You may remember him from such bands as the ’80s Flying Nun outfit Sneaky Feelings (who staged a return recently to release their new album ‘Progress Junction’ and play at the 2017 Others Way Festival) and Dribbling Darts of Love. Or perhaps The Muttonbirds and sometime later his own The Weather. As 2019 approaches Matthew Bannister has another new musical vehicle, to which he has attached the surely rather appropriate sobriquet The Changing Same. Kat Waswo talked with him about his music and their newly released album, ‘Creative Evolution’.
Softly spoken and quite reserved, at first meeting him you wouldn’t guess that Matthew Bannister hides an enchanting set of pipes and bags of experience as a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and performer. Nor perhaps that students at Hamilton’s Wintec, where he works, should correctly be addressing him as Dr Matthew Bannister.
Self-described as playing ‘indie pop-rock with guitars’, his latest band incarnation The Changing Same currently includes Paul Nathan on guitar and vocals, drummer Bruce Dennis, and bassists John Maydon and Matthew’s son Albert Bannister (Cartoon Villain), who also played on the band’s new album.
“The ideal for me is to have a band where everyone’s contributing really,” Matthew explains. “I’m not one of these people that tries to tell people what to do. So I’ll play a song and everyone plays along, and we maybe make a few changes… so I try to involve the band in the process… I don’t want to be the main guy. I’m hoping in the future it’ll be more collaborative in the sense of everyone having an input.”
The main goal, he says, is to enjoy playing music with other people and play whenever he can.
“I’ve been in the business so long I have given up dreams of stardom etc. I guess to just enjoy the process of playing music – it’s just like a great hobby. And also it’s a way of socialising and doing things with people. Music is a means of socialising and having fun by playing songs – as opposed to just sitting around and chatting, and as an alternative to getting along with people. I think that’s one of the most important functions of music.”
Growing up in the industry during “… the Flying Nun days”, he talks about his transition in the Hamilton music scene.
“When I first came to Hamilton in 2007 there was a lot of music going on in the vaguely indie pop rock kind of category. There were bands like Dynamo Go and The Shrugs, but then it kind of quietened down a bit.
“I think one of the problems that happened with the scene – it kind of went underground – because for several years there was no regular venue in Hamilton where bands could play. It’s kind of bad news if there’s no regular venue for a wide range of acts, touring acts and local acts – which Nivara Lounge has done.”
‘Creative Evolution’ was also recorded and mixed locally in Hamilton. Recording began in 2016, with finishing touches were added throughout 2017.
“We recorded the back of the basic tracks at Wintec and then we took them home and overdubbed them on my computer and amended bits. Dan Reese mixed and was also the engineer… My ideal recording is to always do a live backing track and to do the vocals reasonably quickly afterwards to keep the feel, so to speak. But in terms of polishing it and adding extra overdubs, then of course computers are great because then you can just go in and do it at home in your own time. Every spare minute to try different things. De-construct the tracks a little bit and do it that way…”
Still heavily influenced by The Beatles, he is somewhat of a fanatic, and his learnings have brushed off into his writing and performing styles.
“Paul [Nathan] is a good singer and it’s really easy to sing with him coming from a Beatles type tradition or Crowded House – all those harmonies are quite important. I’ve always been into a good vocal harmony. Growing up in public with Sneaky Feelings we always had ‘guitar-monies’… it’s really good to find another voice to harmonise with.”
Mastering was done by Kimmon Vennonen, who also did the latest Sneaky Feelings album, at KV Productions in Canberra. ‘Creative Evolution’ is a beautifully produced collection of earthy songs, some uplifting and some unearthing. Vocal harmonies and guitars are prominent – as well as some additional string instruments such as mandolin and ukulele. The entire sound of the album is alive with fluent energies and moods.
“One of our songs is weirdly about Donald Trump – 2016 Blues because I was watching the election on TV and realised he was going to be elected and thought, ‘Oh shit. What am I going to do with this information?’ And I just channelled my feelings into a song. So it might have been a shitty event, but at least I got something out of it!
“It was inspired by a horrible event and tried to turn it around into something worthwhile, but the song came out quite different, like a love song about the end of the world. ‘The end of the world is here baby so we better get it on.’ That’s the place that kind of conceded the song.”
A fluent guitarist he says that he comes from the Flying Nun tradition of not using a lot of effects.
“I only just started using a delay pedal in the last few years. And what a lot of musicians already knew is that you can use it to write songs because you can set up a riff and set up a pattern by using the delay to add to the riff. So Fringe Dweller is a good example of that because I just hit the chord in the guitar and set the delay to create in a syncopated kind of echo, which really makes the song more interesting.”
Any last word recommendations for newcomers starting out in the music industry?
“Be adaptable. Be flexible. Don’t keep your eggs in one basket. Try a range of different things, but most importantly – keep playing music.”