Christopher Mounts

In & Out of Hardcore: Matty Carlock’s Jersey Pride, Dream Collabs, & New Songs

Some of his earliest work includes tracks titled, “Meet Me on the Parkway,” “The Dead Kids & the Middletown Diner,” and “Atlantic City,” so it’s safe to say that Matty Carlock will forever be rooted in his home state.

Producers – genuinely thoughtful, creative producers – are few and far between these days. As it becomes easier and easier to access tools to produce, engineer, mix, and meld sounds, more and more people are getting into the game. Still, someone with an ear for melody, a mind for lyrics, and a personal approach to art prevails. Matty Carlock is the perfect example. He is a multi-faceted artist working in front of and behind the scenes of music – his own, alongside friends, and for others. Hailing from New Jersey and cutting his teeth up and down the ‘armpit of America’ has been a blessing for the performer who now resides on the West Coast. He continues to connect to his youth, his memories, and his East Coast peers, though, which shapes his latest rock-tinged releases more than most (even if not as immediately evident as the aforementioned song titles). We had a lively conversation with Carlock earlier this month about carving out his sound from his ever-growing sea of influences and inspirations.

I would love to talk about this new single and how you got together with Mod Sun. There’s so much that we can unpack here, but I think from the start, what about this single are you excited about?

That’s a very good question. Well, I wish there was like a super cool story of how we did this, but to be honest, I had a German and England tour booked where I would go two years ago and I was about to go support people and then do a German headliner with my acoustic to support my own Jailbirds album that I did. Then the pandemic hit and everything was canceled. I just ended up being inside just like everybody else, just being inside. I was always into production, rap, and hip hop, but at that time I was in a weird parallel place in the industry. I started watching interviews and just going down the COVID rabbit hole finding interviews of people like Mod Sun. I got his books and I started reading his books. I was interested in those because I was preparing to move to Los Angeles to be a full-time producer. I was watching one of these interviews about LA artists like Benny Blanco and Mod and things like that. It just came up for me and I fell in love with Mod Sun’s vibe and everything he puts out. I thought the music was right up my alley. I thought [his books] were really awesome. Then I learned quickly he’s from hardcore, too, and he’s from a section of hardcore that I’m very familiar with and I’m from, as well. I had my people just reach out to his people to get us to start talking. Next thing you know, we made it work – music. I had songs just on the back burner that I thought were really cool and I sent them to him. 1991 was the one that we landed on. When he sent me his verse back, something very interesting happened…. He sent me his verse back and it was all in one piece and I was like, “Oh, this is interesting.” The first part he sent me was very sing-y and it sounded like a hook of chorus but then it went into two parts vocally. I produced it new from the ground up and then we kind of just sat on it until I moved to LA. That’s kind of how it came about; just the love of his books and how interesting he is and the love of punk hardcore that we share.

The record, though, “1991,” meant a lot. It means a lot to me because I was a singer-songwriter singing folk songs similar to the Gaslight Anthem and Brian Fallon and Bob Dylan in a world of playing shows like Jesse Mallon and Danny Clinch (who I love dearly and so much). I was always doing that. I’m gifted at this other thing, though, which is the industry and production. It was such an underdog route to take and be like “Oh, guys, I’m producing for people now… and I’m a rapper now.” It’s kind of sounds stupid and everybody kind of just looks at you, just like, “Oh my God, he has totally lost his mind. He needs to go to a hospital or something.” [Laughs] So seeing it be received very well means that much more to me because those were and are my best choices for me. These are my lyrics. It’s not a hit song and I didn’t get a girl to sing on the hook. It’s like… I’m literally talking about like growing up in hardcore in New Jersey in 2004. I mean, I literally say the words “pizza hut” in it, like, you know what I’m saying? It’s a hardcore song, but puts rapping over trap rock production. It’s not folk at all, so to see people vibe with it so heavy means a lot, because it really is like the most underground approach.

You’re writing lyrics alongside and for others, too, even if not as Jersey-centric as your own. We feel like that also adds another layer to who you are and your capabilities in the expansive world of music that you are part of. Recently you worked on Sneaky Link by Khadi Lee. What was that like in comparison to working kind of on your own craft as an artist solo-wise?

I’ve been in writer rooms and production rooms behind the scenes for other people for like the past five/six years. When the music industry shut down, my manage who lives out here and is like big in the pop world, said, “You have a talent for this. You’re not doing anything else. You might as well just come out, move down here, and get behind the scenes while touring and live music is gone.” So I moved out here to be in those bigger rooms and do writing sessions and pop sessions and do production sessions. It is very different. It’s so strange because you need to tap into someone else – you need to build a relationship with somebody in like 10 to 15 minutes to make sure that they trust you. You also have to just be good at judging character and be aware of what the plane of music is. You have to be steps ahead of them and be their therapist in a way, and be like, “What is going on in your life? Talk to me,” which is when people do sessions with me, I try my best to not do them in recording studios. I don’t want people to come into a recording studio and there’s a booth and there’s so much pressure and a big board to be filled with ideas. It’s kind of not authentic so I just do it in an apartment or like a house studio; you come here and we make coffee and we hang out and order food. The next thing you know, I’m like, “I got this idea” and we’re talking about this thing that’s good for a song.

What we’re capturing with Khadi… he is cool, he is somebody who was introduced to me through somebody who I work with. He’s from Cleveland and he had these amazing ideas. The project was kind of done. It was like 75% done before it was brought to me before I was invited to the writing session. That one session we wrote that song “Friendzone” in. We wrote the hook and the pre-chorus and the verse melodies I think in under three minutes. I walked in, I never met anybody in the room and there’s five people, but I said, “Ok, press play.” They played the beat. I just freestyled melodies with no words right in a row. Khadi was all, “That’s it!”[Laughs] Then we found the words together. He brought the premise of what he was feeling and we built on it. I love it, though. It’s like my favorite thing is to bring other people’s vision to life cause I know how much it means in my own music. It is so specific to me that it’s sometimes a little taxing when you’re down in the weeds of trying to think, “How am I gonna write another song about the boardwalk at Asbury? Are we going to do this?” so new people bring in new things to that original idea.

