Matthew Maaskant

Call & Response: Matthew Maaskant

Matthew Maaskant is a photographer as well as a musician, and like snapshots, Maaskant's songs can be intimate and introspective, at times haunting, and other times, very reflective. His music is difficult to pin down; so are the ideas he tries to convey in his lyrics. His LP Believe It Or Not, This Is The Place features fractured words, fitting silences and illusory instrumental arrangements.

In our interview, Maaskant reflects on music and life, and coming to terms with himself.

How would you describe the tone of this record?

I think of the songs like movie soundtracks, in that they evoke a scene. The album has the stillness of electronic ambient music but there's still a narrative in the music and vocals you can follow if you feel like listening closely. I generally produce the music first, which creates a kind of world that the vocals can occupy and describe.

Your lyrics seem deliberately knotted, jumbled and scattered. How do you account for this?

Lyrics are a very personal thing. It's the most difficult and vulnerable (and therefore rewarding) part of making music. I want to document my emotional life, but the deeper I go the stronger the fear and the desire to obscure and hide. 'Knotted' is a surprisingly appropriate descriptor. Every song I write is about a failure to communicate or connect, something is left to be said that wasn't said in person, and now I'm alone writing the song, working it through. I sometimes wonder if I can someday build enough intimate and rewarding personal relationships in my life that my desire to write lyrics just falls away. Lyrics contain you much more than music. Music is a force of nature, whereas language is from the mind.

There is this one lyric you sing in the middle of "Fireflies" that seems to stand on its own. What does this word "oneness" mean to you and how does it translate on the album as a whole?

This album is about being fully present in my place and time, without wanting anything I don't have. I included a traditional song called "Katie Cruel" because a line in it said it better than I could: "If I was where I would be / Then I'd be where I am not / Here I am where I must be / Where I would be I cannot."

I'm learning to be content with myself. The album title Believe It Or Not, This Is The Place (which I found written on the front of a building in Parkdale) speaks to that as well. Part of not respecting myself is not respecting where I'm at. I don't engage in the world around me because I'm split between who I am and who I want to be. Oneness to me is wanting to be who I am.

Who are the people that you imagine or hope listen to your music?

It's very calm music, so I guess I'm appealing to people who are meditative and want to listen carefully to something. Or maybe it appeals to angry people when they want to relax. It's definitely good driving music. As far as genre goes, I call it folktronic - I see it in the same vein as Bon Iver using auto-tune, or the general trend of songwriters exploring sonics of all kinds outside the guitar.

There is some beautiful use of orchestration in this album. Are there others that play with you live?

There are a lot of people on the album. It took a long time (about two years) and included a lot of people who were coming through my studio working on stuff of their own. I was able to build the songs starting with pieces of music they gave me. I've played a few shows with the producer Murr (Nicholas Murray), who co-wrote two songs and produced/mixed several others. The bassist that plays on the album, Ian DeSouza, will be doing a NXNE show with me on June 16 at the Drake as well.

What's next after this for you?

I have a couple songs written for a new record, and one track "Outside the Cave' recorded and mixed already. A first mix of the song is being released on a limited run vinyl by a label in Germany called New Kanada. It's a B-Side to a track by Adam Marshall, who's a techno DJ and producer in Berlin (formerly from Toronto). I just got copies the other day and I have to say it's amazing to have something on vinyl, so I'm very excited. I'm also taking on more projects as a producer through my studio, Draft Tattoo.


Catch Matthew Maaskant at The Drake Hotel for his NXNE showcase on June 16th (8PM). You can download his LP Believe It Or Not, This Is The Place for free on his Bandcamp page. And below, grab a free download of his track "Fireflies".

Download: Matthew Maaskant - "Fireflies" (MP3)

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