PEOPLE, TURN AROUND! IT'S MATTHEW LOGAN VASQUEZ
Matthew Logan Vasquez is a worker.
In the last three years, the Delta Spirit frontman has released four records. First came ‘Into The Wide’ (Delta Spirit’s most recent album), before Vasquez decided to spread his wings and go solo with debut EP ‘Austin’. In 2016, debut album ‘Solicitor Returns’ followed, before ‘Does What He Wants’ was released in April of this year. As well as Delta Spirit, Vasquez is also part of Folk Rock band ‘Middle Brother’ along with John J. McCauley III of Deer Tick, and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes.
As great as both Delta Spirit and Middle Brother are, it is the solo work of Vasquez that captures the imagination the most. I first saw him performing as support for American folk duo ‘Shovels & Rope’ in Islington, and it wasn’t just the songs that left an impression, but Vasquez’ stage presence, musical ability, and simple, kick ass rock ’n’ roll that was unfolding in front of my very eyes. Considering the great time both singer and musicians were having on stage, the smile on the audience’s faces, and the tightness of the set all round, the fact that this trio only met earlier that day makes this all the more impressive.
So, during some down time in his latest tour - and just before Vasquez departs for the European leg - I’m eager to find out more about his latest album, touring, family life and everything else in between.
‘I have a lot of ideas and creative things I wanted to accomplish, and the ‘Solicitor Returns’ record I made is very much on that ‘Negative Creep, Neil Young, Crazy Horse, Alice Cooper kind of rock stuff’ Vasquez explains.
‘It’s super mid 70’s sounding, and then this new record (Does What He Wants) is still a little 70’s sounding, but it’s more on the Harry Nelson, Jeff Lynne side of things, and I kind of wanted to make a mishmash record of just good songs.’
‘A mishmash record of just good songs’ is exactly what has been achieved.
Album opener ‘Same’ is a song that makes you sit up and take notice immediately with its bluesy grunge and hard-hitting lyrics about tough financial times Vasquez endured. You also have folksy ‘Tall Man’, and the wispy ’Fatherhood’ where Vasquez talks of the weight placed on his shoulders when bringing a child into the world. ‘Old Ways’ is a highlight, and there are also standouts ‘Headed West’ and ‘House Full Of Music’.
‘I think what’s helped with the maturity of [this record] is the family side of things. Especially with big milestones like becoming a Dad and having the ’breadwinner’ weight on your shoulders a bit. Those are all things we start to go through in life, and I’m definitely paying attention, and trying to get the most out of it creatively as I can’.
I explain that although this latest album of his does talk of dark times (deaths, alcoholism, the aforementioned potential burdens of fatherhood) to me, the overarching message feels like one of hope, and that the tough times are endured so the subsequent hope that is felt - and happiness achieved - feel so much more worth it.
‘Yeah. It’s the same idea that blues is happy music’ Vasquez agrees. 'I think this is the happiest record I’ve made. Two songs are about two dead people I know! But it’s also beautiful, and it’s got a good sense of humour in certain ways. I like that, though. It’s like ‘BUCK UP!’ Let’s do it, you know?’
‘As a kid I grew up in a kind of middle class family that ended up going through a pretty hairy bankruptcy, so I know what it’s like to lose everything. It taught me what people are like in times of stress, and taught me that not having a lot doesn’t mean shit to how happy you can be. Your happiness comes from something else, and if family stays strong you’re good, you know’?
As much as Vasquez was born to perform (‘I do love it. I don’t just kind of like it’) now he has a family, the touring side of things is less appealing.
‘At certain points you are a prisoner in your own vehicle, and you’re just trapped in this van rolling down the highway until you get to the venue. Sometimes all day you just sit in a van, in a chair. If you do that for too many weeks in a row you start to get pretty crazy’.
When we get onto the actual act of performing to his fans, however, any hint of lethargy towards touring is soon quickly forgotten. ‘We play some Country Texas rock ’n’ roll, to have that kind of Rockabilly thing’ Vasquez relays excitedly. ‘We’ll also play some sludgy Motorhead mod-rock, and then we’ll play folk music! If the audience is drunk and talkative we’ll turn it all the way up and play through it for an hour and fifteen - and have a great night - but if the audience wants to listen I’ll take a big chunk of the set out and just play acoustic. We play it audibly every night, so all the musicians on stage don’t necessarily need a set, because I can just call audibles and they’re like ‘all right, cool!’. We have sections where it’s like ‘this is how we’ll open’ and then the middle part is six or seven ideas that totally change depending on the vibe of the band and the vibe in the room. It’s cool to be able to do that’.
I ask if this element of freedom Vasquez can now enjoy was one of the main motivations for him going solo in 2014.
‘Yeah. The improvisational side of Delta Spirit wasn’t always tough, but things can get in a rut or in a groove and then you stop getting good at your instrument. I think ‘The Beatles’ said something about that. You just play a set and it’s not…the musicality part of the set is just muscle memory after a certain point, and it’s hard to have the band click or ride on the level where they always have to be paying attention and put the effort out’.
Despite Vasquez clearly enjoying the freedom his solo work is affording him, whenever Delta Spirit is brought up, he still speaks fondly of the band.
‘When Delta Spirit does show up, everybody’s in and it’s pretty unstoppable. I don’t make any bones about that. The history, and the friendship too. The band isn’t broken up. We’re on a long hiatus and I needed to get all this out. I have a little bit more that I’m probably going to get out, but I would like to see us come back when we don’t need the band, and we just want to do it, you know what I mean’?
As our talk begins to wind down, my attention switches to July 12, where Vasquez will be playing The Old Blue Last in Old Street, London. What can I - and the crowd - expect?
‘I want to play some fucking real shit and be realness NOW!’ Vasquez exclaims. ‘My 30 year old ass can play some kick ass rock ’n’ roll still!’
Message received loud and clear, my man. I don’t have any doubt about that. None whatsoever. We’ll see you in July.