Matthew Sweet – Catspaw (Q&A, and more …)

Catspaw is Matthew Sweet’s fifteenth studio album. And, as with every good record he delivers, the quality of the songs is compared to the quality that can be heard on Girlfriend or 100% Fun.

That good? Yes, that good!

The sound is slightly different though. As New Noise writes: ‘The sweet-as-honey melodies are still there, but the music is a little slower and the vibe a little darker.’.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Matthew Sweet about how Catspaw came about.

You made Catspaw almost all by yourself. What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

 I think when I started playing lead guitar, it made me happy. I was having fun!

How did Catspaw come together?

It really wasn’t so different than I would usually approach a record, except I had decided to play lead myself. The instrumentation was also very basic.

People talk about your guitar sound. Proud of how your guitar sounds? It determines the overall sound (and I hope you take that as a compliment). Was that what you wanted?

Sometimes I think the guitar sound comes mostly from how and what you play. I try lots of different amps and guitars (I used Novo guitars on this), but they all seem to usually work.

When you release a new record, it is usually compared to 100% Fun or Girlfriend. Often they write ‘his best records since …’. Most of the time it is a compliment. Do you take it as a compliment?

Yes, I do. 

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

I don’t know if I ever really ask for opinions, other than what people like. Once a record is released, I get an idea from the reaction.

You manage to keep the quality of your songs very high, for a very long time now. Do lyrics and melodies always come easy or is it hard work?

It sounds strange to say, but it’s really the easiest part for me, not what I would call hard work. Maybe happy work.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for Catspaw?

Success these days to me is just making a new record. I think I would do it regardless of what it brings. But I do like hearing if people have good feelings from it.

When do you decide to start recording a song? Any specific Matthew Sweet-quality-criteria?

I kind of record the good and the bad without judgement. I never know which ideas will blossom into something nice until it’s happening.

As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

I don’t think of the world or its reaction, only how I feel. Then I just put it out there. I like emotions, it’s hard for me to imagine not putting them out there. I guess I feel more comfortable with that than if I tried to hide them.

What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?

We had a huge outdoor gig in Chicago in the mid-90s that was memorable just for the vibe and its incredibly huge crowd. The newspaper had the headline ‘’the Pope, the Bulls, and Matthew Sweet” which I guess all happened that weekend.

When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

I don’t think I ever thought that in my life!

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Yes of course. But it’s the part I enjoy most, so it’s ok.

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

Creating something out of nothing is magical. It’s what art is all about.

Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?

To see and share with others what the music has meant to them is humbling and satisfying. I love to think it’s helped others in their lives.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?

Once the music goes into the world, I really have no control. People are free to make of it what they will. I am extremely grateful to get to do what I do at this age.

Being a one-man-band, did that bring ultimate freedom, or was it mainly a logical way of recording because of the situation the world is in?

I recorded and completed the record before the pandemic hit, even though it does seem to fit with its isolation.

I started out, before I ever made records, on my own multitracking, so it was really like a return to when I started in a way.

They expect ‘the roaring 20s v2.0’. What kind of party are you looking for?

The 20s were incredible. But fascism was also on the rise. I’m looking for the good side, freedom, and hope!

Omnivore Recordings is proud to announce the release of Catspaw—written, produced, recorded, mixed, and entirely preformed (save ferocious drumming from Ric Menck of Velvet Crush) by Matthew at his home studio. Mastered by Bob Ludwig, the Hofner bass and Novo guitars sing and howl, harkening back to classics like Girlfriend and Altered Beast—all while retaining the hooks that dig into the listener. Well, like a cat’s paw.

Thank you, Cary Baker (at Conqueroo)

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