If you’re a regular Sound Vat reader, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Kalle Mattson, a folk-rock quintet native to Sault Ste. Marie currently based in Ottawa. Imagine my joy when they stopped by to play a show as part of Elliot Lake’s annual Larks In the Park concert series. The crowd of mostly seniors was not very big, nor was it particularly pleased to be seated among a plethora of goose poop, however friendly front man Kalle himself soon had them in the palm of his hand. The band started off with a tune from their latest Ep “Someday”, fittingly about Northern Ontario. Between comments of never having played between two bushes and of being a diva, Kalle Mattson delivered mostly songs from their record-in-the-making. The new tunes displayed further maturity in the likes of Kalle’s songwriting as well as composition, presenting the added horn sound and lots of harmonica. Let me tell you folks, this record will be one to keep your eyes and ears peeled for. To close off the evening, the five guys went acoustic and played another new song “Pick Me Up”. They got up close to the crowd for a really nice moment.
After the show, I had the pleasure of talking to Kalle for a short interview which included an interruption by a man wearing a reflective safety vest along with his four unleashed yapping Yorkshire terriers. Did I mention he was yodelling? Here it is.
The first thing I want to ask you is after working at your band for awhile now, with the viral video and everything that’s come along with it, do you feel like your hard work is finally paying off?
Somewhat. There’s been a big change in the team around me. Since “Thick As Thieves”, basically I’ve gotten a manager, agents, publicists, publishers, all that has happened and there’s been a big change on that level. And the last tour we did in May there was a noticeable change. There were more people at shows, and people knew the words at shows. It’s crazy. The videos have done what I hoped they would, which was introduce us to people. They’ve worked for sure.
You’re from the North, I’m from the North, so I know what’s it’s like. There’s definitely a lack of opportunities, so you have to work harder. You’ve moved to Ottawa now. Do you think that hard-work ethic has helped you now that you’ve got an audience to share your work with?
The North isn’t the most conducive place to breeding art of any sort, but I don’t think that’s an excuse, it should just be motivation. I know from being in the Sault that people talk about stuff rather than do stuff and you really need to just go and do it. Moving to Ottawa was the first step in doing that. You go to a city that has a fan base and a music scene. You’ve just got to do it.
What do you think has set Kalle Mattson apart as a band?
I don’t know. I don’t think I could actually pinpoint that. I just write my songs and I bring them to the guys and we work on them and hopefully they turn out. I don’t really think about that, I just know what I like. Hopefully it works.
You’ve been going to school for the last little while studying music. Do you think that’s helped you with the band?
It’s helped me in writing horn lines or writing guitar parts, but it hasn’t helped me in writing songs. I don’t think that’s something that can be taught. I hope I’m not making songwriting seem like it’s not learnable, because it is like a craft, but I don’t think they can teach it at school. They teach composition, which is really important in writing horn lines or string parts, but the actual creative thing behind songwriting can’t be taught.
So you’re finished school, what are your plans now?
We’re going to record a new record in a week. I’m pretty excited about that. I think we played all the songs on the record tonight except for maybe two or three. We’re going to Toronto to record it, and we’re going to be recording it and then piecing it together. We’re doing that, and then we’re doing about sixty shows this Fall over three months, it’s going to be pretty crazy. We’re going to be touring with Sunparlour Players and Cuff the Duke.
Ontario and then all the way out to Vancouver.
When do you think the new album will be released?
I’m hoping for April. Hopefully the record will get finished sometime between all those shows.
You’re participating in a contest right now. Could you tell me a little bit about that?
It’s called the Big Money Shot and it’s run by an Ottawa radio station. Hollerado has won it before, so has Amos the Transparent. There’s a lot of money in it, and that’s about it. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I know that it’s a good thing, and we can hopefully get some money from it. [Vote for them by liking this video]
What do you see as success for Kalle Mattson? What are you aiming for?
To keep releasing records, that’s the number one thing. The real pinnacle for us would be playing Massey Hall, that would be the craziest thing. Other than that, I don’t have any crazy aspirations. I just want to be able to keep making records, and keep putting them out, and hopefully people keep listening to them. There’s an obvious upward path to the career. As long as there’s that and there isn’t fading in any way, I think that’s success to me. There’s no selling a million records or something. Although that’d be nice, it’s not something that I care about. As long as we keep putting out records, that’s success. •