Matchbook Romance's dreams burn brightly
By Naughty Mickie Photos Courtesy of http://www.matchbookromance.com/
Yeah, I thought, another cute band, but what about the music? I popped in the CD, "West for Wishing" (Epitaph), expecting the usual whiny alternative stuff and instead heard a mix that was just the edge of mainstream with enough rockin' to satisfy the rest of us.
Matchbook Romance hails from New York and features vocalist/guitarist Andrew Jordan, guitarist Ryan "Judas" DePaolo, bassist Ryan Kienle and drummer Aaron Stern. The four share a story to stardom that, although it is becoming more and more familiar, is still strange enough to almost seem unreal.
"We started in late 1997," recalls Jordan. "It was basically me and the bassist for the majority of the years up until Matchbook (Romance), Ryan Kienle. We played for a few years in bands like Fizzlelink and we played in a band called The Getaway. The Getaway was actually the last one right before we changed it to Matchbook. It was me, Ryan and another guitarist who isn't in the band any more and this other drummer that we had. What basically happened with The Getaway was that the drummer didn't want to tour.
"We were planning a DIY tour and he just crapped out on us, 'I don't think we should do it, blah, blah, blah, I'm 24.' So as soon as we got outside, I was like, 'Cool we've got to get a new drummer.' And while we were riding home, the guitarist who isn't with us any more, he mentioned a kid who was in another band that just broke up and he lived probably about 40 minutes away from us and he said that he had a really good vibe," Jordan continues. "We e-mailed him and he turned out to be Aaron, our current drummer. He went to see our show and we talked to him, we could see how dedicated he was and how interested he was. We went to his house, he auditioned for three minutes, he played straight. We were like, 'All right, cool, when can you start?'
"We got him and then we got another guitarist named Judas, so at one point we had three guitarists in The Getaway. It was crazy. It was cool, we were obsessed with power and stuff that really moves people. We wanted to do it, but it just ended up making everything more muddy. The one guitarist, he was a real hard worker, but he really couldn't keep time and play and he wasn't practicing. He meant so much to the band and he was my best friend, so it was really hard when we let him go.
Jordan goes on, "That basically brought the lineup to Matchbook and then when we got a cease and desist order from Canada from a Canadian-based band called The Getaway, we had to change our name. We knew about it after we got the name The Getaway, we found out about it after we already made shirts and already told everyone about it. It sucked because it wasn't any of our faults except for the guitarist he had to let go. He never researched the name and we believed he had done all the work for it. So we got a nice wake up call, especially when I went to MP3.com and found like five other bands with the name. It was a bomb waiting to go off."
Jordan pauses and I prod him to tell me how they decided on a new name.
"It was actually one of those spur of the moment things," Jordan replies. "We were dying over coming up with a name for three months after we got the cease and desist order. We were at last leg of trying to find a name, this was going to be the last time we were going to go through this. So we went to a bar, all the guys, and we were sitting around talking about names, munching on wings, and the drummer Aaron said, 'Why don't we just be Matchbook Romance?' We all started laughing and scoffed at him, 'Oh my God, it couldn't get any worse.' We had some cool names that we liked that were manly-sounding names and we wrote them all down and I wrote Matchbook Romance at the bottom of the list and took it home.
"I e-mailed some friends, the label, our manager, 'What do you guys think?' They all e-mailed me back with Matchbook Romance. I was like, 'Jesus Christ, this thing won't go away.' I asked more kids on the Internet and they always picked Matchbook Romance. I was like, 'This can't be happening," Jordan laughs. "The funny thing is that as much as we weren't so sure about it in the beginning, it does totally fit us lyric-wise because it's romantic and then there's the really hard part of it, which I guess you could associate with fire or something."
Let's back up a minute, I say, tell me about how you were discovered and signed just based on your music on the Internet.
"It was insane," begins Jordan. "I think one of our fans from out here had posted on punknews.org that we had a new MP3 up on MP3.com. Brett (Gurewitz of Epitaph) always goes on there, so he clicked on there and listened to it and fell in love and he e-mailed me. I thought it was a joke. I got this e-mail that said, 'Hi, I'm Brett from Bad Religion; Epitaph records. I was very interested in The Getaway. I want to know who I can talk to about them,' and stuff like that. I thought it was a big joke. The only thing that was showing through was that it had his e-mail address, you can't really get that. I still thought it was a joke, so I e-mailed back, 'If this is some kind of a joke, it's really fucked up.' If it isn't, it's cool, it's very great. I didn't even tell the band who e-mailed me yet because I thought that maybe they were playing a joke and I didn't want them to get the best of me yet. I called them up a few days later, 'Who's playing the joke?' 'Not me, what's the problem? What's the matter with you?' So I finally brought my laptop to band practice. I asked them one last time and showed it to them and they flipped out.
