Project

Smoke Feathers

Fronted by singer Matt Falloon, Smoke Feathers have already received high praise from the likes of Shaun Ryder, who came to one of their Manchester gigs and described their music with his trademark candour as “f*****g beautiful”. Miles Hunt from The Wonder Stuff and Nigel Clark of Dodgy are also fans.

To say that Matt Falloon has lived an unconventional life would be a complete understatement. “Liberation” stands as an autobiography of his extraordinary travels over the years, and his experiences reverberate throughout the album, both lyrically and musically. The record’s rich sonic detail underlines that Falloon has been exposed to a deep variety of different rhythms, with his love for reggae developing while living in Guyana and Jamaica. Not bad for the son of a butcher and a hairdresser from Kent.

Born in Tunbridge Wells, Matt’s first encounter with music was singing in the church choir. His influences would soon grow to include Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Don McLean, The Beatles, Love and Carole King, all the way to The Cure, Pavement and New Order. Having won a place at Cambridge to study medicine, Matt soon found himself having to drop out through illness and he was bedridden for two years with post-viral fatigue syndrome after catching glandular fever. Eventually, on his return to Cambridge, he took up an English literature degree and threw himself back into music, playing in bands diverse enough to include Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, upcoming electronica producer Hiatus and even Ninja Tune favourite DJ Irk.

Falloon explains how his album illuminates certain key phases in his life. “Light Over Me”, for example, was written about his mother who was sectioned under the Mental Health Act with severe depression, while Matt was in his final year at university. Thankfully, she recovered after a series of electro-shock therapy. After university, and inspired by his reading, Matt wrote to countless foreign newspapers around the world asking for a job. In time, the Stabroek News in Guyana replied and offered him a place as a trainee reporter.

He spent two years writing about one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, covering topics such as gold mining, crime, elections, post-election riots and deforestation. He won two international awards for features on the environment and embarked on many (literally) wild and wonderful adventures, careering along tough cut trails on death-trap minibuses, where every turn in the road had a memorial to another fatal crash; drinking rum and singing karaoke with wild west diamond miners in the Amazonian jungle; and falling in love with his wife-to-be, a Guyanese reporter on a rival paper. They would meet repeatedly at various crime scenes. “I would race to be the first to a crime scene,” Matt remembers, “and she was always there way before me and usually packing up to leave with the story sewn up.”

The opening track of “Liberation” – “Liberation Theology” – was inspired by a chant he heard during a post-election riot on the streets of Georgetown, Guyana. Matt got caught up in street riots outside his office and was locked out of the compound, surrounded by crowds of protestors wielding machetes and bats and setting fire to buildings shouting “Mo’ Fyah!” (referred to in the chorus of the song and a favourite protest call among opposition activists).

After Guyana, Matt moved to write for the Jamaica Gleaner in Kingston, Jamaica.  Again, he reported on politics and crime, writing about gory car crashes, gang related shootings, hurricanes and babies getting slaughtered in gun battle crossfire. Matt himself nearly got washed away in a mudslide following one vicious tropical storm. He covered the Jamaican elections, attending late night political rallies and travelling the country.

Some rallies were vibrant and entertaining – even in some of Kingston’s notorious ghetto areas – but occasionally he found the welcome wasn’t so warm. One convoy he was accompanying the prime minister on was fired at, and at one late night event, Matt got circled by a group of young men who gestured as if to shoot him. His photographer fled… His exhilarating Jamaican experience, soaking up powerful music, playing football with street kids and discovering both the harsh reality of city life for many of Jamaica’s poor as well as the warmth and hospitality of the island’s beautiful rural communities, came to an end shortly after he was held up at gunpoint and robbed in downtown Kingston. Taking it as a sign, he opted for a quieter life in the UK.

On his return, he took up a postgraduate course in journalism, and kept his music alive by touring small clubs around Britain. Label interest soon followed from Island and UCJ, the latter offering Matt a development deal. He put a band together, signing up old school friends Stu Thoy (bass/vocals), Paul Everest (drums) and university colleague Cyrus Shahrad (keyboards/Hiatus) and spent a year recording demos. At the end of the year UCJ opted not to continue. Another deal soon arrived from heavyweight management company Stealth, but after a series of bad record deal offers, he realised that Stealth wasn’t right for him. It took two long years to get completely free of the contract.

Matt revived his journalistic instincts by rejoining Reuters, covering politics and economics, (basing himself in the Houses of Parliament) travelling a lot with Gordon Brown, and more recently David Cameron, to the US, the Gulf and across Europe and even the recent London riots, where he was stationed on the frontline in Peckham. All the while, he was finalising his current band line-up, which consists of longtime keyboard player Cyrus Shahrad (a fiction writer who won the Daily Telegraph Novel of the Year 2007 award for his book “The White World”), Stu Thoy on bass and backing vocals, and Paul Everest on drums who also works as a very knowledgeable wine merchant. All human life is here, as they say.

The album, self-funded by the band, was recorded at Vale Studios in Worcestershire and co-produced by studio owner Chris D’Adda. “This is the album I have been trying to make for the last ten years,” says Matt, “but because of a bunch of bad deals and decisions, it just hasn’t been possible until now.”

“Liberation” is, in essence, a collection of rich and vivid songs that have nothing to do with following fashion and everything to do with taking the listener on the same sort of musical journey that Matt Falloon has been on.

Note:  The name “Smoke Feathers” originates from a North American mythological tale about how the Raven got its black feathers by stealing the sun, moon, water and fire from the grey eagle, guardian of all four elements. After dropping the sun, moon and water in their rightful places, he was left carrying fire which grew so hot the smoke and flames singed his white feathers, turning them black.

 

“Liberation” is out March 12th  on Delta Creek Records

For more info please visit: http://smokefeathers.blogspot.com/ or contact gaby@greengabpr.co.uk

T: 0207 625 7951 | M: 07968 199 617 | E: gaby@greengabpr.co.uk