Matt McCluer's Mission is to Write Great Songs and Stay Away From Cell Phones

Matt McCluer
Matt McCluer
Kim Conlan

Matt McCluer is a rare breed of musician, one that isn’t competing for that headlining spot, or that major record deal, or that world tour. For McCluer, the need to create music is his driving force, and no doubt if the world fell apart, he would still be hearing a melody in his head and finding a way to make it physical. McCluer doesn’t drive, doesn’t own a cell phone, and hasn’t updated his Mac computer in almost a decade. A resident of Westside Costa Mesa, he basically has everything he needs within close proximity, and uses his cruiser bicycle to get where he needs to go. As far as the role music plays in his life, McCluer says, “My favorite part of existing is when I’m not done with a song yet—I’m like half-way through, and it’s coming together, and I’m the only person in the world that knows about this thing that’s happening.”

As for the idyllic version of Orange County, he doesn’t really subscribe. Although born and raised in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, McCluer didn’t really get into the surf, skate, and beach lifestyle, despite never really leaving his domain. Except for an occasional stint on tour with Matt Adams of The Blank Tapes, McCluer has remained in OC. Even when his peers left for Portland, San Francisco, New York, Texas, or across the Atlantic, he recalls, “I basically just still had a drummer here, Joel, and even Joel moved away, but I would still have a band. I pretty much just drink coffee and sit on a bench, and I’ve noticed it’s not a huge deal to me where that bench is.”

As for his personal projects, McCluer has been satisfied staying local, and it is his environment that lends itself to his writing. He says, “Most of my songs I write while I’m riding my bike. They pop into my head, it starts like that and then I’ll add everything else later, as opposed to creating stuff on an instrument.” His music isn’t overwrought, but it certainly is emotionally resonant. With the help of longtime band mates Joel Williams and Bobby Perez, McCluer has managed to keep his craft alive and well. His version of the music scene in OC is, “Just go to the corner, play at The Wayfarer whenever they invite me. I also like the Boathouse, they seem to be rather nice. My music scene is Alex [Knost], and Ford [Archbold], and Levi [Prairie] from Gantez, and Steven [Sauter] from Chinese Waxjob.”

Unfortunately, back in 2008, McCluer’s means of recording broke, which spawned a six-year span that included very little writing. On top of that, McCluer believes the writing haulted, “because I’ve been happy, I didn’t write any songs. ‘Cause if you don’t have something to complain about, then you’re not going to write the complaining song, or the chill out, stop complaining song.” During this time, he only released an older album from his earlier project. McCluer recalls, “My 8-track machine broke, and I didn’t do anything since then, but other stuff like The Sweet Sweet Things came out. That had already been recorded, so we dug it up and finished this album that had already been done.”

Recently, however, McCluer, Williams, and Perez have returned to writing, and are recording an upcoming album. As for the process, he describes it as, “DIY, straight-up in the living room, right here. We’ve got some science-fiction stuff going on, there’s at least one spaceship, there’s a time-machine, it’s pretty goofy lyric content, they’re more dynamics, but you can tell it’s the same thing. We’re trying to be more minimal, and also cleaning the guitars up a little bit.”

When asked if he ever thinks about getting an updated cell and computer setup, he’s fairly certain he won’t. However he admits, “I’ve started watching YouTube, like science videos. Funny thing is, we’re doing drums on the computer that I’ve actually had this whole time, the whole eight years since 2008. I’m not against technology, but I am aware that it’s optional. The cellphone thing in general, to me, just sounds so repulsive. In our society, there’s a lot of people who don’t understand that that’s an option. So it’s an ongoing battle—but it’s not really a battle though ‘cause I’m not really against it; but it’s a battle for like, joy.”

Matt McCluer performs at The Boat House Collective, 1640 Pomona Ave, Costa Mesa with Noble Fir (Frank Daley from Big Drill Car) Saturday, June 25th - Summer Kickoff Show 10p.m. / $5 Presale / $8 At Door 

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