Interview & Photos: MISSIO at The Bowery Ballroom in NYC 4/30/19
MISSIO is an American pop rock electronic group formed in 2016 by Matthew Brue (front-man, songwriter, and producer). MISSIO is made up of Matthew and David Butler (songwriter and producer) and hail from Austin, Texas. MISSIO comes from the Latin word for “mission.” Since the release of their debut album Loner in 2017, MISSIO has been on a mission and now out on the road with the release of their latest album, “The Darker the Weather//The Better the Man” (RCA).
David Harris for Sound Bebel Magazine recently met up with Matthew Brue and David Butler of MISSIO, during the band’s tour stop at The Bowery Ballroom in New York City during their U.S. Rad Drugz Tour.
Sound Rebel Magazine: Your new album sounds phenomenal. How have the fans been reacting to it on this tour?
Matthew Brue: Thank you. It’s been going really good. What’s been really cool is we have played half this tour with the record unreleased and now on the second half with the record released and it’s been cool to see fans more and more than ever showing up to the shows and singing the lyrics. It's been really nice to see that fans already know the songs.
SR: The album has been getting a positive response from radio play as well. Congratulations, I see on SiriusXM Alt Nation your single, “I See You” just went #1, how does that feel?
David Butler: Yeah, thank you. Alt Nation has been great and it’s been exciting to watch. It’s been really nice to watch people’s reaction to that song. It’s been a really impactful song and we’ve seen some very nice meaningful comments from fans. We feel extremely privileged to part of this song.
SR: Your music especially your first album “Loner” has been described as “dark”. You have been very honest in your songwriting and allowing yourself to be vulnerable with respect to your life experiences, how purposeful was this?
MB: It was very purposeful. Something we both really love is genuineness from people. I think in a world where social media is king its often times considered not ok to share how you really feel because you have to your look together and your life together. It was easier than I thought it would be to be raw and honest about some of the things I’ve struggled with. There were times and situations where my parents didn’t even know about them. I had been on my own for a while and dealt with some things after I had left the house. They had put me in rehab but they were like, “hey, is that true?" In the beginning, I was more concerned with their reaction and the public’s reaction. Now if I fast forward and seeing the response fans have had, the messages, stories from fans saying this song has changed my life. It’s been very impactful.
SR: Did you ever have any self-doubt or were you all in from the beginning to be as raw and honest as you are?
MB: It was pretty much all in from the beginning. I think with the experience of being through AA and NA its commonplace to sit in a room with strangers and say “hey, this is where I’m fucked up”. For me, that was normal. What I think is not normal are those in the rest of the world who don’t get to experience those small intimate groups of people trying to help each other. You know with respect to our relationship (Matthew and David’s) we are very open and honest about a lot of different things and struggles we’ve gone through and continue to go through.
When I spoke with Matthew and David you can see their commitment and hear their honesty to how they approach their music but more importantly to each other.
SR: You released two EPs Skeletons: Part 1 and Skeletons: Part 2. Does your creative process begin stripped down like you hear in Skeletons or do the songs start off already where you want them to be?
DB: I think the process for us is kind of unique. We do identify ourselves as electronic artists. But as electronic artists, we value songwriting and we value this above anything else. For me, with songwriting, there is a core theme a song is trying to accomplish. Sometimes it's a real deep emotional thing and sometimes it’s more at the surface but there is always a feeling you're trying to accomplish with good songwriting. We value melodies and lyrics to the point whether or not they start off as a piano-vocal or a synth vocal they can be broken down and reimagined that way. When we did Skeletons, some of those songs we recorded as originally conceived and some are reconceived on the spot. For me, I think the key was the focus on the sonic’s of the engineering of it and the way we write a record is very different than the way we approached the Skeletons records.
When we write a record it’s very surgical we focus on layering and are very intentional. We would ask ourselves, what kind of kick drum and sound do we want. We are very detailed when building the track there are multiple layers of sounds and we take a very methodical approach. So the idea with Skeletons was to get to the root of the emotion. So we just did one take on everything. We kept it a moment. I think it's fun when you can go to either extreme and hear a song like, I Don’t Care About You. Hearing this stripped down and hear the lyrics and listen back to the party version of the song it definitely has a different weight to it. It’s really about the layers and depth and hopefully, we are pushing ourselves to dig deeper.
SR: How have you evolved from the time you recorded “Loner” to now with the release of your new album, “The Darker the Weather//The Better the Man”? How did you push yourself creatively?
DB: We did lots of things on the second record to push ourselves. Sonically speaking we added a few new instruments, such as bass and we also changed the approach in which we recorded synthesizer. Instead of layering one by one we came up with the ability to play like 8 synths at the same time. We came up some technical processes that allowed us to accomplish what we did on the first album more efficiently which opened up new roads for us to explore. Lyrically, Matthew can talk about how he pushed himself.
