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February/March 2016

by Poppy Tohill

Ex-Pat Files: Matt Eccles

by Poppy Tohill

Ex-Pat Files: Matt Eccles

After stints living in Melbourne, London, New York and doubtless several other exciting cities,  Betchadupa (on extended hiatus) drummer Matt Eccles, now mainly of Das Pop (presently on hiatus)fame, these days calls LA home and is once again a bandmate to fellow Kiwis. He talked about his LA life with Poppy Tohill.

Originally from Auckland, with music and drumming running thicker than blood throughout the veins of his family lineage, it was really no surprise that Matt Eccles exhibited a musical talent from an early age. In fact he was drumming at the ripe young age of five, initiating a career as a professional musician by the time he was 15.

Now with 29 years of life and an abundance of impressive musical experiences under his belt, Matt made the decision early last year to quit the flat he shared with Liam Finn and EJ Barnes in Brooklyn and make the move from the east coast of America to the west.

Matt still drums for his long-time Belgium pop band, Das Pop, but with that band taking a break from the road and him now in LA, these days he predominantly records and tours with Kiwi psychedelic pop and rock internationals Connan Mockasin and Ladyhawke.

expat matt eccles w connan

“There’s just more of everything overseas and in Los Angeles in particular,” Matt reports.

While describing his new home in Hollywood Dell as a neighbourhood located smack bang in the middle of gritty Hollywood, he laughs that it is considerably less expensive than New York.

Having a larger apartment and the greater proximity of neighbours has allowed him to set up his own home studio which not only allows space for a full set of drums, but one in which he can play.

“That certainly wasn’t the case in New York or London, due to the volume of the noise.”

Having parents so thoroughly engraved within the music industry has obviously proven helpful, even dating right back to Eccles childhood and first musical-escapade at age 11, forming pop/rock band ‘Betchadupa’ alongside a young and musical like-minded Liam Finn, after meeting one another on a family summer holiday in Mt Maunganui in 1997. In moving to live in a different country, connections and work was something Matt was ex-ceptionally lucky enough to already have, in great quantity.

“Music has always been Mum and Dad’s business and they’ve never pushed me towards it. I always wanted to be a musician, but never thought about it seriously as a career. I was lucky enough to grow up around a lot of musicians, within my group of friends and family, so I sort of just ended up falling into it,” he claims.

With Betchadupa on an extended hiatus due to Liam Finn’s heightening solo career, Matt, living in London at the time, began touring with long-time friend James Milne (Lawrence Arabia), before joining Das Pop in 2007 and exclusively touring Belgium. Later meeting fellow ex-pat Conan Mockasin (Hosford) he became a permanent fixture in both Mockasin’s recording and touring band by the end of 2011. More recently he took on the role of Ladyhawke Pip Brown’s touring drummer.

“James [Milne], Liam [Finn] and a lot of the others, are people I’ve just been lucky enough to grow up around and have spent a bit of time with, which is then how I went on to meet people like Conan and Pip at parties in various places.”

“Moving and living overseas, I never intentionally wanted to just hang out or work with New Zealanders, it kind of just happened,” he chuckles. “But it is nice having a similar shared experience from all starting in the same place however. Because we’re all sort of doing different versions of the same thing.”

With both Hosford and Brown also residing in LA, the hardships of having and retaining steady on-going work has somewhat minimalised, though that’s not to say he hasn’t faced challenges and struggles alongside the inevitable frequent travelling and touring.

“Every time you move to a new country, it’s basically like starting all over again. I don’t have my own project where I’m writing my own songs and releasing albums, I’m basically just a gun for hire, which can be great sometimes, but not if there’s no jobs.
matt eccles das pop expat
“I should probably be doing some other work right now, for example, because I’m not doing much recording in the studio or touring just yet. But luckily enough my girlfriend works for a company that produces podcasts which need some original, incidental music and mood pieces in the background, so I’ve been able to help them out and do a few of those lately. But the biggest challenge for a musician like me, and I guess anyone living anywhere, is just about trying to keep the money coming in. I love it, but certainly think it’s not for everyone.”

“People like myself, Liam and Conan have been touring since we were pretty young and it’s really all we’ve ever done. I certainly think there’s an addictive quality to being on the road and travelling in a gang, but like anything, there’s also definitely times when it’s just nice to stay put and be at home [in LA] for a little bit.”

December saw Matt head back into the studio with to work on new Conan Mockasin material, whilst 2016 brings with it a busy touring schedule following the planned first quarter international release of Ladyhawke’s third album. Prioritising the various touring and recording commitments will be Matt’s biggest challenge of the year, although he admits that.

Hosford still has to actually come up with more songs before they return to the studio and plan any more touring with him.

Having not lived in NZ since 2003, Matt admits he’s looking forward to hitting our shores once again when touring.

“As you get older there’s a stronger pull to be back home and closer to your family,” he confesses. “But for now, with my work opportunities and the travelling (with a busy touring schedule throughout America, Europe and Australasia ahead), Los Angeles makes the most sense and is definitely the place to be.”

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