some whacky ideas that most engineers wouldn’t dare try so consequently you get some unusual sounds like the lead guitar on Fire Inside was actually played through a broken amp but it sounded perfect – it had that Os Mutantes sound that we were looking for. Once the album was recorded we took it to Charlie Francis who ‘smartened’ the recordings up just enough for them to be listenable but he was very sympathetic and kept just enough of the original flavour.
Songwriting is a bit like editing. I mainly come up with the tunes but if the band isn’t into them they don’t get finished. So in a way it’s a collaborative process. I’m always coming up with new tunes – I’m a bit idiot savant like that! I can write 20 songs a day easy, but it’s up to the band to filter out the sense from the nonsense. Jimmy Bell is usually our taste barometer.
COTW: Would you say performing live is important to you? How do know when you’ve had a good gig? What’s your live setup?
ME: Playing live is great when it’s good. It can’t be beat when it all comes together – the band and the crowd – I’m really looking forward to the tour in June, especially the launch in Cardiff. Writing and recording are definitely my favourite aspects of being in a band but every now and again you get the spesh gigs that take you by surprise and make you laugh and definitely remind you why it’s important to keep the band going. Having contact with people through MySpace and the like is one thing but getting the immediate feedback at gigs is really insightful. Live we are usually a four piece but occasionally we will be helped out by Carwyn Ellis from Colorama. Myself and Gwi play in Colorama from time to time so he returns the favour when he can. He’s a great songwriter and musician in his own right and when he joins us on stage it turns the show into a really amazing gig.
COTW: You’ve got a very specific sound, the 1960s influence is incredibly prominent. Why did you choose to focus on this particular area/era of sound? Which artists have inspired you the most?
ME: I don’t think we ‘chose’ to do it like that. That’s the music that we (i.e. The Keys, El Goodo, Colorama) listen to the most so it’s a currency that we deal in. We understand that music a lot more than most of what’s happening on the contemporary UK scene. I think us as a collective have more in common with what’s happening in some areas of the States. Bands like Dead Meadow, Sleepy Sun, Dr Dog, Panda Bear, Olivia Tremor Control, Beach House, these are great American bands that write beautiful songs but also consider the sonic qualities to their records. That sonic quality doesn’t seem to be such an important issue amongst most UK mainstream indie, there’s a homogenous sound to a lot that I hear coming out of the UK.
COTW: Finally, what are you plans for the near future?
ME: We are currently recording our next album which has a more up front sound to it – less reverb I guess. I’m quite excited about it. It’s got some heavy, druggy tracks on it like ‘Crackin Up’ which is a live favourite. We hope to release that early next year!