Interview with Matt Whalen of The Matches
Warped Tour -- Jacksonville, FL
August 1, 2004
Leah Weinberg: Can you introduce yourself please?
Matt Whalen: I'm Matt. I'm the drummer for The Matches.
L.W.: Given your two guitar players, do you feel any pressure to have exceptional hair?
M.W.: Haha. That's a good question. No, I don't because I'm my own person. I feel my hair is exceptional in its own right. It's a different kind of hair style, if you will, but I think it's a good one. No, I'm not as daring as they are with clothes and hair. I kind of like it a little more conservative. I've always been that way. But I do admire what they do with their hair, especially Jon...that's impressive. He's been working on that afro for a year and a half. A lot of time and effort has been put into that.
L.W.: How often does he have to bleach it?
M.W.: I'd say every two or three months he does something to color it. But it wasn't that bright before the Warped Tour. We were home for like two weeks in June and I didn't see him for a week and he came back and he had this bright hair.
L.W.: And how long did it take Sean to get his hair like that?
M.W.: He's been growing his hair that way for six months. He's one of those guys that, for the past few years, like you never knew what hair style, every three or four weeks he had a different hair style that would come out of nowhere. Like we'd have band practice one day and the next morning he'd come back--it would be like we finish at six at night and you're like, 'Oh, he's probably going home to have dinner with is family, going out maybe for a little bit, going to bed'--the next day, he comes in with some crazy hairdo and we're like, 'Where did you get time to do that?' You never know what he's going to do. But he has stuck with the same kind of thing for a little while.
L.W.: How old are all of you guys?
M.W.: We are 18 to 22. Three of us are in our 20's and Jon is 18.
L.W.: So, you guys used to be called The Locals.
M.W.: We did.
L.W.: Then who is E. Von Dahl?
M.W.: E. Von Dahl is, there's a band from Chicago called Yvonne Dahl (sp?) and the Locals. And they sent us a cease and desist letter saying, 'We own the rights to the name, you have to get rid of it as soon as possible or we'll pursue further legal action.' So we were scrambling to find a new name really quickly and we got The Matches off a list of names. But yeah, E. Von Dahl is an actual person. We never met her. We changed the spelling of her name in the album title just to be safe. We figured it's a fitting tribute to the band we are now because it's partly due to the fact that she made us change our name.
L.W.: That's a cool story. I had no idea that's what the title meant.
L.W.: So how was it touring Japan with
M.W.: Wow. The only thing that could even come close to topping that tour was touring Europe with Reel Big Fish and Zebrahead. But Japan was just like, it's completely different. So, it was a big change for us, first of all because we didn't have to drive anywhere because we were being driven everywhere and then to and from cities, we would take the train. So that was really cool. It was just a completely different culture in a way, but at the same time it was very Western in the cities. I can't describe it, it was just so much fun. The shows were so different and so much fun. Like the audiences' reactions were amazing. Nobody knew who we were. The promoter didn't even want us on the tour to begin with and Zebrahead was basically like, 'You're taking them.' It ended up being so much fun, the funnest two weeks, we didn't want it to end.
L.W.: How do the crowds over there compare with the ones here?
M.W.: It's different because the crowds there will go crazy between songs for like five seconds, immense, thunderous stadium applause and then there's dead silence, you can hear a pin drop. Between bands, you can hear a pin drop. Nobody was talking. And when they say doors are at seven, everyone is there so they can be in at seven o'clock, even if the show doesn't start until nine. Like if there was two hours between doors [and the show], it would just be people there standing politely, not saying a word. It was different in that respect. But they were really cool. They know about American bands. It seems they really follow Western culture a lot. The female fans over there are very straightforward. There were people following us around at our hotel, like they found out where we were staying and stuff. We'd go to Zebrahead's hotel and there would be like 40 people in the lobby waiting for them to come down. They're our good friends and we were so happy because we'd heard about how big they are in Japan, but to actually see it, we were so happy, just for them because that's amazing what they have over there.
L.W.: What's the groupie scene like for you guys?
M.W.: We're pretty boring. At the end of the night, we like to go to bed as soon as possible or go read a book.
L.W.: Do you play a lot of video games?
M.W.: No. Not on the road. Back at home, we used to all be pretty big video game guys. When we were The Locals and were still in high school, we'd sit around at band practice and we could play Tony Hawk for four or five hours. I'd even leave my house to go out with some friends, I'd come back at like three in the morning and Sean and Justin would still be in there playing Tony Hawk. They were obsessed with video games. We're not a big video game band in general any more, but we all come from the video game culture, growing up playing them. But like, I just don't have time. Things have changed. But yeah, we're gonna be on some video game soundtrack coming out. I don't remember the name of the game, but we were so excited. Because that's how I found out about Goldfinger and some other bands, just because of video game soundtracks.
