The Suitcase Junket
Interview + Photography Brianna Castillo
Matt Lorenz is a Vermont born musician, swamp-yankee, and visual artist. Lorenz has released four albums as The Suitcase Junket — Sever and Lift (2009) and Knock It Down (2011) and Make Time (2015) and the new release Pile Driver (2017). Coachella Magazine had the opportunity to interview The Suitcase Junket after his performance at Joshua Tree Music Festival fall 2016.
Where did you grow up, what was it like there?
I grew up in Vermont, rolling hills in the woods, I went to public school for a couple years and did homeschooling for a while. Homeschooling really made you follow things that you enjoyed. My parents were really supportive of us doing music.
How did you get into the music scene?
My family got a free piano when we were young. My sister started taking lessons and as soon as she started playing I was like “I wanna do that.” My parents didn’t play music themselves but they were always encouraging us to play.
What did you listen to growing up?
I played the violin for a couple years after piano, then alto saxophone, and then started playing the guitar when I was a teenager. All of the music I listened to had guitar in it. I listened to The Who, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and The Beatles. When I went to public school, about 7th or 8th grade, it was about pop music. I was into Green Day, Sound Garden, and Nirvana. I was really into female vocalists and heavy rock.
What are your other hobbies besides music?
I really like doing sculptures or assemblage type pieces out of found objects and that started a little bit from doing construction work and seeing the amount of waste generate from construction. The idea of throwing wood was very egregious to me, like, you can’t do that, it’s like a living thing….just cause it’s easy, you can’t just throw it away. I was also into science for a while. I was really into science and music. Wine making and beer making made me feel like a scientist.
Have you always wanted to do music?
There was a point when I was in college, I felt like I had some choices, where it was “I’m either gonna study animals and be in the natural sciences or go into this creative side.” When I was making that decision, it felt like there was this part of me that was said ‘well, you have this kind of gift’ because I naturally took to music as a kid. There was always this natural feeling to be in music. So, I chose the creative side.
What are you up to next? What does the future hold?
I just recorded a new album that will be coming out late winter, early spring, pretty sure it’s gonna be called ‘Pile Driver’ which has to do with the fact that I’ve always been some sort of “File By Pile” kind of person in the way I organize. Put it in a pile and see how it works. I call my rig my pile; when I bring out all my instruments, thats my pile.
Describe your style in one word.
SWAMP-YANKEE. There’s a story behind it. I was in West Virginia and I’ve got this one song called Twisted Fate and there’s a lyrical line in it where this guy comes up after the set and goes “hey do you remember that song where you ate a muskrat” and I said I was flattered that he noticed. Halfway through the song we eat a muskrat. So I was like “yeah what about it?” and he goes “well are you a swamp-yankee?” and I was said “damn I hope so.” Cause that sounds like a great thing to be – I didn’t know what it was and he sort of explained it a bit. It means sort of like a countrified yankee. For some reason it had this ring that summed up my sound. I grew up in Vermont so i’m definitely a yankee with a little bit of an edge to me. But I love the idea of a swamp. If I was gonna be any kind of horror movie I would be a swamp monster because I just have this affinity for swamps. I would love it if I felt comfortable in a swamp, but you don’t. Imagine if there was a leech on you, you’ll just be like ‘hey my friends have come over for tea- it’s great.” So, swamp-yankee is the word.
What was it like performing at Joshua Tree Music Festival?
Today was interesting. I was doing my thing. The thing that you want the most is this exchange of energy while performing. So the more people that you have with you, the more it feeds with what you’re doing. The most exciting thing to me is to get people close so we can develop a relationship with the performance. I’m up there alone so when you have a band there’s a certain energy. So, I have my own sphere of energy going on so I draw up the energy from the people that are close to me. When you look out and see that you’re moving people either physically or emotionally- there has been a few moments where I was like we got it.”
Is there anything you would like to add?
This landscape is sort of deeply starkly moving. I was really happy to be able to spend a couple days out here. Just exploring the landscape and the people here. It’s a really special thing. I was talking to Barnett, who runs the festival, we were talking a little bit about how magical stuff happens here. And you can kind of feel that. When I pulled in last night I had this really weird dream that involved Mr. Rogers. I never dream about Mr. Rogers and it’s been like 25 years since I’ve seen Mr. Rogers on a television. The man is not a part of my life in anyway. It was weird and it was funny. But, we pull into the festival and one of the first things we see is a a women with a Mr. Rogers tattoo on the back of her calf. Later, one of the first bands ends up playing the Mr. Rogers theme song. So, you know, this is a magical place and I’m really happy to be a part of this scene.”