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Heavy Trash


Heavy Trash CD: Midnight Soul Serenade
Record Label: Fat Possum Records
by Mike Huberty
October 2009

What started as a side project for Matt Verta-Ray’s SPEEDBALL BABY and Jon Spencer from the JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION has evolved into a full-fledged rockabilly outfit with the release of HEAVY TRASH’s third album, Midnight Soul Serenade. Greasing back their hair and letting their collars go wide and open, Matt and Jon embody the fashion and music of the classic American rock n’ roll sound.

A sound that Matt explains he was influenced by from a young age. “My mom had a lot of cool 50’s records, some Sun, soul, and blues.”, he says. “When I got a guitar, I got a hold of a tape of Eddie Cochran and that knocked me out. Guys like Buddy Holly and Leadbelly, but I was also influenced by some of the more out-there stuff like Hasil Adkins and novelty records. It’s kind of what I’ve always played, Jon had a similar trajectory and was into groups like the Gibson Brothers.”

As for the new record, Matt said that he and Jon were touring more than they thought they would. “We thought, why not stay involved in both worlds? We kept writing and recording as we were touring… these songs keep spilling out without a lot of effort.” And on Midnight Soul Serenade, they tried to explore some classic themes from rock n’ roll and embrace the romantic aspects of the tragic hero. “It’s not all the kind of romance that ends up well,”, he says, “but there’s a vulnerability that we’re allowing to show. It’s the Johnny Thunders-syndrome. There was no doubt that he was a hard-living man, but some of his best songs are sentimental, gorgeous lullabies. We’ve earned our stripes being hard guys, but we’re both family men. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable. You don’t become a tragic hero unless you’ve established your persona first. There’s a tension between the egomaniacal and the sensitive side that Jon allows to show in his lyrics.”

The rockabilly scene can be fickle and Matt is aware of that. “We tried not to be strict about everything”, he says. “R&B rockers can have a rigor and rules that I didn’t find too inspiring. We love that music and we were trying to soak in it. I’ve been to rockabilly and psychobilly shows where every single band looks like the band before. It’s cool and it’s nice that there’s a club where we can fit in. But I’m into guys like Charlie Feathers and Hasil Adkins, some of the weirder cats. It’s quirky and unusual in it’s own right. The rockabilly scene can be very factionalized. In Canada, when I was growing up, there weren’t a lot of people into it. It wasn’t until I got to New York City, that I found a scene.”

As far as songs that might be a good introduction to HEAVY TRASH, Matt suggests, “‘Sometimes You’ve Got To Be Gentle’, it’s got a sweet part, but it’s got a rousing part.” And fans will be able to hear the songs live as they make their way through the Midwest this coming November. “It’s our sixth year and it feels like a real thing. Audiences are coming around to it too, knowing that this isn’t just something to do between main projects. It turned out to be so easy to work together. We’re both suited to the road, and in some ways that’s more important- the ability to tour together”, he says. “And the live show’s gonna be great. It’s what we love to do. I can’t speak highly enough about Jon’s onstage charisma. You get to observe one of rock n’ roll’s great performers in his prime. We’ve got New York session guys touring with us (on drums and standup bass) and they’re smoking. It’s a bed of electricity that Jon gets to take off from!”

Purchase Midnight Soul Serenade on Amazon.com
Download Midnight Soul Serenade on Amazon.com

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