An Interview with Matthew Willis
of SPLENDOR PROJEKT
We had the privilege of sitting down with prolific songwriter and talented keyboardist/programmer Matthew Willis. He is half of the French/American electro-pop duo SPLENDOR PROJEKT. Proudly, he is also one of our very own writer’s here at Grave Concerns….
Q) How is the “Age Of Love” album coming along? When will it be ready to be released?
Matt): It is going very well. The direction is definitely there. We have hit a complete stop at the moment as JM and I have been dedicated to our careers and families outside of our band. We will work on finishing the album this year.
Q) “Age of Love” seems to be a concept-driven album. Can you explain the concept and direction of the album?
Matt): Yes, the album seems to have taken on that kind of a life. At the time I began writing, I never set out to make any political or religious statement. I was simply trying to communicate what I was feeling inside in my daily observation of life itself. “Age Of Love” and “Ascension” seemed to have set the direction of the album. Songs like “Energy” and “Shine” later followed. JM really understood the emotional level of the songs and was able to use his voice and talent to bring them to life. It is important for me to say that without his amazing ability, these songs would merely be words. He is truly amazing!!!
Q) The lyrics seem to be very deep and sincere. It strikes an emotional nerve in the listener. Can you explain the songwriting process of these great songs?
Matt): Well, I set out to write the songs in a very sincere manner. They ended up being more dense than I ever thought. A lot of artists/bands find this writing style very taboo. Not me. It wanted to explore, sift, and romanticize the human condition in a way that doesn’t bring the listener into a state of depression. Instead, offering hope that will perhaps speak to someone’s despair. Sounds kinda cheesy but, I’ve really grown tired hearing of songs about fashion, love and loss, sub-culture, sexuality, etc. and all of that kinda typical stuff tied into the electronic dance music scene.
As for the writing process… When I get the urge to write, I don’t ignore it. I try to immediately start writing down what I am thinking, feeling, etc…. Initially, I could care less if the words rhyme or not. My main goal is to get out what’s in my head. I later go back and work the structure of the song until it starts taking shape. Aside from all that, I am always writing. It is how I cope.
Q) The two of you have been creating the album separately while corresponding via the internet and by phone. How do you guys fit the pieces together? Do you see this as the wave of the future? What are the limitations of doing this?
Matt): It is practical for us to work this way. It can be tricky at times. Sometimes, it is hard to explain what I am thinking and it can be hard for me to understand JM’s input as well… But, we’ve managed to create some very good songs. You guys have not done any live gigs despite the growing fan-base that are looking to see you perform. Are there any plans in the works for any live shows?
I do see the collaboration between two people from opposite ends of the world as something that will occur more and more in the future; in the era of new advancements in communication but, maybe not in the way we are doing it though…
Q) How does producer Peter Rainman fit into all of this?
Matt): Peter has really helped us take things up a notch. He brings vast technical knowledge and really understands what we are trying to achieve. He does not dictate how we should sound. That was very important to us. He is more or less apart of the team.
I have recently put him to the test when we did 5 takes of a track I’m working on called “Interlude”. It’s more of an experimental track that has me doing a spoken word type thing. I have been running a mic all over the place taking strange samples.
Q) You guys haven’t done any live shows despite your growing fan-base. Are there any plans to do any gigs in the future?
Matt): There are no plans at the moment. We have discussed this idea before and would like to do some regional shows either in Houston or Provence. We have also discussed perhaps doing a gig in NYC or London. We shall see. Of course, we are very grateful that there is some public interest and we want to reach out to our fans whenever possible. I’m sure we will bring it up for discussion again once the album is near completion… I hope so!
Q) What artists/bands have influenced you growing up and what bands/artists are presently influencing you?
Matt): I have been greatly influenced by the work of many artists/bands. By far, I’ve drawn the most influence from Anything Box. I have had the opportunity to meet Claude on several occasions and have learned a lot from him. I really enjoyed picking his brain over lunch about music, life, etc… Clearly one of the most under-rated musicians, songwriters, and PEOPLE of our time.
Growing up, I enjoyed punk bands like the Buzzcocks and the Sex Pistols as a teen. I loved listening to the old Velvet Underground albums. Lou Reed is a genius in my book.
I later discovered Kraftwerk , Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, DM,OMD, etc…. To this day, I have this affinity for electronic music. The Beatles (who isn’t influenced by them?), The life and work of John Lennon, Artists who have sifted the human condition like Morrissey and Joy Division have influenced me greatly also. I could really go on all day…
As for what am I listening to now a days? A quick look at my i-pod reveals the following:
-VHS or Beta
Q) Both of you guys have other music endeavors that you are working on outside of Splendor Projekt. Can you tell us a little bit about those projects?
Matt): I am working on a project with my friend Rick called “Elastic Souls”. It will be an electronic project however, completely different from the direction of SP. I am currently writing songs, chords, progressions for that in my spare time. It should be a lot of fun… I am also doing a writing project called “The Programmed Kid”.
JM, has got many interesting projects as well! Much cooler than mine….
Q) For someone who has never listened to your music, How do you sum up the music of SP ?
Matt): Classic electro-pop sounds that embody the epicenter of space and technology in Houston and mesh perfectly with the European charm of southern France. We tend to take the listener to a sincere and substantial place; filling their brain with optimism and delight. Most bands now are trying to be innovative and ground-breaking. Not us… We just want to innovate your mind…
We really wanted to make a good electro-pop record and I think we have just about managed that… I’m not against the idea of being more avante-garde. The fact that we aren’t trying to sound like DM is already a good start. LOL! Who knows what we will try to do in the future?
Q) Finally, is there anything you would like to say to your growing fan-base who have been following your work?
Matt): Thank you so much for all of your support and for having your antennas up…
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