Matthew Dear Talks Power Outages, $500 Suits, & More

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For dance music and indie rock fans alike, Matthew Dear's avant-pop has been a continuously evolving and constantly exciting presence for years now. Following 2009's bleakly beautiful Dark City, and the recent Headcage EP, Dear's fantastic new album, Beams (out today on Ghostly International), may be his most accessible — and his most rock-oriented — record to date.
But, aside from his genre-melting music, Dear is also a particularly stylish dude. We recently caught up with him to talk about playing live, what to expect from the new record, and the perils of choosing the right suit for the stage.
Beams sounds like it's your most "full band" record to date. Is that intentional?
"You know, it might have happened subconsciously. I think there are some liberties I'm taking in the studio now, knowing I can get the stuff out on stage with the full band and rhythm. But, when I record, I'm really just working on everything myself, playing around with different instruments. I want to say yes, but in all honesty, no – I don't think that stuff really crosses my mind when I'm working on music."
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You're one of the more well-dressed guys in music – how do you choose your outfits?
"Well, it's funny. There's definitely a difference between live-wear and street wear. And not in the sense that I don't wear suits on the street — It's just that I wear more expensive suits on the street, because you don't want to ruin things on stage. And it gets really sweaty on stage [laughs]. The trick on stage is to find inexpensive, well-tailored suits that you don't mind ruining. And I get that done with the help of places like Topman or Zara. For example, I can find full suits for under $500."
What about when you aren't on stage?
"At home, or when I'm walking around the streets, I like to wear suits by Carol Christian Poell – I think he's my favorite designer. And Damir Doma and some Japanese labels."
Is there a song from the new record that translates particularly well in a live setting?
"Yeah, 'Her Fantasy.' You know, we did some touring in May this year, and we introduced 'Her Fantasy' live around that time. And it just immediately struck with the crowd. It was cool because it was surprising how good of a reaction we were getting to a song people hadn't even heard yet. And I don't know if you remember, but at our Bowery [Ballroom] show, the power cut out about halfway through the song. I didn't realize what had happened until there was like fifteen seconds left until the end of the song."
How do you keep it together in a situation like that?
"We had all of my equipment going into one power cord in the front of the stage, and I think it was under my mic stand. I was moving around, moving the mic, and finally the stand just popped out the plug. I thought maybe we lost a sound card. It's funny because you have to keep singing, and you go into this disaster-survival mode. While you're performing you still have to assess the situation. In between vocal takes I'm glancing over the setup to see what lights are blinking. If was funny, though – I just kept going."
How would you characterize Beams in relation to your past albums?
"Every record sort of reflects where I'm at in my life. And the last few records were made in the tumultuous fireball that is youth. You know, being a young musician and trying to establish your roots, and just create, create, create, without checking your blind spot. You're just going full-on. Whereas with Beams I was just coming off the tail end of that. I think I turned 30 at around the time Black City came out. It's the sort of cliché – you're going into your early 30s, you're slowing down. It was a slower approach to everything. I felt a bit more organized."
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