By: Kimia Mansouri, SFU Student
Editor’s note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Following a recent online performance at The Roxy on March 19, the members of Black Pontiac — lead singer Matty Mclaren, guitarist Mack Riddell, drummer Sam Riddell, and bassist Avery John Shoesmith — are gearing up to release a new album, From Bad to Worse (And Back Again). The up-and-coming band recently debuted a music video for one of their songs, “Soda Pop Rock.” In an interview with The Peak, Black Pontiac discussed the experience of creating their first music video, the inspiration behind their art, and more.
The Peak: How was working with a green screen in the “Soda Pop Rock” music video? Would you do something like that in the future?
Matty: We made a whole day out of it and the whole studio was basically just a big green room and I think the point was to make it as cheesy as possible. I’m hoping people got that vibe or picked up on that irony. I think if we were to do it again, we’d want to make it worse, so to speak. I think we want to make it seem more low budget and more ironic.
Mack: We all think that we’re the bosses, and then Avery just comes out like, “You’re over here, can we get somebody over there—
Matty: “We need the camera from this angle right here, we need a little bit more emotion!”
Avery: Yeah, all the ideas came from Sam for that.
Mack: Actually Sam got it from Community.
Avery (deadpanning): So we’re not original at all pretty much is what we’re getting at.
Matty: But what is art if we’re not stealing from someone else?
Avery: It’s like that book Steal Like An Artist.
P: Tell us about working with director Alberto Marenco Saenz. How was the experience for you?
Mack: It’s really awesome that he wanted to work with us on the dumb ideas we had. I thought he did a good job and he was just really professional the whole time. It was really great to work with somebody so professional.
P: What other forms of media inspire your music?
Mack: I think a good test to see if a song is good and timeless is to think about whether it could be an intro song to a movie or the cut-to-credits song of a movie. Because they always use the freaking coolest songs in movies to cut to the end credits, like the “Misirlou” intro in Pulp Fiction. It’s a cool test to have for some types of songs to see if they would fit into a movie, and what type of movie they would fit into.
P: Ponyboy and “Soda Pop.” Are these names perhaps inspired by the movie The Outsiders? And if that wasn’t the inspiration, then what was?
Matty: Yes, that is exactly what was going on. My initial idea for the album was The Outsiders but I’m thankful that everyone talked me out of it because that’d be pushing it too far. First off, people are always going to associate the album name with the movie, and second off, people are going to be like, “Oh they should just name their next album, ‘Stay Gold.’” It’s okay to take influence, but people have to be able to see your work as its own thing as opposed to just a derivative of something else, and I think there’s a fine line there.
P: The covers for your singles and EP Ponyboy all have a psychedelic look to them. Who is the artist behind these covers? And why did you choose this theme?
Matty: That was a guy I know, Adam Rashid. He’s an artist from Vancouver and was recommended to me by a friend who knew him through the music scene. I had been looking at his Instagram profile, and I just felt like this is the guy that we needed for our cover art. Good cover art is so important because, even if it’s a good song, if I don’t like the cover art, I can get turned off it immediately. When I reached out to him, I said, “I think you have this really cool style, and I think it would really work for the sometimes bizarre aesthetic that we hold up.” The cover art really pops and captures people’s attention really well.
P: How’s the new album coming? What is your creative process?
Matty: The album is basically done. We’ve finished tracking and everything. It just needs to be mixed and mastered now and that’s all on our producer, Matt Di Pomponio. Then probably one or two more singles and we’re hoping to put it out this summer.
At the very start, we all get together and somebody has an idea and I think a lot of it starts with a feeling. We start with the groove, the rhythm, the feeling, and everyone’s playing their instrumentals, and then I’m there to facilitate the melody, the lyrics, and the story I want to tell. What is it that I want to talk about, and it depends on how I’m feeling or if I had just thought of something or if it comes to me in the moment. And then from there, when we go to the studio. I think a lot of the creative decisions that happen are meant to facilitate that feeling. How can we accentuate that feeling that we started with? Like a song like “Island Honey” that’s going to be on the album. It’s about summer, freedom, being young and wild, and having hope for the future.
Mack: All of us liked “Island Honey” at first, but we didn’t want to put it on the album, and then Sam was like, “his could be a hit,” and I think Avery thought so too. I wasn’t crazy about it. It was a good song, but it wasn’t as developed as the other songs. And then we go to the studio, and the synth part comes on and it just freaking changed everything. It totally adds another feeling to it. There’s a feeling there, and it’s weird, the synth part just changed the whole freaking song.
Matty: The synth really brought that feeling to another level. You can start with a great song, but if you lose that feeling, then it’s not the same and you’re not going to be happy with it.
P: Do you have any plans post-pandemic with your new album dropping?
Matty: We would like to go on tour; world domination. That’s the plan. I think that we just got to get ourselves out there.
Mack: I think up until this point, our strongest asset has been playing live, and now that we’ve made this album, I think it’s right in line with what we’ve been doing live. It might even be better. I think it’s just really exciting to have that kind of lining up with the vaccines coming, and the signs that COVID-19 is ending. To tour with that material is just really exciting. Whatever happens, I’m just glad we have this material coming out.
Check out Black Pontiac on all streaming platforms, and stay tuned for their new album From Bad to Worse (And Back Again).