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Interview: Matt Frank [Their / They’re / There, Lifted Bells]

04 Apr Interviews | Comments
Interview: Matt Frank [Their / They’re / There, Lifted Bells]

I saw the Their / They’re / There release show at Schubas this past winter, and had an absolute blast watching the fretboard theatrics of Matthew Frank. Complex meters, clean tones & playing, and really creative songwriting. Fortunately, he was willing to take a bit and chat about his musical upbringing!

What bands do you currently in (or working for), and what bands have you been in previously?

I am currently in Their / They’re / There, Lifted Bells and The Paramedics. Previously, I spent 4 years playing with Loose Lips Sink Ships.

What is your primary instrument?


What instruments do you play?

The first instrument I ever owned were drums. I started playing when I was 8 and even took lessons for several years. I never was very good, I just liked hitting things hard. Occasionally I’ll play drums on some sessions, I played on the Stutterbot EP and the new Richardson “Richardson” 7”. I also play a little bass, I’ve played on a few recordings and have toured with Chicago’s Island of Misfit Toys.

How long have you been playing guitar?

About 10 years. My first, and only acoustic, guitar was given to me by my dad when I was 15.

Did you take any lessons growing up? (guitar or other, how far did you go?)

I took two lessons when I was in high school. I learned the blues scale, Daytripper and Smoke On The Water.

What impact did that have on you as a musician?

Very little. I was an impatient kid growing up so after those brief lessons I decided I wanted to learn what I wanted to learn. So I spent years in my bedroom eating pizza and learning Nirvana, Silverchair, Weezer and Nada Surf songs.

Do you have an understand of scales and music theory?
— How does that impact your songwriting?

I know the blues scale and have no concept of music theory.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

Victor Villarreal, Thurston Moore, Nick Reinhart, Frank Zappa, J Mascis, Ash Bowie

Do you still practice instruments, beyond when you’re writing for your band(s)?

Because all of the bands I’m in currently operate rather sporadically, I have to sit down and practice from time to time. Band practices, shows, writing, etc. all seem to be rather sudden.

Do you still attempt to push forward by learning new instruments or applications?

I honestly don’t spend a lot of time “honing” my guitar skills anymore. In the past year I’ve just been focused on writing new material and recording as many bands as I can.

Do you have have a method for songwriting? How does it usually happen?
– Prefer bringing a skeleton to practice, or build as a collaboration

My method has been the same for several years. I usually turn my phone on silent, lock my bedroom door and just sit in my bed with my acoustic guitar and experiment. I’ll have a “riff” I’m excited about and I’ll spend hours trying to expand the concept with either weird or flowing passages.

Each band is slightly different in terms of shaping the entire piece:

Loose Lips – First, Conor or I would write an entire song on guitar. After we’ve got a strong foundation of the song’s passages we’d bring it to Steve (Bass) and Jacob (Drums) to experiment with weird rhythm patterns. After the song’s major movements are hashed out the 2nd guitarist (depending on who wrote the song) would fill in the gaps with “twidly twidly do bi bup *melodic run here* tap-a-tap-a-tapa *angular chord here* doobly doobly dab”.

Lifted Bells – Our first EP was written by me and Owen Mallon (Noumenon, Stay Ahead of The Weather). I would again write the foundation of the song on acoustic guitar and then he would find the hooks and shape it more into a “pop format”. At the time, Joel Coan (The Felix Culpa) was drumming with us. He and Matt Jordan (Cut Teeth, Stay Ahead of The Weather) would then thicken things up following the rhythmic movements Owen would write with me. Recently though we went through a major personnel change and wrote two new songs in a room together as a five piece.

Their / They’re / There – I spend hours at a time writing this songs entirely on acoustic guitar. I’ll record iPhone demos for Mike and Evan and send them off. When we can be in a room together, Evan will suggest cutting parts or expanding sections to better fit his idea for vocal melodies. In this project, I really have free reign of where the song goes. Mike and Evan just seem to love writing around my parts.

The Paramedics – Also being an instrumental band, the writing process is extremely similar to Loose Lips. We also spent several months writing a three minute song.

What is your electric guitar rig these days (if you’re willing to divulge the secrets)?

My usual setup (when everything is working) is:

1972 Fender Bassman 100w (w/ JJ 6L6GCs)
Emperor 2×12 (2 x Weber 65w)
Homemade Orange 2×12 Clone (2 x Jensen MOD 12-50w)

Boss TU-2
Mad Professor Little Green Wonder OD
TC Electronics Nova Drive
Electro-Harmonix Superego
Boss DD-3
Line 6 DL4

Fender Blacktop Jazzmaster (replaced stock bridge w/ mastery bridge)
D’Addario 10 gauge strings

Does gear impact your songwriting / performing?

Unless a piece of gear isn’t operational, nope. I’ve always kind of have relatively cruddy gear, I just make it work for me.

I saw you have an education in audio/acoustics.
How has that impacted you as a musician?
Would you recommend that as a field to explore for students wanting to continue their education?

Having a degree in audio/acoustics/recording isn’t something that affects my approach to songwriting or being a musician in general. I just love playing guitar and recording other people who love playing their instruments.

Honestly though, I wouldn’t recommend pursuing further education in any sort of audio/recording realm unless you just wholeheartedly love recording. I make little to no money and it eats up a bunch of my time. I love it and it sorta pays the bills, but it can be taxing.

Do you prefer recording, or live performances?

Live performances. 95% of the time I’m kinda of a hermit/introvert, but something sorta happens when I get in front of a couple hundred eager kids. It’s just so rewarding to hear people sing along to songs and move along with the music.

How do you like to prepare for recording?

Hours and hours of practice, pizza, coffee, basketball shorts and slippers.


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