We’ve been looking forward to sitting down with Matt of Tropidelic since Trop won our first annual Album of the Year Contest back in January. Here’s your chance to dive deep into the mind of the front-man of one of Reggae-Rock’s hottest, up and coming bands. We appreciate you Matt and Tropidelic!
360: You guys dropped an amazing album last year, have been ripping up gigs, and you probably have a lot of big plans for the future of Tropidelic. I’m curious before we get into that, what are you personally excited about outside of music? Just in life, in general, what are you excited about right now?
Matt: That’s an interesting question, I don’t know man, it takes a whole lot. It takes a whole lot to get me excited and it takes a whole lot to make me nervous; it’s probably a gift and a curse because I don’t get too excited about anything. I really just grind constantly and that’s all I’m focused on right now; grinding that is. I’m just really focused, and feel better than I ever have. I’m more focused on what’s next then what’s next then what’s next. Maybe someday when I’m an old man I can enjoy it.
360: So being a part of the Tropi-holics facebook group and hearing Trop fans for a while mention it. I hear this term and we’re wondering… “the sex” what is it and how does it start?
Matt: It’s the persona of the horns section, people seem to dig it. We got some ill “sex” t-shirts made for Cinco de Mayo. It’s like a side brand and people love it.
360: So how did it all come around?
Matt: It’s a long story but more or less – I started the group back when I was in college and it was a college roommate sort of thing. That whole group of guys kind of parted ways and moved on, got married and things like that and I wanted to keep it going. The guys now that are predominant, some of the ones that have been around the longest have been around 5-6 years. Derek and James – the reason a lot of the guys came into the group was they’d been fans of the group. James was coming to shows, Derek was coming to shows and that’s how I met them. Everyone is different but this is my philosophy; being a great member is so much more important than being a great musician. Because that part on stage is only a tiny sliver of what you gotta deal with when you’re actually living with these dudes, working with these dudes, rehearsing with these dudes, so obviously that relationship has to be there to some degree but, if you’re a fucking asshole and the greatest musician ever no one’s going to be in that band with you. You almost have to have people you can understand and grind and can respect what’s happening and the all the work going into it. Part of that comes from an appreciation before they even come into the group, these cats were appreciating and showing support for the group.
360: So you talk about the different members of the band. I’m curious man, one cool thing about you guys is and it’s been noted, you all kind of have a different perspective on things. A lot of those differences come out in the music and I believe that leads to a nice well-rounded sound and I think that was really highlighted in your last album so to kind of flip that, my question for you is – despite the differences between everybody, what are some similarities for you guys as a group? Like what does Tropidelic as a group stand for?
Matt: It’s almost commonplace to rebuke the commonplace at this point. I think that we don’t like to be these pretentious, uptight, taking yourself way too seriously type of cats and there’s a lot of them out there. I like people who aren’t like that and we hit it off so good. We’re also lucky enough that we met a few very similar people in the last couple of years so we all get along well. You gotta be real with your audience and the people around you and you gotta be acceptable, you gotta be relatable. On the other hand, if you have to try to do that then you’re just faking the funk bro. We just try to be true to who we are and we’re all different people and so it kind of comes out because it’s a mixed serving type of shit, I guess the short answer is we all are being ourselves.
360: Let’s talk influences. When you listen to Tropidelic you hear some metal, you hear some reggae, you hear some hip hop and some funk etc. So, who influenced you guys as artists and who continues to get your attention?
Matt: For me you know I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Sublime was a huge influence on me personally and musically growing up. I think anybody would be lying if they didn’t say that Sublime wasn’t influencing them in some way. But all those things you said, James loves hip-hop and ska bands, he’s the other MC . Bob is the metal dude, Pags kinda came up more on the path I did, the reggae, rock, ska and punk. Derek likes Ed Sheeran and he’s not afraid to say it. Me and him rock, we wake up in the morning and put on Rebel Country and blue grass and it’s like our morning routine. So we listen to all kinds of shit. I love finger-picking and playing folk guitar, I love hip-hop and I love classic rock. There’s very few things I don’t get into. I feel like I’ll be selling myself short if I was going on here just playing a four chord upstroke songs for every song on the record and then going into the car next morning and putting on Merle Haggard two hours.
360: So who continues to get your attention? Whether in your genre or not?
Matt: Iya Terra was dope at Rise Up, I really dug them. We did a tour with Flobots in January, their live shows are incredible. I’m also into a lot of weird shit like Canadian Indie rock. I love Atmosphere. More into the older stuff.
360: We wanted to ask you about how Tropidelic formed and how you guys have evolved as a band. So you were a college band, and you picked up some people along the way, can you speak on that a little bit more?
Matt: Before we became a business we were just playing things as an interest or a hobby. You’re not thinking of it in terms of the business so it was like oh fuck let’s have a percussion player that wore a mask – fuck it you want to be in the band let’s do it bro! It was that sort of thing and then at some point it does become a business and we looked at ourselves and said oh well what are we doing here? But up until a point if it made sense to pull you on and we like you, then you were in the band bro! It’s been so many years since that, everything is just a learning process and it got us to where we are.
360: Could you tell us about the music scene in Ohio for a reggae band? To us it’s not the first place we’d think of to go to a reggae show so what’s it like out there for a band of your genre?
