Mat Riviere is a 28 year-old musician from London, England. On his new album, not even doom music, Mat produces dark, tense atmospheres punctuated with dynamic percussion and introspective lyrics. I discovered Mat’s music earlier this year when a friend sent me a link to the song “FYH” off his 2010 release, Follow Your Heart. Since first hearing it, I’ve kept not even doom music in near-constant rotation, so I decided to contact Mat to set-up an interview about his ambitious new work.
Thought Catalog: Can you explain the name not even doom music?
Mat Riviere: The phrase originated on messageboards quite along time ago, there was a video that surfaced online of someone burning a cat alive which got reported etc and at one point I think someone re-uploaded it with music from doom (the computer game) as the soundtrack. One of the responses to this video was something like ‘not even doom music makes this ok’. I came across the phrase at one point in 2010 on TV Tropes and was mainly just confused by it but it kind of stuck with me. I guess I started taking the phrase to mean ‘doom music’ as in experimental/noise music (or even, more generally, non-commercial music), and to me it started to be like shorthand for how dumb or futile ‘doing music’ seems sometimes. My friend Matt Loveridge said something to me recently which was, ‘statistically music is awful,’ and that’s something I find myself agreeing with most of the time, and I feel potentially awful about contributing to that situation. So the choice of title seems like a reaction to some of those kind of feelings I guess.
TC: Did you play music when you were growing up?
MR: Yes from the age of around 9 onwards I played drums. Probably started making some kind of music on computers around the age of 12. But yeah music was encouraged I guess in our household though not in a way that ever felt pressured or performative. Feel very lucky in that respect. My brother played guitar and I think having someone to play music with was important as well. My brother was pretty into post rock, like Thrill Jockey type stuff when he was a teen (he is 4 years older than me) so when we played together it would often be long and vaguely improvised ‘jams’ or whatever. Feel like this probably had a big effect on how I think about making music. Although I made instrumental music on computers throughout my teens I didn’t really start writing ‘songs’ until I was 18 or 19 and had moved away from home.
TC: How did you arrive at your current sound? Was there a moment of realization that you can pinpoint?
MR: I started playing live on my own around 2007, before this I had been writing songs and playing some of them in a band with my brother and several other old friends. When I started playing on my own, there was definitely a realization that songs didn’t have to be maybe as complex as I thought they did, and that actually in a live setting, very simple things can be very affecting. I was only using a Casio keyboard and a basic sampler for drum loops. This decision was definitely influenced by what I was listening to at the time (mainly Casiotone For The Painfully Alone and Sleeping States). I liked the idea of imposing limitations and how liberating that can be. Like a lack of options kind of forces you to write a lot very quickly. Feel like since then I have become more interested in elaborating musically but still the initial process is very simplistic, like I will still almost always start with a very short loop of some kind and build around it.
TC: The arrangements on the album are sprawling. What is your song writing process like? Do you start with the atmospheric elements or do those come at the end?
MR: So I guess I kind of started taking about this already. Normally I start with a pretty small loop (often guitar or piano on this record) and build around it. The loop could come from anywhere, usually it is a fragment something I’ve recorded myself at one point and sometimes it could be from another source. If, as is often the case, the loop is of an instrument other than drums than I guess a key is dictated (depending on the complexity/harmonics of the loop). Then it is a case of ‘messing around’ until something seems interesting (this could be like a combination of things: a vocal melody or lyric or chord sequence or rhythmic pattern). This isn’t always the process but it seems like the most common process I go through when writing.
Some of the songs were written just on guitar and then elaborated. Also I had Joel Midden (Bastardgeist) and Oli Barret (Petrels) doing vocal and string arrangements on this album respectively. This was mainly done via email so I sent them tracks at various stages of completion and they would send me parts then I would sometimes spend time editing their parts to fit my idea of the song or their parts would completely change the way I thought about the song (in a good way) so I would write around their parts. In that sense it is far more collaborative than anything else I have done on my own. Feel like they basically co-wrote the album tbh.
I was also interested in using feedback etc more on this album, one of the things I felt about the last album was that it ended up sounding kind of sterile or something, when often the gigs I was playing were kind of stupid and loud. So I was interested in trying to capture vaguely something of what I think is good about being stupid and loud when playing live.
TC: How do you approach writing lyrics?
MR: Pretty lazily a lot of the time. I used to keep a notebook and stuff and probably quite a lot of the lyrics on not even doom music were a result of doing that. I did a creative writing degree and wrote poetry a bit and after I had finished some like fragments of the poems ended up as lyrics. In some ways it seems similar to how I write music in that I maybe amass a bunch of things over a very long period of time and then I will end up kind of trawling through it for stuff that seems ok. Like with music quite often I record small things or even whole songs which I don’t really like but will end up using like one element of them in something that I finish and feel ok about.
I also think that often lyrics kind of suggest themselves as you’re writing the music (I generally write/record songs at the same time so like the recording process is also the writing process), like a certain combination of vowel sounds or whatever just seems to work rhythmically or whatever. So part of the process then becomes just making sure whatever you come up with that sounds good also sounds… convincing or something on an emotional level. I think quite often in this context whatever I come up with won’t mean much to me when I write it but I realize that to a listener it will sound ‘convincing’ and then later it will actually start to inhabit some meaning for me as well. I feel like writing/playing music is an act of ‘convincing’ to some extent.
TC: What are your plans now that the album is out?
MR: I guess just continue to try write stuff that I think is ok, feel better now about making music than I have for probably quite awhile. I am pretty slow though, it look me a long time to do this record and I think I would like to do new stuff more quickly and self release stuff more online. Have been playing some shows with a 4 piece band as well as a lot of the songs on this record I can’t really play live on my own. Would like to get better at doing that/playing live in general.
Listen to Mat Riviere’s new album not even doom music on Bandcamp.