In Conversation with Matt Maltese
Last interviewed by The Mancunion over a year ago, a lot has changed for Matt Maltese.
The heavy praise by critics and accumulating fans following his 2018 album Bad Contestant, has only increased with the release of second album Krystal. Full to the brim with the witty cynicism that he is most loved for, this album gives listeners another welcome dose of the familiar musical motifs of layered harmonies and sinfully-catchy bridges. Following Krystal’s release at the end of 2019, we got a chance to catch up with Matt.
The soft-spoken, smiley 22-year-old explained that, differently to the full-fat wit of Bad Contestant, there was a conscious aim for Krystal to have “more sincerity”. Matt explained that this shift in sentiment presented a tricky task of preserving humour whilst also swapping “self-mocking for honesty”. This departure from Alan-Partridge-style irony to honest introspection is most illustrated with ‘When You Wash Your Hair’ where the candid lyrics indicate Matt’s romantic toils without the familiar lacquer of self-deprecation. However, this familiar playful self-mocking is not all lost. In tracks such as ‘Rom-Com Gone Wrong’ and ‘Curl up and Die’, there are some cracking lyrics such as Matt summing up his heartbreak with “long baths, got cats, I’m crying when I’m smashed”, which sadly, we can all relate to.
Asking whether Matt struggled to perform such personal songs live, he explained that he found the process both “cathartic and therapeutic”. “Singing provides an opportunity to say to a mic what I can’t in person”, he remarked, suggesting that “the more embarrassed or ashamed I feel about a certain topic, the more I almost have to say it”. This coyness is perhaps reflected in Matt’s choice of what alcoholic beverage would represent his character, picking “a virgin piña colada, because it sounds funny”. When pushed to delve more deeply into this analogy, the singer concluded he wished he could be an espresso martini but felt he “didn’t have enough energy”, remarking playfully that he was realistically a “White Russian” as he was “not for everyone”.
In discussing the automatic comparison by many critics of Matt Maltese to Father John Misty (AKA Josh Tillman), Matt concluded that the “pigeon-holing was inevitable”. He acknowledged that both artists falling under the same “revived genre” of “self-centered, uber-revealing” male chanteuses. His awareness of the ever-dense and growing number of ‘male solo artists’ was refreshing, with him chuckling that the self-mocking approach is “really the only way you can sing as a white male in the 21st century”. When presented the same question Josh Tillman was asked about whether he preferred fans to have sex or cry to his music, Matt remarked: “Both? Probably not at the same time, definitely don’t want to encourage that.”
In exploring Matt’s opinion of other male solo artists, we asked him to imagine a scenario in which he was stranded at sea with three other frontmen. Matt was tasked with choosing who would be his partner in crime, who would be sacrificed for food and who would be thrown overboard. In his first round, Maltese ate Sufjan Stevens who he reckoned “would taste really nice”, made Elliott Smith his companion and rather macabre-ly chuckled that he’d “Throw Jeff Buckley overboard, pun not intended”. With his second round, Matt ate the “younger and less tortured flesh” of Andy Shauf, lived out his days with Connan Mockasin and rather begrudgingly threw Thom Yorke overboard commenting “that doesn’t feel good, does it…”.
When discussing the singer’s inspiration and influences, Matt was asked about his dream dinner party in which he could invite three guests; dead or alive. “Leonard Cohen of course” was his immediate answer, which musically, is a link to Maltese that is very evident both in his own accounts and critical reviews of his work. “Nina Simone, in the later years when she was sassy”, was his second choice, followed by “Natalie Portman” on account of her being “very amiable, so intelligent and an amazing actress.”
When asked about how he found touring for Krystal, the singer commented that the “response to the album so far has been amazing, better than I could have hoped”, which is definitely a reflection on the adoring fan base Matt has cultivated with his social media presence. When discussing how social media could be used to bring fans closer to the artist, Matt laughed about the huge response to his viral tweet (pictured below), in which a fan rather hilariously misquoted his lyrics ‘pity shag’ for ‘the pita shack’.
In turning to his Instagram (@matthewmaltese) and commenting on the fashion-forward nature of the singer, we asked Matt to rank several fashion trends on the scale of ‘just right’ to ‘criminal’. When confronted with crocs, Matt was conflicted. He didn’t mind “when dads wear crocs, sounds kinda good to me…” but made the distinction that for everyone else they’re “definitely criminal.” With the croc’s older friend, socks and sandals, Matt plainly decided “criminal”. However more positively, Matt championed turtlenecks and the Western trend of shirts, denim and bolo ties; but only due to the fact that “I’m that kind of person so I have to say yes”. In concluding the interview, Matt was asked to suggest who would most aptly portray him in film, to which he suggested: “someone better looking is key, probably Timothée Chalamet”.
Following the interview, Matt played live in the YES Pink Room, celebrating the release of Krystal. Evident in both his charming wit, stellar vocal performance, and faultless piano playing – Matt Maltese is one 22-year-old to keep an eye on.