“It’s a little bit of a bigger brother to the stuff that we’ve done in the past.”
A self-proclaimed “reformed punk,” Matt Charette is one of the most diligent and recognizable members of Boston’s music scene. With his backing band the Truer Sound, he creates hard-hitting rock songs that seamlessly blend alternative, punk, country and Americana.
This is all evident in his album, Lo-Fi High Hopes, which he and his band are releasing on March 10. It’s one of the best local releases to come so far in this young year of 2023 with tracks like “4 x 4,” “Girl From Ontario,” “Wrecking Ball,” and “Going Down Swinging” being highlights.
Charette and his band are also going to celebrate the album on the night of its release at Atwood’s Tavern in Cambridge, which will be one of the final shows at the beloved venue. We spoke about the making of the album, being a barber and running his own shop, abiding by a DIY approach with everything he does, having a good time at the release show, and what he hopes people take from Lo-Fi High Hopes after giving it a listen.
This is your first full-length album with the Truer Sound, so what would you say made the songwriting and recording process different for this record than your Four Songs EP that came out in 2019 and other recordings you’ve done?
While it is advertised as my first record with the Truer Sound, these guys also played on the first full-length record I did that’s listed under my own name. I’ve often described this record as a grown up version of that album, which is called Back East. A lot of the song structure is still the same, but I put that record out in 2015 and I’ve grown up a little bit, we’ve all been playing together since then. When I say “we,” I mean Chris Coughlin on keys and Greg Hoffman on drums.
I think that my songwriting is probably a little more mature than it was on both Back East and the Four Songs EP as well. If I was to compare this album to anything else we’ve worked on together that would be my best way to describe it, it’s a little bit of a bigger brother to the stuff that we’ve done in the past.
Did you have a specific goal or vision in mind while making this record?
Not really, I basically wrote this album during the height of the pandemic. I’m also a barber, I cut hair for a living and I run a small three-chair barber shop in Brighton Center. For nine weeks, we were out of work and I started the creative process right then and there. It got me through a bit of a tough time and it probably wasn’t a unique situation for a DIY artist like myself, I know a lot of people who work straight jobs to get by and they get creative when they can. I just wanted to have a good time but in some regards, writing a handful of these tunes was a bit cathartic to get them down on paper and turn them into some songs. I wanted to have fun with it and we did, I had a great time writing and recording the album with my friends.
I can totally see why there would be a catharsis, especially with the craziness of 2020. You just alluded to it and you very much abide by the DIY ethos as an artist and a musician. You write your own songs, you produce and release your own records, and you book your own shows. Do you feel a sense of gratification with this approach? What would you say is the most stressful part of how you handle your creative output and what’s the most rewarding part?
For me, getting and booking trips out of town and being able to connect with people in other parts of the country and the world is probably the most rewarding aspect of being involved in the DIY music community. That’s aside from everything I just mentioned about the catharsis of songwriting. I think the most stressful part of the whole deal is just kind of juggling it all with working a straight job, running my barber shop and handling the booking and promoting. Unfortunately, when I get busy with booking the creativity sort of takes a backseat to that and then it kind of takes over so it goes in waves. I sometimes have to put the creative process on the backburner to book shows for the upcoming few months, for the year or whatever.
Juggling it all can be a bit stressful, but when you get out on the other end of it you’re out there playing music in front of people, connecting with people and bringing your art to people in various places. Whether it’s a local show like the one at Atwood’s Tavern that we’re really excited for or anywhere else, it is ultimately rewarding.
When it comes to producing, do you have a home studio or do you usually rent a space out? Do you find yourself having a shift in mindset when you’re dealing with that side of the music?
Throwing down the money to get to work in a studio with an engineer who really knows their shit is magic time, that’s probably the most fun you can have. I record a lot of the ideas for my songs on my iPhone at home. I got a notebook of all these songs that I bring to the practice space to show to the guys, then we rearrange them and bring them into the studio, but they all start as rough ideas recorded on my phone.
You mentioned that you’re a barber and you run your own shop, so how long have you been doing it for and how did you get into that field?
I’m in my 20th year as a barber and my mother pushed me into it. She’s a hairdresser and she’s been doing it for over 50 years.
You also alluded that on the night of the release of Lo-Fi High Hopes, you and the Truer Sound are going to be ringing it in at Atwood’s Tavern in Cambridge. What can people expect from the show and what do you hope they take from the album when they give it a listen?
We’re going to be doing the album in its entirety along with a few older songs and some covers that people will probably know of. We’re going to do the album front to back and I just hope people can dig into it, enjoy themselves and have as much fun as you can hope to have at a show. I know we’re going to have a good time. For the album, I’m not looking for a payday here as you can probably tell and I hope people listen to it, take it for what it is and enjoy it. That’s all you can ask for when you create something and put your all into it, that it gets out there and people can sink their teeth into it.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.