Matthew de Zoete: Reborn on Colour Film
By David DeRocco
As the husband of a hard-working female farmer, Hamilton musician Matthew de Zoete has learned to appreciate the literal meaning of the biblical verse “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Perhaps it’s why de Zoete has decided to sow something new in his own career, hoping to eventually harvest the fruits of the labour involved in launching his latest musical project.
Having recorded three albums under his own name as a solo artist, de Zoete has resurfaced with a new six-song EP, Super 8, released last April under his new pseudonym, COLOUR FILM.
“The reason for it is that for the last little while I’ve been thinking about releasing music under a different name,” explains de Zoete, a multi-instrumentalist with a predilection for creating wistfully dreamy folk-pop with a strong focus on lyrical imagery. “I often perform under different configurations, sometimes solo, sometimes as a duo or trio and sometimes with a full band. A name like COLOUR FILM is a little more open ended than performing at Matthew de Zoete; there’s a little more space to not just be a solo singer/songwriter, but to do different things.”
The overarching concept behind this new COLOUR FILM venture can be traced back to the similarly named title track of his last album. De Zoete was inspired to write the song “Colour Film” after viewing some vintage Super 8 home movies of his grandparents.
“They were actually from St. Catharines,” said de Zoete, who brings his Colour Film project to the Garden City’s Mahtay Café April 18th. “The movies were back from the early 60s. I don’t think I’d ever seen them as young people before. Watching the movies I realized how much they looked like me. I realized there was a lot of things about my grandparents I had always taken for granted. Writing that song and thinking about it after I realized a lot about myself, how I approached life and how I approached music in that song. It was very meaningful for me.”
The sonic pieces of nostalgia captured in the six songs on Super 8 are a very apt beginning for COLOUR FILM according to de Zoete, who feels the new project is an accurate representation of how he thinks about and approaches his recording career.
“The notion of Super 8 has always been tied to the concept of Colour Film,” said de Zoete, who earned his Honours BA in Modern Middle Eastern History while attending university in Hungary. “Music always has a bit of a visual aspect for me when I’m writing and performing, or even just listening to other people’s music. I’m always picturing what the song is about, the people that might be involved, the place or the situation. So there’s always some kind of visual element going on, like a little film or music playing in my mind.”
The song tracks on Super 8 are all woven together with threads of heartfelt emotion, whether it’s the keyboard laden melancholy of the song “Tomorrow” or the happier, hypnotic harmonies of the first single, “Fall.” The song “Money’s On The Dresser,” which contains the lyric “the only time we get along, is when one of us is asleep or gone,” seems to reflect a deeper vein of emotional turmoil in the album’s narrative. While not giving too much away, De Zoete admits that emotion is usually at the heart of his songwriting.
“There’s always something going on, whether it’s good or bad. That always comes through in the songwriting, either directly and specifically or indirectly and a little more vaguely. Some of the songs are more autobiographical than others. They’re always based on a kernel of truth, but not always 100 percent specific.”
Produced by Les Cooper (Jill Barber, Good Lovelies) and featuring the soulful harmonies of Julie Fader (Great Lake Swimmers), Super 8 features de Zoete playing only acoustic and electric guitar despite the talents at piano, drums, bass and even banjo he’s shown on his other solo projects. He credits the musicians who joined him in the recording – keyboardist Robbie Grunwalk, bassist Mark McIntyre and drummer Joel Stouffer -- for giving him the freedom to focus on singing and guitar.
“I found a group of people on this record and the last record that make it so I don’t have to do any of that stuff. They have much better ideas than I do and much better skills than I do. With this one it was just my playing the songs for the musicians I hired and they immediately tuned into what I was doing and where I was heading.
Where de Zoete a.k.a. COLOUR FILM is headed now is back on the road to promote the songs, which will no doubt be part of his set list April 18th at Mahtay; that means taking care of the business side of his musical career, something musicians like de Zoete are not always fond of doing.
“The biggest challenge for me personally is staying motivated to sit at a computer spending hours and hours booking the tour and promoting things and doing all those desk jobs. I didn’t become a musician because I wanted an office job; I became a musician because I didn’t want an office job. You quickly realize if nobody’s doing that sort of thing you don’t go very far or do very much. I don’t particularly enjoy those aspects of it but I know they have to be done. It’s no fun and there are many times you don’t see the results from your hours of work.”
What the result of this new career course will be for de Zoete remains to be seen. While gaining a broader audience for his music is always the ultimate goal, de Zoete says he finds his greatest satisfaction in simply connecting with the people at his shows.
“Whether it’s a couple hundred or just a handful, the feeling is the same regardless of the size of the audience. Finishing a show and feeling that people were connected to what I was doing, that’s a real gratifying feeling that really trumps any payout at the end of the show. That feeling of connection is more satisfying than if I made a lot of money tonight.”
For details on the show visit http://mahtay.ca/events/.