The Matches are a band that conjures up memories from the mid 2000’s music scene where the emo/punk scene was experiencing a high. The myspace generation of kids with tight black jeans and long fringes were addicted to discovering new bands. In 2006 The Matches took a chance on a newer quirky yet catchy sound which saw them stand out from the others and delivered the album that would define them Decomposer. Fast forward to 2016 the word emo has faded to give way to the rise of the hipster and myspace is the internet equivalent of a ghost town. In celebration of Decomposer’s 10 years The Matches are headed down to Australia to play it in full. We caught up with vocalist Shawn Harris to reminisce about Decomposer.

SCENEzine
Looking back Decomposer was released 10 years ago does that album hold a special place for you?

Shawn Harris
Yeah it’s the best Matches album right? (laughs) It’s my favourite one for sure. That was definitely the record that we defined what the Matches sounded like. It’s kind of a broad spectrum considering we used so many producers there was such a wide array of sounds on it. With E. Von Dahl Killed The Locals we were trying to fit in a little bit. Our goal was really to be taken seriously as a real band and do Warped tour and get some support slots. So we were kind of making that record sound more like the punk records of the time. Just to be kind of considered with some of the bands of that era. Once that worked which it did we signed to epitaph records and found ourselves on all the tours we were like ok now lets be our weird ass selves.
So we went about writing and recording the sound that really is the Matches.

SCENEzine
Can you tell us how you came up with the artwork for Decomposer?

Shawn Harris
It was actually the song “little maggots” that kind of inspired all of the artwork for the album. Which is kind of ironic because the video for “little maggots” never got finished (laughs).
In the song “little maggots” the protagonist is a crow. We were playing some show and I was exhausted laying down on the ground behind some venue in a parking lot in Philadelphia or something like that. I was looking up at the sky with all these crows flying overhead and sitting on power lines and I was like those look like music notes. So I started trying to figure out what they would be playing so that was kind of the start of the idea for “little maggots”. The song is about feeling like part of a cycle like your time has come and past.

The crow was an image that we kept coming back to. As a scavenger feeding on the maggots which are deposition agents and that’s a nice play on words for Decomposer.
That’s how the album got titled and all the imagery got centred around that. On the original version the album had a red jewel case. Originally underneath the red jewel case the image that looked like a crow was actually a city made of scabs. Underneath the button there was a flock of crows carrying us by the backs of our shirts. We were being carried in the air by a crow over a city made by maggots that was the original image a optical illusion. The red jewel case made it dark so it looked like a crow through the case. But the spot colour in it ended up not working out on our test so we changed the art to the crow but we still had the cool red jewel case which was kind of a signature look that carried over.

SCENEzine
Who’s idea was it to have 9 producers for the album?

Shawn Harris
It was probably mine (laughs). Originally we put the feelers out to see who was interested. We heard back from our friends in Motion City Soundtrack. They were like I think Mark Hoppus likes your band and wants to do something with you. At the same time we heard back from Tim Armstrong through epitaph. So how are you going to say no to either one of those guys right (laughs).

Also we wanted to keep working with our two friends who came up in the same scene as us Matt Radosevich and Mike Green. We went to school with them and they were coming up as producers in the same way as we are coming up as a band. So at that point we had 4 and were like hell lets get a few more (laughs). I think it really suited the album because the song writing was really all over the place just in terms of the style already. The album even before the production was all over the place even possibly more so. The continuity wasn’t really our focus. That was one of epitaphs concerns that the record would sound really disjointed. Our response was like cool (laughs) that’s awesome. Even know there’s a lot of different sounds and ideas going on in the record I think there’s a nice cohesion to it as well.

SCENEzine
“Papercut Skin” is such an awesome song from the moment it starts. Can you tell us a bit about that song and was the video fun to make?

