by Mark Anderson
Holy hotcakes, Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold have (finally) released their debut album and it was certainly worth the wait. It’s good. Damn good.
Given that they joined forces in 2012, five years may certainly seem like a longer-than-normal time frame for a band to release their first album but it’s certainly not unheard of. Within that time the duo, Tyler Matock (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, kazoo) and Jesse Gray (banjo, electric guitar, suitcase drum) have amassed quite the local following and are known for their hootin’-hollerin’-boot-stompin’ shows all across the Valley.
For you see, Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold play a “bastard child of rock, alt-country, blues, Appalachia, and bluegrass.” The music gets rowdy sure, but it also gets down right contemplative and even sweet.
“You Never Loved Me” is the perfect opener for the album, Jesse’s banjo setting the immediate tone. As Tyler’s guitar and then vocals come in with “Don’t change your mind/Go grab your things/I got the time honey/You got your dreams” you’ll know right away what you’re in store for with Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold.
Although they do a tremendous job on their selection of covers (“Killing Floor”, “Bad Gasoline”, “Mole In The Ground”, and “Rex’s Blues”), I prefer their originals with “Ain’t That Bad”, “Goodbye Mama”, “Fight the Urge” and “American Dream” some of my top songs right now by any band locally or otherwise.
I was able to catch up with Tyler and Jesse via the Internet and ask about the new album, what’s upcoming, and, yes, even their sense of style.
YabYum: How long have you lived in Arizona? Are you from here?
Tyler Matock: I’m born and raised here in Phoenix. A second generation at that.
Jesse Gray: I’ve lived here about 6 years. I was born and raised in Kansas and Missouri, and also spent a few years in Portland, Oregon.
What drew you personally to the music of Appalachia? Who are some of your influences as songwriters?
Tyler: As far as Appalachian music goes, I really hadn’t been exposed to that particular type of music at all until I started jamming with Jesse. I think its impossible to be around (a real banjo player) without being exposed to Appalachian music. However, I was listening to music very similar in sound both regionally, and aesthetically before I had met Jesse.
After my dad had taught me how to play a few simple chords on guitar, I tried learning songs that worked with the chords that he had taught me. Early country and blues music lead me straight to an affection for any thing out of the American South – which is responsible for almost all genres of music to this day.
I discovered this music by becoming a “nerd” for finding my influences’ influences. I became compelled to research what influenced Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, John Prine, and the endless list of iconic songwriters. It was like my own crash course for understanding and appreciating the heart and soul of what American music is, and all about. That being said, as much as I write, I never try confine myself into to sounding just like those guys – that just sounds exhausting and not very fun to do, because that stuff was so groundbreaking for it’s time, and it’s almost damn near untouchable still to this day.
I just think with all those older influences in tow (Jimmie Rodgers, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Tom T. Hall, Lee Hazlewood) and combing influence from more contemporary artists and songwriters I like (early Avett Brothers, Langhorne Slim, Ryan Adams, Dr. Dog, Neutral Milk Hotel, and maybe one of my top 5 albums of all time called, Return of the Frog Queen by Jeremy Enigk) – I sort of subconsciously draw from the past and the present in hopes to make something that is relevant to myself and of course the audience or listeners as well.. Wow, that’s a really long answer.
Jesse: Part of what drew me to the music of Appalachia was having an intense love for the mountains. Some of my favorite memories are of finding gold with my family in the mountains of Colorado. When I first heard Clarence Ashley’s “The Cuckoo”, it completely captured that feeling for me. Though not technically Appalachia, I think the feeling is the same.
When I started playing banjo, I naturally gravitated toward that feeling. But I wanted to rev it up, too, and add some rock, punk (just in the sense of being aggressive) and blues to the mix. Then I discovered Roscoe Holcomb and Dock Boggs, and found that they were already playing clawhammer and “oldtime” banjo in a really aggressive, dirty, bluesy style way back in the ’20s and on, before that style became a bit diluted. They really crystallized that “mountain” sound. I think it’s a beautiful sound, and I can only hope we catch a little of that in what we do.
It’s incredible to find out Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold was the late Dan Somers last record he worked on. Would you speak a few words about him for those who didn’t know him?
Jesse: Dan Somers was an amazing guy, and I really miss him. He was so intelligent – but with a modesty that often doesn’t go with that – funny, genuinely nice, and fun to hang out with. Truly one of my favorite people I’ve met since I’ve been out in Arizona. He added so much to the album, and I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with him – the album wouldn’t be the same without him – but I really just miss him as a person. Weird to say that about someone you only hung out with a handful of times, but some people you just feel an instant connection to. I’m glad people got wind of the things he had to say, because I think they’re really important. All I can hope is that his words saved some people from having to go through the things he went through.
