A Journey Into Thin Lear's Wooden Cave, Including Live Performance!

Matt Longo, who operates under the moniker Thin Lear, joined our Tower Instagram Livestream to talk about his upcoming album release Wooden Cave, on the day of a new single being released on the world. He spoke to host Dani Pinkus about his work and life.

Matt said that he used to “haunt the racks of Tower Records” way back when, particularly in Long Island and New York.

Matt kindly agreed to play some songs from the new records and talked about his new release “Behold You Now”, that was released the same day on streaming services. The record will be coming out July 24th on Egg Hunt Records.

He played “Maniacs”, the first single from the record, so catch the video above to hear it!

Matt said that both his grandfather and father played music, with mandolins and guitars involved. Matt’s dad never actually taught him how to play instruments, but he left them lying around, and Matt would pick things up and try them out. It came “down through the generations” for him.

Matt first picked up acoustic guitar, and he actually learned in order to write songs. He didn’t learn other peoples’ songs. The songwriting was “in the blood” for him. He didn’t learn to play covers the way that other people did, which might have helped, but instead his “backwards” way resulted in writing music.

He has some “commonality” with other people who whose records were mastered by the person who worked with Matt, Joe Lambert, in their “depressing” aspect, he laughed. He thinks that “somber” music actually can make people feel better, like Sharon Van Etton’s work, and The National. This music can “fit your soul”, he said.

Probably the biggest influence turning him onto music as a performer and writer, it was David Bowie, Matt said. He grew up with the Beatles, but he “found” Bowie himself and it meant something to him to find this “whole world” in Bowie’s music.

He feels that you can “grow in the public eye” like Bowie from seeing that example. He likes the fact that Bowie had characters and changed over time, which relates a little to Matt using a moniker. When Matt was a teenager, he used to cover “Ziggy Stardust” and though it probably wasn’t great, his “heart was there”.

Vocally, he thinks there’s comparison to Karen Dalton, and shares some sensibility with Sharon Von Etton, Matt said. The music is “heavy” but her voice is “ethereal”. The song “Something on Your Mind” is “devastating in a good way” for conveying emotion through voice.

Matt played his song, “Your Family”, which was written for someone who he loved who passed away, who had also lost a partner a few years before.

Matt says that playing songs “over and over again” can wear you down and be more like acting, “putting on a mask” as a songwriter, but “Your Family” never feels like this for Matt because it reminds him of people in his life and reaches him every time.

He tends to “keep emotions in the very center of my chest” and not let them out, but songwriting helps him get that out and “understand” what he’s feeling on the inside, Matt said.

Dani Pinkus said that’s a “sign of an authentic artist” in Matt.

Matt has been asked “What you want people to get from it?” about the new record, but he actually never really thought about that while singing or recording, he said. He wanted to “solidify” those emotions “faithfully” and that was the goal. He felt like if he was happy with a song, it was done. Whenever he tries to “elicit” emotion from others, it tends to throw things off. He focuses on his own reaction first.

On social media, it is quite tough to “capture an authentic voice” as songwriters, Matt said. Songwriters might not know how to market themselves. It’s actually harder than being authentic in your art! Which is mindboggling for Matt.

Is “Thin Lear” related to the king in the tragedy? Matt said “a little bit” is related, but it’s a long story. It’s his favorite Shakespearian play and when he read it as a teen it “struck him” and that’s never left. Earlier on, he released a lot of music under his own name, but he noticed that he used to get more excited when he was creating a “character’s voice” in his music than his own.

It felt right to find a moniker on this album, and he had a dream when he was releasing an EP as Thin Lear, and an image came to him of a “thin king sitting on the E-train staring at him in a very cold way” and he thought of the image for the cover of the EP. So that’s where he got the idea, as well as loving the covers of Creepy and Eerie magazines with old pulp horror and sci-fi like the painting on the cover.

Dani Pinkus also pointed out that the logo looks like the old Thrasher logo on the EP, and Matt showed us the Creepy covers that were more of an inspiration. He loves Thrasher, too, and used to “pretend” he could skate.

She commented on the “upbeat” nature of the EP in comparison to the “more solemn” debut album. With the EP, Matt used to make “poppier” music, he observed. It was more about “melody” back then, but this record was more about “instrumentation” and “capturing a different feeling”. The image of being inside a guitar during a song led to the album title “Wooden Cave”.

Asked about multiple instruments on the record, Matt said that he played several on the EP and this record, but on Wooden Cave, he took a lot of that out afterwards. He thinks “it’s so much more interesting when other people get involved” so he wanted others to do it. Creating music actually helps him “get out” and interact with other people, so that’s one reason he likes to work with others on album. Bringing more people on, “so far” has only made song “better and more interesting”.

Dani Pinkus asked how things “shifted” for Matt during the pandemic regarding his new album release. They were originally going to play South by Southwest, and there was a tour set up too, with an April release date. When things happened, he didn’t feel comfortable talking about his art at that time. The label and Matt talked and decided to push things back.

Ultimately, the record needs to come out, and he’d have preferred for it not to have come out during this time, and hopefully people don’t feel offended by him promoting that right now. He wants people to be able to “interact” with the music and for it to help people if it can. But he’s aware of the difficulties of this. He’s more of an introverted person, so finds it a struggle to promote things right now even though the album is very personal to him.

Dani Pinkus said the record is perfect for this time and is a “rare gem” for audiences. Right now people are saying, “Give me something” and this album can be that. It expresses feelings, she said, and she’s “optimistic” that the album will get attention for “powerful and beautiful” work.

Matt said that he really does write for himself and there’s an “inherently selfish” aspect to his work, but now that it’s out there, he very much wants to interact with people. He really wants to play in front of a crowd, especially after 4 months. He wants to get on the stage and “connect through a song” with audiences.

Matt said there will be shows, and many have been pushed to the Fall right now, but we don’t know for sure if that will work out. In 2021, things are more likely, and there are some bands he’s been teaming up with for future dates.

Matt played a “brand new song” for us! It’s called “Harmony in Gold”. It was “beautiful” of course.

Did Matt have anything to say to fans? He hopes that people will be able to physically buy the record in July, or order it, and that if they do, they enjoy it.

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