The Blackfoot Gypsies reside in Nashville. That’s the city wherein two unique souls found common ground in their distinct upbringings. One half of the band (Matthew) is the child of a Boston-native father and a New Orleans-raised mother, resulting in “some strange breed of Irish and coon-ass”; the other (Zack) was strongly urged to learn violin at the ripe age of three by his parents, but ultimately rebelled in response to a natural desire to drum. Both men remember listening to the tunes their parents subjected them to at a young age. Matthew cites Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Louis, and Carter Family while Zack maintains a more general remembrance of his musical youth: “Some of my earliest memories of music are jumpin’ around the living room to my parents’ rock n roll records. They put the stop on that when I broke the needle about five times.”
Matthew was raised in the Pacific Northwest around Washington and Oregon but eventually relocated to Nashville to pursue music. Zack is a native to the city, though he believes Nashville has developed and matured with time, just as any person would do with age. “It’s funny,” he remembers. “I never truly appreciated living in such a rad place like Nashville until I moved away for 6 years. When I moved back, it really was a completely different town.”
With these individual views and life experiences, the two connected via a Craigslist ad and have ultimately fashioned a sound that’s steeped in the bucolic characteristics of southern music, yet spiced with the rawness of a rock-n-roll duo. Below, The Blackfoot Gypsies delve even further into their short, but rich, band history.
NUVO: Matthew, your last name is Paige. Any relation to Jimmy?
Matthew: Nope. He's a "Page"... I'm a Paige. Ya dig? He was (and still is) a huge influence on my guitar playing. We’re doing the same thing- taking old school blues and making it our own however we can.
NUVO: Your guitar skills (and hair!) are certainly related. How did you find and perfect your sound?
Matthew: Pure desperation. I used to be in a four-piece band and all i had to do was play guitar. I had no idea the luxury I was in at the time. When that fell apart, back in Vancouver, WA, I had to learn how to make all that noise myself. The best way was to play in open tuning, just like the old blues guys (Son House, Elmore James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, etc.). You hit the strings and it’s already a chord, then add one finger here and there and change the chord a little… you can play the rhythm and lead at the same time. It’s like playing a six string banjo through a fuzz pedal with a slide on your finger. Finding the right amp to cover the spectrum of sound from the bass to treble was difficult and it’s all really still a desperate attempt at filling the void. I think that really plays toward the lonesome sound of our band... it’s all there. It’s bare bones, but bones nonetheless.
NUVO: How did the two of you meet and discover you can make neat music together?
Matthew: When i moved to Nashville i put an ad out on Craigslist looking for "My Charlie Watts". A few days later, and a few misses later, I got a call from Zack and immediately we hit it off, name dropping our favorite bands and musicians
Zack: After our first jam session of just playin random stuff and kinda getting a feel for a direction and shape our music would take, I was as giddy as a pig flyin over a shit farm to get something cookin.
Matthew: I described the vision of the band and where it could go, after the first rehearsal it was like we had been playing for weeks.
NUVO: You’ve got a lot of classic rock bands listed as influences that Blackfoot Gypsies are often compared to (The Rolling Stones, CCR, Steve Miller Band, Bob Dylan). Are there any bands that you listen to that might come as a shock or surprise to your fans?
Matthew: I'm sure it’s not a shock, but we both listen to a lot of country (pre-1980). It’s all rock-n-roll to me with subtle changes. It’s like a poor white man’s blues. Lots of early punk bands, too; from The Cramps to The Dead Kennedy's. It’s the energy we feed off of. No matter what instruments it’s coming through, the energy is undeniable.
Zack: Really anything that is genuine, gets my foot stompin’, ass shakin’, or just moves me in a good way.
NUVO: How would you describe your lyrical objectives? Are you recounting personal experiences? Telling made-up stories? Attempting to change/affect viewpoints on certain topics?
Matthew: All of the above, I’d say. Picking just one outlet for your music would only limit you and I'm all about being free and getting it all out there. Reflecting on personal experiences is the easiest way for me to write a song because the lyrics are in the dialog of life. If you make them up, you run the risk of just sounding like an ass who doesn't go outside.
NUVO: Do you play all the instruments on your album?
Zack: Drums, percussion, some background vocals, yells and howls, and stomps at random spots.
Matthew: I do the guitar, harmonica, fiddle, banjo, and whatever stringed instruments I have around. We usually like to have a real bass player come in to lay down those tracks because I have an immense respect for those guys who know what they’re doing with a bass in their hands, and that rhythm section is something that shouldn't be half-assed when it’s going down on tape.
NUVO: I am always impressed by two-man bands. How do you produce such a strong, full sound from just the two of you? Is there a conscious effort or does it just happen naturally?
Zack: Naturally, but if you want a longer answer, I’d have to say that we know the music, ourselves, and each other well enough to know what sounds good and what doesn’t.
Matthew: Turn it up. Strum hard.
NUVO: Do you have a full album out?
Matthew: Not yet. We will when the time is right. For now the EP is the most logical way to get our music out there for us, five songs at a time. Once we have an audience anticipating our next move, we can throw a bone with a whole album. Until then you’re going to get it hot off the press from our hands.
NUVO: When do you expect to have your next release ready?
Matthew: Hopefully by this summer. We are constantly writing and getting new songs ready for the studio by working them out live. Songs develop over time, and you work out a lot of kinks that way so when you lay it down on tape it’s a well-greased monkey instead of a stuttering turtle.
NUVO: How do you respond to a “southern rock and blues” categorization of your music? How do you wish to develop such a labeling with future releases?
Matthew: Is that what their calling it? Well then, I wouldn't disagree but I also wouldn't be so specific. I think our sound is more along the lines of Cosmic American/ Trans-Western. Most of our influences are from America. Just ask The Stones who they were listening to; they sure as hell weren't from England. We will be expanding our sound one recording at a time and soon enough you will hear our spectrum. As long as it’s true, real, scary, honest, soulful and has come from our lungs, I don't give a damn what you call it.
Zack: To be perfectly honest with you I don’t care how our music is categorized either. If our music is categorized in a certain way, I only hope that way is fair and honest. Other than that, I just wanna make some gnarly tunes that move people.
Catch The Blackfoot Gypsies as they return to Indianapolis on Wednesday April 20th to perform at The Melody Inn.
- Brad Imotichey
- Matthew & Zack (Blackfoot Gypsies)
Danielle covers local music for NUVO.net & IndyMojo.com