Matt: I mean it’s interesting. We’ve been able to be successful at least in our region and besides a lot of hard work, I’d credit it to being different. It’s something I’ve always said and I tell it to people sometimes, when I was young I thought I was going to be a rapper then I realized that every other guy I bumped into at Walmart wanted to be a rapper and I’m like huh. Cleveland is a huge city for hip hop and metal music. Mushroomhead is from Cleveland, Trent Reznor is not far from here, the guys from Filter. Cleveland is just a huge hard rock/metal place and I was thinking early on if I’m going to be a rapper out here then I’m going to be one of 750 rappers but if you’re gonna be a fucking punk band with horns that rap too I can think of maybe one other one in the entire state. So when it came to putting that in perspective it was like dude of course that’s what we’re going to do I don’t want to be like everybody else and we want to set ourselves apart that’s not the only reason of course but it felt right too.
360: Looking back on this last year coming out with that album generating a lot of buzz do you have a memory that stands out? Thinking back, was there anything that you look back on and say “damn”, like a big memory.
Matt: I guess the first I’ve got to say was at our festival Freakstomp. Just being in that place and feeling all the love. It was just incredible to have all these people in the same spot and more than a few of us walked away like dude this is some real shit here.
360: You just mentioned Freakstomp. Tell us a little bit more about Freakstomp, how it all started and what to expect if you were to go there for the first time.
Matt: We tried to do something different like have a circus stage in a big tent. We had like stilt walkers and fucking jugglers and fire spinners and all that kind of stuff. And you know no one’s really doing that and some of the stuff you know doesn’t even necessarily have to be what you’d expect but it’s fucking different and it’s what we’re trying to do here. I’m taking it a step further this year we’re getting some like carnival games and stuff we’re trying get people outside the box like Afroman and some of the stuff you wouldn’t expect. We want to make sure it’s different ,out here a lot of these festivals are the same, so this is more the personality of the group to a degree.
360: So congrats on winning Reggae 360’s first annual Album of the Year contest! It was just an idea we threw out there since we’re sports fans and we wanted to do a bracket challenge. You guys had some hard matchups and ultimately pulled it off against some big hitters. How did that feel have that kind of fan reaction?
Matt: Honestly that was a fucking’ flamin’ idea on your part and I don’t know if you expected it to take off – I certainly didn’t – but I mean I knew we had hardcores but I didn’t really see it coming, as far as how much they latched onto the idea. It makes sense though people like to see stuff visually and people like to go bat for their team, I think the idea was fucking genius, very smart.
360: And the fans really did stand up for you guys! It says a lot about your following and one thing we hear a lot about from your fans is your live shows. What should fans expect to see? If someone has never been to a Tropidelic show us included, what can we expect?
Matt: We get down. At some point long ago we realized we’re all just “standing there” … It kind of snowballed from there. Some shows you might see a horn jump out and into the crowd running all around the place. I mean we used to get of hand so we’ve turned it down a little bit but still we get up there. We do the rap with the tuba, we do a kind of coordinated movement breakdown and shit like that and so it’s a show. You’re not just there to listen to the integrity of the sound and you’re there to see a visual fucking performance. We’re not fucking ballet dancers or fucking circus performers but we do what we can to make it an experience. We know you’re paying money so we’re putting on a show.
360: Absolutely! What’s it like touring with Tropidelic? Do you guys rip it up every night? Do you try to find the balance between partying and having a normal life or is it just one big party?
Matt: So for me I’m pushing 2 years sober. We lived that life to the fullest for a long time and I’m so grateful I don’t anymore, its part of the reason I feel so good now. When people go out everyone has a good time and everyone else you know they have their fun. But you know when it comes to business that’s it, we’re back and were streamlined. I can’t think of a time in recent memory where anyone was too fucked up. Everyone has their medicine but after that pretty sure it’s a shift. In my opinion it almost has to be; you can’t exist doing this for one guy to blow it.
360: We’re curious, you guys have been involved in a lot of collabs and the horn section was recently on the latest Bumpin Uglies album. Do you have anyone right now that you would love to collab with?
Matt: Yeah I do but I almost don’t want to say because I don’t want to jinx it. I’ve got my list down and I’ve been working on it. Hopefully this next record; more of these goals are starting to come true for us but I definitely will say that like anything else I said here you know if I don’t hit it off with the dude then it’s probably not going to make sense. You gotta have a relationship with the dude first which is my opinion.
360: What about an artist who has passed?
Matt: How familiar you are with Rhymesayers Entertainment, that guy Eyedea? I mean there’s a couple of guys. I literally teared up when Tom Petty died. That’s my kind of shit and a lot of hip hop too.
360: To put a bookend on everything, it has been a great conversation Matt, it’s been awesome learning a little bit more about you guys. We’re excited to get this interview out to give people a better understanding of who you are and what you stand for, what you represent. On that note it’s obvious that you’re just scratching the surface, the sky’s the limit…it sounds like you guys have your minds right and you’ve got a well-oiled machine and the parts running and operating. We’re curious what’s on deck for you guys later this year or even going into the next year, what can fans expect from Tropidelic?
Matt: We’ve got our summer tour and at the end of this month and we’ve got the Freakstomp 2018 in August as well as for playing the last week of the final Warped tour in July. We’ve got another tour in the fall, looking that far ahead and some new music hopefully we’ll get a record out in late 2018.