Oakland foursome The Matches usually get noticed for their eclectic, charismatic frontman Shawn Harris and the well- dressed lads to his right and left onstage, guitarist Jon Devoto and bassist Justin San Souci. But behind (literally) every great band is a great drummer and that is why Matt Whalen is being given the spotlight right before the release of the group’s third full-length album, A Band In Hope.
The dashing young Whalen discusses his musical background, the new record, and why drummers really are the most important member of any band.
Let’s start by having you justify why you deserve a solo cover.
I think I should be on the cover because why not? Why somebody else? I’m as good as anybody else who’s as good as me.
Why do you think it’s important to give drummers the spotlight?
Because nobody knows who we are. Half the time I’m not lit and you can’t even tell who the drummer is. Plus nobody cares who I am anyway because they’re too busy looking at the singer and the guitar player. And also most drummers are insane. The quiet, insane types so no one wants to talk to them anyway.
Are you the quiet, insane type?
No no. I’m quiet, but I’m not insane.
So you don’t get any spotlight at all?
A little, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that this is long overdue. There’s the rest of the band and that’s great, but sometimes it just needs to be about me. And the chance of something that’s just about me happening not in a drum magazine is non-existent.
Have you always dreamed of being a drummer?
I always wanted to be a drummer, but I also wanted to be everyone else in the band too. But then I realized that one- man bands are lame. You can’t be that dude in Mary Poppins. So when I realized I couldn’t be cool and be in a one-man band I was like, ‘Well I like drums the most, I’m going to be the drummer.’ And I have really bushy eyebrows and Bill Berry from REM does too and I thought he was awesome. I thought, ‘If that guy can be a drummer, I can be a drummer.’ That’s a true story. The first two bands that made me want to be a drummer when I saw their video was Green Day and REM. I see this guy from REM with these thick fucking eyebrows and he’s playing this white kit—I had just bought a white Pearl kit—and I was like, ‘That’s me! I can do that!’
Do you play any other instruments?
I have, but in general in life if I don’t keep up with something it disappears completely. I used to play some guitar, I used to play some piano, but I can’t really play now. Any skills I may have had are gone. My first instrument was actually the clarinet and my music teacher very subtly suggested after fourth grade beginning music class that they really needed someone to hit the bass drum and maybe I was just the person to do that and I should think long and hard about that. And I hit the bass drum.
So how old were you when you really started playing drums?
I started playing actual drum sets in the sixth grade. Whatever age that is. That was because they needed a drummer in the jazz band at my grammar school and I was already the one playing in the other band at school. I started learning them on my own. I took one lesson and hated it so I just started listening and realized I could just play along. It just came really easy. I didn’t have all the flubbing most people have when they start playing drums that sounds like a massacre. It just was easy to me right away.