“Maybe it’s the natural progression into self-deprivation through comedy...”

“I worry sometimes that my life is like a bad rom com,” Matt Maltese laughs. It’s the kind of laugh that comes right from the pit of his stomach, one delivered with honest execution. I can’t work out whether he’s laughing at or with himself.

This is why recently so many people have been connecting with the twenty something year old and his baritone croonings. The songs, as sombre as they are in topic, wear a clever smirk. His recently announced forthcoming debut album, 'Bad Contestant', is “a journey from like pure, sort of innocent heartbreak, into love again and out of love again, getting more cynical every time.”

Matt explains, “maybe it’s the natural progression into self-deprivation through comedy.”

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It is the vision of grandeur dystopia, but backlit with neon lights. Filled with knowing lyrics that conclude that Jesus is a woman, and analyses the possibility of the world being flat, the songs are confidently wry. On the title track Matt self-critiques in the most personal and intimate of ways, but to a tune that wouldn’t feel out of place drifting softly from an old piano in the corner of a dim rouge lit bar.

Matt Maltese’s songs cover the many faces of romantic situations and the aftermath. There’s no alter ego, the right amount of bravado, and a cinematic stance that sets the songs in unforgettable great stead.

“Obviously with making music about personal issues, they’re boring on the surface,” Matt says, “So I often dramatise it and make it something else.”

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I have to use comedy and not take it seriously...

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Most notably in fan favourite, ‘As The World Caves In’; a wondering love song about Theresa May and Donald Trump’s final night together before they press the button. Describing himself as a “reserved, insular character a lot of the time,” he sniggers at the irony of laying his heart on the line in his music, even referencing within the songs themselves that he’s just projecting.

“That’s why I use comedy probably, because it's something that I'm not totally comfortable with. I think building a relationship with it, I have to use comedy and not take it seriously. I know people do and that's all they know and that's cool too.”

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Whilst feeling uncomfortable with the openness of it all, Matt’s greatest lesson has been to learn to laugh at the situations that he finds himself in. After all, without laughter, what would we be?

“Maybe if I were a fictional character it would be like a Broadway version of me; washing down the kitchen counters with loud horn players around me, and then going to save a cat from a tree.”

Going back to that aforementioned bar, you’d find the locals swinging their legs from the grand piano and angelically uplifting the Frankie Avalon style hooks. It wouldn’t be totally unreasonable to believe that if Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye were real and alive today, he’d be a Matt Maltese fan. That’s the strength of the music; the wicked humour can be taken as gospel or in satire depending on perspective. Holden would look up to Matt as a lyrical genius, or the scribe of his internal monologue.

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It would be like a Broadway version of me...

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Despite never reading the renowned novel, Matt remembers; “I think I wrote an essay about it and I just read Sparknotes. So bad!” justifying his crime by admitting, “I think I had a hatred for texts that everyone else had read.”

Yes, he was one of those teens. Sitting on the “wrong side of emo pop punk” when he was younger, the lyrics spewed reflected “feeling like a depressed teenager without actually having experienced much that makes you depressed, if you know what I mean.”

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Now with Leonard Cohen being his chosen subject of TED Talk, it is “his irony and sadness” that intrigues and inspires Matt. “It's interesting. It feels like as generations have gone by we've been a lot more open about how we feel about things, which in turn allows a lot more comedy to seep in. Like when our parents and our parent's parents sit around the dinner table, they wouldn't talk about [their romantic situations]. They wouldn't go on a date with somebody and talk about bad experiences with an ex partner or whatever because most of them would have only had one.”

Matt says as he tries to make sense of why we laugh about the unfortunate events that happen in our personal lives. “I feel like in the realm of love, our generation is hugely differently because we know that we have choice now.”

Referencing the battle between addiction and sobriety, the lustful puppy eyed love when being sweet sixteen and a twinkling affair in a seedy nightclub; “I pass you a drink whilst the creeps circle around you, trying to figure out if I’m just one of them too.”

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As humans we love shocking things...

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Love is both the first and last pulse of the record, and spills in his deep, red wine vocal. “Marrying at 20 isn't really the way anymore, and so in turn there's a lot more funny situations that arise; eloping and being married for fifty years isn't all that funny. Whereas the world of internet dating is generally quite funny. I notice that a lot when I hang out with my parents and their friends, they've had like one or two relationships and I'm like so many in and I'm like “fuck me this is not how they did it.””

Matt Maltese takes the murky and the tragic and makes it weirdly bewitching. Comparing social media to an online version of The Sun where we are all our own celebrities in our dramatised lives, Matt confirms “as humans we love shocking things.” In turn we laugh at things we perhaps shouldn’t and share things that we otherwise wouldn’t.

For better or for worse, it makes for great musical content from this hopeless romantic desperate to taint the hearts of everybody he meets.

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Matt Maltese will release debut album 'Bad Contestant' on June 1st.

Words: Tanyel Gumusha
Photography: Holly Whitaker

 

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