Recently, I had the chance to speak with the rising pop-punk/punk rock artist MattstaGraham, who has a forthcoming solo album, Prescribe Whatever, out April 29th via I Surrender Records. Matt and I talked about his upcoming album, what writing during the pandemic was like for him, how TikTok gave his solo career a bit of a boost during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and so much more.
Hello Matt, how are you doing today?
Matt: I'm great! I'm over-caffeinated and not having an anxiety attack, so it's gonna be a good one today.
You are set to release your new album Prescribe Whatever on April 29th, via I Surrender Records. How do you compare this album to any of your previous releases? Did you do anything differently this time around? M: I think I made much more of an effort to convey artistic and emotional honesty on this record. I didn't want to worry too much about my first label release being digestible, so I kind of doubled down on all of the things I enjoy about writing my own music. I think I wanted something that felt like a no-compromise piece, and I consider myself so incredibly lucky that I Surrender Records allows me the creative freedom to do so.
Would you be willing to entice any readers with what some of these new tunes are about? M: Some are struggles with people that have come and gone in my life, some are internal struggles, and some are struggles with the world around me. I think the songs, in general, are kind of just the world through my eyes. Hopefully, people can hear what I'm saying and relate to it. Otherwise, it might come off as a lot of complaining.
How was it writing this album -or any music- during the pandemic versus before the pandemic? M: Aside from the constant fear of never seeing a lot of my loved ones again, it was very freeing to write in isolation. It felt like nothing was going to get in the way and that I was able to write some of the most honest songs I've ever written.
Were the two tracks written with Pollyanna and Skatune Network written over video calls throughout the pandemic? Or were these features something that was able to be done in person around COVID restrictions? M: The beautiful thing about collaborating in the digital age is that you don't even have to record in the same state. I've never even met Pollyanna or Jer from Skatune Network in person yet. I haven't even had a phone conversation with either of them. They're just two massive talents that I admired and wanted on my record, so through file trading and communication, we made it work!
If you could book a dream tour with yourself in the lineup, what would it look like? M: I have two answers to that. The first answer is any band with good songs who are a fun time. I could say a number of my favourite bands, but truthfully speaking, I think that the best part of touring is creating bonds with people you wouldn't have met if it weren't for music. I've met so many people I love through touring in various bands, and I'm so fortunate for that.
The second answer is that I wanna tour with Ninja Sex Party. Do we sound anything alike? Not at all. Do I think NSP fans would like MattstaGraham? Probably not. So why do I wanna tour with NSP? Because they seem like they do whatever the hell they want and have fun with it, and I love that. Also, I'm a Game Grumps fan, so it would be tight to hang out with Danny.
Do you have any funny, interesting, or just any memorable story from your career that still resonates today? Even if it's from the comfort of your home?
M: There are way too many to count. I wish I could pick just one. I think my favourite recent one has to be my first show back from the pandemic with the other band I play in, Sundressed. It felt like a huge weight was lifted from everyone that night, and you could just feel the love in the room. Plus, our singer Trevor got proposed to by his now-wife right before our last song. That was a super special moment to take part in that I will remember fondly for the rest of my life.
If you could perform in the most unconventional place at this exact second, where would it be and why? M: Somewhere in the mountains, in some kind of cottage-core hippy commune. I wanna perform in a fairy tale land. I think that would be cool as heck.
You must be eager to get out and tour these new songs in some capacity soon? Do you have any touring plans lined up?
M: Sort of! I'm currently booking west coast dates myself, hopefully throughout the rest of the year, while I'm shopping for a booking agent. Thanks, you actually reminded me that I need to start sending emails.
When did it first begin to feel like your music was becoming larger than you anticipated? M: It truly hasn't quite hit me yet, honestly. I still feel like the local guy trying to get people to notice him.
Did you ever anticipate that TikTok was what would lead to your music blowing up, going viral, and landing you a record deal? M: If you had told me ANY of the events of 2020, I would've assumed you were on drugs. It still doesn't feel real to me. I honestly just started doing silly videos on the internet because I didn't have anything else to do to further my career at the time, and I felt that the world could use a laugh. The fact that it turned into anything has absolutely blown me away.
Still on the theme of TikTok, I take the first thing that was conceptualized when it came to shooting the music video for “Not Everyone Is Gonna Love You” that it had to always have TikTok incorporated in some capacity? M: It actually wasn't the first idea I had! I originally wanted to do a video where I was supposed to shoot a music video that everyone likes, but I kept having to make changes so that it would be more appealing. I wanted the end of the video to be myself destroying a ridiculous video set or something wild. Honestly, I'm really glad I went with this idea. The original idea seems like a played-out concept in hindsight.
It must’ve been also really mind-blowing to get your fans involved in the music video? M: Everyone in the video is another creator I'm internet friends with! I wanted viewers to have the pleasure of seeing some familiar faces, as well as hopefully show some new creators to a new audience.
Are there any plans to celebrate the release of Prescribe Whatever in any sort of way? M: Yes, there is! I have a headlining show at a local DIY venue here in Tucson called Groundworks, which I also do some booking at. There's going to be six bands and a Mario Kart tournament. The winner gets a lathe cut vinyl copy of Prescribe Whatever. I also have some other fun stuff planned for the release day, but I don't wanna give too much away.
Finally, is there anything that no one asks during interviews that you wish they did and what would the answer to the said question be? M: Honestly? Sometimes I wish I could ask interviewers questions. I already know all this stuff about myself, but I always wanna learn more about other people. I think we could all actively try to learn more about individuals. Everyone has such a complex and nuanced life, and I think we get so caught up in our own day-to-day that we sort of assume we know what kind of people everyone is, but in reality, you could still be surprised by individuals in many ways.
Thanks for the time, Matt! Is there anything else you would like to add before you go?
M: Absolutely! All I have to say is I'm grateful for this opportunity in my life, and I hope everyone loves Prescribe Whatever.
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