In his new album, The Valley The Starlight In The Stream, Melbourne singer-songwriter Matt Church explores an interestingly eclectic sound of psychedelic indie rock that brings the analog traditions of the ‘60s and ‘70s into the 21st century.
“Roger Waters was definitely part of my journey, especially when I was younger,” Church agrees.
Though he, now a man of certain years, finds himself surrounded by sounds of the modern era, there’s a particular way those influences have stuck with Church. “I live in a bubble,” he chuckles. “I think the influences of a person are things from youth that carry through.
“We have such formidable experiences with friends, family, and life that these things keep with us. There comes a time where you want to, not so much revisit, but to live within those things. So the musicians who were such a big part of my younger years, [they don’t] go away.”
Back in the day, Church started out making music with just a four-track recorder and a microphone. As the internet took hold, home recordings became more prominent, and gradually Church had the capability to make the music that reflected his earlier influences.
And Church is nothing if not a gear head – the list of equipment and instruments he employed from the ‘50s right the way into the ‘80s could easily sit in a museum – a 1959 Klemt Echolette ‘Gold Box’ analog tape delay, a 1961 Fender Jazzmaster, a 1980s British Starsound Dynamix 3000 console, and cassette tape loops that were handmade on an Onkyp ‘80s cassette deck, to name a few.
These items cultivate the most miraculous sound in Church’s album, a carefully mixed journey that suggests yearning, reminiscing, and a celebration of what Church describes as a “fearful independence”.
It’s all framed by sliding guitars, crashing cymbals and a dichotomy of dark and warm tones. The production of this release was just as important an element as the chance to channel his musical influences. “What prompted me to record myself is I went to a couple of studios and I couldn’t get the sound I wanted, I didn’t hear it.
“In those days everything was fat and warm, you had these beautiful sounding records and cassettes. I was aware things didn’t sound the same today as they did back then. Then I worked it out, you can get an approximation. The equipment [then] was so beautifully made.”
Using the gear he did to create the deeply vibrant analog effect was intrinsic to getting a sound that could approximate the classicism of old. But that’s not to say Church was entirely opposed to new ideas. “The console was the thing,” he says. “It changed everything for me.”
Church’s console sits at the heart of his home studio, a shocking central piece to all who visit for its sheer enormity. It’s the same one Beck used on his album, Mellow Gold, and with it, Church says he runs instruments live and only ever uses compression, a touch of EQ and reverb. “Without that console I couldn’t get softness, the warmth of sound,” he says.
“It’s all a learning process, learning and learning, and trying to do a little bit better each time. I could go on about gear all day.”
With so many old school influences, you might call Church’s material dad rock, and he’s fine with that. While Church wants everyone to enjoy the music as deeply as he does, he hasn’t actively given thought to whether his sound will be palatable to the youth.
His reflections are as whimsical as his music. “If I think I’ve got something that sounds nice, I’m happy. This is a journey that someone like myself takes alone.
“I think of myself often as the painter or composer. Someone who listens to music on their own, in their own little space, and who has deep passion and love for old things and old music.”
Matt Church’s immersive new album, The Valley The Starlight In The Stream, is out now via EEO Records. Check it out via streaming services.