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MATTIEL

Mattiel

Georgia Gothic

    Georgia Gothic, a magic third in Mattiel’s run of full-length albums, was shaped in the quiet seclusion of a woodland cabin in the north of the Atlanta duo’s mother-state; “Some faraway place that just Jonah and I could go where there would be no distractions, nothing else going on, and we could turn everything off and only focus on writing songs”, reflects Brown. Where 2017’s self-titled debut and its 2019 follow-up Satis Factory were written with what Swilley refers to as a “hands-off” approach — he arranging the music and Brown the lyrics and vocals, the two working largely separately — the making of Georgia Gothic was, for the first time, a truly collaborative undertaking. “This was the first time we made a point to just be together and work out ideas in the same room. That was the initial intention ... it was about learning what each other wanted to accomplish on a sonic level, and then just trying different things out” Swilley continues. “Everything happened backwards. Normally, you’d have friends that make a band ... with us, we started making music from the jump, and then became homies.”

    Cultivated by time spent together on the road touring the first two albums, it is this newfound sense of intimacy between Mattiel’s members that enabled the writing of Georgia Gothic not as two separate musicians, but rather as one creative entity. The album remained within the four walls of Brown and Swilley’s private world for much of its evolution — with recording taking place in a simple studio set up by the pair in the borrowed room of a dialysis centre, Swilley in the producer’s seat — until, nearing completion, it was transferred into the trusted hands of the Grammy-award-winning John Congleton (whose extensive list of credits includes artists as diverse as Angel Olsen, Earl Sweatshirt, Erykah Badu and Sleater Kinney) for mixing.

    Not only does the affinity between its creators translate into an electric synergy between Georgia Gothic’s words and music — the brine-shock of Brown’s taut lyricism cut against the bourbon-smoothness of Swilley’s instrumentation — but here too are the palpable spoils of experimentation, each party trustful enough of the other to trial and error their practices into new geometries. Swilley puts this wide palate, in part, down to the place they call home. “I definitely feel like being from Georgia allows us to have a certain way of approaching music”. Brown chimes in: “We haven’t really highlighted where we’re from in the past two records, even though those were also written in Georgia. There’s so much great art and great music that’s come from Georgia, from all different types of genres and all over the state — but take R. E. M. and OutKast: there’s this weirdness that I can’t really put my finger on.” Swilley concurs: “It’s the same with the B-52s, the Black Lips ... it doesn’t feel like L.A., it doesn’t feel like New York, it feels like another planet. We’re not really in a ‘scene’ here in the same way. You have to make your own sound, create your own identity.”

    And it is precisely the forging of Mattiel’s distinct musical identity that Georgia Gothic signals; its members guiding each other ever-homewards not just in a geographical or sonic sense, but spiritually, too.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Hefty fuzz, wonderfully harmonised vocals and unbeatable groove are the cornerstones of the Mattiel sound, but it's on 'Georgia Gothic' we really get to see this sound honed perfectly. Possibly due to their more intimate working conditions or through the benefits of a more intuitive working relationship, the music shines through as a lot clearer resulting in their most concise and rewarding offering to date.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Jeff Goldblum
    2. On The Run
    3. Lighthouse
    4. Wheels Fall Off
    5. Subterranean Shut In Blues
    6. Blood In The Yolk
    7. Cultural Criminal
    8. You Can Have It All
    9. Other Plans
    10. Boomerang
    11. How It Ends

    Mattiel

    Satis Factory

      Having initially met in 2014, the process of recording Satis Factory was built upon the success of Swilley and Mattiel Brown’s time working together on their debut album. It’s a team that just works. “Jonah is a great songwriter and he’ll put a structure together and send it to me through an email, and then I’ll listen to it pretty much right away,” Mattiel explains. “And then we’ll restructure it if we need to and I’ll write a melody and lyrics to it and eventually record it.”

      Where the first record was confident, this second release is even more so. This is probably down to the chemistry between them; they seem in awe of each other. “Some of Mattiel’s best lyrical writing is effortless,” Jonah says. “She’s thoughtful with what she wants to say as an artist, but also understands pop sensibilities.”

      Despite Satis Factory being recorded in exactly the same way, with exactly the same team behind Mattiel’s debut, the sound is noticeably different. Jonah explained that he “had a musical objective to try new sounds and ways of recording” to Mattiel’s first record but still “keeping lo-fi elements” to the new one. “We started working on Mattiel’s first record with a dusty, cinematic, and garage rock feel to the music,” he explains. “Satis Factory has more stylistic diversity with the musical compositions and an increased level of intensity.” 

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: Mattiel is an artist that we particularly love here at Piccadilly. I remember all of us being floored not only at the quality of her writing, stunning production and ear for a tune but thoroughly impressed at the way she rides a horse (see cover for debut album). 'Satis Factory' is every bit the incredible follow-up, and as deserving of your attention as ever. Absolutely brilliant.

      TRACK LISTING

      1 Til The Moment Of Death
      2 Rescue You
      3 Je Ne Me Connais Pas
      4 Food For Thought
      5 Keep The Change
      6 Millionaire
      7 Populonia
      8 Blisters
      9 Athlete
      10 Berlin Weekend
      11 Heck Fire
      12 Long Division

      It’s a familiar story: fledgling singer does soul-sucking day job in order to fund their real passion during the nocturnal hours. Except Mattiel Brown, Atlanta’s rising star, is a rare exception to this time-honoured tradition: a fulfilled creative by day and night, albeit in different contexts. “It’s like I have two full-time jobs: designer and musician,” she says, humbly hip to her good fortune.

