Matt Irie Band Interview

Interview with Matt Irie Band with Caren Smotten for Music Matters Magazine

Caren Smotten: Please introduce the band.

MI: I’m Matt and I handle the vocal side of things and help out on production.

WB: Will Barkley, Drums

JW: Guitars

LH: Guitars

MD: Mike Dorsett aka Big riddim big ole Riddim!!

Or Mike lol

CS: How did you all meet and come to form the band?

MI: It’s a pretty awesome way this band came together, I had met Will & Joe several years ago while they were in their other band(Balahougan) and as Joe mentioned, we had played a few shows together. Shortly after, I would be introduced to Larry and we just clicked from the start and would step out playing some fun acoustic gigs till the time came that we knew it was time to reach out for more members, so in 2016 we landed a really fun show at Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh NC and I reached out to Will about filling in for the night and we never looked back, the shows were rolling in and so were the good times, fast forward to 2018, Joe came on board to help fill out the sound then we welcomed  Mike back to the group this year as our new bassist. Mike had originally filled in on keys for select shows around 2017, so it was good to bring in a friendly & familiar face. Here we are today, stronger than ever and ready to take on whatever comes next in this business.

WB: Joe and I had met Matt when we were playing in another band (Balahougan), and after some time Matt had asked me to fill in on drums with him and Larry for a show at the Lincoln Theater in 2016 and I’ve been a part of the band ever since

LH: I was just finishing up with two bands that were calling it a day. Matt and I met through a mutual friend shortly after and started jamming together on some acoustic stuff. We had a full band show a few months later, and now here we are!

JW:I met Will, our drummer Many years ago in the restaurant business. I was in an African drumming ensemble that turned into a full band when we added Will and I played guitar. I knew Matt because our bands would set up and play shows together back then. I met Larry and Michael through Matt and Will playing in this group.

MD: Mutual friends and a few outings on the local scene…

CS: Your sound, seems to carry a Southern California Reggae flow but where would you put who you are as a band overall?

MI: I personally feel we’re all over the spectrum honestly haha. The best way to describe us would be “Island infused-Funky Blues” With all of us having such diverse backgrounds in music, it’s hard to really put a label on what we do. We all have a huge appreciation for the different styles we incorporate into our music, but we don’t set out to sound like this or that. We’ve developed a unique sound that totally stands out and it’s something that we can all be really proud of. So it doesn’t really matter where you’re from, we’re bringing a sound that we feel everyone can relate to. 

CS: Talk to us about your debut single “Coastal”. Who did you work with, where was it recorded, production?

LH: I’ll let you guys answer that…

MI: “Coastal” was the first song we worked with Benjy Johnson(Earthtones Studio) on, Benjy has such an awesome ear and outlook on how to help bring these songs to life, so it’s no shock that we were able to really dive in and make this the best song we could possibly make. We were lucky enough to have the great talents of engineers Steve Sullivan on the mix & Maor Appelbaum handled the mastering. 

WB: We recorded all parts at Earthtones Studios, and it was mixed by Stephen Sullivan and was mastered by Maor Appelbaum. Produced by Will Barkley and Matt Irie.

JW: We felt like this would be a great song for our first recording at Earthtone Studios with Benjy Johnson. He’s a great guy, very nice to work with, and really knows his stuff. We had Steve Sullivan from Behind the sound A/V do the mixing for this track and Maor Applebaum do the Mastering

MD: All the guys down at Earthtones studios are so great to work with, we really put in the time to make sure everything clicked.

CS: The inspiration for “Coastal” came from?

MI: Coastal came up after a long night of fun in Myrtle Beach SC. There’s just something about the Carolina summers that’s just impossible to ever top. It’s hard to describe on the spot but I feel this song really tells the story perfectly! That whole summer was spent traveling all around the East Coast from the Beautiful Carolina shores to the amazing St. Simons Island in GA.   So it’s basically an ode to those who’ve experienced those types of days/nights. 

CS: What are your bands’ goals with the music that you are creating together? What is it you want your listeners to feel?

