Pop meets current chaos in Matt DeMello’s new experimental album: Confetti in a coal mine. The so-called “DIY multi-instrumentalist audio producer, sound artist, composer, and songwriter who was exiled from the prog and math rock scenes of Providence, Rhode Island right after the Great Recession” brings us something new and exciting. unexpected. A demented carousel of musical genres and styles perfectly at home in a world of ongoing pandemic and fierce, mindless scrolling. Confetti in a coal mine represents the culmination of DeMello’s work with his pre-pandemic touring band, The Significant Looks, and various laptop experiments that turned into songs during quarantine streaming shows. Between the emojis in song titles and searing satire, there’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s dive in.
Today Slide is thrilled to offer an exclusive premiere of the album ahead of its June 29 release.
The opener, “So Uh…🤔 Thank you for stopping by” (feat. Jennifer Nordmark & Rootstock Republic String Quartet) wanders around like a cabaret sung by Lafou from Beauty and the Beast. The quartet is beautiful like DeMello croons, /Yesterday he told me/something very strange indeed/that if we ever disagreed/I should do like the Beebs and go love me/in this har-mo -ny/. By no means does this track set the stage for anything to follow… except for the intentional discord in the word “harmony”.
The next track mixes the shades of port. “Needalittlebitomah]🌞🔅🔆 Sun!” (feat. Pete Dizzoza) is a piano-rock, Billy Joel jam with retro 8-bit chiptunes and chaotic harmonies. “💀💀💀 Like a Body in a Hearse” uses distorted vocals and a funketronic bassline to bring a bit of Oingo Boingo to the dance party.
From Montreal meets Queen“[A-Typical] Candidate (For Rampage Violence)” with scathing lyrics about the failures of democracy, it ends with an extremely catchy chant: /Caffeine and THC/Alcohol, melatonin in a symphony/sleep will be the death of me/if I get there first, say a prayer for me/.
One particularly fun track is the electro-dance groove, “Another Word for Love” (featuring Amanda Rain O’Keefe). The rapid-fire lyrical verse, sometimes belted, sometimes falsetto or spoken word, is the highlight. Vocal tracks are sometimes doubled, tripled, and maybe even quadrupled. It’s as exciting as it is cacophonous. DeMello’s chops take center stage and O’Keefe rises to the challenge as electronic beats and synthesizers crescendo.
The deeply political “A Tension’s Deficit/All-State Firing Squad” brings things back to a laid-back, stripped-back surf-pop tune. /Behind each participation trophy case is an AR-15/. Damn. “mybrightest🔥me” (Liz Wagner, Biro and Monster Furniture) brings a revolutionary musical atmosphere to the Mis. Choral cannons that would feel right at home with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Confetti in a coal mine concludes his genre masterclass show with the musical coda “December Birthdays! (Nobody Mess with the Peanut) 📅🎉❄️” to come full circle. The unifying themes of irreverence, utter disdain and playful theatricality combined with charming DeMello’s musical and a multitude of special guests make this LP a very entertaining and stimulating listen.
Listen to the album and read our conversation with Matt DeMello below…
Confetti in a coal mine: what a name. What a collection of songs. What does the title mean to you?
The title quantifies how I think American society treats the arts. On the one hand, no one is allowed to act as if art should have enough value to sustain its creators without an obscene, and often entirely mythical, sense of sacrifice. On the other hand, whenever a Robin Williams commits suicide, or a Tom Petty or Prince dies of an opioid painkiller, or Britney Spears has a depression, we are so quick to decide that theirs was indicative of the downfall of the whole society. or value system. And if only we were a more welcoming culture that loved the arts, then surely we would all have been spared their trauma.
The whole attitude causes me cognitive dissonance: Decide if we’re important enough to deserve our ‘suffering’ or not, damn it! And I wanted to present this contradiction to the public in musical and historical terms as raw as possible.
You described it as “probably the most important album I’ll ever make”. Can you tell us a bit about the importance of this album for you and for the world?
Yeah, for me personally: I’ve gone through my entire discography so far with absolutely no plans to make music that’s appealing or marketable. If this happens, it’s entirely by accident trying to write songs about uncommon topics that I don’t hear much about as a listener. I always think that this is above all my principle as an artist. But by also pursuing my widest range – and trying to write songs that perfectly embody their goals, whatever those goals might be – I was ultimately going to prove how dangerous and unconventional I think that “attractive” and ” marketable”. “Music should be, and Confetti is probably as close to that as it gets.
