Matt McHughes has been a part of the Oklahoma punk scene for awhile. He first gained success with his old ska band Third Grade Scuffle. As the years passed, Matt formed Over Stars and Gutters. With a gruffer sound, more mature lyrics, and a beard that was hard to rival the band started to gain national recognition, capped off with a performance at Fest 9. Matt took the time to sit down with Punknews interviewer Alex Eschbach to talk about the growth of the Oklahoma scene, the constant line-up changes, and how growing up has affected his music.
How long have you been growing that epic beard?
Iâve had a beard for several years. Iâve shaved it completely off a couple times. Iâve trimmed it. I donât knowâ¦ I think the last time I trimmed was to go to wedding in July. We definitely have some gnarly beards in the band.
The Fest 10 has announced some of their lineup. Any chance you guys will performing in Gainesville come Halloween weekend?
I hope so. I think weâre one of those bands on the bubble right now. Youâve got so many great bands that have played. Itâs still early and you donât know what venues are going to be available. I know Tony mentioned some of the smaller venues arenât available. But Iâd like to think weâd be one of the bands who has played that will be asked back.
Your lineup definitely seems more stable now. Do you think you guys will be able to start touring more often?
Thatâs definitely a goal we have. Weâve filled out the new rhythm section before we did the demo that we put out on October. The same lineup recorded that demo. Not taking away from any of the lineups in the past, but this is the lineup that Iâm most excited about just because of who we are as people. The original lineup that did Consider This Your Curse, they were younger. They understood the core of it all. It was different aspects of life that we were in. Now Iâm playing with Wayne whoâs like a brother to me. Itâs funny how much weâve grown up. Even though he came up in the hardcore and metal scene, just how many bands we both loved growing up. With the lineup now weâre really looking forward to writing, really looking forward to putting out another record and definitely looking forward to getting out on the road.
With this new lineup what can we except from the new album that will be different then Consider This Your Curse?
I think weâve gotten a lot meaner. With the voices that come with Wayne doing the background vocals live, we have guys that are a lot more confident doing the style of vocals that we do. I think thereâs a real desire to push the limits of our songwriting. When you listen to Consider This Your Curse you definitely knew the influences. I think on the new stuff weâve been writing we push it a little bit more. I think itâll be a little heavier and meaner, but also in the other direction as well. I donât think it will be as straight forward. It will be more into the idea of trying to great songs instead of writing punk songs.
With the new lineup has your song writing process changed at all?
I donât think it has. Iâve always written with people. Iâve never been the kind of person to just write a song and just show it to them. I like to work with the people in the band. Those dynamics are necessarily different. In fact, the demo we wrote those five songs were written on three different nights in Tulsa. It was all of us brainstorming, putting our heads together, coming up with an idea, and then just putting it together. There have been a couple of things that weâve tried to expand on. Digitally weâve been recording a lot and sending ideas back and fourth because we have a guy who lives two hours away. Itâs just an easier to say, "Hereâs an idea we have." But at the same time we show up to practice and everyone already have their ideas. The whole point is to do the best we can for the song. Thereâs no one voice. Thereâs no one person saying this is how it has to be. I just think songs tend to work better that way for us.
Youâve been a part of the Oklahoma punk scene for a long time. Whatâs changed over the years?
I donât know. I donât think thereâs been a whole lot of change. It seems like the scene has always had a lot of really good bands and some decent venues to play at. If anything, I would say right now the only thing thatâs changed is a national recognition of some of the bands. Some of the bands are starting to go and get out and starting to tour more. Even when I was just starting out, there were bands. A band that comes to mind is The Roustabouts. They were touring, they were putting out releases on smaller labels. But I feel like now youâve got bands like us, Red City Radio, and John Moreland & the Black Gold Band (even though theyâre basically John Moreland now) have raised a little bit of national and even international awareness. A lot of that too has helped with the way the internet has grown. When we first started it wasnât as easy as it is now to get a hold of bands. It was easy, but not like it is now. A lot of these bands are all getting to the point where theyâre on their way. Theyâre trying to make something happen. Thereâs always been a lot of great bands and thereâs always been an ebb and flow of what venues to play it. But I feel like right now is a resurgence for Oklahoma City. Youâve got some bands really trying and some really great upcoming bands as well.
Whatâs different about right now thatâs causing bands like you guys, Red City Radio, and John Moreland to start hitting on the national scene?
I think thereâs two parts of it. I think thereâs the amount of talent and how itâs all coming together. Not only are we having great bands but theyâre going to Stephen Egerton and Armstrong and recording records there. When you have a record recorded as well as he records them and by a name as big as hisâ¦ people tend to take notice. Also, I think it has to do with the drive of a lot of these guys in these bands making it happen. Theyâre saying, "What we have right now is really good. Letâs see what can happen." A lot of it comes back to us growing up and loving the same punk rock band and seeing what it means to be in a band. A lot of these guys, weâve all been touring for years. Not necessarily touring to extreme levels. But weâve been trying to get out on the road for awhile. Itâs all culminated to a bunch of good bands that have the desire to get out there.
Youâve grown up over the years as well. At one point you were singing about, "walking S.T.D.âs." Whatâs changed with you that caused your music to mature?
I think when I wrote that song I was probably around sixteen-years-old. You definitely have a lot of changes that go on. You grow up immensely from the time you were in high school to the time youâve been out of college. Youâve had to work and had to sustain what life is. A lot of it came through college, becoming political minded in college but also losing faith in that same thing. Thatâs where a lot of what we sing about now comes from. The maturity thing happened. Itâs funny, I still listen to those old Third Grade records every now and then. Theyâre never as bad as I remember. I just expect to turn it on and cringe. But what do you expect a sixteen-year-old to right about? Iâm twenty-seven now. Iâve seen a few more things. A lot of that too is not only life experiences, but music as well. What Iâm listening to now is definitely not what I was listening to then. But at the same time itâs all been this progression.
Kind of like the Slapstick progression.
Yeah, exactly. I think it is funny. I guess this is what you do when youâre ska band breaks up. You get a little older, a little more jaded, and write songs about drinking. Well, I guess ska bands do too.*laughs*