Their first collaboration on record since 2005’s Superwolf, Matt Sweeney and Will Oldham just released “I Must Be Blind” on 10″ vinyl with “Life In Muscle” on the flip. I ran into Sweeney last month in New Orleans and followed up this week to get the skinny on his and Oldham’s collaborative history, creative process, graphic design and some very welcome Chavez news.
Aquarium Drunkard: While I’d been following both you and Will Oldham’s work separately for years, Superwolf and the accompanying tour was my introduction to your collaboration. When did you guys first hook up creatively?
Matt Sweeney: Sometime around ’98 or so; we had a mutual friend in Britt Walford and met in NYC. Shortly after hitting it off we recorded a song will wrote called “What’s Wrong With A Zoo?” at my friend Khan Oral’s place. Khan makes great electronic records (as Khan and lots of other names), has for years.
AD: What sparked the Superwolf project?
Matt Sweeney: Will sent me 3 lyrics and asked if I’d put them to music, maybe in like 2003. We first played them at a show in London. We’d already played together a lot by then.
AD: I’m curious as to how your process works, as in do you come up with rough instrumental sketches and Will then pens the lyrics or is there less delineation of “roles”?
Matt Sweeney: Will emails me lyrics, I come up with riffs/chords/melodies. We’ve done it in reverse with a couple of songs; “I Must Be Blind” for example.
AD: In terms of proximity, you’re based in New York and Will lives in Kentucky. How do you collaborate prior to recording? Are you sending ideas and files back and forth electronically?
Matt Sweeney: Generally we’ll meet up after the song’s been completed by whoever got sent the lyrics, sometimes a tape or file of a rough version will be sent before we see each other.
AD: How did the idea of the new 10″ happen?
Matt Sweeney: We had a couple of songs that had been messed with but not properly recorded and there was a window open to work with Dave Ferguson in Nashville. I think that was last November. I think the 10″ format was chosen cause we liked the artwork and the heaviness of the jams.
AD: When we spoke in New Orleans last month you mentioned you created the cover art for 10″, which I love. Have you been working in graphic design as long as you’ve been involved in music?
Matt Sweeney: Thanks! Yeah, I took the cover photo of the 10″. My cousin Spencer did the cover art for the Superwolf album and the two of us did the rest of the album’s drawings together, ‘jam’ style. Spencer’s a professional artist, represented by Gavin Brown enterprises. Look him up! I always like drawing or coming up with images when I’m asked to, but other than that i don’t ‘work’ at it.
AD: I know you keep pretty busy, what other projects you’re working on?
Matt Sweeney: Working on finishing an album with Anna Ternheim; I produced and played guitar on it. We did it in Nashville again with Ferguson. In the last year I’ve worked on a bunch of records, as a guitar player on Rick Rubin projects (Adele, Kid Rock, Dixie Chicks, Josh Groban). And as a “producer/guitar guy” there’s been Endless Boogie’s Full House Head, Soldiers of Fortune’s Ball Strenth (sic), and some songs for a forthcoming Buddy Holly tribute with Black Keys, Julian Casablancas, and my man Kid Rock (recorded a couple of these with Tommy Brenneck, who’s a mindblower). The other day I did some recording with EL-P. Gonna record some songs with my boys Chavez soon, too.