MB: Yeah, our producers are the ones that really pushed me. We have some mutual friends that are recovery based on their content and the thing they have done over the years is they kept the same concept which can become repetitive. Something Dwight (MISSIO’s producer Dwight Baker) told us was, “I want you to write about the things you have been experiencing in the last two years, you now have a record deal, a publishing deal you have amazing fans and all these different things so write about it.” I felt this to be extremely difficult. I had years and years of lyrics to get out on the first record. So when we came into this one, I was like, ok we’ve been on the road but how can I write and have people relate to being on the road? I’m not married and not in a relationship so I can’t really write about that. So it was difficult to get into the writing mode so I felt stuck.
DB: Personally it was really fun for me because we got to incorporate what was going on in our mutual lives. For example, Back Roses is about my family member getting a divorce last year and my dad leaving the family and just family problems from being away on the road. I think we were able to approach it like friends and artists who value each other and to discuss what's happened in the last few years. Using Black Roses as an example, Matthew was the one who wrote the demo and said, “hey dude, this is a song about your dad”. When he started it, “I was like fuck yeah, I’m in.” Honestly, it ended up being a very healthy therapeutic thing for me to go through.
SR: Is there ever a risk as an artist when exploring new approaches and the impact it may have on fan reaction?
DB: It’s funny you say that we have been doing VIPs every night and meeting with our fans and there have been some who have mentioned, “this record isn’t as dark as the first”. For me, I think it is as dark but also has a few moments of bright which provides a little more balance. There are times when maybe a fan who loves a song like KDV and all of a sudden hear I See You and maybe get confused. But for the most part, the true MISSIO fan loves the fact that they can listen to every song on the record from start to finish and get what the record’s about.
MB: It may sound harsh but often times people feel entitled and feel you should be writing from them. As an artist, I feel this can be dangerous anytime you feel you should write for someone else. It’s a very dangerous spot to get into as an artist because it can become disingenuous. I would never want to say to myself, “what do the fans want and let’s write for them” because then I wouldn’t relate to it and I’m the one singing it. To be honest, if we lost fans because they didn’t like the direction we are going in that’s ok. At the same time, I know there would be other fans where our music would resonate and they would appreciate the direction we are headed.
DB: The challenging part we had to face with this record is when you’re a band on your second record essentially you’ve been gifted and blessed the opportunity to do the thing you always dreamed of doing. The only thing keeping you from doing it is writing the next hit song and everyone around you is in your ear saying, “just write the hit, just write the hit, just write the hit.” What we found is we had to get to a point where we said, “we don’t give a fuck about what you are saying”. We are going to try to say something we believe in that resonates with us. I know it’s a subtlety but it can be a trip. Your job is to create music you like but it's hard to not think of it as you are creating music too that others will like. However, when you start to do that it can be a dark hole.
MB: For us, everything revolves around the songs we write. So what really matters to us is we spend time together by ourselves writing the most genuine songs possible. If we do that everything else takes care of itself. I hope we never get distracted by people’s opinions.
SR: Your new single, I See You has become the #1 song on Sirius XM Alt Nation. Can you talk to me about this song and where this came from?
MB: What’s amazing about this song is that we can put ourselves in all these different situations and thought processes and were like wow that’s a powerful way to look at it. The lyrics, I See You were written as I was driving home and stuck in traffic. I remember the sun was shining through all the cars and there was a homeless guy walking around. As he walked by I could see all these people in the cars ahead pick up their phones to look distracted. I remember just looking at him and saying this is so sad. I don’t give a fuck if you don’t have money to give him but at least acknowledge this person is a human being that exists in this world despite his challenges. So I heard this song in my head and went home and called David and explained what just happened. The next day we started to write and all the lyrics started pouring out. Then we started thinking about the lyrics and this could certainly be from my mom’s perspective talking to me as I was in rehab, this could be god talking to his kids, it could so many different things to so many different people that it just hits home.
DB: It can be like a relationship song. I remember three weeks after we finished the song, I was listening to it and began thinking about my grandmother singing this to me and it wrecked me.
MB: It really saddens me to think about kids today are cutting themselves and committing suicide. I remember growing up playing cops and robbers and hanging out with neighborhood kids and I never felt like that. For whatever reason, so many people feel like this and I love the fact we get to sing to people every night and let people know and hopefully realize you are seen by other people.
DB: So many people today in our culture are tied to their phones and Instagram and social media and can go without human interaction. What we see is such loneliness. Part of what we do and why we do it is to give people an opportunity to interact and meet each other. Matthew every night says to the crowd to introduce themselves to the person next to them. The MISSIO Mafia are great they may show up at a show by themselves, they meet, say hello and say their name and leave with new friends. It’s really special to be part of that.
DB: The thing I feel very blessed with is I met Matthew and Dwight our producer. Those are two people I would ride or die with and they get it. I don’t need a contract or pinky swear or to be blood brothers. Those are the two people I know and are like family to me. We are kind of like dicks about it. In the sense that we just don’t fuck around. When people come from the outside and try fuck with what we do we just don’t fuck with it. That’s the one thing I know that Matthew and Dwight are OG’s, they are the ones who started what we started and we know why we started it. You can’t ever replace that.
SR: Very well said. Congratulations on the success of the new album “The Darker the Weather//The Better the Man its sounds unbelievable. Best of luck with the rest of the tour.
Interview & Photos by David Harris
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