WORDS: OTTO BALFOUR
For most twenty-five year olds, a decade of relentless touring in an internationally renowned band would be enough to warrant a bit of time off. Not for Mat Kerekes. Despite the overwhelming successes of Citizen, Mat has ventured into the realm of being a solo artist once again. “I never really had a plan,” claims Mat about his recently released album ‘Ruby’. Whilst on a day off on tour with Citizen, Mat spoke to Discovered prior to a gruelling seven hour drive to Boston.
Following 2016’s ‘Luna & The Wild Blue Everything’, Kerekes has managed to merge a plethora of influences into a truly beautiful, balladic work of art. By comparison with the 2016 record, ‘Ruby’ was “the beginning of a new process for me” says Mat. “It was one of the first times I sat down at a piano and tried to write a piano song”, in reference to his latest single ‘Hawthorne’.
“I love the shows but… Sitting in a van for hours, not having a schedule, not seeing my Grandma… It’s difficult, but never say never!”
This song was “a turning point for me and my songwriting in general” Mat explains, “it was one of the first songs I wrote for the record.” The song itself projects a very optimistic, yet nostalgic feeling upon the listener and is a perfect summary of the album, perfectly encompassing both the softer and more upbeat moments. There are some stand out instances where Mat’s love of Queen are made apparent, with intricately layered vocals and a harmonised guitar solo of which Sir Brian May would almost certainly approve. “I had to trust my gut,” reflects Mat on the songwriting process, “if I felt like I was trying too hard to make something work, or if it didn’t come to me quickly then I didn’t pursue the idea.”
By no mean feat is self-producing an album easy, let alone recording and playing all the instruments by oneself. Despite the obvious challenges he was faced with, the process was “super casual” said Mat, “I started by demoing songs in my room, then the right people heard it and everything fell into place.” Having built a studio with his brother at his home in Toeldo, Ohio, for the sole purpose of recording the album there; Mat shares “this whole process was a ruthless pursuit and a labour of love… I pushed myself as hard as I possibly could to make something that I was going to be proud of forever!” Spending day and night labouring over the course of a month recording this album, it is easy to hear how thrilled Mat is with the result.
“I like to expect the unexpected…”
“Whenever you do something new, there’s always some random a**hole who’s gearing up to talk s***, but thankfully I haven’t had any of that!” Mat chuckles down the phone. “I do so much with Citizen, you know, after Grozerock and a bit of European touring, I’m pretty spent!” He continues, “I love the shows, but I don’t really like… Sitting in a van for hours, not having a schedule, not seeing my Grandma… It’s difficult, but never say never!”
Currently meandering their way across the US, Citizen plan on taking some well deserved time to rest before deciding what to do next. It’s apparent that the band want to start taking things a little slower and being more selective in avenues they choose to pursue; a healthy realisation instilled through a decade of a somewhat nomadic lifestyle.
In regard to his future, on the ever optimistic note that has become synonymous with Mat, he cheerfully explained “I like to expect the unexpected. It seems to have worked for me pretty well so far!”
Ruby is out now.