Photo by Charles Brewer III
Matthew Butcher, a soon-to-be 26-year-old singer, guitarist and harmonica player from Orlando, and longtime friend Dave Chmil used to be in the twangy pop band the Heathens, which disbanded in 2006.
His current act, a group of close, simpatico musicians — Daniel Berry, drums; Matt Mendel; piano, organ and vocals; Dave Chmil, lead guitar and vocals; Gus Ramage, bass; Olivia Wynn, guest vocals; and Tom Cooper, guest pedal steel and vocals — has been performing for around a year with frequent visits to Tampa.
Butcher cuts to the bone with a sinuous, earnest vocal, met with poignant lyrics, folk traditions and shimmering soft rock touches. Like on Me and My Friends, his 2008 CD’s title track – a subdued sax gives way to the harmonica of On My Mind.
Hear him at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday in a solo performance at the Americana Fest at Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa. $12, $15. (813) 971-0666. He and his full band open for the Avett Brothers at the Cuban Club in Ybor City on July 18. For more information on both shows, visit wmnf.org.
Below is the uncut interview used for tbt* Meet the Band profile for July 10:
When did your last band (the Heathens, right?) break up and when did this one form? The Heathens broke up in 2006. After that, I spent a good amount of time playing solo. I never really set out to form another band. When the time was right for me to make my first solo record I started asking some of my favorite musicians to play on it. We’ve just sort of carried on from there.
Congrats on getting the Avett Brothers opening slots in Orlando and Tampa. How did that come about? What are some of your favorite headliners you’ve opened for? Thank you! They are wonderful people and it really is an honor to be doing these shows with them. My band, the Heathens, opened for them in 2005 and we struck up a friendship. We have kept in touch since and they have extended me numerous opportunities. I toured with them solo for a week, and last November the band and I opened for them two consecutive nights at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tenn. It was an amazing experience! They really are great guys and so deserving of all their success. Their new record comes out in September. The little bit that I have heard is fantastic.
To my ears, your band balances catchy, sophisticated pop with rustic appeal, whereas some Americana bands can be too jammy and kinda dull. I think your vocal and a timeless quality make your music stand out. Are there any pitfalls you avoid as a band? Please explain why it works for you? Thanks so much! To me, the most important part is to be performing well written songs. I am not sure if I always achieve this, but it is what I am aiming for. Musically, we strive to leave a lot of space in the songs. I think sometimes a composition can become drowned in music. I am definitely a fan of the less is more approach. Simplicity is often the most effective approach. Listen to the first four bars of Neil Young’s “Out on the Weekend” … Magic.
What are some qualities in your bandmates that lend to your chemistry? I feel very fortunate to be playing with such talented musicians. They are all extremely respectful of the material. Beyond the fact that they have great musical chops, they are incredibly mature players. very one really listens to each other. We try to make our performances a musical conversation, not a bunch of guys talking over each other.
I read that your early 20s were a turbulent time, as they are for a lot of us. Did you draw a lot of inspiration from the thoughts and feelings of that period for your current album? If so, what song do you feel encaspsulates it best and why? My early 20s were an interesting time, to say the least. I spent several years in an alcohol and drug induced stupor. It was fun, at first. But it’s not a party if it happens every night… Haha. I think that’s a Ben Gibbard lyric. Most of the songs from “Me and My Friends” were written during this time. The title track certainly captures the overall vibe of the time. Songwriting for me has always been a way for me to reflect on my life. During these dark times I was writing a lot about depression, loneliness, isolation. Not the most upbeat material, but it needed to get out. I like when Tom Yorke says, “Be constructive with your blues.” That’s good advice. I got sober in 2005 and things have been looking up since then. The next album is all about beautiful girls, fast cars, and big bags of money.
Is Matt Butcher your real name, and would you could share a little about your family life growing up?
Yes, it is! Slightly ironic, as I work at at a vegetarian restaurant. I was born in England, and also lived in Amsterdam and Colorado Springs before moving to Orlando in 1999. My parents were Christian missionaries, so we moved around a lot. Neither of my parents are musicians, but my dad has a huge vinyl collection and was always playing music in the house. I was listening to great stuff at a young age … Van Morrison, The Jam, U2, Springsteen. Not a bad education.
Are any of your bandmates old friends? Some are. I have known Dave for about ten years. We went to high school together. He played in The Heathens for a while. I have known Gus for about five years, and the other guys I have come to know in the past few years. We are all good friends!
Is the name Revolvers in any way related to the Beatles’ album? If not, what inspired the name and when did it become a part of our band name? Partially, I’ve always loved that album. Our piano player, Matt, is a big Beatles fan so I knew he would love it. I love the aesthetic of the word! It is more inspired by the idea that the line-up can change if and when it needs to. It’s a revolving door.
This is a silly question. You don’t have to answer it, but you
might have fun with it: You’re from Orlando, the land of theme parks. If your band had its own theme park, like Dolly Parton has Dollywood, what would it have the others don’t? I am so glad you asked this, because I came up with the best idea the other day. I want to open an amusement park where theme park rides go to retire. Imagine, for a small fee you can experience Captain Eo, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, The Back to the Future Ride and many more! It would be cheap and run-down, but that’s all part of the charm… I’d call it.. YesterdayLand! Okay, the name needs work. But I think the idea is solid gold.