Exposed Vocals just caught an exclusive interview with Tony Whitlock of Matthew & the Arrogant Sea

Exposed Vocals: So tell us your story. Where did you grow up? What made you decide to become an artist?

Tony Whitlock of Matthew & the Arrogant Sea: I grew up in Indianapolis, and always loved music, was always moved by, some of my earliest memories are dancing in the house to my parents records – Elvis, Beach Boys, Stones, Beatles, etc. By the time I was 12, I had convinced my parents to buy me a used guitar for my birthday, and started taking some lessons soon after. I never decided to become an artist, I just do things I enjoy.

Exposed Vocals: How did you come up with that name? What was your inspiration behind it?

Tony Whitlock: As far as MATAS is concerned, My recollection is that Matthew found an old book of sailor’s poems in a used bookstore, titled “The Arrogant Sea,” and decided it should be the name of the band and his brother suggested it should be Matthew and The Arrogant Sea.

Exposed Vocals: What do you think about online music sharing? Do you ever give your music away for free? Why?

Tony Whitlock: Music has been shared since someone figured out how to capture it, it’s what people do with something that moves them, it’s human nature. Yes, you can stream MATAS music for free at the usual places – Bandcamp, Spotify, etc., why? Because hopefully someone will hear it, be moved by it, and want to share it with people they care about. Maybe some of those people will come to a show, buy a record or shirt, say hello, become a friend.

Exposed Vocals: Since everyone was a start-up once, can you give any smaller or local bands or artists looking to get gigs and airplay some tips?

Tony Whitlock: Go see other people play music, support your local community, become a part of that community. Don’t be shy, say hi to people, get to know them, be genuine, be sincere. Show up on time, remember the name of the sound person and the people that work at the venue, be nice to people.

Exposed Vocals: Do you ever make mistakes during performances? How do you handle that?

Tony Whitlock: HAHAHAHAHA, of course, keep moving, keep playing.

Exposed Vocals: Do you tour? Anything interesting happen on tour that you think our readers would enjoy hearing about?

Tony Whitlock: Yes, it’s always an adventure. The best part is seeing old friends and meeting people along the way, sharing experiences with people you care about. Our last trip through the quad cities was great, doing Daytrotter sessions, meeting and staying with the good people at Rozz-Tox in Rock Island. The only thing that is consistent with every tour is, at some point, Matthew will make a terrible decision about some gas station food.

Exposed Vocals: Where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration? What is your usual songwriting process?

Tony Whitlock: For MATAS, Matthew will bring new songs to practice or send us a demo – anything from acoustic guitar and voice only, to things with weird drum loops and keyboard overdubs. We usually just jam on them, trying different things, different feels, arrangements, sometimes everything falls into place pretty quickly, sometimes we abandon a song because we just haven’t figured out what it needs to be. There are some songs I really love that we don’t play because we just didn’t get it to where it deserved to be. Sometimes we revisit these songs and see if we have any better luck. No matter what, at some point, we probably play an 8-10 minute version of it at practice.

Exposed Vocals: Do you have a band website? What online platforms do you use to share your music?

Tony Whitlock: MakeAmericaWeirdAgain.com, plus we’re at all the usual spots.

Exposed Vocals: What are some really embarrassing songs that we might find on your mp3 player?

Tony Whitlock: I think about that sometimes, a few years ago, my iPod Classic was stolen, which had tons of home recordings, rough mixes, sketches of songs, etc. Outside of things I’m associated with, I’m not embarrassed about anything in my collection, it’s all a part of who I am, to some degree, but for the sake of answering the question, I’ll go with Skid Row, but man, that second record has some songs I love to listen to every so often. Like most musicians, there’s an incredible variety in my library, and I’ll defend every bit of it.

Exposed Vocals: If you were given half a million dollars and a year off, what would you do? How would you spend it?

Tony Whitlock: Travel the world collecting experiences, record at all of the storied studios I could, pay some of the musicians I love and respect to play music with me.

Exposed Vocals: How do you find ways to promote your music? What works best for you?

Tony Whitlock: Like most things with MATAS, it happens organically. Opportunities spring up in a grass roots manner in the same way our fan base has grown. We recently started working with some of the fine people at Bread & Circuses on promo stuff, which again, grew out of a relationship with others.

Exposed Vocals: If you could perform anywhere and with any artists (Dead or Alive) where and who would it be with? Why?
Tony Whitlock: This list could go on forever, and the where doesn’t really matter, it would probably be better if it were not in public, because I’d probably stop to ask questions, to gush, to listen. To some degree, they why is the same for all each musician – they’re all incredible at being themselves, they’re all influences, who wouldn’t love the opportunity to interact musically with an artist that influenced them? John Coltrane, David Bowie, Thelonious Monk, Neil Young, Antonio Carlos Jobim, John Lennon, Terry Riley, Jim Hall, Cornell Dupree, Teenie Hodges, Spooner Oldham, Reggie Young, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christen, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler,
Exposed Vocals: So, what’s next? Any new upcoming projects that you want to talk about?
Tony Whitlock: There’s a lot in the works at the MATAS secret headquarters, we’re finalizing plans for a national physical release of The Glooms Volume One, prepping to start work on another group of videos – like the recently released “A Bump On The Head In Three Parts,” (which ties together music videos from four of the songs on The Glooms – Swedish Death Metal Cassette, Traveling Show, Dreams Are Nightmares Too, and Broke). For the next batch, we are again working with filmmaker Cole Mitchek. We have a few other exciting things in the works, but it’s probably too soon to start talking about those. Exposed Vocals: If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing? Tony Whitlock: Making paintings, working on guitars and amps.

Exposed Vocals: Do you remember buying your first album? Who was it? What was going through your head?

Tony Whitlock: It was ZZ Top “Eliminator,” I was so excited to pull the record out of the sleeve, to drop the needle, look at the jacket and sleeve, to smell it. Billy Gibbons was a big part of why I wanted to play guitar.

Exposed Vocals: How do you juggle the rest of your responsibilities while trying to stay ahead in your music life?

Tony Whitlock: It’s all a balance and it’s important to give everything in your life the time and effort it deserves. It’s hard sometimes, to not let the things one HAS to do overwhelm the things one wants to do, and vice versa. The older I get, the more important it seems to really consider priorities and goals. Though I’m not as diligent about it as I should be, it’s helpful to write them down. Being forced to document them in that way really makes you think about what’s important, and what you’re doing or not doing.

Exposed Vocals: What should fans look forward to in 2018 / 2019?

Tony Whitlock: A new record from Matthew & The Arrogant Sea, more film/video projects, we’ll probably pull some more from the archives (we recently posted one of the earliest MATAS EPs on Spotify, which includes early versions of some of the songs from “Family….”), some tour dates should start popping up later in the year, I keep pushing for Kiss-style solo albums, I think the guys are finally starting to warm up to the idea.