Interview: Matthew Loughlin-Day

Matthew Loughlin-Day

Words and Photos by Gary Lambert

Matthew Loughlin-Day 1

So what did you do to stave off the boredom of Lockdown?  Well I managed to complete the Couch to 5K app which I was pretty pleased with, but Matthew Loughlin-Day of The Shipbuilders managed to complete a much larger task.  He wrote an album during that time, and then recorded it on his phone, and then released the piece to considerable acclaim.  It’s an impressive feat to say the least.  I managed to catch up with Matthew for a chat and wander through Rimrose Valley Country Park to get the lowdown on Goldfinch.

It might not have been my best suggestion though to go for a walk considering that one of the other things Matthew did during Lockdown was dislocate his knee.  “Yeah, I was doing some work on my allotment and I slipped and managed to dislocate my knee.  But I’m getting better now”.

The first thing I wanted to know was how Matthew ended up deciding to record an album during Lockdown from home.  “Well it wasn’t just like I decided one day that I’d make an album.  I know the word ‘organic’ gets thrown around a lot in interviews, but this actually was an organic process.  A lot of the songs I’ve had knocking around for a long time.  Some of them for about ten years, but they’ve never fit in with The Shipbuilders’ work which is quite chaotic and frenetic.  This is more on the quieter side, more pastoral.  So during Lockdown I thought I’ve got to keep doing something, so I started messing around with this app on my phone and recorded some demos of stuff that I knew wouldn’t fit in with The Shipbuilders sound.  Then one thing or another I started to feel like it sounded pretty good so I sent it to the Mai 68 label who put out the band’s stuff.  And they came back to me raving over it.  So we had a chat and thought that there might be an EP in here.  But then the EP changed to six songs, which grew to ten songs.  And then you’ve got an album of songs that all work together.”

Goldfinch is a beautiful piece of music.  It is the sort of record that you can play when you want to enhance the peacefulness in your life.  It steals silence from your surroundings to place in your mind alongside the noise of its babbling brook in the countryside of your thoughts.  Being in the magically peaceful Rimrose Valley, a small country park in north Liverpool surrounded by housing estates, busy roads and an international container terminal, seemed wonderfully apt. “It’s gone way better than I thought it would to be honest.  I just thought it’d be something I’d record in my spare bedroom to pass the time.  Miraculously it has sounded really, really good.  The reaction has blown me away actually”

Matthew Loughlin-Day 2

The applause for Goldfinch though does not alter The Shipbuilders.  “I messaged the lads when I was recording it to stress to them that this our ‘Robbie Goes Solo’ moment.  The band understood and supportive.  They know it’s not me quitting the band.  Even though the chorus of the first song says I’m breaking up the band I’m not doing that.

“I’ve played some of these songs in slightly different form in rehearsals and practices over the years.  I was only thinking the other day that the first part of the opening track I think I wrote when I was fifteen.  It’s in some mad tuning and takes ages to get the guitar into that tuning which I’d never be bothered to do, so I’ve always thought ‘I’ll save that for a rainy day’.  Well now is that rainy day.
“It’s mad though.  It was literally recorded on my phone.  I think the app was called BandLab.  It’s only me and the acoustic on it, but somehow it’s able to make that sound like an electric guitar or a cello or all sorts.  It’s quite a revelation.  I don’t know the ins and outs of producing, but I was able to put effects on it, get the levels, and pan it left and white.  I’m no Phil Spector but I was able to make it up as I went along.  All of it on the app.  It’s crazy and daunting when you think about it.  It’s a great thing for people who can’t afford studio time etc..  You can just play around with it.  I literally started just recording demos, but got an app where I could overdub and thought I’ll do this for myself.  But it’s a bit of a game changer having the access to that at your fingertips”

