MV & EE’s Matt Valentine Talks _Space Homestead_, DIY Recording, the Dead and More

Sam Davis on May 30, 2012

Vermont freak-folk outfit MV & EE continue their prolific recording output with their latest full-length album, Space Homestead, released earlier this month on Woodsist. We spoke with the band’s Matt Valentine about the new record, living room DIY recording sessions, the band’s connection to the Woods family and his love for the Grateful Dead.

With so many previous releases under your belt, what would you say is the biggest difference on your new album Space Homestead?

Well, we worked in a variable plethora of studios for this one, mainly when folks would give their time for the love of the music—so we were “off the clock” so to speak. Sonically i’d like to think the record stops time. I reckon 9 studios in all, such a good vibe with all the spaces/players. The “vibe” is always there for us when the proverbial red light is on but this was the first time since the tower recordings days where this many locations were deployed on a single album. The big difference is the aural massage in the vastness.

How do you constantly find new territory to explore? What inspires you most?

We’re always working on something up here. We like to record and make things…explore. I am fortunate that the inspiration still comes to me but you gotta dig in this day and age it would be lazy for a band to only be able to produce 8 songs in a year. We have a strong work ethic and really dig jamming, recording, reviewing, editing. It’s a form of memories, that inspires me most, tapping into that ethos and ether.

Tell us about your own personal musical evolution. Were you into music growing up or was it something you found later in life?

I’ve always been around music, records, musicians and recording. Thankfully I wasn’t just in the bedroom by myself practicing scales. I like going to the dance and hearing/learning the songs of others. I’ve been around musicians my whole life, I dig hanging around folks who play and make interesting things. I’ve been obsessed ever since my parents encouraged me to play with a reel to reel tube tape machine when I was at a young age. I heard tape delay early I suppose, perfect echoes that stayed with me.

The album was recorded in 9 different studios. Can you describe your “DIY” recording process and talk about the different locations where it was recorded? Specifically, what is the Maximum Arousal Farm?

Eell, in this case DIY comes out of having a limited budget…but even if we had a budget we’d buy more gear for our home studio and do it DIY! The process is also from the old adage that “no one does it better than yourself”. I’m into this thing I call “spectrasound”. I like the sounds to move around, the mixes are active like Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain”. If I want erika’s steel to blossom in the left speaker, sneak up on ya in the right speaker and then disappear into the wall it would be hard for me to tell an engineer what I meant by that, let alone how to do it. That is “spectrasound” and we get into it. check it out in headphones.

I wouldn’t say I’m a tyrant or “bird dog” scenes, but I like the records to sound and look a certain way. There’s a “presence” and a reflection with our DIY methods and I try to retain the concept of “yourself” in the final piece, you dig? This is more than a product, it is part of the MV & EE family.

It was recorded in many of our good friends and favorite players home studios, or rooms that we dig, like Justin [Pizzoferrato’s] Old Bank facility. We did a bunch of our Ecstatic Peace! sides with him and he was set up in an old New England vault [that] had a wild reverb. Now he’s got an even better studio. Anyway, some things were done there, some down at the Wolfpack’s HQ in Asheville, NC. Those dudes, Rafi and Paulie G, have some killer old school analog gear, and killer ears/mojo….but really most of it was done in Jeremy [Earl’s] Woodsist home studio in upstate NY and our home studio which is [called the] “Maximum Arousal Farm.” Lots of wood and open space. That’s the mood in those spots. Jarvis [Taveniere] also got deep with us in the Brooklyn haunt “Rear House” where many of the Woods jams are recorded. He’s got a groovy set up and a great set of ears. We did “Wasteland” with him there…worked hard, played hard.

You have a close relationship with the members of Woods (and the label Woodsist). How did you become associated with Jeremy and Jarvis and why do think your musical styles mesh so well together?

We all come out of the skank circuit, heh heh. I’ve known them for awhile, Wooden Wand/Meneguar/Shepards trails…Erika and I actually all went to the same college as them, we’re a lil’ bit older but our paths crossed and collective spirits certainly flanged like a Henry Moore.

