For a producer on his sixth album under his own name, Matthew Dear sounds like an artist rejuvenated. There have been numerous releases under his dance-fuelled Audion guise and a DJ Kicks mix since 2012’s Beams and Dear even jokes that “LCD Soundsystem retired and came back in the amount of time it’s taken me to finish my next album”.
Despite the later songs being written “pretty much when Beams was coming out and it connects that whole five, six year gap”, the timescale is prompted by a new-found focus, a previously untapped inner scrutiny that found Dear examining what kind of artist he wanted to be. With the captivating Bunny, he wanted to deliver “a full package”. How does somebody so comfortable behind the decks of fabric tap into his crooner sensibilities against a backdrop of electronics?
“For the first time ever, I remember telling my wife ‘I actually have to get up and sing these songs on stage. What do I want that vibe to be like?’ Which I guess is a very smart and normal thing for an artist to think about, but, for me, I realised I’m in a studio at 2am and can go on some tangent that can go anywhere, and in the past I was never really thinking about the thing I wanted to be doing or saying on stage. I kind of had to put my foot down on myself.”
Being strict had mixed results. He describes the hypnotic ‘Echo’ as “one of those real quick ‘set it, forget it'” compositions that came to fruition rapidly. In contrast, the Tegan and Sara-featuring ‘Horses’ proved not so straightforward. Thirteen or fourteen versions stacked up before intervention came from an unlikely source: Protomartyr’s Greg Ahee. Introduced by mutual friend Seth Troxler, the guitarist contributed to ‘Bunny’s Dream’ as well as providing the “slap in the face and bringing it back to normal” needed on the haunting duet.
“I was like ‘dude, I’ve got this song that I’m trying to finish, it’s got Tegan and Sara on it, it’s all there, I just need help figuring it out’ and he was a really good springboard to strip it down again, add some guitar parts, some melodies, keyboard parts. So that’s a really good example of taking a turn for the worst and getting way too in my head about a track.”
Dear continues: “I was listening to Howard Stern and, of all people, it was Adam Levine of Maroon 5 he was interviewing. Their first mega hit single [‘This Love’], they had sixty five different mixes. And the one that he swore was gonna be it, the label rejected and they picked another and he believed they were finished, they were over.
And then it became this global sensation so it just goes to show, no matter what band you’re in or your style, sometimes you’ve got your blinders on and are in way too deep and you need someone to make the final decision.” He pauses before insisting “that’s the only time I’ll talk about Maroon 5”.
“No matter what band you’re in or your style, sometimes you’ve got your blinders on and are in way too deep…”
While he confesses “I love writing, I love making music, I love coming up with new ideas, I love the process of tinkering and loop building”, his relationship with music is constantly broadening. “I see my children starting to gravitate towards music. We just got this request through an ad agency to do new Peppa Pig music,” he enthuses. “My wife, my daughters and I started writing songs, trying to crack the code and write the lyrics. It was so much fun.”
“Music is becoming a different experience for me on all levels. And so things like that are more inspiring to keep working. There’s so many infinite ways that music can entertain me and my family and, at the same time, I’ve started playing more piano and I’ve been trying to figure out the guitar solo on ‘Let It Be’. I’ve never done that stuff before.” Matthew Dear’s newfangled enthusiasm radiates throughout Bunny, from the piano-focused balladry of ‘Calling’ to the irresistible, sugary hooks that explode from ‘Bad Ones’. Impossible to predict but all the more fascinating. “I’m just confusing,” he grins.