Independent hard rock band Blacktop Mojo recently released its fourth album. The band is on the road in support of the new, self-titled record. Amid it all, front man Matt James was nice enough to sit down and talk with Phil’s Picks about the album, as well as the band’s tour. The full interview is available below to read.
PP: First off, congratulations on the new album. How does it feel to finally have the album released?
Matt: It’s an exciting time. It’s a lot of work that goes into writing and recording. I think this particular album took us around 2 years from when we started writing until now, so we are elated to have it out.
PP: Your new album has already produced two singles, ‘Tail Light’ and ‘Wicked Woman.’ What is it about those two songs that really stood out to you to make them singles?
Matt: We chose those particular two songs because they bookend the album and we felt like sonically, they offered two extremes of the various sounds that are found on this record.
PP: With two singles already out, do you have plans for a set number of singles to promote the album or is just sort of going to be what it’s going to be? The reason I ask is that many of the artists and acts that I’ve had the honor to interview recently have offered some interesting takes on releasing albums versus singles. There seems to be a growing focus on singles instead of crafting albums, yet here you guys have made an album, and it’s obviously not your first. You’ve even put out an EP. So where do you sit on the discussion about whether we live today in more of a single or album driven music culture?
Matt: We enjoy crafting and making albums and releasing singles to promote those albums. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t ever release a stand alone single. We live in a very cool time where you can pretty much do creatively whatever you want as an artist. It’s cool you can put out new music in whatever format you want, whenever you want.
PP: Changing gears, you guys are now touring in support of your new album. How does it feel to be back in front of audiences after being away from the stage for such a long time last year and this year?
Matt: It is an amazing release to be back out in front of crowds. I feel like every band and everyone out in the crowds had a lot of pent up energy from everything being shutdown. It’s nice to feel that sense of community again.
PP: Staying on the matter of touring, you guys have three consecutive dates in North Carolina set for October (Oct. 7 at Amos Southend in Charlotte, Oct. 8 at the Blind Tiger in Greensboro, and Oct. 9 at Hooligans Music Hall in Jacksonville, NC) All three venues are very well-known and respected to say the least. Now this tour will hardly mark your first time visiting North Carolina. So, what is it about North Carolina that you all like so much? You clearly have an audience here, otherwise you wouldn’t be making stops here. So, talk to me about that.
Matt: We go where people want to hear us play. North Carolina seems to be one of those places.
PP: There’s been a lot of talk already this year about tours getting postponed because of the impact of the COVID-19 delta variant’s spread. Stevie Nicks just recently announced she was postponing her tour because of those concerns. Deftones has postponed theirs, too. There have also been reports of more than 300 cases of COVID following Lollapalooza. Now considering how many thousands of people attended, that’s a drop in the bucket, but it is still worth noting. Keeping all of that in mind, do you all have any concerns in the backs of your minds about live music getting shut down all over again because of this latest outbreak?
Matt: We’re always wary of things getting shut down again and are thankful for every show we get to play while things are open and people feel safe to come to shows.
PP: Staying somewhat on that topic, a lot of acts resorted to doing paid livestream events in 2020 as a result of shows being shut down, including yourselves. What is your take on doing livestreams versus performing live in person with an audience there?
Matt: Livestreams were a great option for when everything was shut down for us to stay connected to everyone in a way and keep our playing sharp for when we finally got to come back. I don’t think there is anything quite like truly live music though.
PP: Getting back to your new album, there is a clear distinction in style and sound between this record and your then most recent record, Static. Did the band sit down and map out this new album going into the record, with a direct intention to change the sound or did this new record just take shape as you all went along?
Matt: All of our records sort of take shape as we go along. We wrote the songs and then ideas for arrangements and instrumentation, etc usually come later when we start recording.
