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Testify – Joe Mathlete talks Excalibur (Part 2)

Submitted by RamonLP4 on August 10, 2011 – 7:55 amOne Comment

Joe Mathlete

Yesterday, Joe Mathlete took us through Side 1 of the new Mathletes album Excalibur (Link to Part 1). Today we conclude as he takes us through side 2.

FPH –OK, so I’m Your Shoe.  This, Elephants, and Culture, are my three favorite songs on the record.  I love Mlee’s guitar tone too.

Joe – That’s me.

FPH – Wow, you stole the Hearts of Animals guitar tone?

Joe – (shrugs and smiles) Yeah. No amp; just a guitar into a fuzz pedal then straight into the input. Mlee and Chris [Cascio] used to live above me; we and a few other people used to do this thing, ICS… I forget what it stands for, there are groups like it all over the country but basically we’d get together every week or two and show each other recordings we’d made. This was an instrumental I wrote for that, to give to someone else to do vocals on… I didn’t think it’d end up being a Mathletes song but Mlee’s been in the band on and off for awhile and I loved what she did. I did the same thing, added vocals to one of her instrumentals, and it became the Hearts of Animals song “Versus.” So that’s how I joined Hearts of Animals.

Maybe it’s because I co-wrote it with someone else but this may be my favorite song on the album. Just a nice, sweet love song. There’s a decent amount of weirdness and frustration on the album but things can be simple and lovely too. Mlee’s voice is incredible, her and Jenny’s songs make a good case that I shouldn’t be the vocalist in my band.

FPH - Iowa


Joe – Yeah, weirdness and frustration. This began life on my four-track as kind of a folk song thing, and somewhere along the line it turned into this odd beepy thing. In a world where I had 36 hours in a day and better recording equipment and software I’d love to produce a Fat Tony album or something but I don’t know. Everything I recorded was on Fruityloops 3.56 and CoolEdit / Adobe Audition. I’ve been using the same software for about a decade now. Also one microphone. That’s why most of the drums sound like that.

It’s a song about communication. I don’t want to… I was about to say I don’t want to over-explain it, which I guess would suit a song about communication… But I have a hard time relating to people most of the time, and when it comes to relationships I feel like a robot, or somebody who doesn’t speak the language, trying to … Just waiting for one of us to get frustrated and walk away, no matter how much love or… whatever there is.

I misunderstood the first line of a Vic Chesnutt song and took it from there… his was about a dog on a trampoline. I mean, I thought it was. I don’t remember.

FPH - Reasonable

This is a very Houston breakup song. Pretty brief sorta interlude-y thing between the two beepy songs. I like schizophrenic albums where every song sounds different, the Wowie Zowies and White Albums… So here’s the Blackbird, or the… We Dance, I guess. Probably more direct than a lot of the other songs, lyrically. “We’re done but we’re not children. We don’t need to be friends but let’s not be enemies.”

FPH - What makes this a “very Houston” song, specifically? I don’t hear that so much…

Joe - Oh… Well, it’s more just a breakup song for any small town. Houston’s a big city but a lot of the time it seems like a small town to me. “You know I’m gonna see you again, and I know you’re gonna see me again…” Nothing’s ever over when you keep running into the same people and the same stories and the same history over and over again. Not a bad thing necessarily, just something to be aware of. Also I tried to make it sound like August: hazy and thick and humid. But thankfully a lot shorter.

FPH - Hopscotch

Joe - This one’s an old, old, old old old song… It tells a little story I guess. I have little movies for all these songs in my head, but this one’s the most vivid probably. There’s a guy and a girl at a party, everybody’s dressed really fancy and the girl’s drunk and spilling wine and talking about all the guys who want to fuck her, and the guy’s just looking straight ahead and gritting his teeth and not saying anything. There’s a lot of dancing. I make a lot of movies in my head every day, and there’s usually a lot of dancing.

There’s a point I think a lot of people have to face in their lives, like an exact instant where you realize the person you’re in love with and thought maybe you’d be with forever, like a soul mate or whatever for people who believe in that kind of love… There’s a point where you realize that person is just a person. And maybe you don’t know what you’ve been doing. But for awhile you’ve still got to process that, so you kind of limp along until… You know what, I guess maybe this is a breakup album.

FPH - OK and the last song on the album, Wish Right Thru U

Joe - This is my Prince homage… Mostly just in the title, misspelling things. Prince is the patron saint of home recorders… I don’t know as much of his stuff as I ought to, I only have a couple records, but anybody who records music on their own should have a picture of Prince hung over their four track or computer or whatever.

I have a lot of unrequited love songs, this is one of those. You can wish at somebody as hard as you like but if you don’t do anything about it… Wishes don’t do shit, you know? And the more you run things over in your head the more they crumble and disintegrate into this shitty, sad, confused mush. This started out as a strummy folk song but i remade it as what I imagine chillwave might sound like.

FPH - Well, it’s a great album.  You should be pretty proud of it.

Joe - I don’t think this is an album most people would be into; that’s why we didn’t make many copies. It’s clumsy and scattered and if you’re not already into sort of navel-gazing bedroom pop you might never be. But I wanted to make a record I would’ve loved, something to explore and listen to on headphones and mythologize and stare at the artwork and make me want to make my own music and all that. I met a bit of resistance at first from people who wondered about the song selection, why I wasn’t including more of “the hits” or whatever, but I’m proud of this album. And I’m excited about the next one. I’m always excited about the next one.


Saturday, August 13 – The Mathletes vs. Houston Record Release Show, featuring The Mathletes, Giant Princess vs. Babyshowers, B L A C K I E vs. The Wiggins, Keith Reynolds vs. The Sparkle Ponies, Hearts of Animals vs. Christopher Cascio, & Fishboy @ Fitzgerald’s

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