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Gimme Indie Rock
A Record Collection Inspection with Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws
No matter who you are or what you do, where you come from or why you left, music will play an important part in your life. People who say “I don’t like music” (and there are such idiots on the planet) are liars and scoundrels who probably have nothing of interest about them, so pretend they have no interest in anything else under the misapprehension that it will make them seem different, and therefore interesting. It doesn’t; it makes them seem like dicks.
Anyhow, I digress. My point is that the music that we listen to is the soundtrack to our lives; everybody has one, and every one is interesting. No matter how interesting your personal soundtrack is, it’s frankly, however, going to be pretty lame and boring compared to that of the frontman of a super awesome rock band. So, with that in mind I took it upon myself to delve into the musical likes, dislikes, influences and guilty pleasures of just one such individual.
I met up with Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws to explore the significant songs and sounds in his life, from the first record he ever purchased, to the shameful secrets he’d rather keep hidden.
PB: Hello Matthew. To start us off on this Record Collection Inspection, could you please tell us what the first record you ever bought or owned was?
MC: It was a Jackson 5 triple set. I think it was kind of a contract-satisfier kind of record – that’s the wrong term, but it was some live tracks, some skits, some greatest hits.
So that was the very first one, and then we moved to Paris and my sister and I were very sad because we were starting in a new country and a new school. So my parents took us to the record store and said, “You can buy three records each”, and mine were ‘Let It Be,’ Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits and Bob Seger’s greatest hits.
‘Let It Be’ is a really special record to me, because I listened to it obsessively for a month while about to go to a new school. So that “fright/delight” – which is a term I use, it’s actually in ‘When I Was Young’; it’s a term I’ve found useful over the years. Because I was going to this new school, but it was also late-summer, early-autumn in Paris, with this record player. I’d never had my own record player before, so I was just in love with it, with the sound, but also nervous. It’s burned into my brain. Whenever I hear any song from ‘Let It Be ‘I’m like, “Yaaaay! [winces] Ooooh!”
PB: It’s so great when a record syncs itself completely with a moment in your life; it’s always an event, whenever you listen to it. But to go to the opposite end of the record-buying time scale, what was your most recent purchase?
MC: Hmm....what would it be? Okay, it was probably an LP in New York, and it was probably...I don’t know what my last record was. I bought one of those Vietnamese rock band compilations, you know? I can’t remember what company it is but they do these great comps where it’s like psych from ’68 Vietnam, but it’s like processing what they hear as Western music through their own style. That’s a really neat one.
Honestly I don’t remember my last record though. Oh, but I downloadedthe Vaselines. ‘Enter the Vaselines’ is the last record that I bought. It’s great.
PB: Whenever I ask people what their most recent record was, they always respond with “I have no idea!” They always really need to think about it. But first records – right off the bat, they always know it.
MC: Because it’s super important, yeah.
PB: Would you say you have any musical guilty pleasures? Something you may love, but perhaps it wouldn’t be the first thing you’d want to tell people about.
MC: Well, two things. One is that I don’t really so much believe in guilty pleasures any more; for whatever reason, I think that I can love something about almost anything, I’ll find something in it that I like. But if I did believe in guilty pleasures, my karaoke, go-to song horrifies most people; I really love ‘You’re Still the One’ by Shania Twain. That sounds like Matthew Sweet to me. I think that’s a great song.
I don’t like cheesy metal, so that’s not even a guilty pleasure. My favourite song – almost in the world – is ‘Magic Man’ by Heart. I’ve heard that eight billion, million times.
Nobody in the band is nearly as into hip-hop as I am. That’s not a guilty pleasure at all, but it is different; like I’m the only guy, for whatever reason. The thing about some hip-hop that I listen to is that I don’t mind at all when it’s totally about crime. It seems like ‘The Godfather ‘to me; no one thinks that’s wrong.
PB: I’m exactly the same; it’s like with NWA – I love NWA. A lot of people think they’re highly offensive, but I don’t believe for a second that it’s not totally tongue-in-cheek. It’s an act, it’s playing. It’s not reality. I don’t think Ice Cube’s really going out and kicking people in the teeth.
MC: Right; exactly, exactly.
MC: Do you have a guilty pleasure?
PB: I don’t know. I think one that I would say...I don’t know why, but I have a real liking for ‘Nine to Five’ by Dolly Parton. I think it’s a good song!
MC: Oh yeah! It’s a great song, it really is!
MC: I feel like a guilty pleasure would be, if someone was really into
modern country, I’d be like – “You’re guilty” [laughs]. Or Trance. That’s the worst.
PB: I have a friend who is a house DJ. I’ve gone to see him do his stuff a few times, because he’s my friend, but I honestly think “Wow, this is terrible”. I just can’t get into it at all.
MC: Yeah, I’m with you.
PB: So the last one of these: if you can imagine that you meet a person who has never heard any music in their life, but now they’ve heard about it and they’re saying “I need to hear one album to show me what music is and how good it can be.”.Like an all time classic; something where you could say “this is what music should be like”. What would you play them?
MC: Oh well, ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’. I think that kind of has it all. I went through a Kinks period for two years where I didn’t really listen to other music. I was like, “This has everything I could ever want.”
My parents only listen to baroque classical music, and I asked my dad once; I said, “I know that’s all you listen to, is there one record in particular?” and he was like, “Oh, absolutely!” And he named this record; Bach, ’BWV 1052’. We must have listened to it all the time, because I knew every note. It’s an incredible piece of music which sounds like rock music to me. It has such a pulse. It’s like Blonde Redhead. It’s really exciting and complex, and catchy and dark. I don’t know; that’s a pretty perfect piece of music. You’d dig it.
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In 'Gimme Indie Rock', Jamie Rowland talks to Matthew Caws from American alternative rock band Nada Surf about some of the records in his record collection
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