Baltimore’s Lake Trout: Matt Pierce Interview

Baltimore’s Lake Trout, specifically Multi-instrumentalist Matt Pierce, was kind enough to let me call him and chat music. Their album Another One Lost still stands out as a favorite of mine. And, by the way, if anyone has a copy of it, I am in desperate need to replace my ruined copy. Hint. Hint.  I transcribed the interview in all its glory. Like it, love it or lump it, you gotta respect these guys.

Lake Trout – Matt Pierce : Multi-instrumentalist :: Interview

Me: How would you classify the sound of Lake Trout?

Matt: It’s changed over the 8 years we’ve been playing. At this point it’s definitely moved in the rock direction, in the last couple of years. I guess now, we’re at a point now where structurally it’s kind of rock, with all the textures that we’ve used over the years are kind of leftover on the sides, with the ambient kind of sounds so it’s a little bit left of the center, but I guess you could call it rock. A little bit experimental.

We’ve always been beat heavy. We kind of center things around beats. I guess it’s a little dash of DJ Shadow with rock.

Me: I read about the ambient shows – did you do those shows in the fall?

Matt: Yeah we did. We did those last year. Those are a lot of fun for us. We’ve done those every couple of months. We’ve been playing those songs off of our last album a lot. We’ve been promoting that album for a long time so it’s kind of refreshing. We all sit down on stage and make stuff up. That’s kind of one my favorite things to do. No matter how structured our songs become we still have that side of us that wants to experiment. We’ve always been interested in soundtrack kind of stuff and soundscape stuff.

Me: Background of the band – how did you form?

Matt: Well three of us, myself, Ed the guitar player, Mike the drummer, all met in college. We were taking music classes together. I knew Woody, the singer, I went to school with him. I introduced them to Woody and we all formed the band in ‘94. We picked up James a year later, our bass player. So we met through school basically and music classes.

Me: So, what is your musical background and that of some of the members of Lake Trout?

Matt: I actually began playing drums first. I took saxophone lessons when I was younger, but I stared playing drums in church, oddly enough. My family’s part of, I don’t know what you’d call it, one of those “holy-roller” type churches. So I played drums and then I….played in band here and there playing drums through high school. In college, actually my first band I played drums and Woody, our singer, was in another band with me when I played drums. His background is sort of, he started playing guitar when he was younger, he’s really into like blues and that kind of thing. I also played saxophone since I was younger so when we met Mike, our drummer, I kind played the saxophone in the band, not knowing how to fit in. That was the only instrument I had at my disposal. Sort of crammed things together, whatever we had available. James, the bass player, he’s been playing bass for a long time, he’s kind of into like punk rock. Mike got into funk.

Everyone was playing their respective instruments through high school in separate little bands. Ed the guitar player was really into jazz and then he got into the punk rock kind of thing too for a while when he was younger, but then he got really got into jazz, in late high school and especially in college.

Me: Are there any side projects?

Matt: Yeah, we have one called Big In Japan. (Trio. Matt on Keys and Flute. Mike on drums James on bass). We started doing this about 4 or 5 years ago at a lounge here on Baltimore. It’s kind of background music. It sort of took off and we started to get into this drum and bass sort of thing. We started to play a lot of parties for a while. We had a few residencies over the years in Baltimore every week, it became really successful.

We do it now whenever Lake Trout off or not playing, we pick up shows here and there. We usually play two or three times a month in the Baltimore, DC, Philly area.

Me: Have you released any albums under that?

Matt: Yeah, we did actually. We had people recording our shows. Somebody released one of the nights that we played. It was a long time ago and we kind of have a new sound now. A new better sound. I don’t really recommend it. Nowadays we’re getting a little more heavy and experimental. Lake Trout’s gone more of in
the direction of songs and structure and a lot of people who appreciate the older stuff are kind of into Big in Japan because it’s all instrumental and a little more experimental.

Me: What is the typical song writing process like for Lake Trout?

