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Interview with Imaginary Cities’ Rusty MatyasBy Trevor J. Adams | Mar 22, 2011
Guest blogger Lisa Kehler talks with Rusty Matyas of Imaginary Cities. The band opens for The Pixies on April 9 at the Metro Centre.
When Rusty answers the telephone, I hear glasses clinking and muffled voices. For a soul-pop-rock-boy just about to “make it” I am curiously surprised that he is moonlighting as a bartender at the Toad. As a former Winnipegger, I’m quite familiar with the place—many nights spent chucking darts and sipping Guinness, surrounded by musicians, artsy folks and other regulars. Lucky for us, his girlfriend agreed to run the bar while we chat.
Imaginary Cities is the brain child of Rusty Matyas and Marti Sarbit. A soulful, sweet girl with Motown sensibilities paired with a multi-instrumentalist indie-pop magician couldn’t help but produce a simultaneously current yet timeless sound. She previously fronted a Motown cover band called the Solutions; Sarbit’s voice is somehow timid and powerful. A slight lisp only adds to her charm, setting her apart from the Duffy’s and the Winehouse’s of contemporary soul-pop.
When it comes to singing Sarbit’s praises, none are more vocal than Matyas: “She’s unjaded…untainted by the music world. Whatever, wherever, she is just happy to be there. It is totally inspiring.” But this is a different role than he’s used to playing. It’s different to sing secondary, and to focus more on instruments. “I feel so comfortable and confident to sing behind such a big voice.”
As Sarbit and Matyas wrote and recorded all of the music prior to bringing on additional band members, he recognizes how fortunate they were to be able to hand pick based on the desired sound. He is amped that they seemed to have found the perfect balance. They are never in a bad mood and spirits are always high. (How un-rock n’ roll). He notes the difference from touring with all guys. “We don’t fart or swear too much…With all guys on tour…it gets dark.”
Matyas is well-schooled in the art of the interview. Each question I asked was rewarded with detailed answers. (Although I stumped him when I asked his favourite song to perform live—he says he hasn’t been asked that one before). This is in no small part due to the impressive roster of bands he’s either co-created or worked with: Novillero, Duotang, The Waking Eyes and his solo project, Terrier. (His collaborations don’t always end in song: the intricate geometric sculpture on the cover of Temporary Resident was created by Constantine’s bass guitarist, Dallas Wehrle).
Recently, Matyas has also been touring with the Weakerthans, the infamous band who put Winnipeg on the indie-map. (See John K. Samson’s lament, “I haaaaaaate Winnipeg”). But what Samson (ironically) rejects, Matyas embraces: he even sports a tattoo of Manitoba decorated with a red heart where the city he loves lies.
When I ask him what he thought about the recent controversial statement in the Globe and Mail, wherein Brad Wheeler smugly penned, “Really, from Winnipeg? Hard to imagine,” Matyas laughs it off. He chooses to take it as a compliment; that their music sounds bigger than a small town. Part of him enjoys that people don’t seem to get it. “[The misconception] allows me to stay here, and live in a sweet apartment for 400 bucks a month.”
After opening for the Pixies Canadian tour of Doolittle next month, I imagine that bartending and hanging on to a cheap pad may no longer be priorities. For a band that hadn’t even released their first album, being picked to open the entire 21-show run was no small feat. Matyas understands the business, and knows just how many bands were vying for the gig. “I’ve been doing this so long, I’ve learned not to hold my breath. I just thought, it might happen, it might not.”
He is humble however, and attributes part of their selection to the incredible work of their manager, Stephen Carroll (also from the Weakerthans). He also recognizes just what this opportunity means. “We would have to travel Canada 30 times to play for the amount of people at one show with the Pixies,” he says. “It’s nothin’ but good news…”
And good news it is indeed. Since being added to the Doolittle tour, the duo have been the darlings of international media. In addition to the upcoming tour, they’ll perform at SXSW where they’ve been heralded as “ones to watch,” flew back and forth to Toronto to play at Canadian Music Week, their album is set to be released in Germany, Austria and Switzerland by the Grand Hotel Van Cleef label on March 25, and if that weren’t enough, will play at the sold-out recording of CBC’s Q—Live in Winnipeg show hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. And there’s a Halifax connection too: for all the love he holds in his heart for Winnipeg, he says that Halifax is the only other city he’s ever considered moving to.
On April 9, we’ll try our best to convince him we’d like that.