Heinali & Matt Finney: Interview

Heinali and Matt Finney, one of my favorite music discoveries from this year, are releasing their third (!!) EP this weekend. In-between a promotion campaign gone not quite as planned and anticipation for their first music video (directed by the genius that is Freddie Lloyd, known in the music scene as Ursine Vulpine), we did a bit of chatting on long-distance collaborations, sounds in the lives of animals, Raymond Carver, and poetry.

Matt, I hear you’re from Alabama. Did you grow up there?
Matt: I’m from Alabama, born and raised. it’s all I know. that probably sounds really sad to most folks but I like it here. I think it suits me well. I couldn’t handle living anywhere else.

Heinali, tell us about the place in the Ukraine where you live. What kind of live music are people into?
Heinali: I live in a place called Kiev. Kiev, being the capital of Ukraine, is full of very different people, so basically they are into the very different types of live music. The only and general problem with this is that we have almost no live music. Almost no scene here due to the economical abyss and overall poor cultural level of the country. I can’t say it’s not present at all. We actually have a couple of festivals every year, and some promotional groups are doing OK, but no firm underground scene.

How were you first introduced to music? What was your first instrument?
Well I never took any music lessons and actually had a little interest in music when I was a child. I started to compose music mostly out of the blue, it began with the track music in 2003, demo scene, it was mostly for the purposes of self-entertainment at first. Later it became a hobby and later it became everything. I guess my first instrument was a guitar. I decided to teach myself guitar a couple of years ago to “liven up” my electronic works of that time. Guitar brought up the music theory, and the music theory brought up the keyboard skills. But I’m not really skilled at any of that. I can play a few notes on guitar or piano, and that’s all… I can’t even read sheet music. This is it. I said it!
Matt: no one in my family plays any instruments but we all love music and we all have our preferences for different kinds. my mom loves Elvis so he was always playing around the house. she loves classic country so a lot of those artists are embedded in me. the bands that I got into were whatever my older sister was listening to. Tears For Fears is the one that jumps out at me right away. I attempted to play guitar when I was 12-13. completely failed at it. I have stupid fingers.

Matt, you’re in a couple of different projects; tell me about the main differences between Finneyerkes and the collaboration with Heinali.
Matt: the main difference, for me anyway, is that the stuff I do with Heinali is catchy. It’s not radio friendly in any sense but I think a lot of people get what we’re doing right away and it doesn’t take them a couple of listens. The first Finneyerkes album is that way but we slowly started to drift into more ambient music. Also, the music that I make with Heinali is more personal. we work so quickly that I’m able to deal with issues that are going on in my life at that moment. The writing has always been a catharsis for me and this collaboration has helped me keep my sanity a bit.

I find the Lemonade EP especially ‘catchy’, too.. I never thought it would be. but what about the physical distance? surely that has some impact on the music?
Matt: thank you. I’m glad it’s not just me thinking that it gets poppier with each listen. I think the main thing the physical distance has an impact on is not being able to be there with each other and communicate these ideas that way. there’s a brotherhood between us even though we’ve never met and we can talk through things but there’s still that emotional aspect missing. We can’t actually be there to support each other; it’s a problem but we work through it to the best of our abilities. We’re pretty sure in the music that we make so regardless of how far apart we are these songs will still be brought to life.
Heinali: Well, I kind of,.. I could have known this if I’d ever experienced the other thing, to be able to compare. As long as these are the only collaborations I’ve ever had, long distance ones, I can’t really say how it affects my way of working on music. But since I’m quite an introverted depressive and a socio-phobic person I guess this could be pretty much the standard way to collaborate.

The spoken word on the Lemonade EP is very ‘disturbed’, very strong and specific, and at times even violent. All in all, I find it is an incredibly dark album. Any reason for this at this particular moment in your life? Was this effect wanted from the beginning, or did it come as the writing progressed?
Matt: the whole EP is what happened to me over the past few months. I was involved in a relationship that ended horribly, I lost a child, a lot of friends and people that I counted on disappeared. I was angry, broken-hearted, and exhausted. I was bitter, anxiety ridden, and having panic attacks. After I wrote A Beginning, the rest of it fell into place. I wanted everybody to hurt.

So was Heinali aware of what you were going through? Heinali, did you rely on Matt’s writing to compose, or did melody and words just happen to come together and fit?
Heinali: Well that’s hard to explain. Sometimes I listen to Matt’s records and just know where the phrases should go. It’s like it’s just supposed to be there, you feel it. Like it was in The Details for example. And sometimes I get some musical idea, record it down and then play with the words. Like in Repeated. But I’m always trying to go away from the actual meaning of the words and I try to get close to the emotional state in which these words were said or written.