Tyler: I couldn’t be more honored to have met and been given the opportunity to work with Dan. It pains me to this day knowing now, what he may have been suffering from then. I’ll always remember how sweet of a person he was – how kind and insightful he was – how hard he worked – his poignancy and wit. He immediately lead me striving to be a better musician and most importantly a better person. His band, Lisa Savidge, remains to be one of the coolest bands I’ve ever heard come out of the local scene.
You guys have played a lot of shows. Any one in particular stand out in your mind that’d you care to mention? The release show looked like it was a grand ole time!
Jesse: There are a number of shows that really stand out, and we’ve had the privilege of playing with some really great bands at some great places. But the release show is a night I’ll never forget. Last Exit was packed, and when we got up on stage, virtually everybody had moved up front waiting for us. We wanted to give them everything we could, played for an hour and a half, and every song felt top of our game. We got to show them a lot of newer songs, expand, and go to different places with the music that we can’t often go to during shorter sets. And the crowd was right there with us from start to finish. We have a lot of sides to our music that people haven’t heard yet, and we’re excited to show them.
Tyler: I’d just like to sort of echo what Jesse said. The CD release was such an unforgettable show for us amongst so many others we’ve had prior to that. I think why its one of my personal favorites was to see all the hard work that was put in to make it happen. I had put a lot of pressure on myself to reach out to everyone I knew. I even mailed out letters with a flyer invitation and a little note to family members and close friends. To see almost all of them show up and support us – and then to deliver them a show to remember was quite the achievement. We’re a live band and a good performance is very important to me. Giving the crowd everything we’ve got and leaving it all out on the stage is the ultimate goal. I feel like we made that happen, and I can’t wait to show more people what our live show is all about.
You played with a drummer for your Tiny Desk Concert submission. Have/would you ever play with other musicians or is the music you create as Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold inherently a two-man show? I can certainly hear fiddle, washtub bass, mandolin, mouth organ, and any other manner of instruments joining in with the sound…
Jesse: We’re definitely open to playing with other musicians. I think the first step would be adding a rhythm section. Then other musicians could come in on top of that. The music has been moving in different directions that would call for that type of thing, so it’s definitely something that could happen. We’re both drawn to expansion and different sounds – rock, garage, soul, psychedelic, shoegaze, etc – and have no intent on staying exactly the same, being purists, or treating the music like a museum piece.
Tyler: The songs I wrote on this album came to me when I was pretty young as a songwriter. Most of them were the product of being a young 20 something-year-old. And I personally don’t regret or discredit any of those songs because we still play most of them to this day, however, they were written at a time with no expectations and more of just a catharsis for myself. I think now, as a growing and practicing songwriter, I’m adapting to the world and life around me as a 30 year old – which brings a little more expectation upon myself to adapt with music artistically.
A lot happens in life from then until now. People change. People grow. And just like music or art, they grow and change as well. The growth seems to be a natural progression into what can be the best possible way to create our best art, or in this case, our best possible songs. Jesse and I are naturally comfortable working with the “less is more mentality” because that’s all we’ve ever known as a band – but we’re now also beginning to realize the potential of adding more parts and tools to follow what the songwriting is currently calling for.
You guys sport some awesome threads. Are these thrift store finds or are there certain Western stores you’d care to name drop at all?
Jesse: For me, the threads are all thrift store finds. Being in a band gives you a bit of a license to dress like a fool, and we have fun with that. I’m still looking for assless chaps – that’ll be the holy grail.
Tyler: First of all thanks for diggin’ the threads haha. I think fashion and style has always been something important to me, even before music. That being said, I don’t AT ALL claim to having any “cool” fashion sense, but rather just wear what makes me feel good on a “trial and error” basis.
When I first started playing out, (just for open mics), I would wear the best 3-piece suit I could get my hands on. Even if it meant literally piecing all different types of brands of clothing together (old & new). Somehow though, I think I made it work. I think Justin Townes Earle, Pokey LaFarge, and Langhorne Slim, all have great styles, and I realized they pulled from American classics. So that’s what I try to do. Just pull from what I dig all the greats wore. Jimmie Rogers and Samuel Lightnin’ Hopkins were two of the coolest, sharpest dressed dudes in music, in my opinion.
Clothes make me feel good. Especially well made clothes – old and new. I feel like I can perform better when I’m dressed right. I consider clothes as my tattoos, except I get to change them whenever I feel like it. I’ve worn a hat as long as I can remember, I’d love to have my own signature Stetson someday. Retro Ranch, Buffalo Exchange in Phoenix /Tempe, and Incahoots Vintage Clothing in Flagstaff might be one of my all time favorites for go-to threads in AZ.
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