Tuesday, April 11, 2023

INTERVIEW | 'Art Shouldn't Be Filtered' - Charlie & Margot Talk 'Joyride' and Solo Endeavours

Don't let the name trick you. Charlie & Margot is one man - one man who has, finally, decided to go things on his own.

Joyride is Matteo DeBenedetti's debut record, one that has been a longtime coming. After years cutting his teeth in various bands, Matteo decided to step into the spotlight and launch his own solo project. The result? Charlie & Margot and an absolutely stellar first record.

Matteo took some chat to chat with us about going solo for this artistic endeavour! 


One of your singles, 'lonely', was written about self-evaluation about a time of isolation - quarantine - and the months that followed. How much of this album, Joyride, was born out of those quarantine times?  

That's a good question. It's more indirect than anything. I was playing in another band, and the quarantine era sorta proved to be the death of that band which led to me starting this. So it's indirectly related. 

Covid-19 and everything that came with it was incredibly transformative for me and my whole life, being an artist and learning what it means to take time and self-evaluate [which] I had a lot of time to do. In a lot of ways, it had a lot to do with the way these songs were written but none of them were, per se, written during quarantine.

Something that I was going through during that time and [something] that song is heavily influenced by is that my wife and I, for the entire duration of our relationship, the norm was for me to be away for a few weeks, touring and travelling. When that moment in time happened, I was obviously forced to be at home. It was so weird. It was the first time in our relationship where we were just together all the time. I didn't know what that was like because I was so used to not having that be the case.

Do you ever feel apprehensive about sharing those songs that show those more vulnerable feelings and experiences? Those personal sort of songs?

Yes, there is but that's the whole reason I make music. It allows me to...it's such a corny thing to say but music is very therapeutic and, for me, that's such an important thing to be able to experience. I have had songs that have definitely specifically been written about a person or something. I'm a hard believer that art shouldn't be filtered regardless of who or what it is about. For me, it is totally a cathartic release to write about stuff in songs. It is difficult and it does makes me embarrassed sometimes when my wife or somebody else that I've written a song about says 'is this song about me?' *laughs* But, you know, it's art. That's the way it goes. Nothing is off limits.

You also have 'sleeping', a song that's about taking things into your own hands, and realising that need to do so. With that band falling through due to the pandemic and you, now, being here as a solo artist, was that song - and that realisation - one that had been bubbling away in you for a while?

I guess so, in a way. Very early on, I was able to recognise that 'I want to be in charge of this'. It was always tough for me, and it's probably making me sound like a control freak. That's ultimately what led to the formation of this project. I was in this other band and, towards the end of it, we were not getting along. I'm still good friends with the two of them but it was just really tough. When the pandemic happened, it just got more and more tough and that's when it all came to fruition at the same time. 

That's pretty much what that song is about. It was a hard thing for me to realise. I have been in many different projects in my life and they've all came to the same point where I'm just like 'man, I wanna step away from this because it's not fulfilling'. That's what that song is about.

Even though it was the best creative decision for yourself, was it still a daunting prospect to go solo? You'd always been in bands, it must've been a big transition from having others to just yourself.

It was daunting. It's still a little scary for me to deal with. There are a whole other set of nuances and things to figure out when you're doing it alone. The creative side of things is great because I don't have to worry about disagreements. But, then, there's always something that is gained from collaborating, in my opinion, that isn't there anymore. If somebody doesn't like a song, it's fully my responsibility *laughs* I can't say 'oh, so-and-so wrote that part'. No, I wrote it all, it's a hundred percent me. It's terrifying in a lot of ways. It's great in a lot of ways. It's a tricky thing. For all the issues that aren't there, there are issues that are there. I don't have anybody to talk to about things I'm wondering, and I don't have anyone to share the burden of organising or booking stuff. It's a lot more work.

It is a solo venture but you worked with Erik Kase Romero, a close friend, who produced the record. What is it like to work with him?

He was actually in the last band that I was talking about. Erik is one of my all time favourite people. I met him about ten years ago. I was playing in a band and we went to a studio. Erik was the house engineer and producer at this studio. We immediately were friends. We have this parallel, our paths have been very parallel for the last ten years. It's nice that I can reach out to him as a friend and he's willing to work on my stuff. He's an in demand producer and does such good work. It's nice that I can always count on him.

With him being in that previous band, right before you decided to make this move, was there any hesitation on your part to ask him to help be a part of this project?

No, not at all. He's someone that I have learned a lot about music and art and relationships from. He's somebody that I, at this point in my life, feel comfortable to ask anything. I would say that it was even a good way to put aside any bitterness of the other project dissolving and help us move forward.

Joyride's album art is strikingly very simplistic, with it simply being the album title written on a white background. Was that done pointedly, to make the focus be on the music as opposed to the album art?

Yes and no. Each of the singles have had a film photo. What I've been doing, over the course of the last four years, is get more into photography...but in a funny way. I started shooting photos of  things that are seemingly mundane - [such as] my dogs around the house, my wife laying on the couch, the TV, the light, the outside of our house...just random photos. I had this realisation. I have all these photos on my phone and they're different things, people posing and doing funny things. [But] the things that I'm going to want to see, in forty years when I look back, are not the funny photos of people posing and doing stupid stuff. I'm going to want to see the inside of my house when nobody knew there was a photo being taken. Candid, mundane things. So I started snapping tons of [those] photos and that was the genesis of the idea of the record. I wanted to capture this feeling of a specific point in my life and what I was going through. That's what the songs are about, what the single artwork have been about. 

For the record cover, I was sifting through hundreds and hundreds of photos. I sifting and sifting and sifting and I couldn't find one that I felt completely summed up the feeling of the record. I had a handful of people scribble the word 'joyride' on a piece of paper. That one is my cousin's, she put that and sent it to me. The plan is that we're going to do completely blank vinyl art - there's going to be a vinyl release in the next couple of months - and that's the cover. Inside there's going to be a compilation of all the photos that I have taken and meshed together into one.'


Joyride is out now.

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