Since my Poet Wagon is not going as it should I’m relaunching the Band Wagon. Poet Wagon is still up, I’ll just have both series open.
And for today’s post I was lucky enough to talk to Matt Jaffe.
My name is Matt Jaffe and I’m a singer/songwriter from the San Francisco Bay Area. I started playing classical violin at age five, but around age ten, transitioned to guitar on a heavy dosage of Elvis Costello and The Rolling Stones. Since then, I’ve put together a band, Matt Jaffe & The Distractions, composed of Paul Paldino on bass, Thomas Yopes on drums and Adam Nash on lead guitar. Though I’ve gone through a lot of phases, right now, I’m trying to blend the punk rock urgency of groups like X and The Clash with the Americana tradition of singers like Johnny Cash and Lucinda Williams. Over the years we’ve been lucky enough to record with Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, tour the country with Blues Traveler, and write a lot of songs that make me feel very alive.
Q: Do you and your band have an agenda?
My main ambition is to feel artistically fulfilled, so writing songs that make me happy is the most important thing. If we’re not having fun, nothing else matters I believe if four people can’t have fun playing rock ‘n’ roll in a garage or a basement, nothing else is worthwhile. However, we are trying to continue touring the country to build our audience and to record in a way that captures our energy.
Q: Is there a reason behind forming a band and not going solo?
I like rock music and you need a band for that kind of stuff. I enjoy playing alone too. I’m currently touring as a solo act actually. The different ensembles allow me to achieve very different things during a show, and I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to do both.
Q: What is your biggest success so far?
For me, getting to record with Jerry Harrison from one of my favorite bands, Talking Heads, is probably the biggest success. From a more intangible standpoint, I would say particular songs have been the largest successes for me. My favorite song of mine is called “Rise Up Swinging” – it feels like a greater achievement than any kind of external validation, but working with Jerry was huge for me.
Q: Who inspires you?
Mainly punk and country singers and songwriters. To name a few: Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, Elvis Costello, David Byrne, John Doe and Exene Cervenka, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Townes Van Zandt, Dave Alvin, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Norm Weintraub, Billy Bragg, Bill Kirchen, Debbie Harry. Other artists inspire me too, including Jim Jarmusch, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Jean-Luc Godard, William Blake, Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Salvador Dalí, Edward Hopper…there are too many to name though!
Q: What would you tell someone who’s thinking to start a band? Any tips?
I would advise them to write songs. The first songs they will write will be terrible and awkward. Keep writing. Original music is so important and so undervalued. And take every opportunity. Do not be discriminate. Do not say no. Have an open mind and an indefatigable energy.
Q: Do you have a “key to success”?
Only an open mind and a strong work ethic. There’s no secret. The best idea is to internalize success so that you can be happy based on things you can control, not the way other people feel about your work.
Q: You mentioned that you went through a lot of phrases, what were those phrases?
I’ve wanted to be a pirate, a basketball player, and a marine biologist. Then I wanted to be a rock musician, then a punk musician and now a country singer
Q: Any words for your fans?
Thank you for your support. Although I would hope to be writing songs and performing whether anyone cared or not, I am so appreciative that you devote time and energy to our music. It absolutely helps us persist.