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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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In Music

Thriftones play frontman Matthew Davies' songs, but, is a collaborative effort, Davies says.

Thriftones cut no corners on rambunctious debut


Recently, we talked with singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Davies about his solo disc, "Wish Peak."

That record's intimacy was notable but it would be an error to think that words that describe Davies' solo output would also apply to the work of his band the Thriftones.

The band – which also includes bassist Andrew Koenig, guitarist Garrett Burton and Thomas Jones – plays Davies' songs, but, says the frontman, the band is a collaborative effort. And the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.

The quartet's 10-song, self-titled debut is a rambunctious mix of rock and roll and roots music that sometimes detours into waves of surf guitar, bluegrass byroads and beyond.

Recorded with Shane Hochstetler at Bay View's Howl Street Recordings, the energy and sonic power of "Thriftones" is world's apart from the understated introspection of "Wish Peak."

We caught Davies fresh back from a tour – and from a road-food-induced illness – to ask him about his band's first stab at recording.

OnMilwaukee.com: Tell me a bit about the history of Thriftones.

Matthew Davies: The band formed during a time when I was renting a studio in Riverwest. Garrett and I had been recording and experimenting with sound at the studio when Thomas and Andrew expressed an interest in joining the group. We played a lot of late night jam sessions there at the Richards loft and started to hone in on a sound.

OMC: The disc is really an eye opener for anyone who, like me, was introduced to Thriftones via your most recent solo record. There's no mistaking the two, is there?

MD: I think a lot of that comes from the different recording techniques. This Thriftones record is very much a collaborative effort between all the guys in the band. I arranged all of the material and played all of the instruments on "Wish Peak" and so you are hearing the thought process of one individual.

With the band I introduce a simple version of the song and then we break it down. Tempo changes, some chord progressions change, arrangement can change and etc. We aren't focused on any one type of music and I think that may also play a role in the distinctive sound. Though you may hear some similarities in lyrical style, I think the listener would know if it was Thriftones versus my solo stuff.

OMC: How do you decide where your material flows: solo project or Thriftones?

MD: Trial and error for the most part. There are many songs that we try out and never make it to the stage. One in particular, "Monkey Cup," is finally getting played but it took three or four different versions before the band was ok with it. More recently we've been trying to get grooves in the attic and build off of them. Everyone in the band has a unique taste in music and I think we try to use that to our advantage when choosing a set list.

OMC: Tell us a bit about working with Shane. The record sounds really good.

MD: Thanks! Working with Shane was splendid. We heard about his studio through a number of local musicians and arranged a meeting. He was very easy going and once we saved up the money we booked six days in a row. Everyone cleared their schedules and we put in a solid work week at Howl.

He was very accommodating to our style. Many of the tracks were recorded live and most of them were recorded without a click. I wish we could have spent a few weeks there, but anyone who has worked with Shane knows he's in high demand.

OMC: I know you've been on the road with the band in recent months. Are you headed back out now that the record is out?

MD: We are planning a trip up to Minneapolis in May and I've always got emails out to venues in the surrounding states. It's just a matter of getting a foot in the door. I hope this record will open some of those doors.

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