Take a virtual sit-down with talented New Zealand turned Vancouver native Matt Hoyles on music, blues, & moving to Canada.
WHEN DID IT ALL BEGIN…?
Well, before leaving New Zealand in 2013 I played in lots of bands in different genres, from Acoustic folk to Hendrix Experience style madness, but it was only really when I started backpacking and busking around Europe that I really came into my own as a solo act; so when I got to Vancouver in April 2014 I was ready to go. I played a bunch of shows solo, and the guy who booked me (who is now my manager) found some musicians from bands I had played with who were super keen to play with me, and thus my backing band The High Commission was formed! I’m super lucky to have a bunch of guys who love playing my music, Dave, Graham, and Lorick are the best. Incidentally, the band’s name comes from Dave’s nickname… He’s called The High Commissioner for a reason.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE INSTRUMENT
My Baby is a Gibson ES-335 called Rosetta, she’s named after badass blues gospel artist, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, her guitar playing on ‘Up Above My Head’ is nuts, and the video makes me smile every time.
A psycho at one of my shows went backstage and smashed the neck right off while I was off having a break between sets… That was a slow motion, drop to the knees and scream kind of scenario; but a guitar wizard back in NZ called Glyn Evans put her back together good as new.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE MUSIC?
I’m actually a total nerd, I was classically trained from the age of 7-18, but at about 10 I discovered the blues (thanks to my Great Uncle John!), and that was it for me, I knew it was what I wanted. That’s the part of my learning that was fully self-taught, but it always felt natural to be playing the blues.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR SHOWS
As I mentioned above, I’m from New Zealand, so a bunch back there, including an insane festival called Neilstock which included some moderate chainsaw related injuries to one particularly experimental band.
Since I moved to Canada my highlights have definitely been playing festivals, most notably, we were the closing act of the Vancouver 420 celebrations; that was nuts, and strangely I remember all of it. Other than that, I gig a lot around the Commercial Drive area, I love any good grungy dive where your feet stick to the floor a little. I’ll be playing up in Kelowna at Doc Willoughby’s on 12/5 but I’ve got a bunch of gigs coming up, the best way for people to see what’s on is to check my website or Reverbnation page.
IS FUNNY MONEY BEING EATEN BY YOUR LOVE OF MUSIC?
Not really, who is nowadays? But having said that, my manager Gary seems to have a way of getting good things to come my way; he got me in touch with Kaj from Bluelight Studios here in Vancouver, who is an absolute legend. Kaj recorded my first track, and video when I moved here for free, and then some of Gary’s contacts at Nimbus, along with awesome videographer Jason Flores set me up for The Nimbus Sessions EP. I’m a lucky guy.
EVER BEEN TO A HIGHER LEARNIN’ BOX?
Yup, Bachelor of Music here, which means I’m a musician with even more debt. Did I mention I’m a nerd?
TELL US ABOUT YOUR SONGWRITING PROCESS
I write all my own music, I’ve always had a writing role in bands I’ve been in, but this is the first time that it’s all on me; it has its good and bad points, it’s a different kind of process, but it’s definitely satisfying hearing your creation come to life.
I’m think I’m a ‘LIGHTBULB!’ kind of writer… you know, where you get some inspiration like a riff or lyric, and then just roll with it, and work out the kinks. More often than not, I play the song live a few times and see what improvised sections will work; it’s always good to see how the audience responds to a track before you set it in stone. Weirdest thing I’ve ever written a song about? Either Rumpelstiltskin, or a beast that lived solely in stale coleslaw. That was a real gem.
SHOULD MUSICIANS WRITE THEIR OWN MUSIC?
Definitely. Now I’m not saying that you have to write your own songs to be a good musician, but to really be an artist, you need to have ownership and belief in the material you’re playing. In the same vein, if you take a cover, and really make it your own, and you believe in the source material, then a few well-chosen covers can definitely find a place in your set. Miracle Cure on my EP ‘The Nimbus Sessions’, was written by Nashville based artist Carey Ott, but I made it my own, and actually had the privilege of getting his feedback and blessing on my arrangement.
DO BANDS HAVE TO BE TIGHT-KNIT TO BE SUCESSFUL?
I don’t think people should be in a band if they don’t get along, it’s about the passion and enjoyment, and part of that is feeling like one of the team, and being able to goof around and freestyle on stage. Sure, some people make it work, and all bands are going to have an occasional argument, but playing with the right people is always worth it.
ARE YOU PLAYING THE FAME GAME?
I’d say, it’s less about fame, and more about being a well-respected musician, you know, someone who has a dedicated following, but isn’t necessarily up on a pedestal. I wouldn’t complain about untold riches though.
Your all-time favorite food: Anything really spicy.
If you could live anywhere in the world it would be: It better be Vancouver seeing as I moved across the world to be here.
Bands in the lime-light: Who’s doing it right and who’s doing it all wrong? I’m more of a bands in the lemon-light kind of guy.
Coke or Pepsi? Coke.
If you could meet any artist, living or dead, who would it be? Robert Johnson, man of mystery and Blues legend.