Searching For Queen Bee: Re-Connecting With Matt Maltese

Searching For Queen Bee: Re-Connecting With Matt Maltese

Life under lockdown with the bewitching indie charmer...

Now, more than ever, the home is the epicentre of our world. Whether you are alone, with a partner, friends or family; it is the same four walls that hold you as you work, play, exercise, relax and sleep. There’s no closing the door for a day or two on the unwashed dishes piling in the sink. The laundry basket in the corner of the room sadly topples to one side under the weight of undies, lounge wear and PJs.

Elsewhere, lamps are being unplugged and relocated to best provide the light for the Zoom parties we are reluctant to attend, and tabletops are cluttered with sadly abandoned Amazon Prime ordered craft kits from a moment of inspiration. 

Matt Maltese is currently residing in his South London home with his four house mates. It’s a four-bed house, and he says with sincerity that he is lucky to live with people who help to keep everything in order.

“I’m a bit of a slob, but I’m getting better.” he says with conviction. It’s surprising, really. His socials, like thousands of others, have been providing a glimpse into the home recently as he composes piano music to soundtrack the mundanity of every day in lockdown. We’ve seen Matt sit at the wooden kitchen table and eat Bran Flakes, and on the stripe-throw covered sofa to read a book. Heck, in one video he’s doing the hoovering.

“I think a lot of people are surprised by how much of a slob I am, the Italian in me just disappears. I’m really messy. But when the home becomes your world even more, it deserves more care and attention than it is used to.”

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Matt isn’t much of a collector or a hoarder, nor is he a “plant guy”, though he does admit to buying a lot of books that he doesn’t read. “I have big ambitions to read, but then I never do,” he admits with a slight shy laugh. The bookshelf has become a staple way of identifying either the true self, or ideal perceived self – depending on the inspector and their intentions- of its owner.

“I have big ambitions to read but then I never do. I just buy the book while I'm thinking about it.” Matt says, “I read a Paul Dano interview and him recommend a book and I'm like 'ooh I should buy that', then I do and never read it.”

“The bookshelves are who I want to be,” he says with a new confidence.

Perhaps aptly titled to how some are currently feeling, the forthcoming EP release from Matt Maltese is titled Madhouse and is set to land on August 7th via Nettwerk. The title song opens by soothing “home sweet home” before the chorus describes the nick-nacks you eye in people’s homes in smooth flowing, subtle rap.

“When I wrote that song, it was more a discussion or a song about the attachments you have to places and things. I kind of felt like a lot of my feelings were attached to a home and objects are quite nonsensical and feel a bit crazy. It feels so strange, as my happiness can be quite affected by where we are, where we all are.”

The word itself became a way to capture that emotion and ground him. “Madhouse kind of came out my mouth as that. I didn't give it much thought, but it was a bit of a happy accident, that word.” Matt explains, “Then I realised it's the name of a videogame about the Joker, so I think that cemented my desire to call it that.” 

‘Queen Bee’ is the first single off the record and with its woozy romanticism, it is a fizzy lemonade fuelled daydream. “…In this sort of time it's probably the happiest song on that record or that I've released and it just always had something a little...” Matt ponders, “It's as joyful as I can get. It felt like the right one for now.” The lovely melody flutters as a pining chorus soars with hopefulness, in such a way that you can almost imagine Frankie Avalon’s beauty school drop out angels on backing vocals.

For Matt, ‘Queen Bee’ is “kind of like living in the state of imagining somebody in your life like that, but not necessarily chasing it.” This essence runs through the EP. There’s a general feeling of being a bystander; a little like when you walk past somebody’s house and they have the curtains open so you take a peek in and can’t resist the temptation of imagining scenarios for the residents and their thoughts and actions. Or when you absent-mindedly watch somebody on public transport or in a park.

“I'm quite obsessed with people and how we do things and how we get through things and be happy and be in love, yeah.”

