Matthew Leone from Madina Lake took some time out of his busy schedule at Slam Dunk to catch us up on what’s been happening in his and the band’s life since their farwell and what the future holds!
Jess: Welcome back to the UK!
The reunion tour… How did that come about?
Matthew: Thankyou! It’s funny, so the band is obviously scattered all over the world now. I live in England now, Nathan lives in LA, Mateo is in Columbia and Chris is in Nashville. It actually started with him, he was like ‘come on let’s just tour, I’m bored!’ because he lives in Nashville and has no friends. So I went to LA to work for a few months. Mateo and Nathan have become a writing team now, they were writing for other pop artists and such. I went to see them for the first time and the idea came up, I was like “Seriously, I know Chris wants to do it and I want to do it” and they were like “fuck yeah, fuck yeah!”. I mean we had always hoped for our career to be a nice solid run, get our three record concept out and that could feel like we’ve accomplished a lot in the decade of our work together. As a bonus we’d hoped, we didn’t really think it’d be likely, that what ever success or whatever value we created at that time it would enable us to do some annual short tour somewhere. This I guess is the first part of that, so from now on we’re going to be doing one every year.
J: So what have you personally been up to since the farewell tour?
M: Well I got married which was awesome! I’ve been working with “Sweet Relief Musicians Fund”, I’m now a global ambassador for them. I got hurt in 2010, there was a woman being beaten and needed some help. It was gnarly but it was like this little act of heinous cowardice was so smothered, so ultimately overshadowed and overpowered by love it literally saved my life. Like people sending all those good vibrations into the ether and back down to me was what brought me back. Sweet Relief Musicians Fund were the charity that backed all the fundraising and they helped me through the whole year of recovery. So I decided at that point decided to devote my life to giving back. So I’m now a global ambassador for them and for the past five months I’ve been putting on a benefit show with Tenacious D, Sarah Silverman, Weird Al being in LA it was this whole celebrity studded thing and it cannibalised a whole five months of my life. I did it pretty much alone with my partner Erica. It was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life and it wound up being a huge success! Now two days later we’re back in England and just celebrating!
J: Have you been doing any writing with Madina Lake? Or is it just jamming and rehearsing?
M: We’re not good at jamming or rehearsing, we literally did one full rehearsal before this. We were terrified, I can’t believe it worked. We’ve done some writing though, we have six songs now and three of them I’m absolutely in love with. The standard that we hold for ourselves at is that we want to be in our favourite band. If what we’re writing moves us the way music affects us in its optimal form then it passes our Madina test and three of them are right there. We’re going to release more music. You know how it is when a band kind of has their day and there seems to be a kind of renaissance of that time. That’s why on this tour we’re focusing on that record and we always will, it will always be the most important piece we’ve done. If our new material resonates with everyone as much as I think it might, who knows? There might be a full revival.
J: Do you know when you’re hoping to release?
M: It’s in the works at the moment, I’m still trying to work out what format I want to release it in. Mateo and Nathan want to release a full record but to me that’s not how the world ingests music anymore. Obviously I also want to do something artsy with it. I think at the moment it’s going to be a very well thought out count down chronology of releases so at the end of it everything makes sense. Something weird like that. A single at a time.
J: It’s been 4 years since the farewell shows, how have they compared to the reunion?
M: Man, I got to say and I did not expect this at all, I certainly didn’t anticipate people being excited about it. When you’re in a band you can never get a perspective of yourself. You just feel like everybody is over it and nobody cares anymore. When my agent called and told me how many tickets we sold, we both just laughed for about five minutes, we couldn’t believe it. I feel like it just didn’t really skip a beat, we had the same crew of people, all our friends, supporters and fan base. They were all there representing and it felt fantastic. Almost like we didn’t really go anywhere.
J: You’ve said you’re planning to do this annual. Do you think you may pursue a different live music project or are you happy just doing your charity work?
M: Fortunately my charity work is more integrated into the music business, I have the great fortunate to be able to create new initiatives, putting on shows and being around other artists. Working with all the different agents, managers, promoters and all the relationships I’ve cultivated while being on the road. It’s given me the opportunity to sort of experiment with different music industry business concepts, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds for me. There’s an organisation out here called Help Musicians UK and I’m working closely with them and I know I will be more so in the future. They’re great, building partnerships between Sweet Relief and HMUK, doing that around the world. Then doing concept fundraising through different initiatives, it excites me quite a lot.
J: With the charity work are you planning on keeping them UK base, planning to expand globally or is it just split between here and the US?
M: Split between here and the US for sure. My wife and I have just rented a house in Manchester, so we’ll have a base here and in Los Angeles.
J: Your wife is from Manchester and you currently live there, how do you feel about recent events?
M: It’s a very very difficult political climate out there. I probably can’t say anything profound or anything that hasn’t already been a million times. The kinship that our band has with UK and has had since day one has been no secret. Now I’ve submerged myself in the culture and now I’m marrying one of you guys, it really really affected me. Every time there’s one of these tragedies it drives me crazy. It really affects me in probably more a profound way than one would anticipate considering I’m not connected to anyone who’s hurt or suffered loss. Having gone through a few tragedies in my life I know the clatorall damage and the fundity of that pain. It just sickens me to think that some people are born into the unfortunate circumstance of vindoctor nation and they believe one way about the world and as a consequence of that they cause so much suffering. I wish that wouldn’t happen. I think the reason my wife and I hit it off so fast when we first met is because I resonate with the culture in England so it feels like a hometown blow y’know?
J: Do you think your charity work will ever extend to these kind of unfortunate situations?
M: Yeah, the thing I love about Help Musicians UK, I believe they’re the longest running music charity. They’re so expansive and opened minded. Their initiatives and the services that they offer are very broad in scope. They rescue venues that are going out of business, they offer mentoring, they get into mental health. I’m excited at the notion of working with them because I feel like they’re going to be really open to working towards things like these unfortunate situations, helping people affected by these things. Music is one of the great healers in the world, so music is a great way to help people who are suffer to connect them and help them get through things. So there’s no question that we’ll find a way to converge the two.
J: What is one of your favourite things about performing live and do you have any rituals before hand?
M: Yes to rituals! I used to think it was cool that there were rituals until I learnt that it was OCD. It’s weird, before we go on stage I have to squeeze everyone’s right shoulder once. We won’t go on stage until that happens. My favourite thing about performing is if or when we manage to create a sort of collective consciousness. Everyone’s sort of drawn into the same channel and the outside world disappears it offers you escape of the heaviness of life, I mean life isn’t easy for anybody, all the challenges with people are dealing with physically and mentally. When the house lights go down and everyone's open minded enough to get into one channel and feel the same thing. When I feel like the whole room is on the same wave length and vibrating in harmony that’s my favourite part.
If you want to find out more about the charities Matthew works closely with, check the links out below:
Sweet Relief Musicians Fund:
Help Musicians UK: