Over the past few years, some of the most interesting music coming out of San Antonio has been of the electronic/atmospheric kind. Artists like Ernest Gonzales/Mexicans with Guns, Trip the Light, and Saakred (to name a few) have produced intoxicating works of staggering warmth and complexity, within the loose confines of the ‘electronic’ genre. Another young, emerging force to be reckoned with in the local electronic music scene is psych-electro trio Something Fiction.
To get technical, group leader, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist Matt Humble once described their music to me as “shaman trance,” a creative descriptor that expresses their music’s essence exceptionally well. Something Fiction, a project that’s been active for eight years now, has released two excellent EPs (Botany
in 2011 and Mycology
in 2013). The band has gigged somewhat sparingly, electing to hone their sound in private and play shows only when they have something new (visually or sonically) to unveil.
As Something Fiction readies their debut long-player for a probable summer release, the Current
sat down (twice) with ringleader Matt Humble to chat about that album, the group’s creative dynamic, inspirations, a new artistic collective called Timewheel
, and a whole host of other topics.
Look out for part two of this interview, which elaborates on Humble’s involvement in the budding artistic collective Timewheel.
Tell me the Something Fiction story. How long have you been playing together and how did the band evolve into what it is today?
Something Fiction was formed by our percussionist, Nick, and I when we were 15 years old. We went to middle and high school together. We were both pretty introverted, so we would hide in the library during lunch to read books and talk music together. My first instrument was piano. So after school, I would take my old electric keyboard over to Nick's rehearsal space at his house, and we would just jam for hours.
Our original style had a kind of jazz element, the timbre of the piano and acoustic drums always sounded jazzy, and our songs were almost always improvised. Over time an additional three members, two guitarists and one bassist, joined the jam sessions. We all met in school and bonded over our similar taste in music.
We wrote a handful of songs over the years, some of them ended up as ideas expressed on the Botany
EP. But eventually, two of the three new members moved on to other projects leaving Nick, Raul and myself to continue writing. I am still close with all of them though. I work with them regularly in the studio and we all formed the artistic collective Timewheel together.
Once we were down to three members, the music felt a little thin. So over time, I upgraded my old Yamaha keyboard for some analog equipment to beef up our sound a bit. The transition from piano to synthesizers and drum machines came naturally to me and the new textures at my disposal played a vital role in how our sound evolved into what it is today.
on instrumentation and songwriting >>>
Talk about instrumentation and songwriting. How do you decide what instruments fit what concepts best? Who does the bulk of the composition, musically and lyrically? What are some of the key concepts you look to explore in your music?
Well, the songwriting is split pretty evenly between Raul and me. For me, the concept for a song always begins with a scene. I think of it very movie-like. I've been making short films and documentaries longer than I've been playing music, so that plays a big part in how I conceptualize.
But I just meditate on a scene and experiment with some synth patches or drum machines until I hear something that resonates with the feeling I want the scene to evoke. Then I will just add layers until I have a basic foundation for the beginning of the song. The next part comes depending on how I want the scene to evolve or what story I want to tell. Once I have the backbone of a track I'll take it to Raul for more rhythm and melody ideas. Sometimes we won’t change much, other times we will completely overhaul a track.
It pretty much goes the same when Raul starts a track. He will compose a backbone and explain the concept and then we will collaborate until we agree on something. Drums and lyrics usually come last. All three of us collaborate on the drums, sometimes using electronic sequences, ethnic percussion or a live acoustic drum set. We are all pretty proficient with the drum machines, but Nick is the grand wizard when it comes to acoustic drums. He's been playing about 10 years and is one of the best drummers I've ever met.
Lyrics are written mostly by me with some input from Raul and Nick on vocal melody and timing. Not all of our tracks have singing in them. We consider ourselves instrumentalists, so a lot of the songs we write wouldn't really benefit from vocals. However we are experimenting with more vocal tracks on our upcoming release. If you listen, a few of our tracks consist of recordings of some deep philosophical conversations we've had in the forest, especially on the intermission tracks on the Mycology
EP. We spend a lot of time in nature for inspiration.
Overall when writing, we try to take the listener on a ride with peaks and troughs, while leaving enough room for the meaning to be open to interpretation.
on new material, spirituality, and phi >>>
Something Fiction won the 2013 Current Music Award for Best Electronic Band/Artist.
It's been a while since your excellent Botany EP. Please discuss any new material that is in the works and how it might differ and/or be similar to previous efforts. Be as specific as you can.
We have been working on our debut LP since before the Mycology
EP released. So far we have 12 tracks that are almost done. We're aiming to release the album before summer 2014.