You just let the creative juices flow. You never know what’s gonna come out of something – even in three minutes, like you said. That can be really integral.

Yeah, but then on the flip side, me and Christopher Thorn from Blind Melon did a whole weekend in his studio in Joshua tree last year. He’s such a legend. I mean, it’s Blind Melon. It’s such an honor being there, but you know, I was invited and I though, “Ok, I’ll come. I don’t know what you need me for. I mean, you wrote ‘No Rain,’ but it’s just a weekend thing,” and we didn’t have any desire to pitch anything. We’re just like hanging out, jamming here and there, telling stories about Nirvana…. Well, I wasn’t. He was. He knows them, not me. Let’s make that clear [Laughs].

That is pretty motivational to even think about how just hanging out with someone without any pressures, without any expectations can turn into something that is, you know, really viable artistically and personally.

Mm-hmm, that’s what I mean. That’s why in 2019 I put out a record. I put out like my debut record in 2019. Danny Clinch, who is a photographer and a harmonica player and owns the gallery in Asbury Park and does Sea.Hear.Now. and the whole thing, is not his own artist. He just likes artists needing a proper home for their art and memories and albums out, so he just sits in at the gallery or with Pearl Jam or some crazy shit like that and sing and play harmonic then and there. It is either like 20 people or it’s like 200,000 people and he does it just for the love of music. You know, I conned him into playing harmonic on my album and he came out and was like, “Sure.” He came to the studio in Jersey and played harmonica on a song called “Gerald,” and it just to drives your point real quick of how it’s freeing and personal. He played this amazing harmonica and I asked him like, “Hey, man. You’re always singing at the gallery. You don’t have albums out or anything. Do you wanna sing a verse? I mean, you came here and I think you should sing a verse on this just because we are feeling it.” We both got along so well and he agreed and we just deleted my vocals and put his vocals in. That’s the first time he ever did that in his life where he is featured on like a real song on like Spotify or on a vinyl record. It meant so much to the bulk of us because it was such a situation that brought us together. You know, that wasn’t planned. How do you plan something like that? You can’t and. We know Danny pretty well from over the years between Sea.Hear.Now and just the local artistic scene. He’s a legend. He has this kind of casual nonchalant aspect to what he does and who he is that he could just show up and do that. He’s the man.

That leads wonderfully my next question for you, which was about how Jersey and Jersey’s own music and art scene has shaped the music that you’re making today.

Sure. Jersey means everything to me. I’m 31 now. I’m somebody who started going to shows in Asbury Park in 2005. I was a baby going to hardcore punk shows when the [Asbury Park] Lanes were like a literal Porta Potty [Laughs]. You did not want to go there. If anyone was like, “Hey, you wanna go to Asbury?” most answers would be, “No, I don’t want to get shot. Are you crazy?” I did, though – I wanted to find whatever weirdo punk show I could. Growing up in the New Jersey hardcore scene in Asbury Park shaped me to who I am now and it shaped work ethic. It showed me what a work ethic was and taught me to be open minded and aware of the different music that came out of different areas and lifestyles. I love “Born to Run” [Bruce Springsteen] like everybody else, but I also love punk music. I also love Death Cab for Cutie. I love Shattered Reality, Agnostic Front, and Mad Ball. All these things are one because the hardcore community in Jersey pushes that you just be yourself and accept everybody and protect the youth. It showed you how to kind of stand up for yourself and stand up for the ones you loved and your family and your art. Experiencing that at such a young age in New Jersey… I carry that with me now and in all of the hardcore punk bands that I was in.

Transitioning from hardcore into folk music or folk music into pop and the rap industry might be strange for other people, but, for me, that was just like any night of going to those shows with all those different styles and all these genres on the same bill and in the same area, so it just makes perfect sense to me. Also, hardcore is very similar to rapping because it’s rhythm and words and passion. It’s not always a melody. I’m still independent, still have those values, and New Jersey taught me to keep my independence and to have a DIY mindset, even when you’re working with somebody like Mod Sun or Christopher Thorn.

This is what Jersey did truthfully: it taught me to get in the van and tour. I’m somebody who started touring very early in my life. Whether it was while people were at prom or school dances, I was on tour in other people’s bands and not my own band. I was young and taught and shown to go out there and get it, because they’re gonna give it to you. Everyone is going to try and disengage your dreams and your vision, so you just have to simply get in the van and get it [Laughs].

With this grind of yours and everything following “1991,” what’s the rest of the year looking like? What can you tell us? What can you tease?

I have another single [now] that is another one that’s been in the vault, as well. I did this weird run where right before the pandemic, I did the Jailbirds album, but I started a lot of this. All this music was created in the same session, in the same studio mixed by the same guy, like mastered by the same guy as Danny Clinch is leaving. Then I am doing this with Tsu Surf at the same time like, which I’m proud of. This was something that I had for a second and right around the time we shot the video together in Queens, the pandemic hit. It just wasn’t the right second, the right time, anymore. Tsu Surf is somebody who I look up to very much. I’ve always looked up to this guy. He is so talented. He’s a Battle Rap champion. He is just such an iconic, humble legend. […] I’m so excited to finally put this out and to just move forward, you know? I have another album coming out, which will be out next summer I think, which is along the lines of like The 1975 or Bleachers. It’s an exciting time.