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Phosphorescent: "Maybe I’m just getting harder on art itself and demanding too much from it"

20 November 2007, 12:00

Phosphorescent, the solo vehicle for singer-songwriter Mathew Houck has, in no doubt, released one of the most affecting albums of 2007 with the epic Pride.

The deep emotional current that flows through the record sinks deep into your subconcious. The odes to hope, love, loss and indeed pride seem to rattle around your head hours after listening. If you’re reading this and haven’t already tracked the album down, I strongly recommend you do so.

We tracked down Mathew just before heading out on a UK tour with New York wunderkinds Akron/Family to discuss the album and the inspiration behind it.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and congratulations on the new album, it’s great. What were your major influences when writing it?
I don’t think there were any major influences in the making of Pride. Certainly lots of things over the years have crept in and I’ve taken a little bit of something from just about everything I’ve ever liked, but for me, there was a clear vision from the start of what Pride should be and so really I just worked towards realizing that.

There seems to be a real timeless feel to the album. It’s almost as if the songs could have been recorded in any era. Was this a conscience decision when making the record?
No. Though I’m glad to hear that it feels timeless to you. I think that all the really great records have a timeless feel to them and I agree that Pride is in that category.

It also feels as though this is your most optimistic and uplifting record to date. Would you say there was a specific theme that runs throughout Pride?
Yes definitely. It’s in the title. It seems that some people think that it’s a dark or bleak or broke-down kind of record, but I couldn’t disagree more. To me the theme is a general feeling of what this life is worth in all it’s glory and heartbreak, coupled with knowing personally my own worth as an artist and what I’m supposed to do while I’m alive. And remembering to take complete pride in all those things.

The centrepiece of the album is the epic “My Dove, My Lamb”. Can you tell me a little about that track? When I listen to it, I imagine it to be something that Bonny “Prince” Billy and Bob Dylan would maybe come up if they collaborated. It has a real magical feel…
Thank you, that song has a magical feel for me too. When I wrote it, I knew it was a big song you know? I mean not just because of it’s length, but there’s a lot going on in that song. Lyrically I don’t know of anyone who is writing songs this dense or this good right now.

How are you looking forward to the tour with Akron / Family? I saw those guys a couple of months ago and they put on one hell of a party…!
I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’ve played with them once or twice a few years back and they’re great guys. I’m sure we’ll have a blast. As for Phosphorescent, these will be solo performances. We just came off a five-week US tour as a four piece band which was one hell of a loud and raucous band, so I’m a little bummed that they can’t come on this trip but I’m really looking forward to the chance to play some stripped back sets and also get a little deeper into some of the things that don’t happen with the full band. Some of the free form vocal looping stuff can be a lot freer in a solo setting.

Looking back over your career to date, do you think you’ve made your definitive record yet or is it still in you somewhere?
Well this is surely a definitive record, but don’t worry the next one is gonna be even more definitive.

And finally, outside of making this album, what books, films and albums have you been reading, watching and listening to? Anything to recommend to our readers?
I’ve read a lot of books and seen a decent amount of films and heard a lot of records of over that past year but honestly I haven’t seen or heard or read too much that has gotten to me. Maybe I’m just getting harder on art itself and demanding too much from it. Because it’s all fine and enjoyable on some level and I’m glad it exists, but nothing has really heart-attacked me in awhile.

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