We just completed a single called 'Trees in the Dark' that we're almost ready to release. We also just wrapped up a remix local talent Pop Pistol asked us to do. I really have no idea if or when that might be released though. For the full-length album we are definitely sticking with the theme of being students in study (Botany
being the study of plants and Mycology
being the study of fungi).
I can't yet reveal what we are studying this time around, but I feel it follows the natural progression of research you would expect if you resonate with us. Sonically, we are exploring new territory with different instruments and like I said before, we've been writing more vocal tracks.
To what extent do the group's individual spiritual/intellectual endeavors inform the music of Something Fiction and vice-versa?
It's funny. We are all pretty different as far as how we think the world is run. Raul is really into the equations that make up reality. When he plays guitar, he talks about resonating with phi
, a ratio that emits beauty. He's trying to cultivate this ratio into the music by his use of melody and phrasing. I think he does it really well too. Raul is inspired by the heart and the unconditional love it can radiate through you. By using the heart and the phi ratio he believes the sounds can connect the listener to unity consciousness.
I am really into eastern mysticism and more of the esoteric type pursuits. Kundalini yoga is a big part of my life. I believe it benefits my creativity all around. I'll be teaching too, starting this summer. Probably just for a small group of people who are into expanding consciousness.
Nick has a natural tribal groove on the drums. He's talked about altered states, like a trance, when he really gets into it. Really though, Something Fiction is the combination of our collective philosophical views.
on the spirit molecule and producing hip-hop >>>
Talk a bit about the organic evolution of the band outside the mainstream SA scene? It is a credit to you guys that you have avoided the cliques, etc... What do you want out of Something Fiction's relationship to SA? On a larger note, what will success look like for the band?
We have been lucky to work with some really talented people. A side job of mine is working on audiovisual projects with Mitch Schultz, the director of the documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule
. He has acted as a mentor to me, and I have learned a lot about networking from him. These connections have helped to spread our music across the world to the growing online psychedelic community.
We don't expect our music to resonate with everyone; we're just exploring. San Antonio is our home. Our collective is really putting in an effort to create a culture of art-minded individuals here in town, and it seems to be working. If there are other people out there that sit in the deep forest with good headphones and jam our music while connecting to themselves, then I would count our project as a success.
I know you've worked a bit with hip-hop artists as a producer. Can you tell me how that came about and what your relationship to hip-hop music is?
I'm not exactly sure how I've come to work with so many rap artists. A lot of times they are friends of friends that are just looking for a studio with pro equipment. I'm always refining my techniques for recording, mixing and mastering, so I never say no to additional projects I can practice on.
I'm also working with some really great out-of-state rappers, both from New York: BenZen
and the Purple Heart Club. They are pretty esoteric as far as lyrics go, so I guess they were drawn toward me as a producer for that reason. A lot of these metaphysical ideas can't be fully realized by people outside of the realm we as Timewheel have come to occupy. It helps to have like-minded people on board to assist with the feeling a lot of these rappers are going for
and I guess the universe pointed them in my direction.
the live show and Timewheel >>>
Photo: James Courtney
Tell me about the Something Fiction live experience. How do you see the live setting fitting into your musical vision and what are your live/touring plans in the future?
Visuals are a big part of our live performance. We're still experimenting show to show, trying to express our art in the best way possible. Also we often play more amped up versions of our tracks to increase the vibration at the show.
We write a lot of ambient and spacey songs, but they just aren't as fun to perform as the art-rock versions we conjure up for our live shows. It's a lot easier to feel each other’s energy on stage and lose ourselves in the music with acoustic drums and guitars in addition to the synth work. We just wrapped up our last show until our LP is ready, but we're planning to tour during the second half of 2014.
Let’s talk a bit about your artistic collective Timewheel. Generally speaking, what is Timewheel and how did it come about?
Timewheel is our artistic collective. The early members of Something Fiction that are no longer with us are people I still see day-to-day. Most of us live together in our home studio, Timewheel Studios. I support their artistic efforts, both musically and visually as they do mine. Having the artistic collective allows for us to all stay tied together and collaborating while having our own separate projects.
We're all dabbling in more than just music. From the outside, our residence looks like your typical two story family home, but inside we've broken it off into multiple creative sections. We've got two recording studios, one rehearsal space, a soundstage for photography and film, an apparel design studio where we build and maintain our products (like Sheath, band merch and our newly announced Timewheel limited-run tees), and a training room for MMA, yoga and the like.
A whole bunch of audiovisual projects are going on daily for us; we have been gaining a lot of momentum lately. We also run a blog on part of Timewheel's website specializing in ancient knowledge and sacred art from all mediums. We like sharing what inspires us.
Check out Timewheel: a Meditation on Art, Music, and Underwear