I do wonder how Goldfinch will allow Matthew to progress and give him a further outlet for his creativity.  “I’ve always known at the back of my head that I’ve had a couple of songs that didn’t work with The Shipbuilders, and it was never a case of choosing one or the other other.  But this has now given me the chance to think about those songs and ask what comes next.  We’ve still been recording as The Shipbuilders and we have loads of plans as a band, so it’s not either or.  I don’t know what exactly will come next, but I’m keen to do some live shows when we can so that I can build around it.  I’ve got the bug for it to be honest.  I’ve already started on my follow up so that’s about 70% done at the moment”

Matthew Loughlin-Day 3It gets me excited when artists forge ahead during a period of creativity.  It’s impossible to imagine in the modern world, but when you have the likes of David Bowie (Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups – 1973; Low and “Heroes” – 1977), Elton John (Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – 1973; Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy and Rock of the Westies – 1975) and The Beatles (Help and Rubber Soul – 1965; Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour – 1967) releasing more than one album in a year during some of their career peaks, there’s definitely support for striking whilst the iron is hot and you’re on form.  “I’ve never realised my creativity is like that in terms of momentum, but from the moment Goldfinch came out I’ve been asking what’s next rather than sitting back and letting the dust settle.  I’ve only listened to it once since it came out because I’ve got the next ten tracks forming in my mind.  I’m a bit restless in that sense.”

I get the feeling that solo artist gigs are the most future-proof at the moment.  Given that the music industry has to work ahead in terms of postponing and rebooking gigs whilst our government tend to give far less notice with their plans, there will come a time when we are allowed to celebrate music but there are no gigs lined up to do so.  Solo artists will be able to say yes and come to the party with a bit more ease than a band who might not have rehearsed together for six months.  “Yeah, the flexibility has been good for recording, so yeah once we are allowed to do things properly I can get it together quite easily.  We have our own nights that we put on as The Shipbuilders called Shipwrecked, and at the start we had to cancel those.  It was galling though as we weren’t getting any information from the government so it was ourselves and the venues that were having to make the decisions to cancel them”.

It’s not all The Matthew Loughlin-Day Show, The Shipbuilders are starting to build up their momentum too once more.  “We were actually able to get back in the studio last week to finish some tracks.  They’re sounding great.  It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth that we’ve got this new music and no gigs for the band to play.  We’ve done some socially distant sessions too.  As part of one of my Friday night sessions, our bass player Jack was able to make a video of the four of us playing a new song which went down really well.  We’ve got a few more of them to release too.”

Matthew Loughlin-Day 4As we headed towards the Leeds-Liverpool canal, we started to chat about those acts who may have given up jobs prior to Lockdown to concentrate on their music, planning to support themselves through live performances at festivals and sales of merchandise at gigs, and how horrible and tough this time must be for them financially and mentally which brought us around once again to Goldfinch and Matthew’s work with the NHS.  “Your heart goes out to those bands, oh it must be dreadful.  We’re actually lucky in that we’re not yet in the position to quit our jobs.  It’s just been chaos in the music industry.  I think a bit of that is what has been behind Goldfinch.  I practice what I preach.  I work in mental health and a big part of that is thinking about what I have control over and what is out of my control.  So when this kicked off and I sat there thinking about what I can’t do, I made sure I thought about what I can do and what I can control.  I can’t gig, I can’t see the band, what can I do?  Well I can stick a guitar line on, I’ll tidy up that riff, I’ll tidy up those two notes.  I know I’ve then done something that day.  It’s not groundbreaking, but there’s a bit of control I’ve taken back.  But then once you’ve finished with it, what next?  Being honest, I was in a bit of a quandary once I’d finished Goldfinch.  The label were suggesting putting it on Spotify and asking if I wanted to press it on to CD, and I was like ‘god no, just sneak it out on Bandcamp and ask for foodbank donations’.  Happily, the response was so good that the label convinced me to go with Spotify for it.  It’s crazy times man”.

If you need a break from crazy times, have a listen to Goldfinch.  And breathe.

Goldfinch is available from Mai 68 Records.

Stay in Touch

Find Matthew Loughlin-Day on Facebook
Instagram: @matthewloughlinday
Twitter: @mattloughlinday

Listen to Goldfinch here

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