We also did an experimental raga tape with Jeremy’s cassette imprint Fuck It Tapes. I guess that began the “working” phases of our relationship and continued when I helped set up a few shows for them in Vermont, Jeremy and I started to loosely play together after that. It reminded me of the TR a bunch—get comfy, jam, turn on the recorder. Then we started to sing together and realized that our voices colored in the spaces like ganache and grenache. I just really dig hanging out with those folks, we’re on the corner and I reckon we equilibrate on the street.

Your music is tough to put a label on since it explores so much ground. How did you come to discover your approach to creating music? Who were some of your biggest musical (or non musical) influences?

It’s just music…there really isn’t that much new to say. New sounds are like accents on vowels, finding and resurrecting arcane words and launching the rocket stage of the vernacular into the zeitgeist. That’s the approach.

My biggest influence is a semi abstract monumental movement, the big moment. it’s hard to distill that on a record, that’s what I mean when I say “covert jams.” A song could be 4 minutes on Space Homestead but the jam is implied…in concert it could take off. That’s the rub, is you never really know. I think that is what i live for, playing the music live, taking it with new shapes and resurrecting it…breathing new life into that fleeting moment in time. Trying to hold on to it is futile…music is so ephemeral, but yet it is forever once it hits wax or oxide or binary. A musician has to be responsible for that. That influences me and i try to keep that in perspective. Burn one for the past but Mos Def can totally dig the afterglow in the rearview mirror. Peel out and see…slow movement. I’m getting older and learning how to handle it. I guess i’m a late bloomer that way.

What realizations have you made along your musical path?

Plant life. That I’m a perennial.

What music have you been listening to lately? You’ve mentioned in the past that you are a Deadhead. If you had to pick one, what is your favorite Dead show and why?

It’s hard to cite a fave dead show, [there’s] pretty much somethin’ for me to love in all eras. I love pigpen and his dynasty with the group. One of the ones i return to often is from the Dream Bowl on 2/22/69. Way into the Aoxomoxoa period and the acoustic/electric cross pollinization. Also 12/19/73 in Tampa is totally awe-insp for the experimentation, jams and melodic expansion. Really tho’ I listen to alotta new music and under the radar private press from days gone by, the kind of stuff that “time-lag records” and “volcanic tongue” distributes is where my head is at.

How does living in Vermont influence your musical style. What is the Vermont music scene like today? Are you a fan of Phish?

It isn’t so much living in Vermont, it is living out in the woods. Erika and I, along with our dog Zuma, live out in the boondocks about 2 miles up a mountain and it helps me hear the intervals better. I think that gets into the music, or doesn’t get into the music. There is a vermont vibe and sensibility tho’ too…the maple circuit! That’s our scene, “freedom and unity.”

There are alotta musicians in the area, all kinds of styles. One of my faves are the Happy Jawbone. I miss King Tuff being around, but Ruth Garbus lays down some heavy sonics as does the Brian Wilson of Brattleboro. Oh yeah.

Haven’t gotten too deep with Phish. I dig that they covered [the Velvet Underground’s] Loaded. I use the same compressor in my set up as Trey.

What’s next for MV & EE?

We did a residency at Zebulon down in Brooklyn at the start of the new year. We played free shows, 3 sets nightly, every sunday. Acoustic, electric and beyond. we’re gonna do a follow up to our “suub duub” 8 disc set of the entire run of those concerts on our own cottage label Child Of Microtones, or C.O.M. as it is affectionately called. We have alotta great sounding tapes and soundboards so it will be a cool matrix. We have a coupla tours in July and August, the 2nd and 3rd phases of our “Spacetime Spacemind” trails and we take the Homestead on the road in the UK/europe in September where we’ll be travelling with our own “wall of sound” PA and a analog lighting rig. For sure lookin’ forward to future wave.

Peace ∞