For today’s Fresh from the Post, we go with some folksy guitar pop with Saul Ste. Marie, Ontario’s Kalle Mattson. The group started out in 2007 with singer-songwriter Kalle Wainio, and grew to a full band with the addition of Rory Lewis, Théan Slabbert and Jimmie Chiverelli, releasing two albums- 2008’s Telescope EP and 2009’s full length album Whisper Bee.
A group on the rise, Kalle Mattson has been recently nominated at this year’s Northern Ontario Music Awards. They’re also slotted to perform at the upcoming Canadian Music Week in Toronto.
We talk with the group’s frontman Kalle Wainio, who gets to answer this week’s Fresh from the Post questions –
How did you get started in music?
I guess I begano writing songs roughly two years ago after my mom passed away. I think it’s very cliche to think that that was the only reason I began writing songs, and I don’t think it was the sole reason that I started, but there is something to be said for having something tragic happen to you that changes your life in many ways, and starting to write songs was one of the major changes in mine. Music wasn’t even in my life until I was in my mid-teens, (which must have killed my dad who’s an avid music fan and musicologist), but it quickly became an obsession and then eventually I began writing songs and Kalle Mattson started.
How did you choose the pseudonym Kalle Mattson?
People tend to have a tough enough time pronouncing Kalle as it is (like the spinach kids!) and you bring that with Wainio (yeesh) it’s just a recipe for disaster. Mattson is my middle name and I tend to like it better, sound and shape wise, it also has a symmetrical thing with Kalle, two L’s and two T’s which is quite nice.
You guys look so young, if you don’t mind us asking, how old are you?
Jimmie Chiverelli our drummer is 24 and then Thean Slabbert (bass), Rory Lewis (guitar) and myself are all 19, so right now we’re all just above legal drinking age. Rory, Thean and I have just moved to Ottawa to go music school this September and Thean and I are studying classical guitar and Rory is studying music production. Ol’ Jimmie still lives in Sault Ste. Marie (our hometown) and he flies in for shows here in Ottawa (commitment!), but it’s all worked out quite well despite the distance.
I’ve seen an emergence of really great musicians that are starting out quite young. Do you think this easy access to a great range of music that the internet provides nowadays is playing a part in that?
I’m seeing more and more young folks become so well rounded when it comes to music.
I think the internet definitely has played a role in allowing me to find and search for a lot of older records that are hard to come by but, ultimately I think it really is about the environment you’re in music wise. I was in a house where Beatles, the Smiths, Ron Sexmith and Wilco records were all at my disposal and I think that really shaped my musical tastes and the music I want to make. I think the internet allowed me to dig even further and find more obscure stuff, I think it’s a combination of what you’re exposed to and how you can get your hands on it.
Some people have described your music as new music for the old soul. Where do you draw your inspirations from the songs that you make?
I think songwriting wise I try to focus on the poetic side of lyrics and try to create imagery while still maintaining a story.My three favorite songwriters are Neil, Dylan and Jeff Tweedy, and each one for certain reasons. With Dylan, he obviously doesn’t need any other reasoning other than that every songwriter out there owes a world to him and I’m no different. With Neil, I feel there’s more of a connection between him, it might be a Canadian thing (which I’m sure I’m not alone with) but it’s also the fact that you feel he’s "real" or "authentic", which in cases like Bob Dylan or Tom Waits that’s not always true, so that part of Neil’s writing very endearing and something I strive for. With Jeff and Wilco, I think they’re the best band on planet today and definitely a band Kalle Mattson strives to be like, they might not be fully getting it now but I think in 20 years time Wilco will definitely get their due and be remembered as one of the best bands of our time period.
Which songs would you like to share for our readers this week?
I guess we’ll go with ‘Hall Of Oats and ‘Jack Frost’, both from our newest full length ‘Whisper Bee’.
‘Jack Frost’ was my attempt at conveying the feeling of being in love, yet, with knowing that it could possibly not work out. Some people have perceived it as a breakup song, but I really find that it can be interpreted as really hopeful as well as being sad. It also has a sneaky Dylan reference.
Kalle Mattson at one point in time was just a duo between myself and Rory, and someone, at some point in time decided to compare us to Hall & Oats (go figure?), so we thought it would be funny to name a song after that. We also gave it some other meaning by saying it was about all the girls in art class that only draw horses, you can draw your own conclusions as to what that means.
I always ask this to all people we feature because I’m intrigued on how other people would define indie music – especially musicians themselves. What, for you, is indie music?
To me ‘indie’ refers to a certain musical "aesthetic" and sound, coupled with being on an independent label. To me the first band that carried the "aesthetic" along with the sound would be the Velvet Underground, and that certain feel has been carried through bands throughout decades but, to me I think the band that best encapsulates what "indie music" is would be Pavement. They seem to be pretty synonymous with the word and are a definite reference point for anyone in a guitar based ‘indie rock’ band.
In their MySpace page, Kalle Mattson describes their sound as something that would result – ‘If Nick Drake went to Sault Ste. Marie, sang a Bob Dylan cover with Wilco as his backing band, guest staring Stephen Malkmus and Neil Young and then went to record his album with Jim O’Rourke and Radiohead.’ Whether or not you’re a fan of any of the name-dropped artists – Kalle Mattson’s sound is something that’s definely appealing, and fresh to the ears. This is a young group that’s got the chops, and they’re also another one to keep on your list of bands to watch out for.