Matthew E. White :: K Bay Documentary

It has been a busy, introspective six years since the last solo offering from the prolific Matthew E. White. While operating the Richmond, VA based Spacebomb Studio that he founded (with production duties including Bedouine and Natalie Prass), earlier this year saw the release of an innovative collaborative album with Lonnie Holley. With the community-oriented studio modeled after the ethos of recording institutions like Stax and Motown, brand new solo record K Bay (out now via Domino) is the literal namesake of White’s physical, newly crafted home studio space.

Now approaching forty, White’s recent experiences are reflectively channeled throughout K Bay, a distinctively contemplative achievement. Uniformly influenced by lifelong and newfound inspirations, lead single “Nested” is an ode with nods ranging from The Flamingos to Iggy Pop (yet an imaginative White original to the core). Such is the theme and vibrancy throughout the record, with White’s creative psyche a clear, divergent evolution from the days of 2012’s acclaimed debut, Big Inner. The musician/producer caught up with us on the heels of the release of his new album, diving into its varied, landmark influences, as well as the contemporary Richmond musical community he helped create and foster. | m neeley

Aquarium Drunkard: You say in the K Bay mini documentary that this record “is your new first record.” Could you elaborate on that?

Matthew E. White: I think each solo record I’ve done to this point has had multiple agendas, a personal one and a community and/or Spacebomb one. There are obviously some pros and occasional cons to this – on one hand I’ve been able to frame Spacebomb well and get it off on a good foot. On the other hand, those agendas haven’t always been copacetic. This is the first record where I’ve felt released from carrying two narratives – so, as you can imagine, there is a freedom and a genuine sense of “beginning” in that.

AD: With the time that has passed since Fresh Blood (and the subsequent projects in between), when did the process ultimately begin?

Matthew E. White: The process began in Spring 2017 and was finished in Spring 2019. 

AD: Given your craft for the art of recording, I’m curious about the process here. Was there a particular motivation for creating a home studio to partially cut the tracks?

Matthew E. White: “K Bay” is a physical space that has flourished as, for very pragmatic reasons, I’ve had to take my personal workspace away from Spacebomb. It is also spiritually a place and idea that I am able to rope off for myself, also away from Spacebomb. The growth of Spacebomb, while being very positive, has also forced me to be very protective of my own mental and physical spaces – K Bay is both of those.

AD: Did the pandemic play a factor at all?

Matthew E. White: Only in release. K Bay was originally slated for early 2020.

AD: Speaking of the studio, Spacebomb has deservedly established itself as a true local institution. How would you describe the overall evolution of the Richmond, Virginia musical community since the era of Big Inner?

Matthew E. White: Hard to speak to that in broad strokes. But I will say that there is an incredible local scene now: Mckinley Dixon, Benet, and Kate Bollinger are all incredible. Angelica Garcia and Shy Lennox moved to L.A. but I’m gonna still count them, they are wonderful. All of those folks are a generation younger than me and are a real honest-to-god inspiration to my musical life. So things are good around here. 

AD: You don’t shy away from this being a personal record, proclaiming single “Nested” among the most personal songs you’ve written. A loaded question, but can you elaborate on what sparked that consciousness shift?

Matthew E. White: The main goal of this record was to leave more of myself in it – to leave it all on the floor, to use a sporting metaphor. This manifested in several ways but in terms of songwriting most of my writing before has been collaborative, the songwriting on this record is mostly my own. That’s the most important difference in being more personal. 

AD: There’s a nifty flow chart on your website that outlines K Bay‘s varied influences (from dub to avant-classical to African folk music). Did you feel a sort of responsibility to make this visible: a personal homage of sorts?

Matthew E. White: This is a personal flow chart I just kinda scribbled out one day. I didn’t think much of it, I was just thinking. The label saw it hanging on a wall in a video and wanted to run with it. I didn’t and don’t feel a responsibility to make it visible but it’s kinda interesting to look at… pretty idiosyncratic.

AD: One highlight is the vibrant, R&B-inspired “Let’s Ball,” which may seem uniquely out of place on previous records. Was there a particular genesis behind this track?

Matthew E. White: I wrote the hook for a very electronic EDM-ish band. But I liked it so much that I made a shit demo so they would reject it – filled it out from there. “Let’s Ball” is what Cameron (the bassist) always says before the shows.

AD: Tell me about the mysterious character “Judy,” who appears at very points across the record.

Matthew E. White: That’s my wife – but my wife’s name is Merry. There is a certain je nais se quois about the name “Judy” that I love, and it sings very well. There’s also a romanticism of domesticity that comes across, I believe, by repeating the name throughout multiple songs in a variety of ways – the in-the-moment casualness that comes from a lifelong commitment. 

AD:Early next year you’re slated to take these songs on the road. What is the overall feeling about touring again?

Matthew E. White: Totally stoked. A little cautious, but definitely excited.

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