by Logan Lowrey-Rasmussen
As an oldies fan participating in a scene which doesn’t always cater to the melodic musical wanes of yore, there had been a constant itching inside me which begged the question, “why not?” I am, after all, surrounded by plenty of abstract music acts who take stark solidarity to the next level — where are the people like me who enjoy calm, cool grooves possibly inspired by who I consider the “greats” of composition?
It wouldn’t be until Chloechella at the Crak Estate when I would meet Matt Oliviero on drums and Michael Oden on keys enchanting the small, cottage-like performance space with smarmy riffs and — what I believe Michael would call “poetic nonsense.” As humble as they might portray themselves, the duo spawned from multiple musical origins known as Vintage Clothes were anything but this so-called “nonsense;” whether their measures are improv or meticulously planned, Matt and Michael have curated an incredibly fluid mix of multi-genre percussion soundscapes topped off with Michael’s quick fingers and pertinent attention to detail.
Do not be fooled: while they may be a recent contribution to the local Phoenix zeitgeist, the professional sound they carry informed me immediately they were out for blood with their new single. A few weeks ago, I sat down in a quaint, Phoenix apartment bedroom / makeshift rehearsal space to get the dirt on (or possibly washed off) of Vintage Clothes and their new release.
Logan Lowrey-Rasmussen: How did Vintage Clothes begin?
Michael: Matt and I were hanging at a friend’s house, and I brought up the fact that I think him and I can work; we could do something together. But I didn’t’ actually pursue the idea of an actual band with him that day. A day or two later, Matt messaged me saying, “you still want to do that thing?” I said, “Yeah, sure.” But I mentioned, “I need to sing, because if someone else sings, I’m gonna lose my mind.”
I remember [outside of the interview] we were talking about Elton John, and he’s like, my guy; he’s the main dude / [inspiration] for my piano “stuff.” I had songs I had written, we started working on stuff at school, and it’s ridiculous how many songs we have [like 20-30].
Matt: It’s really easy when it’s just the two of us.
Michael: I was at a rehearsal of a friend of mine’s seven piece band, and I don’t know how many songs they went through, but it was funny seeing [a band that large] trying to get stuff done, and then seeing [Matt and I] finish a song in like, twenty minutes and think “that’s so fast!”
Matt: I would say, when we first got together and rehearsed, we would jam out ideas, and one of the ones we did “on the spot” was “See Her Fantasies” on our EP on Spotify, and not so much the lyrics, but the whole instrumental part of it happened on the spot.
What sounds have you been inspired by? Although I’ve heard musicians incorporate similar styles, no one is really [utilizing these older sounds] right now, and I appreciate that in the Phoenix scene.
Matt: I think it’s a whole lot of trust between the two of us, because I just let [Michael] do his thing and he lets me do my thing.
Michael: We are both pulling from different [inspiration]; I’m into classical music, we both do jazz, and I’m even learning ragtime. I pull from some pop stuff like Elton John, The Beatles, rock stuff…I know, Matt is studying —
Matt: –Latin percussion!
Michael: I always say this to people, genuinely, also not, but genuinely: there is too much music, or so much music, however you look at it. There’s so much to pull from sound-wise: new stuff, old stuff nobody knows, things people can pull from. I think that makes our music more eclectic in that regard. We are always pulling stuff, even the words and lyrics. I get a lot of my inspiration from Bernie Taupin. It’s like poetic nonsense: that’s what I call it sometimes. I mean, sometimes there’s a point or concept or thing, but sometimes its poetic, and it sounds nice with the way they are put together.
I kind of feel in my own writing that I am very blunt in my own style. Poetic nonsense is continually beautiful to me. What projects came before Vintage Clothes?
Matt: The Smiling Faces, and Michael and I [also played] in a jazz quartet in Phoenix College, and we’ve known each other since high-school, [we] didn’t hang out though. We were “forced” to play with each-other in that quartet, and then we also did Big Band. I think the first time we ever played outside of school was the The Smiling Faces, and then Vintage Clothes came shortly after [Michael] joined The Smiling Faces two years ago.
Michael: There’s a friend I had in high school where he would try to write the words, and I write the music, you know? The Elton John thing basically. That got somewhere, and I think one of those songs are from those days —
Michael: *chuckles* I was going to leave it out there like “Ooh, what song is that, mystery?” Sorry, people. But, one of my friends who I met in Phoenix College [Henry], has a band called The Henry Company and he asked me to join. He had me play “Smooth Operator” by Sade with him, and that’s where I first got experience “being in a band.” Then came The Smiling Faces, and here we are with Vintage Clothes.
I’ve witnessed you perform only once and I was impressed with your synchronicity. Although you had a planned set, it almost came off like a jam session. What should fans expect from your live performances?
Matt: A lot of spontaneity, especially in the improv section. We just go off what we learned in school, like a lot of eye contact, a lot of communication; the cool thing about Michael playing piano, is that I don’t need to hear him to play with him; I can see his hands. As much as it may seem thought out or planned, much of it is on the spot and listening [to Michael].
Michael: Like sports, we are competing together for a goal that doesn’t necessarily exist, but we are doing together synchronized and what-not — get ready for the highs and lows, get ready for diversity. Some of it is really quiet, some of it is loud and similar to a jam.
So, at the time of this interview’s release, you’re going to have a new single out. What’s that single called, and why did this track scream “single material” out of all your tracks?
Michael: [It’s called] From The Ocean To The Moon, the two songs that are on it are called “Rendevouz in the Dark” and “This is So.” Why we chose these songs —
Matt: We didn’t think it fit on any album. We put together a full-length album we planned to record, and we couldn’t really find a place for them. I think we thought they deserved attention instead of [getting lost] in the middle of 4 or 5 other songs.