L.W.: That's weird how video game soundtracks have become this big thing now.
M.W.: Yeah. You don't even know who's on it really, but you're like to people you're talking to, 'Hey, you've played such and such game, who sings that song that goes like this.' That's how I found out about a Goldfinger song being on Tony Hawk. Yeah, it's weird thing. It's very competitive, too, lots of bands lobby really hard to get on video games and we just got asked.
L.W.: Did you guys turn down major labels before signing to Epitaph?
M.W.: Yeah. We were talking to both majors and indies. We examined all of our options very, very thoroughly. We took a long time comparatively to sign our deal than some bands do. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it was only six months, but we went from nothing to 13 labels talking to us overnight. We weren't expecting any of that. We weren't expecting major labels because we weren't pursuing them. They just started showing up. So we had at one point where we had all of these major labels showing up. They weren't all serious. We wanted to be with a label like Epitaph from the start but it would be stupid, you have all these options in front of you, it's just not smart not to pursue all of them and see where they take you. And then we felt we made a really good decision that we're really happy with.
L.W.: Was there anything in particular that pushed you towards Epitaph?
M.W.: They were the label that we wanted to have them get interest in us the most, and they were the last label to come into the picture. They came in like a month and a half after everyone else had presented themselves. They were the one label we couldn't get to. And Brett finally was like, 'I'll come see you guys play' and he flew out to Texas and saw us play and we had dinner with him and talked about the label and he knew about us so in-depth, he got us. And we met more people from the label and they all just totally were behind it, especially because Brett was so behind. If he's behind something, he will inspire everybody else at that label to get 110% behind it. That's the label we all grew up listening to. We're from Oakland, so Rancid is a huge influence.
L.W.: Are there any plans for a new record?
M.W.: No, not at the moment because even though it's been out on its own for a year--we sold 5,000 copies on our own, which is really good for a band to sell on their own--but there's 250 million people in this country, we have so many more people that we want to reach, so we're going to tour this record until us and Epitaph decide it's time to move on. I think this record is worthy of being heard by many more people than it has been.
L.W.: What are your touring plans after Warped Tour?
M.W.: Oh, we'll definitely be going out in the fall, I can't say with who yet. But it will be good. We're excited just because now we've sold some CD's, we've toured so much, so now we can actually be considered for bigger tours.
L.W.: This is the first time you guys have played Warped Tour, right?
M.W.: Yeah. We've been going for years, it's one of those surreal things that happens. I've been going to this since I was like 14 and now I'm playing it. It's very crazy. We actually got offered to do it last year, but we were already doing the Reel Big Fish Tour.
L.W.: How has the whole tour experience been so far?
M.W.: It's been really, really--people keep on asking me this and I say it's the best and worst of times because like I'm having an amazing time, but at the same time, this tour is so grueling and I really honestly can't wait for it to be over just because I'm ready for a regular tour with conventional hours, which really aren't conventional because you're playing at night, but it's more what you're accustomed to. But it's amazing how many bands you get to meet and how many cool people you get to meet everyday. I read interviews, everyone's like, oh it's punk rock summer camp. It really is like punk rock summer camp. But our everyday experience is just that it's so tough, like you're so tired. And then you'll have a day where it's a short drive and you'll go get a hotel and you get sleep and you feel refreshed for like a day. It's like a constant balancing act of trying to stay alert. The only other downside is that playing our show is almost like an afterthought because of all the stuff you have to do each day.
L.W.: What's the key to survival?
M.W.: The key to survival for me was catering. That got me through the day. It's really good. The key to survival, I'd say is sleep. We all try to take naps during the day. We alternate because we need it. And another key is being friends with bands who have buses. They'll let you go get out of the heat.
L.W.: I was going to ask if you guys were in a van or a bus.
M.W.: We're in a van.
L.W.: Any bands you go out and watch everyday?
M.W.: Yeah. First half of the tour, I was watching The Sounds everyday and I was watching The Early November. This half, I try to watch Matchbook Romance everyday because they're our good friends, we did our tour with them. I watch International Noise Conspiracy because they're one of the best live bands period. They're amazing. I like to watch Sugarcult when I can. Bad Religion I watch everyday. No matter what I'm doing, I drop everything and go and watch Bad Religion because they're my favorite band. And there's a bunch of really cool smaller bands, like we've become really good friends with this band called Melee who are on Hopeless. They're awesome. I try to watch them whenever I can. All the bands on Smartpunk and Punkrocks.net are all really good bands. It's hard to see everything everyday.
L.W.: 3 words that describe The Matches
M.W.: Energetic. Song-oriented. Creative.
L.W.: With great hair.
M.W.: Fucking great hair.