"A couple days later Brett called me from Amsterdam and I couldn't believe it, he offered us a contract right away. We're the first Epitaph band to ever get signed or even to be considered to be signed with only six songs under our belt." Jordan adds, "He had never seen us life. He said flat out that he wanted to give us a contract. I was like, 'Jesus Christ, no problem.' It's a really crazy story and as crazy as it sounds, it's the best thing that ever happened to us. Epitaph has been so incredible to us, not to mention Brett for looking out for us and totally taking care of us and making sure everybody's putting in their all for us. It's quite a fairy tale."
Jordan has been involved in music all of his life.
"I got into music when I was really young. Ever since I was in first grade, I was in chorus. My music teacher used to call me Andrew Lloyd Webber. I always had an ear for it and I used to go in my attic with boxes I would find and play drums on them. I wanted to be a drummer. I always used to listen to metal, like Metallica, Def Leopard and then Guns 'N' Roses. As I got older I really wanted to play drums more, but we really didn't have the money to and my mom and dad found out that I smoked pot, so they said that I had to get a hobby. My mom would play guitar in church and I would always go to see her play. So she taught me two chords and I fell in love with it and taught myself everything else," says Jordan.
We discuss marijuana and Jordan states that you should only use it when hanging out, like at a friend's house, but never when you're going to drive or do something else-- and no other drugs.
Jordan graduated from high school in 1999 and attended Duchess Community College in Duchess County. He was just about to finish his two-year degree in computer programming and planning to transfer to PACE in New York City when his mother encouraged him to take a year off to work and relax. She felt he was doing too much between the band and building programs for school. He decided to follow her advice and focus on the band and in less than a year the band was signed. This doesn't mean he was sitting idle.
"I've been working my whole life. When I was 10 I worked in the library. I've worked in restaurants, I've worked for a Web design company, more restaurants, I worked for a party store where they sell party supplies. I got fired from there though, I pulled a water gun out of packages and was playing with it. They fired me. I've worked everywhere."
Jordan finally confirms my suspicion that the band members are all computer geeks, but he feels this helped lead to their discovery. Of course, this means that he also spends a lot of his free time playing video games
"I play war games non-stop. If I had a fast enough computer, I would totally do computer, but I just settle for Playstation II. That and hanging out with my girlfriend every waking moment." Jordan confesses, "I'm quite a loner, I'm not a big partier; I'm not a big socializer. I like doing my own thing whether it's by myself or with my girlfriend. I like staying away from crowds."
But he does enjoy going to shows, watching other bands and talking with the crowd.
I picked his brain about today's music scene.
"Punk-wise, I think that the scene is pretty cool. The only thing that's starting to bother me is how every show I've been to; just about every show I've played with the exception of one had screaming in it. It already is so played out, but not to the masses. The masses haven't really heard it yet." Jordan goes on, "It's getting overdone and it's not because we do it. On our new album we actually toned it down a lot more. On the EP it wasn't so much, it was mediocre.
"The shit that's on the radio sucks ass," continues Jordan. "I don't know what's with the alternative crap with these bands, their lyrics are bad and, I don't want to sound egotistical, but I have great lyrics, I know I've got cheesy parts, but their lyrics get so bad. I think the punk scene rocks, there's just too many copycats."
Matchbook Romance had already completely their next album, with Joe Berese (Pennywise, Queens of the Stoneage), when we spoke.
"It came out so friggin' phenomenal I can't even believe it. All of us can't stop listening to it and it's our own band, that's pretty ridiculous," says Jordan, who notes that they toned down the screaming, leaving it only in parts where it seemed appropriate.
The rest of their plans are filled with tours through Europe and criss-crossing the United States.
If you haven't heard Matchbook Romance and after reading about their unusual path to fame, you still aren't intrigued, Jordan has one last pitch for you.
"The music speaks for itself. If people actually go and pick up the album, the EP, it really speaks for itself about who we are, what we are. I think there's something cool about our music that stands us apart from other bands with the romantic lyrics, with the harder edge. I hope the kids will get into it and dig it. We'll keep playing for everybody, we won't stop until everybody's sick of us."
Learn even more at www.matchbookromance.com
Return to DaBelly