Matt: It always used to be we used to play a lot more instrumental improv stuff onstage and we’d come up with ideas and the ones that stuck we would kind of play over and over whatever we played until they morphed into something. We would take those ideas into the practice room and kind of structure them a little more. Possibly add vocals if it worked out or not. Nowadays, people are coming up with things on their own and bringing them to the practice. Woody has always written all the lyrics, he’s been doing that a lot on his own. Before, it used to be, here’s the song, now go write something for the vocals. We all come with our own input. Every once in a while we’ll still do like the improv thing, like with our ambient shows, we’ll come up with our ideas and it sticks and that becomes a song. Everyone comes up with their own parts and builds around someone’s original idea.

Me: Another One Lost sounds multi-layered is that hard to recreate live?

Matt: At first we weren’t quite sure how to do it. We went from post-production and the recording process and things that we kind of tweaked out. We’ve added a few things we needed on stage and now it’s just seamless. Most of those sounds are things that we create, were able to create live anyway. We did kind of cut things up a little bit in the studio, so it was a little bit of a challenge at first. But now, it’s pretty much traditional instruments that we use and sounds that we sort of tweak using our instruments unconventionally. Yeah, we manage to do it on stage pretty easily. Sometimes better, I think.

Me: Do you experiment on stage with your own songs?

Matt: Absolutely. I think it’s always different. Especially myself. The things I play, are more like they’re textures and kind of over top. I’m always playing around with it and changing it, I mean I don’t play the same thing twice. I think some of the other guys sort of have to, just to keep the structure of the songs. I can’t imagine some bands playing the same songs every night, it’s just way too boring.

Me: Is there a running theme on Another One Lost?

Matt: Not really. We tried to make one sort of afterwards. Just by song titles and that kind of thing. To make it seem like there was a theme. But really, the vocal songs came from different places, the instrumentals stuff came from different places. At first I think we were planning on having one album with all the vocal stuff and a whole separate one with all the instrumental stuff. At the end we kind of thought we could take a few of these and put it in there and try to make it all work together, so the lyrics kind of came a little bit afterwards, but they don’t really tie into one another, intentionally. It was sort of after the fact that we came up with this idea of ‘let’s say this album, was the soundtrack to a movie’ and we made up the movie and made up the whole idea of it after the music was already done. And it was sort of an excuse as to why we have these instrumental songs.

Me: What is it about Another One Lost that you like the most?

Matt: It was over two years ago that we recorded that. A lot of it still holds up with me. I like the instrumental stuff a lot on that album. The vocal stuff we were really just learning and kind of getting into the whole idea of more structured stuff. I think some of it’s good. The stuff we’re working on now is miles above that, I think. I do really like the textures and sounds we came up with. Just the colors of the album I like and a lot of the instrumental stuff.

Me: Are you in the studio now?

Matt: We are going to be in the middle of April. I was just saying we were in the learning process we’ve come a long way. We’ve been working on a lot of new stuff in the last 6 months and they’re all vocal tunes. They’re a lot better.

Me: Taking a different direction than A.O.L.?

Matt: Sort of more in the direction of the vocal stuff, but we’ve managed to actually combine the elements of what we do live instrumentally and experimentally. But that’s what we’ve always wanted to do. Hopefully that sound that we have live, what we used to play, sort of instrumental, improv stuff, but with have vocals on top of that, try to find a happy medium.

Me: There’s a fine line between sounding organic and sounding too electronic, Lake trout pulls that off really well – what do you think attributes to that? How do you think you pull that off so well?

Matt: I think we never wanted to sound like a DJ…I think we moved away from that a little bit the whole electronic feel. We still have elements of that but we never tried to imitate or mimic electronic music. I think I lot of bands that do this or do that kind of style…want to sound exactly like a DJ were playing. We never felt like that. We want to sound like a band. But there some aspects of that culture that we appreciate; the beats, the cycles, the repetitions, that kind of thing.

Me: What’s a typical Lake Trout show like?

Matt: For better or worse, we really feed off the audience. Even if it’s a small room. If it’s small, but packed and energetic, then we seems like we can take it to another level sometimes. Where, we play our songs that we have that we have on the album, it just seems to work with the whole performance. With the new stuff we’re doing and then the improv stuff that we do. I think when…A good show is when there’s a crowd that’s into it that we can feed off of that It
kind of goes back and forth. When the crowds into it, we get more into it. The shows can be really rockin’.

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