Michael: Especially since after the EP, it was easier to go do something smaller-scale and faster. Recording wise, so we could give [listeners] something else [to listen to] while we worked on the album.
So, I noticed it seems we are recording this interview in a “studio” of sorts; whose apartment is this?
Matt: This is my room, but some of the recording for the EP happened here. We don’t really record here, but I just remembered we [did some work on it]. The only thing that wasn’t recorded in here was “See Her Fantasies.” We had this guy named Chris —
Michael: Chris Banks
Matt: He used “Direct-in” so we could record live and avoid any bleed from the piano and drums, straight from the monitor [which we could hear] through our headphones. The only thing you can really hear is just my drums [when working]. It makes our situation much easier to record; So, direct-in, micing the drums, and recording vocals separately.
Do you work with any other artists, or other individuals when putting together a studio track, like producers, engineers, etc?
Michael: We have to. We aren’t at the skill level where we can record by ourselves for ourselves. Right now we are planning on collaborating with Dylan Thomas, and we met him when we recorded “See Your Fantasies” at Phoenix College, and he was one of the people who helped Chris set up and record. He heard it there, liked what he heard, and became enthusiastic about working with us in the future.
Matt: The guy who recorded our single was Matt Aldawood. He’s really good at what he does, man. He has this whole technique for recording and mixing, and when you watch him, he’s cuttin’ stuff, moving it around. He would do this thing where we would record a song three times, and he would take the best parts of each take, and put them together: you would never know. I can’t even tell.
Michael: We just know its there because we saw it, but we can’t tell.
Matt: He gave us some ideas on what to do, like on “This Is So,” but he suggested back-up vocals. It definitely wasn’t our idea, but he came up with it, and it turned out to be a really good suggestion.
Michael: I, personally, have reservations about going “out there” in recording stuff because I am always concerned about playing the song live and the [added parts] not always being there, but hey, I wasn’t right in that scenario. *chuckles* He gave us a suggestion, and it turned out to work really well.
Matt: There’s a little bit of tambourine and faint clapping in there too —
Michael: Any fans of claps, you know where to go.
How many live shows have you played as Vintage Clothes so far — what venues can fans find you?
Matt: We played the Crescent Ballroom for the EP release, and then a couple times in the lounge area. The fun thing is, we started as a background / lounge kind of thing, then people started paying attention to us, and we turned it into a show. They appreciate us a lot over there. We’ve only played some other places around town once, but I do know we played Indie 500, we played Timeout Lounge once —
Michael: No recurring appearances yet unless you think of Trunk Space, but other than that, we’ll give you the word [whenever our next performance is].
Matt: We played at Bonus Round for Honey Danger & The I-10 Shooters’ EP release show, and that was a lot of fun. It made us want to perform there again, [plus] we got compliments from the bartenders, so we were like “Oh shit, they won’t deny us again.” *chuckles*
Any ideas for merch?
Matt: We do have shirts in the process right now; for the single, we don’t believe its worth making physical copies since its going to be on Spotify.
Michael: — *mutters* “yeah, we learned that..”
Matt: We figured we would just do shirts instead.
Michael: A co-worker asked, “where could we hear your music,” and I told him I would get him a physical copy, and he was like, “that’s okay, let me know when it’s online.” I guess he doesn’t listen to CDs anymore, and I was like “Oh..That’s right! Future..”
Matt: Most people are like, “Yeah, I’ll take an album,” and then a week later, I’ll ask what they thought and they’ll tell me they haven’t listened to it yet. “I don’t have a CD player.”
As we finished this question of the interview, small dogs of varying sizes began requesting the love of their musical companion.
Matt: .. Sorry about that [in relation to the dogs]
No problem at all!
Michael: What where we talking about?
Matt: No one buys CDs anymore!
Michael: My laptop doesn’t even have a CD port.
Matt: The Macbook I have is the last generation to have a CD port and I’m hanging on to it for dear life. I don’t know what I would do without one.
Do you ever plan on releasing [specialty formats] like cassette, vinyl, etc?
Matt: I would like to do the vinyl.
Michael: That sounds cool; I would make a vinyl copy just to have the vinyl [of our work] *chuckles* Obviously that would be something to sell because, I don’t personally purchase vinyl, but I know my friends from high school go all out for vinyl and stuff.
Just make a two-disk album with each of your guys’ faces on it [like a picture disk], but make the [sound quality] so bad that when they try to play it, it’s just *mono screeeeeech* —- like every picture disc.
Michael: *chuckles* Yeah, those are some thoughts for the future. It would be cool to have a cassette and vinyl of our stuff.
Lastly, where can fans reach you?
Matt: Yeah, we are on Instagram, Bandcamp, Facebook, but I’m more active on Instagram. Apple Music, Spotify, TIDAL, apparently —
Michael: All the streaming stuff, yeah.
Matt: Napster, but don’t tell them.
Limewire, maybe? Also, how is Napster alive as a company?
Matt: For real.
As the interview wrapped up in a chorus of Matt and Michael responding to each-other like the Three Stooges if the dumb one had passed away, it gave true cadence to the teamwork they described in their musical stylings. By listening to each-other and taking in their musical history, Vintage Clothes had built their musical riptide among the strong foundation of trust, and a true love of utilizing as many compositional conventions as possible. Michael was right: there is a sense of “too much music” in this scene, but I can safely say, there is plenty of room for your Vintage Clothes.
Get From The Ocean To The Moon, and “Rendevouz in the Dark” with “This is So” off the Vintage Clothes Bandcamp.