Shawn Harris
Thank you. If there is a theme to the record its about getting swallowed up by a very huge world and trying to find our place and worth. The record before that was about trying to get the fuck out of our home town and to do something that we felt was extraordinary. Then having done that and beginning to write Decomposer we were like wait was this extraordinary or now do we need to get away from what we wanted to become. I thought that all of the ails of the world would be cured by just being in a band that was successful and getting to leave my home town. So when we found ourselves in that position we were like wait that’s not happiness then what is then? So with Decomposer we are ultimately searching for that.

“Papercut skin” was kind of playing though the my perception at the time of what it means to gown up, get a job and join the workforce. The song was written about my reservations about that concept as opposed to my reflections on having gone through it. When we were making the video we wanted to show a bunch of different ways we could of gone.

There’s a grunge scene where we look like Nirvana and we are working at Kinkos copies and I’m a drill sergeant in the army. I think it’s fitting for where we were at mentally at the time because none of those things make you content or discontent. It’s not what you do or where you are. It’s really about putting your mind at ease by putting yourself in a position where you feel worth that’s not attached to success of a trade or any of that stuff. It’s a really hard thing to do and it’s a lesson that took a while to learn probably that I’m still trying to learn.

But Decomposer was the beginning of me realising just being in a popular band is not what’s going to make me happy in life. Although I’d still like to be in a band the size of that band and the acceptance of it isn’t the thing that makes me enjoy it.

SCENEzine
Was the song “What Katie Said” influenced by Mark Hoppus at all?

Shawn Harris
As a producer he brought in a lot that changed that song in a cool way. The song before Mark probably sounded very similar to E Von Dahl pretty similar to “chain me free”.

He had me play it in different ways like having me play every string of the guitar separately so I wasn’t playing chords I was playing single notes. Then way you stack them on top of each other they make chords again but it has a very different sound. We did some very cool experimentation within that shaped the song. In regards to the writing it was actually an older song that lyrically had been written around the time of E Von Dahl. The song is about high school really. Basically not having the approval of a girl from her clique in high school.

Her friends name was Katie and she was like don’t date Shawn he sucks. We thought it was nice to have it on the record and Mark was really attracted to it because it has that kind of teenage naivety to it. Actually it was supposed to be the first single off the record epitaph liked it as the first single. But the band really loved “papercut skin” because it had a bigger range and we were all about letting people know this wasn’t the same record as the last. For better or for worse “what Katie said” never was an actual single. Although I think in Australia triple J spun it quite a bit.

SCENEzine
Well it’s definitely a fan favourite live.

Shawn Harris
You know what as time has gone on I’ve definitely grown to appreciate it more. It’s one of my favourite ones to play now. Which is funny because back in the day we were like nah lets play the weird angular ones. Oh teenagers.

SCENEzine
Did “Shoot Me In the Smile” start out with chorus? Were those lyrics already in your head?

Shawn Harris
Yeah that chorus was me trying to write something from Nirvana’s Nevermind. I was a big Nirvana fan when I was in middle school. So that chorus had a Nirvana feel but once I played it to the band it went off in all kinds of crazy directions. It ended up being really cool. The song was really completed when Matt played the fast kind of we will rock you beat. I was like oh we should do a little cheerleader chant over that. That is the most memorable part of the song for me. I could just imaging a bunch of girls singing that while jumping rope.

SCENEzine
The exciting news for Australians is you’ll soon be back playing Decomposer. Are you excited to come back?

Shawn Harris
Yeah I will take any excuse I can to come back over to Australia. When the tour got offered to us I was like yes! The other guys were like let me see if it works with our schedule and I was like make it work (laughs).

SCENEzine
My favourite Matches memory is seeing you at Gaelic club in Sydney. Then drinking afterwards with yourselves and randomly also with Kumar from Harold and Kumar.
Do you have a favourite Australian memory?

Shawn Harris
Yeah that was fun (laughs). Well I did live there for 2 years after The Matches when me and Jake from Something With Numbers started Maniac. So I have had many, many good times over in Australia. I view it as a second home. If I can ever get a visa I’ll move over there one day I love it.

SCENEzine
You guys even played the Sydney Royal Easter show and to my knowledge you are the only international bands to do so. Do you have any memories of that?