‘Little Person’ is a romanticised slow jam of idealism, with jazz keys that dive and swim in a glass of velvety red wine. It is a pursuit of a second person to share a life, or maybe just a moment, with.

When it comes to soulmates, Matt is decidedly undecisive. “It's probably only the thing I can say with some resoluteness when I'm much older and more experienced. I guess I'm quite on the fence with being always hopeful but also recognise the sort of the patterns and my own behaviour and lots of other people's behaviour.” As such, he concludes, “I definitely don't think I believe in soul mates in the notion of there being one person in the world for you. I think a lot of love is timing and the way you change yourself, it's a real open book really. It's definitely unpredictable.”

Collectively, the EP hones Matt Maltese’s signature writing style. He takes simple throwaway thoughts and dresses them in lavish costume, he puts them centre stage and luminates them as the stars of his production. The script is part confessional 2am in the kitchen at a house party with a stranger, and part thoughts from looking out of a window on a bus. They are the turbulent monologues of a twenty-something year old in 2020.

“It’s a melodramatic way of describing like a very banal suburban life, you know?” Matt says. “Cynical and hopeful at the same time. I think it comes out that I’m slightly more hopeful,” he says with just a hint of a question.

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“The way that I describe it a lot if that I feel like a lot of us are lots of different people in one, naturally. I think a lot of songwriting is accessing those voices and working out which one you want to be or believe or argue with or embrace.

“I think that's my relationship with myself, trying to find out who you are and how much of that you are denying or keeping. I do talk to myself! There's an awful lot of reckoning with the self in life, isn't there? I think deciding who you want to be is a big part of it.”

Life in theory, is a choose your own adventure book. You decide to turn to page 55 and send the message or turn to page 60 and go to sleep peacefully. In the same breath, you choose how to react to the voices in your head.

The 'Madhouse' EP houses a selection of personalities, each complementary of the other. To personify them and place them under Big Brother surveillance, you would observe a combination of human traits that we see meet in every come-of-age John Hughes movie. “'Queen Bee' would be the flirt, she's the flirty one. 'Madhouse' is kind of the loner,” decides Matt, as we wonder what their attributes would be on The Sims. “'Sad Dream' is the crier. We can all relate.”

Closing the EP, ‘Sad Dream’ starts rather jovially, it sounds like a song to two-step on the patio to. The high ends of the bittersweet lyricism, including an awkward small talk conversation with the pharmacist, are melancholic. In contrast, opener, ‘Hi’ is crooning and shy. With childlike innocence, he requests “I want to be the cat by your side / I want to be the French to your fries / Hi.” “'Hi' is maybe like, the sweet one? Yeah, the innocent one.”

As the “thinker of the group,” ‘Leather Wearing AA” would be the John Bender. It’s a little slouchier, with the mind residing under a grey cloud that’s drizzling. 'Little Person' Matt contemplates, “Hmm... maybe the cook?” It could work, ‘Little Person’ is a wholesome song. It’s warming to the soul with its lovely, intimate vocals and intricate kaleidoscopic keys.

“I obviously, like everyone, has had ups and downs in my relationship with myself but I have always traced a lot of importance in getting that bit right.” Matt replies, when asked how he feels being alone. His last record, 'Krystal', followed a break-up and was made during a period of stewing in contemplation; getting lost in daydreams of memories to lose and grieve for them over and over.

“For one, I've chosen a career that requires a lot of time with myself so if I can't be with myself then I'm not really in the right business. It could even be classic only child syndrome as well, you have to make good company with yourself. I definitely love being on my own a lot! I get a lot from it.”

'Madhouse' is an imagining of future love whilst also trying to stay present, rooted and alive in the moment and not existing purely for a future when you’re not as alone as you may currently feel. It’s an EP to embrace with open arms in our extraordinary situation.

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'madhouse' on August 7th.

Words: Tanyel Gumushan
Photo Credit: Sam Hiscox

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