“Catching Up With” is a new interview series where we reconnect with an artist who has previously used the NoiseTrade platform and chat with them about what they’re doing now. This week we’re catching up with Canadian indie-rocker Matt Mays about his new acoustic album Twice Upon a Hell of a Time… (out now on Sonic Records).
Additionally, you can also hear six tracks from Twice Upon a Hell of a Time… via Mays’ NoiseTrade page here: https://noisetrade.com/mattmays/twice-upon-a-hell-of-a-time
NoiseTrade: With your newest album Twice Upon a Hell of a Time… being a rootsy acoustic companion album to last year’s Once Upon a Hell of a Time…, what first sparked the idea the reinterpret the album’s songs through this alternate instrumental creative filter?
Matt Mays: I kind of turned the filters off for this version, I suppose. I’ve always really enjoyed messing around with the production of music and experimenting with different styles, tempos and rhythms to see what the shift in style would or could convey. The shift in feeling can sometimes be pretty drastic however the songs somehow still seem to carry the same weight and intent.
NT: Since the recording sessions for Twice Upon a Hell of a Time… were split up across different days and different studios due to your busy touring schedule, did that experience shape the recording process in any different way from a typical “consecutive days in a single studio” type process?
Mays: We did most of the meat and potatoes at a studio called Metalworks, which helped maintain some of the continuity between songs. We added the stoner candy in some different locations after the fact mostly at Baldwin Street Sound.
NT: Done acoustically, was there any specific song or recording session that really set the tone for the rest of the album or made you feel like you were definitely on the right track?
Mays: We recorded the songs in the sequence of the album because I wanted to make sure every song was unique style-wise from the track before it. I feel that “Trust Life” was a pretty good starting point as far as it being a pretty good representation of the “sound” of the album.
NT: Instead of sticking solely to a one mic, one guitar setting, you also added in some really tasteful instrumental choices like ukulele, pedal steel, piano, and some different guest vocalists. Did you hear these types of accompaniments in your head when you were writing the songs or did you just invite some trusted players to add their own spice to the mix?
Mays: Eric and I listened to the songs in order and made a list of all the vibes things we were hearing in our heads that we felt would sort of tastefully add to the songs. It’s those sort of challenges that make our jobs really fun.
NT: Finally, as a ‘90s music nerd, listening to the two albums back-to-back and hearing different takes on the same songs elicited a (very welcomed) MTV Unplugged vibe for me. Do you have any favorite MTV Unplugged albums that you like to revisit or were there any episodes that didn’t get an official album that you’d like to see maybe get released one day?
Mays: Nirvana takes the cake in the Unplugged department. However, the Neil Young one came out right when I started learning guitar. I learned from an early age by hearing the acoustic version of “Transformer Man” that a great song could be done a million different ways but will always remain a great song. I would’ve liked to have seen/heard a Weezer Unplugged. So many of those songs would slay on an old piano.