|brit-popping in NYC
Dave Cromwell - November 1, 2013
Taking their name from seminal Britpop band Suede’s 1992 debut single, New York City’s Drowners prepare to unleash their modern-day revival of that classic indie-pop sound. The band is fronted by Matthew Hitt, a Welsh-born former full-time professional male model, who has called New York his home now for the past two years. In April, the four-piece group signed to Frenchkiss Records, and is currently writing their debut album with the intention of an early 2014 release date. While Matt provided the initial creative spark and songwriting, the group took further shape through the commitment of guitarist Jack Ridley and bassist Erik Snyder. Drummer Lakis Pavlou now completes the unit, providing a cohesiveness every band needs to be successful.
Having already toured in support of big names like The Vaccines and Arctic Monkeys, the band appears to be on a rapid upward path that could quicken further with the release of their debut album. Despite the Suede connection via their name, the band’s sound is positioned closer to British post-punk standard bearers The Buzzcocks and even earlier icons such as The Kinks. Then, there are The Smiths, whom Matthew declares as his favorite band ever. Still one might attempt to make the case that Drowners falls in a camp somewhere between The Strokes and The Virgins. That is to say, classic indie guitar-pop with a stylish rock edge to it all. A Cardiff University English Literature graduate, Matt is now focusing on writing and performing music full-time. One can certainly make a case that the glamorous world of high profile modeling has afforded him unique opportunities. For instance, the ability to become good friends with Brit babes like Alexa Chung and Tennessee Thomas can only be viewed as a positive. However, an unshakable love of music and desire for a more creative outlet leads to this ultimately more satisfying pursuit.
After all the synthpop and mechanized music we've seemingly been inundated with, do you feel the time is right once again for a garage rock revival?
Matt: I haven’t really noticed a shift from garage rock to synthpop or whatever - I think they’ve both co-existed for the last however many years. It’s just the press that group a bunch of bands together and present it as a “revival” or trend or whatever. I guess if a bunch of guitar bands release records at the same time, then you could go and call it a revival, but garage rock or guitar music hasn’t really gone away in order for it to be revived...
Can playful rock songs reach listeners on a deeper level?
Matt: I guess that’s for the listener to decide. I don’t really know what a playful rock song is&hellipone with amusing lyrics? Or like a comedy song? The lyrics for Bob Lind’s ‘Go Ask Your Man’ crack me up but the sentiment of the song is quite sad&hellipI guess playfulness mixed with sadness is good - like a Wes Anderson film or something.
Describe what the songwriting process is typically like for you. Do you find lyrics come easy, or is there a certain amount of angst and difficulty with them?
Matt: It’s different every time&hellip I write down couplets when they come to me, and they usually pop into my head with a melody attached. Then I go bugger around on my guitar for a bit, and stuff begins forming. Our record was written over the last year - half in Wales and half in New York. When I’ve worked out the structure and lyrics, I demo it in my bedroom, and send it out to the other boys to see what they think. Then we practice it for a while, and it starts to take shape in a different way. The lyrics are very important to me, and I’m constantly thinking about it or writing down bits of conversations I overhear so there’s usually a backlog of stuff to draw upon. The difficult bit is consolidating them - trimming the fat - but that’s the part I enjoy the most so it’s not really an angsty process&hellip
How has signing to the Frenchkiss music label been so far? What kind of guidance have they provided you, if any?
Matt: It’s been great. Syd was/is in a band that’s toured and put out a bunch of records so he kind of has these examples and personal stories to enlighten us about certain things. They seemed to be into the vision of what we wanted to do and the type of record we wanted to make so they were pretty helpful and encouraging from the start.
What is the strangest or at the very least, most unique form of employment you've ever had?
Matt: I painted fences at the Royal Welsh Showground one year with my brother. We slept in a tent in a field, and they paid us cash at the end of everyday. But we ended up just spending the money in the pub that night so we didn’t really come away with anything...
Outside of making music, what else might interest or excite you? Do you have any favorite authors or a book you would like to recommend?
Matt: I really like this British author called Keith Waterhouse. I re-read his short stories quite a lot.