You Sing, I Write: Q&A with Mathew David Barletta from Hollywood Lies

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Q&A with Mathew David Barletta from Hollywood Lies

Boston-based pop/rock band, Hollywood Lies have been pretty busy the past few months. They’ve been working on their debut album, Building An Empire, due out in March, and have been touring throughout much of the northeast.

In an email interview lead singer/guitarist Mathew said Hollywood Lies never was meant to be a band, just friends from different bands getting together to play and write some songs. The first three songs were written Postal Service-esque, he explained. Mathew would demo a song, then send it to Mike and Johnny, and get together with both of them separately. By the time we had recorded the first three songs, Mike, Johnny and I had played together in the same room I think once,” Mathew said.

Pretty impressive for being able to pull that off. Below is my Q&A with Mathew. Be sure to check them out on Pure Volume, where they are featured artist this week with a full-album stream, and MySpace.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
I think the best way to describe our music would be a clash of classic rock and pop. I feel comfortable with that.

What can fans expect with your album, Building An Empire?
To me, this album represents diversity and adversity. Not to say that we are the most unique band that's ever walked the earth, because we know we aren't and we're not pretending to be. But at the same time, we feel like we put our own spin on things and we don't sound like a carbon-copy of anyone else. There are straight up pop songs like "Southbound Train," and there's a dance song called "It's The New Craze." There's a piano-based indie ballad called "158," and then there's some guitar solos, because I love playing the guitar. I love the band Boston, so I take after their guitar harmonies and their solos and try to bring that back.

I don't hear a lot of bands playing guitar solos anymore, and that is something that's really important to me, because all the music I was raised on - Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith, and even early Green Day, there's soloing. I know a ton of you probably think Billie Joe can't play the guitar, but he can. The dude can shred if he wants to. Check out "Only Of You."

What is the concept behind your album?
There's not really a concept behind the album, per se. I had originally wanted to do a concept album, but it just didn't turn out that way. I hadn't planned things out well enough, but that was originally why I wanted to work with Casey [Crescenzo], because I knew he had some experience in that sort of thing. The album is generally about some inner struggles that I had throughout the writing of it. Problems within myself that I guess I didn't really feel like I could address with anyone, so I put them down in a song.

With the state of the record industry it seems like a lot of bands are able to survive as an independent band today. Are you hoping to stay independent or eventually get signed to a major label?
I would rather stay independent, but if we got an offer from a major label, I would definitely consider it. I think that, generally speaking, major labels translates to major money. They have the kind of bank roll to push an artist like crazy. But it's also hard because on a major label, half a million records is a flop. Kelly Clarkson's last album, My December sold half a million records, and that was considered a flop. 500,000 copies of a record, to me, is, as Borat says, "great success!" I don't necessarily want that kind of pressure. I don't want to be responsible for having to sell a million copies of an album. What if I don't? What if we made an album that we're very proud of, and is a great work of art, but isn't really commercially viable? Does that mean that it's not worth anything? I'm a big Jimmy Eat World fan. I think "Clarity" is an amazing album. Is it their poppiest album? No. Is it an album that the general public is going to receive well? Maybe not. But it doesn't negate the fact that there's a 16-minute song, and it's beautiful, but that's not something you can put on the radio, really. So major labels are tricky.

What inspires your music?
Life inspires my music. There are a lot of things that go into creating a song. My own idiocy. Other songs. People, places, the sounds that life makes. When a mood really strikes me, I let it consume me and use that to attack the song, and go at it with that vigor. You can't force out a song, at least I can't. I have a hard time sitting down and going, "Okay, you're going to write a song now." It comes off as contrived, jaded. It's not how I work.

Can you tell me a little bit about the writing process behind your songs?
Our music, to me, is very melodically based, and that's where the songs usually come from. I'll either get a melody stuck in my head, randomly, and I'll put some words to it, and go from there. Or, it'll start with some words I've written. Poetry, free verse, whatever I have, and those will typically have some sort of cadence to them, and I'll see if I can find a melody that feels natural from those words. After that, I'll find chords and melodies on guitar, piano, bass, and even drums, that will complement what the song is all about. Sometimes it'll start with the music and then the melody will come afterwards, but that's very rare for me.

How did everything go with making your first album? Is it what you expected?
Everything went really well. It was all so new and super exciting, and it's everything we expected and more. A lot of these ideas transformed and were a lot more interesting to us once we heard them in good quality as opposed to our poor demos. The only thing that we, as well as Casey, both regret, is that it wasn't as planned as we would have liked. Instead of recording seven songs over the course of a month we recorded seven songs over the course of about seven months. We would have rather sat down with an allotted block of time and recorded everything we had. But then again, if we did that right when we went in, we would have had a very different record. So we're all very proud of the album that we have made and feel like it's an accurate representation of where we are right now. Our next record could be heavy metal. It could be a capella. It could be whatever, you know? It's wherever we are while we're writing the album, really.

I really like your video for "Southbound Train," how did you guys come up with the concept behind it?
We sat down with our director and came up with a concept that we both liked. And then we changed it. And changed it. And changed it. But the basic concept is similar to the story of the song itself. The video is basically about this girl and I who were dating, we split up, and are both headed off in different directions. She gets on a train to go to this party, and ends up seeing me there. I chase after her, and she's gone. The song is about a past relationship, where it just wasn't working out, as much as we both wanted it to be. We both made some mistakes along the way, and it unfortunately had to end for the sake of both of us. So we tried to keep it very accessible, and very close to that. Our director wanted to make it more of an "MTV-style" video. The song isn't about anything groundbreaking or weird, so we just wanted to keep it straight and to the point. When you only have three and a half minutes to tell a story, you want to keep it simple. Nobody is really going to watch a video a million times to figure out what it was about. You want something that you can grasp easily.

What makes Hollywood Lies stand out from other up and coming bands?
I couldn't tell you, to be honest. I don't think that it's necessarily my place to say what makes us different from anyone, really. I don't think that we're really pushing any boundaries or making music that hasn't been heard before. And that's not to say that we're a miserable band, or unoriginal, it's just not our goal to be weird and "unique" for the sake of being different. I think we mix the styles that influence us in a way that feels and sounds natural, and I think that's what makes us stand out – that we blend the music and things that influence us, and we do it well.

What are your plans for the next year in promoting your album?
I think the best thing that any band can do to promote themselves and their album is to put their band out there as much as possible, which I think we're doing. We're doing interviews, and speaking with local newspapers at our shows, trying to get in touch with the influential web zines. We're also going to be a featured artist on PureVolume for two weeks, which is really exciting. So that's what's up for now, and we're going to submit to college radio, regional rock radio, internet radio, and lots and lots of touring. That's our plan. Tour.

What are your hopes for Hollywood Lies in the next few years?
Our hopes for Hollywood Lies are to be a full-time touring band, make some records that we're proud of, make enough money to survive off doing this, branch out a bit and dabble in a few other things, such as record production, a clothing line, maybe a label, booking agency, artist management, that sort of thing, and above all else, have fun. That's what this is about. You get to play music with some of your best friends instead of sitting in front of a desk answering phones.

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