Louder with Matt Reynolds of Haggard Cat at 2000 Trees
Photo Credit: Dom Meason
Changing your sound is a dangerous game to play these days, when fans are so fickle and music is so readily available, and so when former members of hardcore unit Heck, Matt Reynolds and Tom Marsh, decided to form Haggard Cat, it was a leap of faith. However, it has certainly paid off, as the duo are now able to write indie-infused, fist pumping rock tunes on their own terms- and if the reaction of the large crowd was anything to go by when they opened the Main Stage on Day Three of 2000 Trees Festival, it’s a leap that has more than paid off! We sat down with frontman and king of the great hair game, Matt, just after their set to discuss their debut album, the modern music scene and the universal disdain for Donald Trump:
You guys have recently released your new album ‘Challenger’- how have you found the response to that record so far?
It’s been really humbling- people are giving it a big chance. Anyone who knows what Tom and I have done in the past, it’s always been a lot heavier, so when we come out with a new project that’s entirely different, it’s really nice to see people enjoying it and taking it in. Even today during our set, we didn’t even have to ask for people to sing along, they were just singing the words back at us and that blew me away because we’ve never had that in a band before -usually it’s me shouting my tits off and people going ‘yeah, that’s cool, but erm, what are the words?’! But people actually know the words to these ones and it’s a really lovely experience having people embrace the music and then chuck it back at us onstage!
People are likely to know your names from your previous band HECK- what was it that fuelled your transition from the world of hardcore into making Haggard Cat your focus?
Tom and I started HECK, when it was Baby Godzilla, a very long time ago and we’ve been playing together for longer than I care to say! We’ve been friends for a very long time and I won’t work with any other drummer- we wrote Heck stuff together but when we’re just together in a room, what comes most naturally without us trying to stylise anything is music that sounds like Haggard Cat, so it’s a natural reaction once we knew that Heck was winding down, we thought let’s stop hiding all these songs that we’re not going to use and actually give them out to people and see how far we can go with this! We never intended to release ‘Challenger’, but once we started getting the tracks back we thought it would be criminal not to put this out there, and here we are!
That fire and intensity can still be heard in the vocals across the record, particularly on tracks such as ‘Gravedigger’, whereas other tracks such as ‘Goldberg’ have more evidence of some indie influences- was that mixture of types of sounds a deliberate decision on your part, or did it come more organically throughout the writing process?
We never pushed for that, instead we just wrote what felt the most natural to play. It’s not to say that Heck wasn’t like that as well, but Heck was very purposefully angry because we were youthful and had a lot to say about what was going on around us. Haggard Cat is more about taking a step back and being more reflective on how we make music. The fire is still there because there’s still a lot in the world we don’t agree with, especially at the minute, the world we’re living in is bonkers! So there are still moments of pure fire on there, but that’s what music’s about, it’s about letting go and finding that catharsis.
One of the singles that preceded the record was ‘American Graffiti’, a song that has a real defiant power to it- could you give us a little insight into the inspiration behind that track?
It’s got a bit of a curse about it that song! We were reading a lot about American politics at the time and feeling very disenchanted with it, even before Trump got into power because that didn’t seem like a reality that could ever happen! But then the day I finished recording the vocals for that song was the day that Brexit happened, and then when we got the mixes back for that track was the day that we found out that Trump was going to be elected! So all of a sudden all these things that we’d been writing about were coming true! So it’s about that feeling of disenchantment and feeling like you belong on a different planet from these people, nevermind a different country!
Do you feel that being a duo changes the dynamic of the band and the way that you write as opposed to having more members involved in the creative process?
We have a lot more freedom in how we do it and there’s far less editing of ideas that goes on, which can be a blessing and a curse, because we’re more free to experiment a lot more, but because there’s nobody editing us we often have to step back from the music for a few days and then re-listen with fresh ears because it would be very easy for us to make ten terrible tracks that we love but nobody else does! But I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
You’ve enjoyed support, particularly with the singles, from BBC Introducing- how important do you think schemes like that are in helping to get yourselves heard in a world that is saturated with so much readily available music?
It’s so important- Huw Stephens has been really good to us, as has Daniel P Carter. If I hear a band through those channels it makes them so much more real to me just by hearing them through a different medium. It can reach so many people- think how many people have sat listening to the radio in their cars and a single has come on that has pricked their ears and they’ve discovered a whole new band because of it! I’d love for there to be more people championing new music like that, the world of music could stand to have a lot more freshness!
You’ve played a selection of festivals recently- how has your experience of opening the Main Stage here at 2000 Trees compared so far?
This is the best time we’ve had at a festival! It’s everyone’s favourite festival- if you’re in a band, 2000 Trees is the one! You have the best time, you get treated really well and it’s like a big old reunion in this field! Plus you get amazing moments like Jamie Lenman playing songs that he never plays in amongst all the trees! The crowd that we got this morning and the energy with everyone jumping around is definitely the best reaction we’ve had at a festival and it’s going to fill us with confidence for the next shows!
So following on from Trees, have you got anything in the pipeline for the new fans you’ve gained this weekend to be keeping an eye out for?
Absolutely! We’re doing a tour with Palm Reader at the end of July, and we’re also doing a huge tour with Ugly Kid Joe starting on the 3rd of September in the UK and Ireland and then moving over to Europe as well. They’re going to be the biggest indoor gigs we’ve ever played so it’s going to be great!
And if the band are planning on building on their already riotous set from that morning, then it certainly will be! While many people were sad to see the end of Heck, Haggard Cat hails a new era for the duo, taking that defiance and also that depth forward into a world where these kinds of questions need to be asked of the world and the society in which we live. If you haven’t yet got on board with Haggard Cat, now is the time, because they won’t remain a hidden gem for much longer!
‘Challenger’ is out now via Earache Records and is available to buy and stream on all platforms. You can watch the video for ‘American Graffiti’ below:
Connect with Haggard Cat via their website: www.haggardcat.com
Connect with Haggard Cat via Twitter: @theHaggardCat