      During office hours, Brown works as an ad designer and illustrator at MailChimp, a position she’s enjoyed for four years. “I work with a great video production team, in a great studio. Luckily, they’re a company that encourage side gigs.” Out of office hours, Brown swaps the design studio for the stage, a softly-spoken, chilled-out design nerd turned rock & roll belter, performing bold, vintage soul as Mattiel (pronounced ‘maa-TEEL’).

      Brown grew up on a five-acre farm in rural Brooks, Georgia, the only child of a Detroit native. “My mom bought the farm in the early ‘90s. She had – still has – horses, so I learned to ride western-style when I was 6, 7 years-old,” (a skill Brown nods to in her cover art). “We had a vegetable garden and chickens. My mom would sell sheep’s wool and eggs. Before that, she’d been a professional set decorator working on films. She’s a really driven, creative person. I definitely inherited my work ethic from her.”

      As an adolescent, Brown delighted in the ‘60s folk and pop of her mother’s limited vinyl collection: Donovan, Peter Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez. As an adult, relocated in neighbouring Atlanta, she’d sing along to the radio on the long drives to work: Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Andre 3000, Dylan, Marc Bolan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Jack White.

      When Brown first began jamming with InCrowd, the Atlanta-based song-writing and production team behind her dynamite eponymous debut, she had no real designs on making a whole album and no game plan beyond the fun of “creating something out of nothing.” She said, “That process is always pretty astounding to me, and doing it with other people is even better.” But her producers, Randy Michael and Jonah Swilley, knew a good thing when they heard it: Brown and InCrowd had chemistry.

      InCrowd’s founders, both skilled multi-instrumentalists, met in 2014, as session musicians touring with soul man Curtis Harding. Michael – an experienced player who’d co-written with Harding and racked up impressive session spots with the likes of Bruno Mars, and The Next Day-era Bowie – played guitar, while Swilley ¬(producer, writer and performer since age 9 and younger brother of Black Lips bassist Jared) played drums. On the road, they bonded over a mutual love of vintage R&R and ‘90s rap. “We discovered we both loved The Beatles as much as Jay-Z, Dylan as much as the Arctic Monkeys,” remembers Swilley. Back in Atlanta, once the Harding tour had wrapped, the pair formed a band, Black Linen, writing reverb-washed guitar music inspired by Tarantino soundtracks, by way of ‘60s Cambodian psych. Brown knew Michael from his days in The Booze, a popular local act who’d tour with OK Go before their demise. She’d kept track of him, aware that they shared a musical kinship. “[Randy] was the only person I knew who was into the music I was into.” When she reached out, asking to cut a Donovon cover record at Michael’s garage-turned-studio, Toco Electric, he was dubious. “I thought she'd have this little, whispery voice, you know? But she blew me away! She sounded like ‘60s-era Cher doing Dylan or something. I just knew she’d be perfect for the Black Linen stuff.” “We knew immediately that we wanted to work with her,” Swilley concurs. By then, around 2014, InCrowd were deep on a ’50s Leiber and Stoller bend, says Michael: “The Coasters, The Drifters, all that good stuff.” Bored with Atlanta’s “ultra cool” enclaves, they’d built their own scene, says Michael. They’d put on and promote reviews-style gigs, a 12-man strong house band (“our very own Wrecking Crew”) backing various InCrowd vocalists. “We were just making it happen, doing it ourselves.”

      In the studio, Michael cut InCrowd records live, no overdubs, feeding everything through a rare analogue Peavey soundboard. “That’s how InCrowd rolls. What you hear on our records is everyone playing and singing together, in the same room, at the same time. We cut it right there, as it happens, and its either magic or its not.”

      Mattiel’s process was just so: InCrowd supplied the instrumental compositions – raucous, swinging medleys frilled with organs and brass – while Brown provided vocals and lyrics, the latter often written freestyle, in situ. “That’s where the parallels between music and design really happen,” says Brown. “Your limitations – time, space, expense – push you to be as creative as you can with what you have.”

      The resulting collection of songs is a dynamite salvo of retro-inspired rock & soul, from the gun-slinging stomp of “Whites Of Their Eyes,” to the string-laden self-affirmation of “Count Your Blessings,” penned by Brown after a spate of the blues brought on by a period of ill health. “Its a song I wrote for myself to myself, like 'you’re gonna get through this, you’re gonna be okay.'”

      Mattiel’s sound might borrow from the past, but their art direction – Brown’s inspiring handiwork, of course – is decidedly forward-thinking, all colour block aesthetics (á la the White Stripes) and artful, design-savvy music videos. “I don’t wanna hit people over the head with like, bell bottoms and long hair and a Jimmy Hendrix outfit,” Brown laughs. “People have seen all that before.”

      Mattiel is a “fresh mesh of retro and contemporary,” says Swilley, the latter thanks in large part to Brown’s vision, voice and on-stage energy. “She's very exciting to watch. She doesn't rehearse it or try to emulate anyone; she's just doing own her thing. And she's not fazed by the crowds [as evidenced during their shows to date: a recent, three-date support slot for Portugal The Man]. It’s kind of incredible really, because in person she's pretty chilled and softly spoken, but when she gets on stage...in the last six months, she's really been killing it.”

      With a European festival circuit tour scheduled for this summer, Mattiel is no longer Atlanta’s best kept secret. Look out, world.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Andy says: This ace debut is an explosion of 60's....ooh: EVERYTHING! Classic, warm, garage riffing, soully melodies but with a huskily honeyed folky voice. And the songwriting is superb!

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Whites Of Their Eyes
      2. Send It On Over
      3. Baby Brother
      4. Not Today
      5. Cass Tech
      6. Bye Bye
      7. Five And Tens
      8. Silver Pillbox
      9. Just A Name
      10. Count Your Blessings
      11. Salty Words
      12. Ready To Think


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