Shawn Harris
Oh really I had no idea it was significant at the time, that’s awesome.

SCENEzine
Was it strange to play at a carnival?

Shawn Harris
Yeah definitely but we’d played all kinds of weird ass places. When we were just starting out we would set up out front of movie theatres. Like AFI would be in town so we would just go play outside the venue to people that were walking in. We’ve done all kinds of weird shit. So by that time if there was a PA there it was legit (laughs).

SCENEzine
If you have time in Australia any chance you’ll do an encore with “dog eared page” or “sick little suicide”?

Shawn Harris
Oh yeah we will do the Decomposer album but we will play some other tunes. If you want to hear something specific just yell it out. At this point we are well versed on our whole repertoire.
We just did 2 shows last year at the Fillmore in San Francisco that were completely different and both were hour and a half sets. We know about 3 hours of Matches material now (laughs).

SCENEzine
MC Lars is headed back to Australia this year. Do you guys still keep in touch?

Shawn Harris
Yeah actually at one of those Fillmore shows he came out and we played “hot topic is not punk rock”. It was awesome.

SCENEzine
Looking back there were a lot of generic sounding bands in 2006. Are you proud of the fact you stuck to your guns with your avant-garde style?

Shawn Harris
Yeah if we hadn’t we wouldn’t be a band today. That’s why after being broken up for 5 years we can still come together play shows and do tours. People had a connection and I think that’s because of the personality and character that came through in the music.

SCENEzine
Can you tell us a bit about St Ranger?

Shawn Harris
Yeah for sure. St Ranger is my first solo project but I am so uninterested in calling it Shawn Harris. So I am St Ranger when I play that music. It’s the first time I’ve been in a band where I am playing lead guitar. Growing up in California I was a big fan of surf instrumental music. One of the first concerts I ever saw was Dick Dale he’s most well known for that song “misirlou” from Pulp Fiction. It had a really kind of like punk reverb presence to it. I’ve always messed around playing that kind of lead guitar but I’ve never played lead in a band.

Doing a solo project I was like ok here’s my chance to do something I’ve always liked experimenting with. I fixed up a airstream trailer and travelled around the States for a year tracking the record in a bunch of canyons and caves. The whole thing was powered via solar panels. One thing that I wasn’t loving about music production is how much time I was spending indoors.

The record kind of tells a travelling story about my experience doing that. I’d been living in Los Angeles for about 4 years before that so I was ready to get the fuck out of the city.
So the album is about not having all of the comforts of the city but being better off for it.

SCENEzine
Vinyl has become hugely popular recently. Any news on Matches vinyl?

Shawn Harris
Umm…yeah…yep(laughs). As far as I’m concerned our stuff can be streamed or purchasable on vinyl. I don’t expect people to pay for downloads. If you want to collect something and want to pay the band then buy the vinyl and get something cool. It can be a thing that is valuable to you and you can cherish it for a number of years. If you are not interested in that then just go stream it. I think that as music fans we are well aware if we want to support bands we like then collect a vinyl or shirt or something like that. There’s no way to support a band by just paying for downloads. To me that’s fine music originated as a social gathering tool and musicians had worth because they could get people out to socialise together. If you like our band or any band go out to a show get a shirt or vinyl that’s how we can continue what we’re doing.

SCENEzine
Will Decomposer be available on vinyl?

Shawn Harris
It will be I’m really stoked. There’s going to be some cool special edition features that weren’t in the original release which I think people are going to be pretty stoked on.

SCENEzine
Thanks so much for your time. Can you leave us with a last message for your Australian fans?

Shawn Harris
I’m stoked to come out and do these shows. I’m just as excited as anyone else to actually be able to do Decomposer from front to back. We never had set lists that were accommodating for us to play 8 or 10 songs back in the day so it’s rad to come out and play for an hour and a half. Being able to get deep into the catalogue and play some of the cult fan favourites.
Those are some of my favourites too so we are stoked to do it.

(interview by Christian Ross)

Matches2016

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