Interview with The Matches: Set This Place On Fire

The MatchesThere are two ways to the top: a fast explosion on the music scene that raises you to fame for only a short while, and a steady climb that ensures career longevity. Oakland foursome The Matches have thankfully taken the latter route, slowly working their way up from local band (cleverly called The Locals) to beloved staple who gets musicians like Mark Hoppus and Tim Armstrong to produce tracks on their record, opens tours for the +44 and is currently headlining the Epitaph tour. Singer Shawn Harris waxes poetic about the band’s past, present, future and penis size.

Have you always known you wanted to be a musician?

I knew I wanted to be an artist, but I didn’t know I wanted to be a musician. At some point I didn’t quite succeed at art and so I kind of became a musician by default. But then I came back to art. The thing is that you don’t really have to choose, you can be a little bit of everything. What you do as a profession isn’t who you are. If you like what you do it isn’t who you are and if you don’t like what you do it isn’t who you are. You’re not making this big decision about who you’re gonna be as a person, it’s just how you’re going to make money. I think we’re under this grand delusion that what we do is supposed to make us happy and it’s just not true. There are way too many janitorial jobs. There are way too many jobs that aren’t basketball player—which, by the way, is what I wanted to be when I was little—or astronaut or rock star.

But this is coming from the rock star.

Well, I’m just a terrible person to be relating this, aren’t I? I may not be a musician for long. People may not buy my next album. And that’s alright, I’ll still be the same person.

When did you actually figure out you wanted to be a musician?

I think I figured out I was a musician before I figured out I wanted to be one. It was like ‘Oh! I guess I’m a professional musician now!’ I think I probably realized that when I was filling out my work visa form to get into the U.K. or something like that. You have to check your trade and I was like ‘Ah, what am I?’ I was reading through the stuff and I was about to check ‘unemployed’ and then Matt was like, ‘Dude, we’re getting in on work forms, you have to say what you’re doing in the country.’ I was like, ‘Oh, what are we doing?’ And he was like, ‘We’re entertainers.’ ‘Like Sinatra?’

What was the first original song you wrote?

Actually the first song we ever played together was an original. I had this song that I had made up on my dad’s old guitar. It had two chords and I just thought it was the shit. They wanted to show me some Black Sabbath song and I was like, ‘I have an original.’ They were like, ‘Ohhhh.’

How old were you then?

How old are you when you start high school?

14? What were you like when you were 14?

I think 14 was when I had bleached blond hair. I wore a Superman shirt and plaid pants to school every day. I thought that was the awesomest thing. I kind of feathered my hair back a little bit. I definitely remember doing this curl in the front of my hair because this senior girl was like, ‘He looks like Superman,’ probably because I was wearing a Superman shirt, and I was like, ‘Yeah!’ and I would do that front curl with gel in the front of my hair.

I’m thinking you should bring that look back.

Um, no. We just shot the video for ‘What Katie Said’—I wrote the treatment for it—and there’s this part where I have to sing without moving my body, because it’s a really tight cut of my mouth and eyes, and they made me do it with my shirt off for some reason, which was super awkward. So I had my shirt off and there were like 40 people in the room just watching scrawny me sing without moving my body. It was really awkward. They kept being like, ‘Stop covering yourself!’ because I was in upper body fetal position a little bit. The director was like, ‘Cut!’ and she came up and said, ‘You look like a girl!’ I was like, ‘Then take off some of this damn makeup! You did this to me!’ And she was like, ‘No it’s your hair,’ and I had one of those front little curls and apparently you could really notice it on the screen.

What is the premise of that video?

All of our faces are on televisions and the televisions are strewn around this living room. The television my face is on is mounted on the shoulders of a girl in a red polka- dotted dress who is dancing. She is dancing on the lyrics to the song as they scroll underneath her feet, like in the old sing-a-long with the bouncing ball videos. I made this TV that’s on her head. It’s rad. I mounted a baseball helmet in an emptied out television. And then Jon tap dances in the bridge of the song.

Is he any good?

He’s really good! He actually did 12 years of dance when he was a kid. He’s like Fred Astaire, dude. But he would never dance for us so I wrote it into the treatment of our video, so he had to.

Aren’t you also animating a video for ‘Little Maggots’?

I’m working with one other person, a girl named Emily who is from Australia. She is my art partner, we have a little art company.

How long does it take to animate a video?

Oh, for fucking ever. We’re been working on it for a while. We loosely started before Decomposer came out. It will probably take another three months. We’re about halfway done. It’s all models and stop-motion animation, so we have all the models and all the hand-drawn animation done.