CATHEDRAL Bells, an Orlando-based project led primarily by songwriter Matthew Messore, isn’t what you’d expect to be coming out of Florida these days. It’s best described as a dream pop with a shoegaze aesthetic, but it’s often much more uptempo and rhythmically frantic – not unlike krautrock pioneers Neu! or post-punk icons Joy Division.
Though Cathedral Bells is largely the brainchild of Messore, he and collaborator David Horne have been working together more frequently as of late. The duo will be bringing their gorgeous compositions to El Rocko Lounge on Fri., Dec. 21, and we spoke to Messore ahead of the show to learn more.
It sounds like you’re not just doing a shoegaze thing – there’s also some element of post punk and new wave, not unlike Joy Division or New Order. Is that a fair assessment?
MM: I think the influences go all over the place. It’s a cross between a lot of shoegaze bands and a lot of different stuff. I think krautrock has a lot to do with this project.
Can and bands like that?
MM: Yeah. It’s just kind of more in a post-punk feel. I think I have somewhat of a formula for writing with this new project. I don’t really know where a lot of the direct influences come through, but definitely like My Bloody Valentine and the Creation Records stuff, Jesus and Mary Chain – a lot of different stuff blended in.
The krautrock thing is definitely prominent now that you say it – there’s a lot of those rhythmic elements. This is mainly you in this project, right?
MM: It started off with just me. I don’t want to say it’s a solo project, but pretty much everything that’s been released so far was written by me. [Collaborator] David Horne was a fan of my last project, and we eventually met up and started playing together. I definitely think he’ll help with writing for future stuff, but as far as the actual structuring and formula and stuff it’s mostly my writing.
What’s the recording process like for this project, since you’re doing a lot of it on your own?
MM: A couple of these songs, and a few that haven’t come out yet, were made with custom sampling for drums. I kind of have a very tedious and strange way of arranging the drums. Basically I just kind of get the files together and try to do as much as I can on my own.
For the songs that are out now, I recorded all the synth parts and put the drums together. And then all the guitars and vocals I did with another engineer in his bedroom. In the future, I feel comfortable recording songs all on my own to get the same sound and formula that I have now.
Are you doing a lot of looping patters and layering things for drums?
MM: Kind of. It’s a strange process – I basically get the patterns and throw on a metronome first. I do a lot of copying and pasting, but a lot of them is actually by hand. A lot of people use Ableton, but I actually use Audacity as strange as that seems. I get the custom drum sounds and then bring a metronome into the session. I’ll have maybe six or seven tracks and then export them into one, and for some reason I like how it sounds.
It’s a long process and not as convenient maybe as Ableton or other programs, but it’s very unique and that’s what makes me want to keep doing it this way. I enjoy it, actually.
Everyone has their process, and I think there’s something to be said for finding your thing. It sounds great, and I think it’s also really creative to do it the way you’re doing it.
When you’re playing live, is it just you or are you bringing a band? What can people expect for the upcoming show?
MM: That was a challenging thing. It was the biggest setback for me with this project. I knew I was going to be playing with some kind of backing tracks – it’s basically just a two-piece as of right now. We were playing with a live drummer, kind of early Jesus and Mary Chain style. A floor tom and snare with a sheet, a ride and hi-hat.
Now we have a backing track on a loop station – it’s got the bass guitar that I recorded, the drum tracks, and all the synth tracks. So it’s basically just two guitars live and then I sing. David plays a lot of leads so I can focus more on vocals.
There are some parts that we’re doing differently live, but it sounds really full for a two-piece. I also was messing with a live bassist at one point, but at the end of the day it sounded best with just the backing tracks and us. It’s a good dynamic, and a good range with volume as well.
You can control a lot more.
MM: Yeah. With the drummer thing, it was sounding good but we had to turn up a little too much and it was hard to get a good balance with the backing tracks. It’s definitely not an everyday setup, though there are some bands doing it. Drab Majesty play as a two-piece and kind of have a similar thing. With them I think it’s more like synth bass, and for us it’s actually live bass guitar.
We’re excited to play these shows. As long as we have some monitors, I think we’ll be okay [laughs].