Matt Charette & the Truer Sound
Lo Fi High Hopes, out 3.10.23
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“4 X 4”
Matt Charette & the Truer Sound
Matt Charette Bio
Charette, 38, is the proud son of working-class parents, born and raised in Mashpee, at the foot of Cape Cod. “My mother’s a hair stylist and my dad’s a truckdriver,” he says. “My dad listened to a lot of John Prine when I was growing up and my mother loved Bonnie Raitt. She had every single Bonnie Raitt cassette tape in her Toyota Tercel.”
Charette’s first guitar was his mom’s nylon-string acoustic, which he found under her bed when he was nine. “As a gift,” Charette recalls, “she had new tuning pegs put on. The old ones were pretty bent out of shape.” Charette’s aunt chipped in with a chordbook, and the kid was off. “I realized quickly that I had an ear. Pretty much anything I listened to, I could figure out.”
He discovered punk and hardcore at 12, whaling away at Clash and Black Flag songs on his classical guitar until his dad staked him to a Hohner copy of a Les Paul and a low-watt solid-state amp. Gone electric, the kid and his buddies rocked high-school dances and talent shows with “a couple of cheesy Green Day-esque pop-punk songs we wrote.” School didn’t hold much for an aspiring punk-rocker, so Charette dropped out of 10th grade and made his way to Boston.
“Boston was always great for hardcore bands like SS Decontrol and Slapshot,” he says. “I’d look in the Boston Phoenix and see what punk and hardcore bands were playing around town and plan my week accordingly.”
He came up not as a singer-songwriter, but as a sideman in bands like the Scrapes, composed of former members of Gang Green. In the mid-to-late aughts, Charette befriended and was hugely inspired by Lenny Lashley, whose punk band, Darkbuster, had a strong Northeast following. When Darkbuster fell apart, Lashley went solo for a time. “It was watching Lenny and my friend Dave Wells get up in bars and play acoustic,” says Charette, “that shone a light on something I realized I was missing out on, and I began writing.” Without Lashley, Wells, and Drag the River, whose country spin on pop-punk Charette loves, “I wouldn’t really have much of a songwriting identity.” He’s quick to add the country-punk Memphians Lucero to his small list of big influences.
Charette’s fine band, The Truer Sound, play resolutely hardscrabble rock and roll, buoyed especially by organist Chris Coughlin’s infectious Hammond M-3 licks and the lilt of Cody Nilsen’s pedal-steel. Drummer Greg Hoffman and bassist Nick Scotti lay down a taut, springy bottom. The band is superbly tight, reminiscent at times of Steve Earle’s great early-era Dukes.
Charette wrote every song on his forthcoming second album, Lo Fi High Hopes, his themes and subjects running the gamut. “4 x 4” is a politically highly incorrect driving-and-drinking song (“Two blown speakers and four-wheel drive/One step away from a DUI”). “Anywhere With You” is an unalloyed love ballad, and “Jess” is about the kind of loss that stops you cold, written for a girlfriend dead of a heroin overdose.
“Keeping Time” is about failed relationships. “It might have been one of the album’s more cathartic songs to write. Sometimes getting rid of the pain takes writing about it. A lot of the songs I write are cathartic,” Charette says. “But sometimes I’ll ditch that and just have fun,” as per “Girl from Ontario,” which rhymes “heavy-metal song on a hi-fi stereo” with “love that little girl from Ontario.”
“Wrecking Ball,” on the other hand, is what Charette calls “my apocalypse jam. I wrote it during the pandemic’s darkest days, when it sure the fuck felt like Armageddon. So many people were sitting at home going, like, ‘Is this it?’”
When and if the world ends, Charette intends to go down swinging: the title, as it happens, of perhaps the album’s most steadfast, exuberant song. “’Going Down Swinging’ is about standing up and fighting for what you believe in,” says Charette. “As long as you do it with love. It’s my anti-racist, anti-fascist, pro-kindness, pro-acceptance statement of hope.” Borrowing from the greats? No problem, if it’s done with élan. Go ahead, find the line in “4 x 4” that Matt lifted from Kris Kristofferson’s iconic “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” “We don’t just draw from punk,” he laughs. “We love country music here. Plus it’s fun to refer to other people’s songs. It’s very meta.”
“I pride myself,” Charette sums up, “on upholding the DIY ethos that got me here. I write my own songs, produce and release my own records, and book my own shows. I get to do with my music exactly what I want to do.”