Matt Maltese has music running through his veins; it’s everything to the 20-year-old South Londoner.
“I mean, I am sometimes the sad boy, but I’m not always the sad boy,” explains Matt Maltese. It’s a Wednesday night in South London, and Matt’s enjoying an evening in a South London Wetherspoons, surrounded by the characters and sights of the capital in spring. There’s an elderly couple dining out for the evening, the group of city workers returning for cheap pints before they head home and a gang of high-vised builders tucking into their umpteenth pint of the day - all engulfed into one unmistakable scene. It’s in those scenes and romantic lights, that Matt Maltese truly stands apart, a playwright of 2017’s highs and lows delivered with an unparalleled charm and knowing wink to the ridiculous ways of it all. Served with a classic sheen, every part of Matt Maltese is organic.
“I mean, if there were a method to it all, I’d write it down and sell it,” notes Matt, gazing out of the pub’s windows at how everything’s come together. “That’s what fascinates me to this day. The novelty of it was what excited me about songwriting, and the irrationality of it is like nothing else - picking something out of thin air allows me to be able to do this as a career. It’s so random, and I think just accepting that life is a massive roulette wheel is such a key thing for me.”
If the roulette chips are down, then Matt’s winning hand is enough to win against an entire casino. Gripped with a peerless ease, his blend of Leonard Cohen realism, pin-drop rawness and grand cinematic visions make him a voice that cuts right to the bone with observations and larger than life tellings. Distilling that vital energy you see radiating through punk favourites and morphing it into stunning portraits of piano-lead chills, Matt’s journey was one that could only have been heading towards a pretty vital role.
“I think like a lot of people I realised that the emotions I could associate with music were ones that could, I guess, have the power to change me and in a way save my life - which is such a cliche, I know, but when you meet others who are into music just as much, you realise how true it is. People who don’t just listen to songs here and there, but affects them and their being, and I’ve always felt that.
“It’s got a funny little power, so I was always listening to it. Music for me was a way to communicate and talk to friends and family, almost like a language. And you can usually make out who is going to be a good dude or who’s going to be a bit of a douchebag from the songs they like, so that’s always good.”
Matt’s foray into playing started when he first laid his hands on a piano when he was around eight or nine years old, and he remembers wanting to quit after a couple of years of seeing his friends start to pick up guitars. There wasn’t an unquenchable love for piano music, but for the great songwriters of years gone by like Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen, who could capture a single feint emotion and spread that across a track that would instantly hold you in. Thankfully, his mum made sure that Matt would keep playing, something he’s incredibly thankful for now - with it becoming such a key part of his childhood.
“As you can imagine, there’s not a lot of piano playing boys when you’re in school, but I think I dealt pretty well with that being my thing,” elaborates Matt, thinking back to an upbringing where music was the only thing he wanted to throw himself into. “I could have easily gone fully into myself. Not taking yourself seriously is such an important part of it, I’ve never taken myself seriously I think, even when I was younger.”
That sense of knowing and passion for taking each moment to bold new lengths radiate through Matt’s latest sounds, a leap away from his first EP released back in 2015. ‘Vacant In The 21st Century’ grows into a formidable four-minute anthem of despairing emptiness backed with an engulfing orchestra, while ‘As The World Caves In’ plays like the soundtrack to the final moments for a doomed motion-picture epic. With the latter written with the dystopian idea of Theresa May and Donald Trump enjoying one final night as nuclear war looms in mind, it’s a coming together of modern-day life with a sound brimming with seeds of the past that make Matt an immediate voice.
“I think I soon realised that I’m not actually that introverted,” states Matt, taking a sip and cracking a smile as he looks back. “I think half of me is like that, but the other half of me quite blatantly loves the spotlight.
“With ‘As The World Caves In’ especially, I think I’m having a little bit more fun now and accessing the most ridiculous side of myself in a great way. It’s heart on the sleeve while also recognising the ridiculous narcissism that’s involved in writing about yourself all the time and trying to play with the whole situation.”
That freedom to create and morph stunning snapshots and stories has only grown sweeter with working alongside The Maccabees’ Hugo White, a relationship that continues to blossom with those latest tracks and “a relationship that’s more like a friendship. The more we’ve gotten to know each other the more we’ve become closer - which has allowed us to be comfortable working together.
“It feels more like a duo now, and I think we bring the best out of each other - I mean we’ll probably get married some day!” jokes Matt. “It’s nice to have people who have been in the game for a while around you though, with Hugo and his brothers, they’re just such good dudes. As much as I’m sure of myself, I’m not sure of myself, y’know?”
It cements Matt in an area of the country which is bursting with vibrant energy, as part of a South London camaraderie of bands and artists creating some of the most defiant and captivating sounds in the land. Whether it’s Shame, Goat Girl or HMLTD - it feeds through the air and pulses through incredible live moments unafraid in revelling in show and spectacle. It’s exactly where Matt wants to be.
“It’s really brought me into the path of bands and artists I’d have never checked out if it wasn’t for this sense of community,” details Matt. “Seeing shows from Shame and Goat Girl and just hanging out, me as this little piano boy with all these bands. When you see a band like HMLTD, there are no qualms about it being a show and a spectacle, and those are the sort of performers I want to see. Just because I play the piano doesn’t mean I can’t want to be that sort of performer too.”
Heading straight for the emotional chords of thousands, it’s only a matter of time before Matt Maltese has his name up in lights. Soaring with majestic prowess, and an ability to weave incredible tales across incredibly crafted panoramic scores, the sound of hearts can only belong in one place - and Matt’s got the key.
“It’s been a long journey,” comments Matt, as he puts on his coat and heads through the crowded bars and sights still flocking to the pub’s door. “And it’s still a constant grapple with what the hell I want to be or what to talk about and how I want that to come across in my songs - but it feels like things are really positive and people are getting what I’m trying to do.”
The scripts are coming together, and it’s through Matt Maltese’ eyes that we’ll see the sheer beauty of what’s going on. Best get those tickets in now then.
Taken from the June issue of Dork, out now.