A Conversation with Band Of Skulls’ Matt Heyward

In a world where true “rock n’ roll” bands have managed to become rare, Band of Skulls has been putting out punchy and refreshing albums for the past seven years.

PC: Band Of Skulls
PC: Band Of Skulls

The band’s latest effort, By Default, has put them on a touring cycle since May. Ahead of their show at Skully’s Music Diner in Columbus, I caught up with drummer Matt Heyward to discuss church acoustics, new bands, and Beck.

The Indie Sound: At this point your focus looks to be touring the newest record. How has it felt to take these songs out onto the road, and how do they develop as you play them live?
Matt Heyward: Yeah, it’s been pretty amazing. The record you create and you spend so long working on and fretting over ­you finally release it, and then you get to go around to all these amazing different places and you get to play the new songs live. So we’ve been really enjoying it, because it’s nice to see the response from people hearing your music. Every night sort of changes, so the song adapts. We’re very much a live rock n’ roll band, so the songs kind of take on their own life as a live song, as well as a song from the record.
TIS: I’ve read that you’ve recorded By Default in a church. Do you think that’s something you’re going to continue to do, or do you think that was special just for this record?
MH: I definitely wouldn’t take it off the table to go and do something like that again. It was such an amazing revelation for us. This church is in our hometown. I’ve seen it all my life and we were looking for a place to write. We kind of wanted to cut ourselves off somewhere and find a place with a bit of inspiration to it. So we went and spoke to the reverend there, and he was more than welcoming, it was great. We’re not too sure where we’ll go next, but we always try to change it up and get inspired by something new.
The problem with writing is that rehearsal spaces aren’t necessarily inspiring, and you’re often in them with a bunch of other bands.
TIS: Churches have such great acoustics, so I think that’s such a cool thing.
MH: They’re designed to carry voice, so you stick a little drum kit in there and it sounds amazing. The record kind of built from that. The church dictates a lot of it.
TIS: You’ll be playing in the states for the next month; what are you looking forward to most about being in America?
MH: Everything! We’ve been going back and forth from the states since about 2008, and we wish we could spend more time than we do. I get quite apprehensive before a tour because it’s quite daunting to look at it all in front of you. But when you’re traveling around by bus, you get to sit and take in all of the amazing scenery.
You get to meet so many amazing people. Every time is different, and the more and more we go back to cities like Columbus, we always discover something new, even when we think we already know it pretty well. So just looking forward to doing a bit of that, really.
TIS: Is there any drummer in particular that has really influenced you?
MH: My dad’s a drummer, so I think that’s probably my starting point. I like a lot of old, classic drummers, like Buddy Rich. He was probably the first person I watched. I loved the ferociousness of his playing and the character that he was as a drummer. He was known as sort of this nasty, nasty guy but he had the persona for it, which I think kind of got me hooked.
TIS: Over the past year or so, a lot of artists have come out against Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music. I was wondering your thoughts on the state of the music industry in terms of what you guys put out and how you feel it should be distributed?
MH: I think it’s the conversation everyone’s having now. It depends on your viewpoint. You can look at these outlets as an amazing opportunity to get music across to a wide amount of people. There’s also the fairness with the artistry and the ownership of the music. I think it’s important to look forward and try to look at new ways of how you go about putting records out, or putting yourself out there and promoting what you do.
The most frustrating thing is all the of the new bands coming up, because it clogs the flow of things. You’re not getting any of these new really talented people coming through. There’s no budget to market it on, and everyone’s too afraid to put money into anything because everyone’s so scared of not getting any return. So you stop having new bands coming through, which is the thing I feel the most.
I don’t get excited about new music yet, because it doesn’t come so freely in some respects. But then when things are so easily out there on the internet, it can be watered down. I think for us we stay positive ­the fact that we’re coming out to the states again is amazing to us and we’re fortunate to be there.
It’s easy to point fingers and say, “that’s why this is all fucked,” but from our stance, we’ve been incredibly fortunate that we do this. We look at it like a bit of a challenge, I guess. You’ve gotta stay positive about it, but it’s really hard to be any artist at the moment.
TIS: It definitely seems like we’re in a transitioning stage to figure out how things are going to work next.
MH: Yeah, it’s completely that. Everyone’s kind of looking at each other a little bit, going, “What? What do we do?” This music is perceptual really, because at the moment it’s completely transient and quite scary.
TIS: On that note, are you listening to any songs or records in particular right now?
MH: I’ve just been looking at a festival we’re playing on Victoria Island in Canada. De La Soul are playing it, as well, and they just released some new material, which is good. Then Beck’s about to release that new record, I think. I’ve heard the few songs from that, which is really exciting.
TIS: Yeah, that Beck record’s going to be great. He put out those two songs that are way different from the past stuff he’s put out. He’s really interesting!
MH: Morning Phase was amazing. I love it, but it was definitely a shock. But that’s what amazes me about Beck, he can come in all these different guises but it’s always him, always Beck.
Band of Skulls plays Skully’s in Columbus on September 9th. Listen to ‘By Default’ below.

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