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What I Learned at Bandcamp: Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders

Matthew Squires, Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders, Bandcamp, interview

Matthew Squires from Austin, Texas and his revolving cast of supporting musicians make up Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders.

The group performs lyrically-driven indie pop and released its sophomore album You Are Everything or: The Art of Being Nothing in Particular in Oct. 2013. The nine-track release is available for purchase or streaming on Bandcamp. Purchase of the digital album (name-your-price download) includes two additional tracks.

Below, listen to tracks and read The Spec‘s interview with Matthew Squires…

How long have you been making music?
I started when I was in high school. I think since about 2007 or so. I’ve made a lot of different attempts at founding bands, all of which eventually morphed into some kind of insurmountable crisis. The Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders thing seems to be the most resilient to my seemingly unavoidable efforts toward self-sabotage. That may be due to some inner trust I’ve begun to tap into recently, though. This feels especially true when I remember that most of the people playing with me are the same as ever before.

Who/what are your influences?
Leonard Cohen is probably my most substantial and direct influence right now. More in the example he sets as a fully integrated human being than anything else. His life and his work are inseparable. There’s a kind of religious feeling in his words and his music that goes beyond any conceptual boundary you might wish to confine him inside of. Also, he’s sexy as all hell. I’m still working on that last part.

What is your favorite song off the new album and why?
I think my favorite song might be “An Ancient Voice.” The word “pith” feels relevant in describing it. There is an alarm clock-like mechanism embedded in the foundations of the song, which forces me to wake up a bit when I sing it.

Upcoming projects, where do you want to go from here?
I’m in the process of writing songs for my next album. I’ll probably record it in the summer. I’ll continue playing shows in Austin and start branching out to other nearby cities, I think. The friends I have in bands (who are about my age) and who take their artwork seriously as a lifestyle decision, seem to be touring more now, so it seems like I should do that soon. I’m trying to take it one day at a time. No use rushing together some tour just to “play rockstar” and be miserable the whole time because I was in way over my head. It took a long time for me to muster the confidence necessary just to release my albums in a legitimate way. I work in a realm of vulnerability that can easily be crushed if my approach is too aggressive. It’s a very fragile balance to maintain. Like trying to coax a groundhog out of its hole. The temptation is to scream at it to hurry up, but the trick is to hold your tongue and learn to coo.

What inspires your music?
Suffering, mostly. The ways I cause it in my life and the ways I can learn to relate to it. Watching my parents get older and realizing that I am taking my place in a long line that stretches back to the beginnings of humankind and stretches outward forever. Exciting and sexy stuff like that. I’m a real rockstar.

What musicians or bands do you look up to?
Some of my favorite bigger artists are Leonard Cohen, Cloud Cult, Modest Mouse, Daniel Johnston, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Bill Callahan.

I listen mostly to my friends’ bands though. Some of those guys are MARYANN, Crocodile, Burywood, Marcus Rubio, Federal! State! Local!, Patch, M. Lee White, The Villettes, A&O, and Shardz. There’s a lot more than that, actually, and I hate to not mention them all, but those few are the ones that came to mind immediately.

Why do you make music?
It was a somewhat arbitrary choice. Of course, I love music or I wouldn’t do it, but I always wanted to create something. I fell in with a lot of musician friends in high school, so that became a thing I tried, and I then started finding I had potential. I was really awful at it for a long time, but I knew I had to keep pursuing it if I wanted to get any kind of mastery. Songwriting is a wonderfully effective tool I can utilize in order to become very intimate with myself. I think that kind of intimacy is what art is, actually. It’s not just showing off how great you think you are. It’s a very serious thing.

What would you want to be if you weren’t a musician?
I would want to be a Zen monk. What I would actually be, though, is some kind of drug addict, I think. The world becomes very meaningless if you don’t develop some kind of compassionate and practical path for yourself.

Anything else you’d like readers to know that we haven’t asked you about?
This life is an extremely peculiar thing. Respect it, attend to it, and be kind.

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