By Matthew Murphy
In between the release of his band’s new album and his constant artwork, Matt Tobin was nice enough to give The Sound a call to talk about what the future of music looks like for him and his friends in Ritual.
So since your previous band, Dead and Divine, called it a day in 2012, what has the road leading up to your new project Ritual looked like?
Well, Dead and Divine, even though we had decided to call it quits, it was kind of abrupt. Some of us didn’t necessarily want the band to end, it was just out of our control. So, when that happened I knew I was not done writing music; I didn’t take a moments break from it. I began writing with the idea of Ritual in mind. I already had the name in my head so I threw caution to the wind and was just waiting to see what would happen. There were going to be members of Dead and Divine in the band originally but it just didn’t work out that way. I think its for the better; it’s completely fresh people and a new start.
Was there ever a thought of abandoning heavy music?
That’s the thing. We have already gotten comparisons to Dead and Divine and that’s always going to happen. You’re gonna get that Dave Grohl/Nirvana thing for a while where people say this sounds exactly like what you were doing before and they constantly compare the bands. For me that’s just the music I love doing and playing. Oddly enough when it comes down to the music I listen to, there’s a minimal amount of heavy music; especially newer stuff. A lot of influence for me are bands I grew up on, like nineties Grunge and Alternative. So I listen to less heavy music but my passion definitely lies in writing and performing it. One thing I didn’t want to do is go off and start some acoustic project; I wanted to be in a band with guys or gals and just play music.
You are quoted as saying this is the band you always set out to create. What was holding you back in the past that has changed to allow you to do this?
People might know this now ‘cause I have mentioned it lately but I was the main songwriter in Dead and Divine. Even having that much control, when it came down to it in the studio there were guidelines and formulas that we always had to follow. It was almost like I had to appease the other guys in the band as well as appease people based on what the guys in the band thought they wanted to hear. There were a lot of rules or things I couldn’t do; things that were taboo. “That was too heavy or this was too soft or every song needed a chorus with three harmonies.” I just hated being an artist and a musician while being held back from doing what you want to do creatively. I mean that’s like the worst thing. Ritual was all me in the beginning and I had nobody to tell me what I could and could not do. That’s the main (difference) for sure. There is nothing worse than trying to jam a chorus and three harmonies into a song that didn’t need a chorus. I was gonna write what I wanted to write and to write it for me…that’s the major difference.
Most people realize that some labels can interfere with the writing/recording process. Was the record done before you signed to Bullet Tooth?
The record was done before we talked label stuff. It had been done for a while, before we ever signed with Bullet Tooth or Distort or Halfcut. So, I guess in a good, like…the label didn’t have any influence over the music or anything like that; where labels have tried to in the past. I’m not going to write a ballad or I’m not going to write a “single.” I know that Distort and Bullet Tooth both understand that; I think they got that right off the bat from the record. They are not those kinds of labels that would write the music for you or tell you what is going to sell. They are both in it because they are passionate about the record and that’s why we signed with them.
What was the writing process like for the album, where did you record and who with?
It was semi-self-produced. A lot of it was pre-proed in my apartment. My roommate, Schuyler Semeniuk had heard some demos I had done before that and was like, lets try and lay these out more refined. I loved how it sounded, he killed it. So, I was like screw this, let’s make this really intimate record; I don’t want too many hands in the pot. We recorded over the course of a few years; just slowly bit by bit, no rush. It happened really organically. It’s an honest record, recorded in a real way. That’s the main reason I love recording with Schulyer. He knew the meaning of capturing a moment and not over thinking it and the beauty in imperfection. Most of the album was done in a few takes. All my past studio experiences have been…it’s just too much, it gets to the point where everything sounds prosthetic and fake. I didn’t want that to happen this time around.
Is there an overall theme to the album? I hear a lot of themes of love, good and bad in here.
Yeah. I feel like there is less to be desired when you are writing a love song. I have never really connected to happier music and I’m not a miserable person; I am human like anybody else. There’s more to relate to when it’s something detrimental than if it were something a little more positive. Theme on the record? There really isn’t one. It’s more like my gut just threw up everywhere. It was written over the course of three years so there were a lot of ups and downs but it’s all personal.
With the release of the new album what is the game plan for the immediate future and 2016?
We want to do a little run of shows just before Christmas to promote the record. (Appearing at Detour Music Hall Dec. 6th.) The new year, we have plans to be on the road as frequently as we can be. That’s all this band wants to do is tour; I love it, I miss it.
Hamilton seems to always have a thriving music scene where as other areas fluctuate. What keeps the city’s music and art scene so consistent. Or is it?
I was kinda forced to move to Hamilton right before (Dead and Divine) broke up. Being on the road all of the time I didn’t have a place. I only knew a handful of people in the city but I moved here and very quickly fell in love with it. It has a lot of charm and a lot of character, it’s a very cultured city. The food is incredible. It’s a very art driven community. I think a lot of creative minds flock towards bizarre places and Hamilton is. It’s a weird place. It’s very tight nit, sorta like Toronto in that aspect, just without the snootiness. Don’t get me wrong, I like Toronto, just in really small doses.
I find in Hamilton everyone is really supportive no matter what the band. Definitely. We only have a handful of venues here. In that sense there is a lot of support. People come out and know every person who works at every bar and every venue. That’s the thing, everybody knows everybody here, that’s where that small town mindset comes in. All of the ‘zines and publications from the city are constantly supporting the music; college radio too. It’s great man, I love it here.
What do you want people to take away from the project and the live show?
I want people to feel something; to feel anything, whether you like it or not. We are just a rock band. We want to play music and have a connection with people when we do.