Hey Matthew, how the devil are you?
I'm well! In Bristol today which is one of my favorite towns in the UK. Went for a run this morning which is a brand new tour activity for me that I'm finding really improves my mood. Ran through this amazing city farm area called St. Werburghs while blasting The Sundays in my earbuds.
The new record then, it’s about a tough time in your father’s life; can you tell us a bit about that and why you chose to make that the focus of the record?
My family life and the domestic minutiae of suburban Detroit have always been pretty central to my writing. This time around I focused on a particular dilemma and financial situation as it was the most pressing event ongoing in my world at the time. My childhood home is this refuge of personal memory and a physical memorial to the nebulous past that shaped me. For it to be in jeopardy filled me with great existential anxiety that I was trying to work through in song.
What’s the most difficult thing when you’re writing a record so grounded in personal things?
Just doing justice the emotional weight of the things I'm singing about, how important they are to me personally. There are ways in which a song can trivialize a situation or ways a song can distort something sacred for effect. I try to avoid that at all cost. If a line doesn't convey to me the true heart of the matter I hope I have the discernment to scrap it immediately.
Was making something quite nostalgic a conscious decision for Enter The Kingdom?
I don't really write anything that can't be categorized as nostalgic. It's just the leading impetus for why I write. I write to document and to remember. To exalt all of life's mingling wonder and trauma and the ways the two sides allow each other to exist.
You’re singing about quite serious things at times but there’s a lightness of touch to the songs, how do you balance those two things?
Without a sense of humor or some level of self-deprecation I don't think any of these heavily personal topics would be all that appealing to anyone other than myself. And to portray my mostly privileged experience in an overly dire manner would be totally inaccurate. The winking beauty residing in life's even most tragic moments is usually what I'm after.
Your website has a whole section devoted to your lyrics, and they’re obviously so central to your music, do you start with those when writing?
I'm always accumulating language in some form or another separately that I'd like to inject into a song. The lyrics always take priority to be honest, after five albums the thrill and challenge of finding interesting chord progressions is still super gratifying for me.
Can you pick a favourite song from the record?
The lyric to the title track 'Enter the Kingdom' is really special to me. I think the recording of 'Gauche' turned out particularly well. I'm really proud of the record as a whole. Sonically I think it's the most cohesive thing we've done and it flows very naturally to me.
What’s the story behind the video for ‘27 Dollars’?
It's literally pure fiction. Me longing for a girl that doesn't exist, where even something as mundane as someone owing you a nominal fee is an enviable form of intimacy. It has a sort of Bruce Springsteen ethos of desperately longing to meet the girl at the bar at the end of a long day. Like most of the romantic tropes on the album, it pertains to the beauty inherent to desperate longing.
What did Ken Coomer bring to the process?
He actually hit us up out of the blue and it was an exciting idea to us. We were excited to make a record outside of Michigan, our first one—something outside of our comfort zone. And that Ken was the original drummer of Wilco (early Wilco records like Summerteeth being some of my favorite albums) was very exciting. He drummed on the whole album and really brought it a rock solid foundation.
And how did that differ from your previous albums (if it did!)?
This is our first album with a string section. Zach made some gorgeous string arrangements. I think it's just a really solid studio record. We took full advantage of what we had to work with. We had a great engineer named Patrick Miller who made sure every performance we laid down was as sound as could be.
What was Nashville like, and did it influence the record on any way?
They definitely know how to crank out quality-sounding records. We made this record more quickly than any of our others and it has the most polish. I'm glad we made a record like that. We might revert back to a more DIY lo-fi vibe for the next one though.
You’ve just played a few dates in the UK, and some interesting towns, what’s the reality of touring life for you?
Definitely has its up and downs. If I didn't get out into the world for a number of months each year though I think I'd lose my mind. It's nice to be a bit uncomfortable sometimes. Makes being home really sweet while you're there.
What keeps you coming back to the UK?
The people are lovely and real. And they seem to appreciate what we do. Also we have a great label here, Loose Music.
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
'Summertime', by the Sundays. I've recently fallen in love and can't wait for summer. I'm currently living in a 90s pop song dreamworld.
Finally, how do you take your coffee? (Or alcohol?)
Coffee, black. Bourbon, on the rocks.
Frontier Ruckus' new album Enter The Kingdom is out now and available to stream everywhere.