Frank: What first got you into music?
Matt: I think my first memories of emotionally connecting to music were very young, probably around 4-6 years old. My parents had given me a Fisher Price cassette player with headphones, and I had two tapes: Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” and a collection of The Beach Boys hits. Both of those albums were really captivating for me at a young age, and even though I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on musically, or what they were talking about, those are the first times that I remember feeling something from music. I could connect with the melodies and tones and have an emotional reaction to them.
From a slightly more “intellectual” perspective, the first time I really attached myself to a band or artist and felt that compulsion to try and be a part of music was when I first heard Green Day’s “Dookie” album. I was really young when it came out, I think in 2nd grade, but a friend who had an older brother got a copy of the tape, and played it for all of us. I was hooked. So that album is probably what helped push me down the path to eventually become a musician.
That Album was an early tape of mine as well, and one which I have been surprised to find had a pervasive influence on my music-making since. Have you found that as well, with “Dookie” or another early record?
For sure. While “Dookie” was what sort of drove me down that more punk-influenced road from a young age, I think things like those Beach Boys songs - and even Michael Jackson - influenced and helped develop my pop muscle. It was that combination of classic pop (Beatles, Beach Boys, Michael Jackson) distilled into the more attainable and relatable form of a punk band that really stuck.
When did you know you wanted to do music professionally?
Once I got into highschool, and started to realize what my ideals were on a basic level, and where I saw myself fitting into society as a whole, I think I started to play around with the idea that music, and my affinity for it on whatever level, was a differentiating factor for me versus my peers. So since then, I’ve been pursuing music in whatever capacity; writing songs, playing in bands, recording other people’s records… really whatever I could do. But I wouldn’t say it was necessarily in pursuit of becoming a “professional,” only because I think that’s so unattainable for a vast majority of people (including myself, really). But I think when you’re any kind of artist, your compulsion is to create, and if you’re anything like me, you start to feel anxiety when you aren’t creating. So that’s really what I’ve settled into. A lot of anxiety and a need to create to keep myself feeling centered.
Who is someone who inspires you, musically?
I tend to feel inspired by any artist who is able to effectively create pop music and melodies, but present them in a new or exciting way. Brian Wilson is obviously one example of this, and someone who probably means more to me than anyone else. But then there are bands like Yo La Tengo, or Guided By Voices, where they are taking the constructs of pop music, and surrounding them with noise or chaos. But I love mainstream pop music too. To me, the ability to create memorable melodies and package them in a compelling way is inspiring.
What is your current monitoring setup used when performing and rehearsing?
We’re still fairly punk in a lot of ways… so our rehearsal and performance monitoring setups are sort of… nonexistent. We don’t even have a PA system most of the time during rehearsals. And our band is in a place where we are performing in a huge variety of settings, from professional venues and clubs to totally DIY venues and house shows. It kind of runs the gamut. So we don’t have strict standards for performance… we kind of just roll with the punches, and most of the time it’s just us and our amps.
Do you feel this variability has lead to resourcefulness and flexibility?
I would say it’s made me much more adaptable. I absolutely appreciate when we play somewhere with a stellar setup, and a great team running it. That does make a difference, and I think improves the performance from a technical standpoint. But at the same time, I also love when you can’t really hear anything on stage, so you just crank everything and it has a much more exciting and loose vibe. So yeah, I guess overall we’re flexible. Whatever works.
How do you think "Hearing Conservation" plays into your life?
Hearing Conservation has become hugely important to me. When I was playing a lot in college, it finally dawned on me how much potential damage I was doing to my ears. I’ve always played in loud bands, and there were plenty of nights we’d finish up a show or rehearsal, and my ears would be ringing, or have that muted effect over them. So, I started wearing earplugs pretty religiously since then. I think it’s probably natural that the older and more mature one gets, the easier it is to picture how terrifying hearing loss could be, especially when it’s preventable in most cases. So, yeah, it’s hugely important to me. I literally carry my earplugs with me 24/7.
What is your favorite sound?
I have a soft spot for the ambient hum that comes from a guitar amp that’s turned on but not currently amplifying anything. I also love the sound of water at night…which, I know you can’t technically hear time of day…but I also feel like you can. Or at least I like to think I can.
One final question: why “loud”?
I think my attraction to loudness is subversive. I’m not a loud person, and my songs aren’t loud. Most of the time my music is pretty innocent and straightforward. So using sound to take that framework and put a new lens on it is interesting to me. I also think the 10 year old in me still just loves the sound of a crazy, overdriven guitar, too. Maybe it’s just that.
Sound Profile are a series interviews focusing on the key element at the heart of Music Audiology: the musician. Frank Wartinger, Au.D., and Earmark Hearing Conservation are dedicated to improving the hearing health of all musicians throughout the Philadelphia region.