Pop meets present-day chaos in Matt DeMello’s experimental new LP: Confetti in a Coalmine. The self-described “multi-instrumentalist bricolage audio producer, sound artist, composer, and songwriter who was exiled from the prog and math rock scenes of Providence, Rhode Island just after the Great Recession” brings us something new and unexpected. A demented carousel of musical genres and stylings that’s perfectly at home in a world of ongoing pandemic and ferocious, brainless scrolling. Confetti in a Coalmine represents the culmination of DeMello’s work with his pre-pandemic touring band, The Significant Looks, and various laptop-based experiments that turned into songs over the course of playing streaming shows in quarantine. Between the emojis in the song titles and the blistering satire, there’s a lot to unpack here so let’s dive in.
Today Glide is excited to offer an exclusive premiere of the album ahead of its release on June 29th.
The opener, “So Uh…🤔 Thanks for Stopping By” (feat. Jennifer Nordmark & Rootstock Republic String Quartet) saunters in like a cabaret sung by Lafou from Beauty and the Beast. The quartet is gorgeous as DeMello croons, /Yesterday he said to me/something very strange indeed/that if one day we should disagree/I should make like the Beebs and go love myself/in this har-mo-ny/. In no way does this track set the stage for anything to follow…except for the intentional discord in the word “harmony.”
The next track shuffles in wearing shades. “Needalittlebitomah]🌞🔅🔆 Sunshine!” (feat. Pete Dizzoza) is a piano-rock, Billy Joel jam with retro 8-bit chiptunes and chaotic harmonies. “💀💀💀 Like a Body in a Hearse ” uses distorted vocals and a funketronic bassline to bring a little Oingo Boingo to the dance party.
Of Montreal meets Queen“[A-Typical] Candidate (For Rampage Violence)” with scathing lyrics on the failures of democracy, it ends with an extremely catchy chant: /Caffeine and THC/Alcohol, melatonin in a symphony/sleep will be the death of me/if I get there first, say a prayer for me/.
One particularly fun standout is the electro-dance groove, “Another Word for Love” (feat Amanda Rain O’Keefe). Rapid-fire lyrical verse, sometimes belted, sometimes falsetto or spoken word is the highlight. The vocal tracks are sometimes doubled, tripled, and maybe even quadrupled. It’s as exciting as it is cacophonous. DeMello’s chops are on full display and O’Keefe meets the challenge while electronic beats and synthesizers crescendo.
The deeply political “A Tension’s Deficit/All-State Firing Squad” brings things back to a laid-back, stripped-down surf-pop tune. /Behind every participation trophy case is an AR-15/. Damn. “mybrightest🔥me” (Liz Wagner, Biro, & Monster Furniture) brings a le Mis revolutionary musical vibe. Choral canons that would feel right at home with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Confetti in a Coalmine concludes its masterclass spectacle of genre-bending with the musical coda “December Birthdays! (Nobody Messes with the Peanut) 📅🎉❄️” to bring things full circle. The unifying themes of irreverence, absolute disdain, and jaunty theatrics combined with DeMello’s musical charm and a slew of special guests make this LP a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking listen.
Listen to the album and read our chat with Matt DeMello below…
Confetti in a Coalmine: What a name. What a collection of songs. What’s the title mean to you?
The title quantifies how I think American society treats the arts. On the one hand, no one is allowed to act like art should have enough value to make its creators a living without obscene, and often entirely mythical, sense of sacrifice. On the other hand, every time a Robin Williams commits suicide, a Tom Petty or Prince dies of opioid pain killer use, or Britney Spears has a breakdown, we’re so quick to decide that theirs was indicative of the downfall of the entire society or values system. And if only we were a more welcoming culture that loved the arts, then surely, we all would have been spared their trauma.
The whole attitude wreaks of cognitive dissonance to me: Decide whether we’re important enough to deserve our “suffering” or not, goddamnit! And I wanted to present this contradiction to the audience in as stark musical and historic terms as possible.
You have described this as “likely the most important album I’ll ever make.” Can you talk a little about the importance of this album to you and to the world?
Yeah, in terms of me personally: I’ve gone about my entire discography up until this point with absolutely no plan to make appealing or marketable music. If that happens, it’s entirely by accident in trying to write songs about uncommon subjects that I don’t hear about a lot as a listener. I still think that’s foremost my principle as an artist. But in also being in pursuit of my widest range — and trying to write songs that are perfect embodiments of their goals, no matter what those goals are — I was eventually going to prove how dangerous and unconventional that I think “appealing” and “marketable” music should be, and Confetti is probably as close as I will ever get to that goal.
