In this edition of our "Five Minutes" interview series, we caught up with Matty Taylor, frontman for the Los Angeles-based shoegaze group, Tennis System. The band's latest record, Lovesick, is available now via Graveface Records.
By Stephanie Nicole Smith
Born in Silver Spring, Maryland, Matty Taylor grew up playing football, skateboarding, and bonding over music with his brother, Damien (of Flash Hits/Sounds of Kaleidescope/Asteroid 4). Damien recorded on his four track and would have Matty sing on some of the songs. They’d drive together to Washington, D.C. and spend their day rifling through vinyl, skateboarding, and catching shows. Therein came the influence of shoegaze icons like My Bloody Valentine, Lilys (where Tennis System stole its name from a song title that Kurt Heasley penned), Stereolab, Spiritualized, Sonic Youth, and a plethora of other memorable '90s acts that remind me of their sound.
Matty started Tennis System in 2009. The current incarnation is Matty Taylor (guitar/vocals), Sam Glassberg (bass), and Garren Orr (drums). Matty posted an ad in Craigslist and found his band-mate Sam. Sam and Garren were college mates.
Matty currently lives in Los Angeles, records here, and tours frequently. He also works on graphic design and has a killer vintage line.
Check out their latest release from 2019, Lovesick. I recommend turning up the volume as much as possible.
What is your rehearsal space like? Is there anything special about it?
Our space is pretty sick. We have a small recording space set up where we track demos. The coolest part of our space is our screen-printing section. We make all of our merch in-house.
What bands do you draw inspiration from? How do you start writing?
I draw from so many, so I’ll keep this list short: The Cure, Eric’s Trip, Bill Withers, Brenton Woods, Polvo, Rare Essence, and The Ropers. When it comes to writing, I pick up my guitar and start riffing. There’s no singular way to go about it; I just play around and sometimes come up with things that stick.
Who are your biggest influences?
My biggest mentor would definitely be my older brother, Damien [Taylor]. He introduced me to most of the music that influenced me. He also took me out with his band on several tours and introduced me to the idea of creating my own music.
The other would be Stewart Lupton. Stewart took me under his wing when I started doing Tennis System. He always encouraged me and taught me new ways of doing music. Using instrumentation and sounds to create other layers of music to fill out songs.
What was your first instrument? When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
I bought my first guitar from a friend of my brother's for $20–it was an old Yamaha. I still have that guitar in my parents' basement, ha! I’ve never had lessons. I also play keys, bass, and sometimes drums. I’m not very good at them, but I do try. Haha!
My brother was making music and I wanted to, also. I loved music and the way it made me feel. I wanted to make my own. When I was a kid, maybe nine, I had a Fisher-Price tape player that had a microphone attached to it. I’d record myself singing and playing guitar. I had no idea what I was playing, I’d just riff on something and sing what I felt.
What is your favorite recording setup like?
I’m extremely happy with the tone I’ve acquired for myself. I play a Fender Jaguar with Seymour Duncan single coil humbuckers through an Orange Rockerverb 100. It’s thick! I really love to use my Strymon blueSky, too.
Do you have a favorite recording studio? What are your thoughts on digital vs. analog recording techniques?
I’ve fallen head over heels for Jack Shirley’s studio, The Atomic Garden. The space is fucking incredible. We recorded our latest record, Lovesick, there. The live room there is insane; it’s a huge room that is so perfectly dialed in. The fact that we were able to all be in the same room the way we were for that recording was truly amazing.
I love recording to tape, but I’ve done both. Our first and most recent releases were recorded to tape. I love the warmth that you get with it. Today, I think it’s very difficult to tell the difference between the two, so I’m fine with either. My dream would be to work with Steve Albini or Guy Picciotto.
Any memorable tours or shows?
My favorite tour was with Dune Rats. Those dudes are the fucking shit, and the shows with them were absolutely insane!
The worst experience I had playing a show was in Philly. Like most shows we play in Philly, there was no one there. About halfway through our set, to an empty room, someone asked if I wanted to smoke (weed). I lit the bowl and my hair caught fire–very dumb move. I no longer drink or smoke, and my advice to others would be to try it out. I’ve found, having been sober for 5 years now, that the touring experience is much more fun and memorable without it.
What are you listening to this week?
I’ve been listening to Hiroshi Yoshimura, Henderson Century, Cocteau Twins, and Miserable.
Any new releases we can look forward to?
We’ve got some rad shit for y’all in 2020!