Writer Emily Doyle / Photographs courtesy of Supersonic Recordings
Birmingham electronic duo Matters are no strangers to the DIY method, but in the run up to their new release Echolocations (Supersonic Recordings, 03.03.23) they’re pushing themselves further than ever before.
“I had like thirty different tabs open on my laptop the other day,” Brid says, “and I just went through like closing them – book binding, LED tape, smoke machines… there was some work stuff cause I had to buy a new printer, pop-up book instructions, calculating voltage drop on stuff…”
The pair have taken a short break from fevered preparations for their launch show at Old Print Works this Saturday night to chat to Birmingham Review about what to expect.
It sounds ambitious.
“It always feels like there’s so much that we want to do, that there’s always little things that kind of have to wait ‘til the next project,” they muse. “Undoubtedly there’ll be stuff with this one that gets saved for next time. But this is the biggest iteration we’ve managed to do so far.”
“It’s also the most reusable,” continues Stuart, “but these have been made so they can be deconstructed and slotted back together again, so we can use different elements of it at different sized shows.
“It’s completely modular. The entire back of the venue is gonna be a projection floor to ceiling, and then we have these fixtures going down the middle of the gallery all the way to the bottom above people’s heads.”
Matters have taken inspiration for the staging from a recent trip to Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
“We met the WECOSMOS festival team at Supersonic 2019,” explains Stuart. “We went to the afterparty with them and they asked if we would play and we were like, ‘Yeah? Whatever, sure, that’s gonna happen…’and it did! So we ended up in Tashkent.”
“Well,” Brid interjects, “we were supposed to play in 2020. We were booked in and then it would have actually, I think just, about happened… then the president of Uzbekistan decided that he wanted to build an ice rink in the venue they were going to use.”
“It was a very mixed media festival,” says Stuart. “Outside was music, inside was loads of mad installations and stuff. We were there for a week, they just kind of gave us a chaperone, Vadim, and we could do whatever we wanted.
“We asked Vadim, ‘Can we stop at every metro station?’ and he was like ‘why do you care’… but, it’s like here isn’t it. You kind of forget what’s around you.”
So, Matters are reimagining the Old Print Works in Balsall Heath as a soviet metro station.
“The venue lends itself to that,” says Stuart “because it’s like a straight tunnel, really. Then there’s the drawing room next door and that’s where the after party is going to be. ‘The Lower Gallery and the Drawing Room’… it sounds very proper, but it’s going to be dirty and loud.
“Apparently when there’s that many people in the room the walls start to sweat.”
It sounds like a fitting space for Matters all-encompassing sound. Shifting seamlessly from film score to basement nightclub to industrial noise, Echolocations is a new collection of five songs which takes the band further into otherworldly realms and new approaches to composition.
“We’ve always written very much live,” says Brid, “jamming out ideas and things. Whereas some of these songs are more just from Stuart sitting in front of Ableton for a bit and putting some bits in and then me putting some bits in, and just going back and forth.”
“It’s the first record without a drummer,” Stuart adds. “With a drummer you’re forced into that rehearsal room every week. A couple hours after work in the dark just to kind of hash out ideas.
“The first three tracks on the record were written without a drummer, but they’re stuff we’ve been playing live. The last two, I’d go and record guitars and then I’d leave the room and Brid would sit and just change everything. It’s like when you write a story on folded paper.”
It’s a novel approach to collaboration, but not without its pitfalls, as Stuart explains.
“I mixed it as we went, so I’d get so far with it. Then I’d go back in and what Brid had done was amazing but also broke everything so I’d have to fix everything again. Like, why are there ten distortions on this track? But it’s just a way of doing it that worked out really well.”
“I don’t have the attention span for the nuts and bolts of the mixing,” Brid adds, “so I’ll just be like, put an effect here…really really messy all over the place.”
“But that’s how it had to be and so it’s fine,” Stuart says, turning to Brid. “And there’s so much stuff that I really like and you hate. It forces us to push it together to be something we both really like. ‘Cause you’re really particular, and I can be a bit more like, ‘Well, I want that to be done so I’m gonna say it’s finished,’ but you don’t let it live like that, which is really good.”
“Yeah…” agrees Brid. “That’s why it takes us a long time to do things.”
One thing Brid and Stuart can agree on is the lineup for Saturday night. Electro punks Arch Femmesis are winging in from Nottingham, Supersonic 2022 favourite PRNCSS will be bringing some glitched out beats, and Limpid and DJ Birthday Girl are keeping the party going into the early hours, so there’s something for synth hounds of all tastes.
It’s clear Matters are just as excited to be in the crowd as on the stage.
“We put on our own show in Nottingham a while ago,” says Stuart. “I was desperately trying to find support bands that weren’t just guys with guitars – you know, the usual thing. I put out a call and somebody, I don’t even know who it was, tagged Arch Femmesis. I’d never heard of them, and I listened to thirty seconds of one of their songs and was like, ‘Brid, I’ve found them!’
“So, we had Arch Femmesis, Blue Ruth and us play in Nottingham together, which was the start of a really nice thing. They were in our heads for the very beginning of this show. Then when Supersonic suggested PRNCSS. I didn’t think we’d ever get PRNCSS, so I didn’t even think to ask; I think they were one of my favourite acts at Supersonic 2022.”
“It was really great we could incorporate DJ Birthday Girl and Limpid,” adds Brid. Stuart is quick to offer a flavour of the chaos they’ll be bringing:
“We did Brave Exhibitions with Dianne (DJ Birthday Girl, aka Lyn Vegas) and it ended with her putting an entire jar of vaseline in her hair. And then again, at Future Days where she ate a can of dog food on stage.”
“She talked about One Tree Hill for like ten minutes,” laughs Brid, “an essay almost, on why it was actually a great example for a queer utopia. And while she was doing this she proceeded to make herself a sandwich with dog food in it.”
“A lot of people were very confused,” says Stuart, “but everyone stood and watched the entire time. There was a synth on stage so everyone was expecting that at some point it would just get synthy, and occasionally she just kind of… made a little noise with it. It was a deconstruction of a rock show.”
“It was amazing,” Brid agrees. “And obviously all the kind of post-punk dads just…”
But whether you’re a post-punk dad or vaseline-drenched queer utopian, Echolocations is one to look out for, and the launch show is not to be missed.
If you want to see teamwork in action, get your tickets now for the launch of Echolocations this Saturday at the Old Print Works. Supersonic Festival’s International Women’s Day, with support from Arch Femmesis, PRNCSS, and a late-night party hosted by Limpid & Lyn Vegas.
Tickets are available here: www.supersonicfestival.com/product/matters-album-launch
For more on Matters visit www.mattersband.co.uk
For more on Arch Femmesis visit www.archfemmesis.bandcamp.com
For more on PRNCSS visit www.soundcloud.com/theprncssexp
For more on Limpid visit www.instagram.com/limpidmusic
For more on DJ Birthday Girl visit www.instagram.com/lynv3gas
For more gigs and events from Supersonic visit www.supersonicfestival.com