PP Sticking to the album, one of the songs that caught my attention came early in the album’s run in the form of ‘Rewind.’ This song, to me, really exemplifies the mainstream appeal of so much of your sophomore album, Burn The Ships. I can hear hints of Theory of a Deadman again here. Interestingly though, I can also hear a weird similarity to music from Creed in the song’s chorus. Talk to me about that. Am I just crazy in hearing those two clearly distinct sounds and styles? And lyrically, it sounds like this song focuses on the all too familiar topic of a broken relationship. Is that the correct interpretation? If so, then the song really gets more interesting because you could have gone the moody, brooding, ‘oh woe is me’ route with the music, but you didn’t. So, yeah, talk to me about that.
Matt: Those are both very talented bands, so to be compared to them is a huge compliment. Thank you. The song really focuses on that bittersweet moment of when you love someone, but you know it’s not right. The “woe is me” route didn’t really fit with that feeling.
PP: ‘Do It For The Money’ is another interesting addition to your new album. This song is, musically, such a heavy song. That line in the chorus, “Do you do it for the love/Or do you do it for the money” is really interesting. There is also that line about the rich get lucky and the poor dying young.” The whole thing comes across at least to me as a commentary about the divide between the 1 percent the other 99 percent. Talk about all that if you will, especially if my interpretation is wrong.
Matt: It’s a bit about that. It’s more just about that divide we all face as humans where a lot of the times you have to choose between your dreams and making a living.
PP: Staying on that song, there are points here, as in many others, Matt, where your vocal style really is so similar to that of Scott Stapp. That is only coming from my own observational standpoint. As a matter of fact, audiences can really hear that comparison in so much of the band’s work. Has that comparison ever been made by anyone else? It just comes across in some of those moments when your vocals get really raspy, I can hear it. Talk to me about that.
Matt: Haven’t really heard that comparison very much to be honest. Scott is a talented vocalist though, so I do appreciate the compliment.
PP: I know I’ve asked a lot of questions. I’ll ask just a couple more. Every act eventually gets to the point of just settling on self-titled for their albums. So, were there other considerations for your new album’s title or was it always going to be self-titled?
Matt: It was self-titled from the get go.
PP: Last question for you guys. Thank you again for your time. Talk to me about how the new album’s cover art came about. What was the inspiration behind the design?
Matt: Since it was a self-titled record, I had the image of all of us as Greek/Roman style statues. Something that would stand the test of time. Having actual busts of us made was a bit out of our price range, so I ended up creating the statues in photoshop.
The band is in the midst of the tour’s first leg of its tour. The band’s upcoming dates, including those for the second leg of the tour, are noted below.
BLACK TOP MOJO ON TOUR
8/20 — St. Louis, MO — Red Flag
8/21 — Hutchinson, KS — The Red Shed
8/22 — Lubbock, TX — Jakes
9/24 — Fort Worth, TX — Rail Club
9/25 — Enid, OK — Fling At The Springs
9/26 — Fort Smith, AR — Temple Live
9/30 — Biloxi, MS — The Cannery Bar & Grill
10/2 — Destin, FL — Club LA w/ Nonpoint
10/3 — Lake City, FL — Halpatter Brewing Company
10/5 — Orlando, FL — Soundbar
10/7 — Charlotte, NC — Amos
10/8 — Greensboro, NC — Blind Tiger
10/9 — Jacksonville, NC — Hooligans Music Hall
10/10 — Virginia Beach, VA — Elevation 27
10/12 — Brooklyn, NY — Kingsland
10/13 — Syracuse, NY — Lost Horizon
10/15 — Marietta, OH — Adelphia Music Hall
10/16 — Harrisburg, PA — HMAC
10/21 — Providence, RI — Alchemy
10/22 — Hampton Beach, NH — Wallys
10/23 — Hartford, CT — Webster Underground
10/24 — Albany, NY — Empire Underground
10/26 — Buffalo, NY — Mohawk Place
10/28 — Flint, MI — Machine Shop
10/29 — Indianapolis, IN — Emerson Theater
10/30 — Battle Creek, MI — Music Factory
10/31 — Ft Wayne, IN — Pieres
11/3 — West Dundee, IL — Rockhaus
11/4 — Peoria, IL — Crusens
11/5 — Wichita, KS — Temple Live
11/6 — Texarkana, AR — Crossties
More information on Blacktop Mojo’s new album and tour is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:
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