Matt Espy


Image of Matt Espy - Hawksworth
Record Label
Drag City

About this item

Matt Espy is an American drummer and percussionist. Born in Dayton, Ohio, he spent his youth playing every genre of music he could find, playing out in clubs starting at age 14 and launching his touring career at 18. He moved to Chicago in 1996 and continued his journey playing rock, avant-garde, jazz, and performance art pieces. He’s played drums for a number of groups and charismatic individuals, including Atombombpocketknife, Duke Special and The Mountain Goats. Over the past decade, he’s found his home with Dead Rider, also on Drag City.

‘Hawksworth’ is Matt’s first solo adventure. In the field of solo drumming albums, it’s an avian psychedelic percussion trip all of its own. A dialogue between birds, electronics, and drums, ‘Hawksworth’ operates along precise degrees in the vastness that exists between the diverse poles of Terry Riley and Martin Denny. It captures one particularly memorable morning walk from long ago, a time immemorial in Matt’s life. In this new musical rendering, that fateful morning is ridden with wormholes throughout the piece, like hyperspace links that travel to motifs from his 30-plus years music career with every step along the way.

The inspiration for the album came to Matt all at once a couple of years back. It was early pandemic times, and the world outside his home felt drained of people, which brought the sounds of the world without people to his attention. It took a while for the impact of that to settle in. One day, while, naturally, listening to music, he heard a pop song employing the barking of a dog as percussion, and sat up with a start. Was it real, or? Like a bolt from the blue, the sonic and the visual design for ‘Hawksworth’ came whole cloth, completely evident to him in that moment. It was done, and all it needed now was to be executed.

Matt started with the birds, locating a variety of hi-definition free source samples of their song. He chopped and scattered them into a new state of nature, collapsing the hemispheres and the regions within, to allow the birds of all nations the freedom to flock together. Once the editing work was done, drumming to this sound was almost simple compared to that process. He brought forward some licks - perennials - and other things worked up over time that had or hadn’t found a place with the different bands he’d been in, with room allowed for improvisation. And for Matt, drums were the only way to fly.

Working at the studio of Dead Rider frontman Todd Rittmann, Matt found his happy place. ‘Hawksworth’ comments upon a life in music as a space where the firmament is ever vaulting above our head, and Matt uses the world we too often take for granted - the one we live in - as a means to get back to the sky.


Robin Throated Sparrow
Grey Winged Blackbird

Back to top