A strong Bonnaroo showing is one thing. A supporting gig with Alabama Shakes is another. But for Matrimony, the latest roots-stomp act to hail from south of the Mason Dixon line, their debut EP and its forthcoming full-length foil out on Columbia Records may be the crowning achievements of their career to date. As they approach the Northeast in celebration of Montibello Drive‘s release last week, Jimmy Brown, Matrimony’s lead singer and songwriter (and husband to bandmate Ashlee Hardee Brown, get ittttt?!) takes us through the banger week they’ve just had and the exciting developments that continue to unfurl before them as they barrel towards their next record’s unveiling this fall. They’re stopping through the Rockwood Music Hall tonight (and the Knitting Factory Saturday if you miss ’em!, so get those hand claps and heavy soles ready.
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Are you as wiped post-Bonnaroo as I am? Are you Bonna-braindead?
Oh yeah, it was crazy. We played twice and obviously just drank a lot of beers. We were definitely ready for a break, for sure.
Did you catch R. Kelly Saturday night? That’s where everything went hazy for me.
Unfortunately, no–we played Saturday night and got caught up with other stuff afterwards!
This is so exciting, everything you’ve got going on right now! Bonnaroo’s just another feather in your cap. What were some highlights from your experience this past weekend?
The thing that I look back on the most is the feeling that so many different artists really believe in what they’re doing. The energy is just … I had never experienced anything like that. When you play a show and there are a few hundred people there and you feel the room and play to the room, the whole night stems off of what people in the crowd are doing and what’s going on, because you’re all in it together. When you have 90,000 people and their expectations and they’re all excited about seeing stuff, it’s really something. That general “Wow!” kind of feeling from all that energy is what I came away with. I got to see Father John Misty–I was a big fan of J. Tillman’s solo stuff before that–and saw the xx and I was really interested to see how they’d pull off their show live, and it was killer. It was cool to see bands I hadn’t seen before as well.
Not a lot of bands release a record the same week they’re playing something like Bonnaroo, and you guys dropped the EP right before you went. This EP marks your first release with Columbia, which is huge! How’s the new stuff going over?
We’ve been playing these songs for the past year or two, and it’s always been frustrating to play a show and then not be able to sell it. We had an album out, and people would be like, “Oh, I like this song” or whatever, but it wasn’t on the CD we had previously released. It’s cool to have people be able to go find the music afterwards. Being signed to Columbia is a dream come true–Dylan, Springsteen, it’s crazy to think we’re now in that company. We’re just getting going, so to have any help at all from a record label is great.
When we’re talking about the EP and the full-length, how did the recording processes behind them differ? You’re releasing them pretty close together and I was wondering if the full-length is going to be a continuation of the Matrimony we hear on the EP, or if you’re going to take off in a new direction with the record you’re releasing in the fall.
We recorded it all at the same time, so the full-length is going to be released after the EP and it’s all going to be called Montibello Drive. We were in the same place when we wrote all of the songs. The EP gives a taste of who we are as a band so that people know what’s going on, but the full-length has got songs that fit well with the EP. There’s no drastic change or anything crazy.
So, this EP is our proper introduction to Matrimony. Is there a reason you went with these four songs in particular?
I think the main reason was to get some momentum going with these four songs. The goal isn’t to blow up super quick and become this huge thing, this one-hit wonder. “Obey Your Guns” was always kind of our staple until “Giants” came along, that new one’s been a show-stopper. We have a couple of songs that are coming out on the full-length that are fun to play, like “Southern Skies” and a song called “Sorrow.” We’re happy to play something that’ll show people who we are.
Now, you hail from North Carolina, which is home to one of my favorite labels ever (Merge) and a handful of my favorite bands (The Avett Brothers, The Love Language, Mount Moriah). What has the North Carolina music scene given you that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to find in a music scene anywhere else?
I can’t hear its influence, but Appalachians obviously have a strong tradition of folk music. CJ plays a banjo; his grandfather and his grandfather’s father, they all played banjo. At family gatherings and stuff, we’ll all jam and switch instruments. One of the good things about being from Charlotte is that it’s got a great, strong community between venues and promoters and performers and writers. I wouldn’t say it’s a one big happy family kind of thing, but everyone’s very supportive. People are excited about music. That’s been cool for us as a band to develop our live show and have people around who are very excited, and that’s a part of being from North Carolina that’s very cool.
If there’s one thing you want new Matrimony fans to feel when they listen to Montebello or see you live, what is it?
I guess the main thing is that I want them to connect with it. I just want them to feel something on an emotional level, even if it’s hard to get sometimes.