MI: The goals we set for ourselves when going into a new song are to simply have fun and let it flow how it should. I feel when any band rushes something or goes with the “it has to be this way or nothing” method, they bomb hard, cause listeners want to hear authentic, they want that experience that helps them escape from whatever it is they might be dealing with. So we deliver just that. I write from the heart as does the band and if we’re not feeling something, how can we expect our audience to feel it, ya know? we keep it 100 with ourselves and it shows when we play live big time, and with the recordings. This comes from the heart and we want to be that remedy for whatever others may be going through. We want to hit every emotion possible and leave everyone wanting more. As the boys said, it’s all about the connection, our hearts are on the sleeve and you’ll hear it in all of our upcoming music. 

WB: We want to make connections with people over many different wavelengths; we want to get people excited and dancing with upbeat grooves, but also want to be able to connect with people on an emotional level. We are all about positivity and want to facilitate that, but life isn’t always positive. I believe we are approaching different aspects of life in our songs. From heartbreak to good times with friends, I think we are beginning to explore many different topics that people could identify with.

LH: Our goals would be to bring a positive and fun time to anyone willing to give us a listen. We like our listeners to have a fun time, just like we have played for them. 

JW: We are trying to do what feels natural with our songs. We don’t want to be stuck to one certain sound as a band and give our singer and our listeners a mix of styles for each song.

MD: We really want to lay down a good time every time we go out, we love the fans, the people that work with us on the scene, and we just want to give them all a good time back!

CS: Reading the desert of Phoenix, Az is home. What is the music scene like currently there?

MI: So Phoenix is my current residence, but Greensboro NC is my original home, I just relocated about three years ago.  It’s been really fun exploring around this state, with all the beautiful landscapes, it’s hard to not fall in love with AZ. I’d have to say Flagstaff holds a special place in my heart though, with the way it reminds me of the NC mountain towns like Cherokee, Boone & Asheville all wrapped in one. Kinda eases that homesick feeling big time. The AZ music scene is pretty incredible. You have some really legendary artists/bands that have come from this area such as Chester Bennington, Stevie Nicks, Phunk Junkeez, Alice Cooper to name a few. As far as current bands, I’ve really enjoyed listening to Katastro, Rilen’ Out, The Kaleidoscope Kid, FIH, Summit Dub Squad, Tha’ Yoties, The Highest Conspiracy, Desert Fish & Fayuca to name a few 

CS: How do you feel your band might fit in at your home base?

MI: I feel we would fit right in with our diverse sound, when you have a sound consisting of “Island infused- Funky Blues” you find yourself on many diverse bills, which has been a true blessing in itself. So once the shows & festival dates start popping up, I’m sure AZ will be on that list big time. 

CS: Bands most often follow a strategy to build their local up first. Plans to help build yourselves locally in the works yet?

MI: As Will said, it’s something we’ve worked on for years, from the local festivals to residencies at select venues, to your always fun bar gigs. We’ve done it all and will always love our hometown, but there comes the time when you gotta grow and after several years of laying down roots in the hometown and surrounding areas, it was time to expand outside, and here we are. We’ll always come back to show love where it all started. So I feel ultimately, we’ve built a good relationship with our local community and I believe the goal would be to come back and help other bands like those who helped us. It’s all about paying it forward.

WB: Well we had been doing that for quite some time to little or no avail. Our hometown is just weird when it comes to local bands, and a lot of the venues that would host local bands have closed. So we are focusing our efforts on performing outside of our hometown.

JW: We have some more local shows next year that are going to be a blast and our string of singles coming out in the next few months will help.

LH:  We just promote and play out when we can to build up a following. We are also working with some awesome people to hopefully take things to the next level.

CS: Thanksgiving will soon be here. What is something out of 2021 you are thankful for?

MI: Very much thankful for a supportive & loving family, friends, supporters, my awesome bandmates who are family too! being able to play music is a true blessing and we’ve been very fortunate to have a great management team take us on and give us the opportunity to make this dream a  reality. We appreciate you, Denny, Song, & the whole Label Group. Also a huge thanks to you for having us on for this interview.  Much love & respect to everyone out there reading this.  

WB: I am thankful for the opportunity to play with such wonderfully talented and competent musicians! 

LH:  I’m most thankful for us to be happy, healthy, and able to play out this year. Last year was hard with everything shut down. It just feels great to be back out and playing shows, even if the crowds are a little smaller than they were BC (Before Covid).

JW: This year I’m thankful for family, my friends, my bandmates, a roof over my head, and my dog Mr. Thor. 

MD: We are thankful for the opportunity to do this for some of the best fans, best friends, and best times. We’ve had a great year and we want to keep that going for another great year!

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