Up until this point, this whole somewhat self-defeating attitude has pissed off a lot of people close to me who seem to be way more materially interested in my success and not having a day job than I am (and with my background in “friend rock”, I still really hesitate to call these people “fans”). But as this album coalesced, and this crowd heard more demos and final versions, they became more persuasive in their calls for me to “give this a proper promo cycle.” So here I am!
I do think this is also an outlier for me in terms of writing music that’s as outwardly conscious about the state of the outside world. As politically active as I am — and in ways I really hate mixing with promoting my for-profit music — writing bomb throwing political songs like “Candidate” or even “mybrightestflame” really isn’t my nature. They’ve been something of a cathartic compulsion of late, as I’m sure reflecting on politics and the state of the world is an otherwise unwanted cathartic compulsion for everyone else too.
While I don’t imagine things will get better anytime soon, I don’t think I can keep up the pace of trying to write a “Blowing in the Wind” every time some gargantuan political tragedy happens in the states. I know they don’t have day jobs, but that Phoebe Bridgers, Kendrick, or even Nnamdï Obgbonnaya can keep up with the onslaught everyday to me is just astounding.
In addition to your multi-instrumentalism, there are so many amazing contributing artists to this album! What was the recording process like and how did you wrangle so many excellent musicians together?
Parallel to the themes of the album, the recording process was similarly polarized between maximum collaboration and maximum isolation. That came from the project starting out as two distinct EPs as far back as 2018. The first EP would be a live-recorded album of rock and acoustic arrangements (“So thanks”, “Sunshine”, and “Don’t Mind”) made by a five piece core group of musicians, billed as ‘The Significant Looks’, with some assistance from our friends in the Rootstock Republic String Quartet and the Anti-Matter Horns.
The second EP would feature songs with club and electronic arrangements that I was making at home by myself while waiting for everyone to respond to emails fast enough so we could finish the first EP. “Another Word for Love”, “mybrightestflame”, and “Body in a Hearse” were all slated for this later release. And all of this seemed at the time like the sensible trajectory that most Brooklyn-based indie rock quintets normally take.
As pandemic took hold in March 2020, my previous music began taking off with vaporwave adjacent audiences and I started being invited to play streaming festivals online. It was really exciting because I had never played for audiences that large in person ever. Being forced to think of how to play without a band, the electronic songs of the latter EP really began taking shape. After about the third streaming festival that summer the thought of this polarized two EPs plan seemed unnecessarily compartmentalizing. I started listening to a lot of #1 Record and Bringing It All Back Home… thinking about ways I can respect the clear dualism between the material but avoid a half-and-half feeling between the disparate arrangements of the songs.
There are so many different genres and sounds coming out of this album. What were some of your direct influences (musical and otherwise) when making this album?
Yeah, up until this point I’ve always made EPIC rock records. I was definitely from that school of teenagers in the 00s who wanted to make The Next Great American Epic Rock LP. I feel like I’ve done that format a few times and managed to spice things up by (eventually) sucking out all the electric guitars. The synthesizer orchestras of 2014’s There’s No Place Like Nowhere make for probably the best example.
Around four years ago, I started listening to Revolver more than Sgt Pepper for the first time in my life (I’m probably more an Abbey Road man, in my bones) — and it occured to me how sneakily amazing Revolver is: That it doesn’t have these big, sweeping, operatic introductions to each side, nor this big theatrical ending… but it does everything Sgt. Pepper does and more. Everyone says they’re inspired by Revolver, but finding a way to channel its format and how it downplays high concepts to let the songs speak for themselves really appealed to me throughout recording Confetti.
Something else I kept thinking about on Confetti was all the stupid biases about music I would be faced with by “rockists” in middle school growing up in the era of N*Sync. How people like Britney Spears weren’t “real musicians” because they didn’t write their own songs, play their own instruments… I’m sure you’re familiar.
Now, I’ve created probably the most extreme kinds of music you can make while paddling in the opposite direction. The “anti-Christmas” 2xLP I released last year had a 30 minute track of almost pure noise on it. Having covered that territory, it occurred to me that no songwriter’s has a range wide enough to encompass Metal Machine Music and Max Martin. Songs like “Another Word for Love” are probably the best I can do with that goal in mind.