So far, this whole somewhat self-defeating attitude has pissed off a lot of people close to me who seem to be much more materially interested in my success and not having a day job than I am (and with my experience in “the rock friend I’m still very hesitant to call these people “fans”). But as this album coalesced and this crowd heard more demos and final versions, they became more persuasive in their pleas for I “give this a proper promotion cycle.” So here I am!
I think that’s also an outlier for me in terms of writing music that’s so outwardly aware of the state of the outside world. As politically active as I am – and in a way I really hate to mix it up with promoting my music for profit – writing bombshell political songs like “Candidate” or even “mybrightestflame” is really not my nature. . They’ve been kind of a cathartic compulsion lately, because I’m sure thinking about politics and the state of the world is an otherwise unwanted cathartic compulsion for everyone too.
While I don’t imagine things will get any better anytime soon, I don’t think I can keep up with trying to write a ‘Blowing in the Wind’ every time a gargantuan political tragedy occurs in the States. -United. I know they don’t have day jobs, but that Phoebe Bridgers, Kendrick or even Nnamdï Obgbonnaya can keep up with the daily onslaught to me is just amazing.
Besides your multi-instrumentalism, there are so many amazing artists contributing to this album! How was the recording process and how did you bring together so many great musicians?
Along with the album’s themes, the recording process was also polarized between maximum collaboration and maximum isolation. This came about because the project began with two separate EPs as early as 2018. The first EP would be a live recorded album of rock and acoustic arrangements (“So thanks”, “Sunshine” and “Don’t Mind”) made by a core of five musicians, billed as “The Significant Looks”, with help from our friends at the Rootstock Republic String Quartet and the Anti-Matter Horns.
The second EP would contain songs with club and electronic arrangements that I was doing myself at home while waiting for everyone to respond to emails fast enough for us to complete the first EP. “Another Word for Love”, “mybrightestflame”, and “Body in a Hearse” were all planned for this later release. And that all seemed at the time to be the sensible trajectory that most Brooklyn-based indie rock quintets normally take.
As the pandemic took hold in March 2020, my previous music started to take off with the adjacent vaporwave audience and I started getting invited to play online streaming festivals. It was really exciting because I had never played in front of such a large audience in person. Forced to think about how to play without a band, the electronic songs on this latest EP really started to take shape. After about the third streaming fest that summer, the idea for this polarized two-EP plan seemed unnecessarily compartmentalized. I started listening to a lot of #1 Record and Bringing It All Back Home…thinking of ways to respect the clear dualism between the material but avoid a sense of half and half between the disparate arrangements of the songs.
There are so many different genres and sounds coming out of this album. What were some of your direct influences (musical and otherwise) while making this album?
Yeah, until now I’ve always made EPIC rock records. I was definitely part of that school of 2000s teenagers who wanted to make The Next Great American Epic Rock album. I feel like I’ve done this format a few times and managed to spice things up by (eventually) sucking up all the electric guitars. The synthesizer orchestras of 2014’s There’s No Place Like Nowhere are probably the best example.
About four years ago I started listening to Revolver more than Sgt Pepper for the first time in my life (I’m probably more of an Abbey Road man, in my bones) – and it came to me. mind how deviously amazing Revolver is: that it doesn’t have those big lyrical intros on either side, or that big theatrical ending… but it does all Sgt. Pepper does and more. Everyone says it’s inspired by Revolver, but finding a way to channel its format and the way it downplays high concepts to let the songs speak for themselves really appealed to me throughout. recording of Confetti.
Another thing I kept thinking about Confetti was all the dumb prejudices about music I would face from college “rockers” growing up in the N*Sync era. How people like Britney Spears weren’t “real musicians” because they didn’t write their own songs, play their own instruments… I’m sure you know that.
Now I’ve created probably the most extreme types of music you can make while paddling in the opposite direction. The “anti-Christmas” 2xLP I released last year had a 30 minute track of almost pure noise on it. After covering this territory, it occurred to me that no single songwriter has a wide enough range to encompass Metal Machine Music and Max Martin. Songs like “Another Word for Love” are probably the best I can do with that goal in mind.