I know you, Matt, are a fan of things as varied as Counting Crows, Nirvana and Brand New; however I hear little of those in Lemonade; I find that it has more of a Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails type of sound..? Were there specific albums you were both listening to as you worked on the record?
Matt: Nirvana, Brand New, and Counting Crows are just bands that I’ve loved for years and have had an influence on what I think is good music. Those are the ones that I always come back to; they don’t really make their way into what I write or the kind of music that we make. You’re spot on with Joy Division and Nine Inch Nails: we love those bands and we were listening to them quite a bit while we worked on this. Some other albums/bands we listened to while working on this were My Bloody Valentine‘s Loveless (of course), The Angelic ProcessWeighing Souls With Sand, Nadja, and The Twilight Sad.

Is your poetry written specifically to be ‘performed’, or could you imagine having it published separately – not at music, but as ‘traditional’ poetry?
Before I started doing music I was a “small press” poet. I’d publish for magazines and send them out and things like that but I became really disillusioned with all of it. It didn’t seem to be about the writing anymore. it seemed to be about picking favourites. You had to know certain people to get published and I stopped. Around this time I started working with Finneyerkes and I wrote pieces specifically to be performed. I get a greater release that way and I think my words are better to be heard than left on a piece of paper.

Speaking of Finneyerkes – Is there anything planned for them in the near future? I hear the band is supposed to be on a hiatus.
In the near future, no. But maybe we’ll get around to finishing that 4th one day. It’s true. We’re on hiatus; pulling a godspeed on everybody. We’re not sure when we’re gonna get back together but we’re definitely not finished.

What are you listening to and reading at the moment?
I’m re-reading The Road and I got Call If You Need Me by Raymond Carver not too long ago. I’m in desperate need of reading material. These are some albums that have been on repeat at my house lately: The Angelic ProcessWeighing Souls With Sand, Sumner McKane‘s North, The National‘s High Violet, and The Twilight Sad‘s Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters.
Heinali: I’ve really had a great time listening to Merzbow recently. He reminded me of my teenage years and brought up pure excitement. Otherwise it’s J.S. Bach, sometimes Debussy. As for the books, I’ve finished Chekhov and now reading Voltaire, Maxim Gorky and the book about sounds in the lives of animals.

Sounds in the lives of animals?
Heinali: Well, it’s based on different researches of how animals communicate through sound, why particular species have particular timbres, how they evolved that way, the environmental context, etc.. For example, usually the aggressive animal sounds have similar characteristics like the long-sustained, fast impulses and amplitude modulation. The defensive ones are usually higher-pitched and more intense. It’s quite interesting because basically we experience emotions through music – especially melodic one, because melodic music imitates our voices. For example, sad melodies usually consist of the intervals and specific phrasing that could be found in a voice of a sad person. No matter what language he or she speaks, we just know. We can express sadness, happiness, fear, aggressiveness, any strong emotion without words – just by the sound alone – and understand each other. Some sounds just sound happy to us and some dangerous or dark. It’s really interesting to know why exactly that is, especially taking into account that lots of music nowadays is very timbre-oriented and could appeal to the pre-historic, very deep side of ourselves – which is basically our animal side.

Well, this sounds very interesting, kind of another proof of how instinctive music can be; I guess as autodidacts you can quite relate with that.. a couple of more words on your collaboration – are you planning to meet and play together live someday? I’d be curious to see the dynamics between the two of you on a stage.
Matt: We’re hoping to; meeting and bringing this music live is one of our biggest goals. It’s especially hard since we’re both broke, but one day it’s gonna happen. Mark my words! I think it’ll be an extremely intense show. I’ll try my best not to be too frightened!
Heinali: Of course, if I’ll ever have enough money to come over to rehearse and do the shows, right now I’m absolutely broke.

We’re coming to an end very soon but before that I’d like to ask you both one of those typical interview questions… If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
Matt: hmm… It would have to be  Raymond Carver. He’s had the biggest influence on my writing. It’d be amazing to hear him tell some epic story that he never had the chance to write down.
Heinali: I’m kind of bad at meeting people, so even if I could meet (for example) Alexander the Great I’d be nervous as fuck so the whole meeting thing would become pretty pointless.


Get Heinali and Matt Finney‘s back catalogue and their new EP Conjoined on Bandcamp from November 20th; consider making a donation! they’re sweet guys.

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