One of the highlights for me at Black Deer was Striking Matches a duo who I've been a fan of for a number of years now. I've seen them play live countless times both here and in the States and every time they amaze me because every time they get better and better. Their latest two EPs are quite different from their first album, and the sound they're creating suits the festival circuit to a T. They're a duo who is constantly evolving and trying to impress their fans and on this occasion they certainly did, not only with their guitar skills that are out of this World but with the addition of percussion instruments played with their feet. It is always lovely to catch up with Sarah and Justin but it had been a while since our last catch up and they have done a lot musically that I was eager to talk about with them!
Since I last spoke to you guys, you’ve brought out two new records and they’re both quite different from the first album, can you tell me a bit about the writing process for those EPs?
Sarah: We wanted to do something different, a lot of it came from our live shows especially playing over here. We wanted to write songs where we were thinking about the live show first as opposed to just the record first so it was very riff based instead of just sitting with an acoustic guitar in a room. Retrograde, fitting all those guitar parts and stuff, were based around the riff for a good portion of the record which changes the way you write I would say.
Justin: I think trying the songs in different sonic spaces like production wise we wanted to push ourselves, we’ve recorded something very T Bone Burnett, we wanted to expand our pallet. It’s something we really want to do, this sounds very different and hopefully the next project will also sound different and we can push ourselves and grow. Hopefully there’s something similar as well I mean it’s us singing, it’s us playing, it’s us writing so hopefully it feels like an all encompassing thing and by the fourth record it’ll all come together and make sense. We’re trying to live in different sonic spaces at those times and then when you look at it as a complete thing it’ll look like an arc or something and we’ll come back to our own roots eventually.
All three records do sound like you despite being different from each other because you’re unique particularly in the way that you play, but do you feel like you’re always learning and exploring more of the guitar?
Sarah: Absolutely, I think we’re always trying to find new and interesting ways to grow and to get better, if you don’t get better you’re going to get worse you have to actively be trying to learn new things and new tricks.
Justin: Yes and it doesn’t necessarily just go for the guitar, on this record we pretty much played all the instruments on it.
Sarah: Yeah you played a lot of keyboard.
Justin: Yeah so it’s an inspiring thing to just get better and do things differently but Guitar’s our favourite it’s why we became guitar players it’s the thing we love the most to play and the thing about being in a band with another amazing guitar player is that she constantly does things to push me and inspire me to do better. It might go two ways but I’m not going to speak for you haha!
Sarah: It does, it does haha.
Do you each have songs off these last two EPs that are your favourites either when you wrote and recorded them or your favourite to play live?
Sarah: Ooh they’re different I think, my favourite out of the two to play live is probably Retrograde which is a lot of fun and you’ll see why later! But Shameless from a recording perspective, it has a really deep meaning and when we wrote that song that day it was like wow this song is heavy and it carries a lot of weight and from a recorded space it’s special.
Justin: Yeah and when we recorded it there was a few parts where we were trying to sound choral in the vocals so overtime in the chorus where it gets to “fire burning in the rain” Sarah was like up in the stratosphere singing this harmony, this insane note and we stacked the harmonies so it would sound like a choir so it was really fun to arrange and put together. I honestly feel like this will be a cop out but my favourite’s a song that’s coming out but it’s not out yet called Used To You. I think even though the record sounds very different some of it even more different than what is yet to come out, but Used To You is probably the song on the record that sounds most like our last, it’s almost a follow up to When The Right One Comes Along. Meaning wise, narratively and just the way we wrote it, it sort of fell out between the two of us.
Sarah: We wrote it in about twenty minutes.
Justin: Yeah and it doesn’t usually happen where you’ve written these verses and it needed another part or something and then I blurted out a chorus just like that. Normally it’s a lot more fluid.
Sarah: Yeah it was almost like you’d prepared it even though you didn’t, you just came in and was like well this would work and it was done.
You mentioned Shameless there and when I reviewed the EP I think I described that song at the time as having an epic sound. When you go into the studio do you have artists or songs that you say well I want to emulate this in this section?
Justin: A little bit. It’s most useful when you’re trying to get everybody else in the room on board with how the vibe is so you might say, here’s the beat and the feel, think this artist and you’ll get where I’m going. Hopefully it winds up being something original but it was almost like a John Mayer type guitar riff mixed with a Smithy cool vibe with the harmonies.
You two work so well together on stage and writing but do you ever work or write separately?
Sarah: Yeah a lot of times actually, especially when we’re writing alone the other one will have something they’ve been working on and bring it to the other and be like check this thing out and it starts from there. It’s rare that we sit down and say so what do you want to write today it’s more that one of us will say I have this chorus and bring it to the other.
Justin: Or even just ideas, one of us always comes in with I want to write a song about this or have a title.
Sarah: Yeah Justin came in once with a title when I’d been at my mums and it was right when we got our new president and he gave me this title “Dark Days” and he said write a song called Dark Days and I wrote most of it and brought it back to him and he said change this, this and this and it was a finished song all of a sudden. So it’s always different!
Are you working with anyone in particular that you’re excited about, any writers or producers?
Justin: Yeah, just because it’s the freshest thing The Wandering Hearts just recently. We’ve been friends with them for a while, Tim has been to pretty much every Striking Matches show.
Sarah: Yeah he was a fan.
Justin: Yeah we knew him as a fan, he’d wait until after the show and get a picture with us and chat to us. I think it’s so cool the way that story has gone and now they’re doing their thing here and it makes us proud of them but we’ve been really lucky there’s been quite a few people we’ve been inspired by lately.
What’s next for you guys?
Sarah: So the two EPs that we’ve put out will come together with another six or seven songs for a full length record that will come out later this year. We’ve got a bunch of dates here in the UK, we’ve got a bunch of dates in the US so we’ll be pretty busy until mid-October and then we might try and get back over here before the years out and maybe do a bigger run or something once the records out.
Justin: We’ve been busy writing as well, it’s funny because we want to release this record because it feels like we’ve got more coming.