With To Better Days, Slaves ascend into the higher plane of post-hardcore and alternative rock greats.
On the eve of the release of the 13 track record, Matt McAndrew, who makes his stunning vocal debut with this release, chatted with us about the band’s recent livestream, the challenge of playing to a virtual audience, the crossover potential of the songs on To Better Days, and the thought process behind playing brand new songs live. He also discusses the band’s upcoming name change unveiling and what that means for the future of the band’s music.
READ MORE: Slaves – To Better Days (Review)
To Better Days drops tomorrow. I’ve heard the record and I think it’s phenomenal. I think it also has, considering your background in the pop-world, amazing crossover potential for all 13 tracks on the record. The sequencing is fantastic, the production is fantastic. I find that these songs, especially after having tuned into the livestream last night, really translate well live and feel much bigger.
Matt: Thanks man! I really appreciate it. I’m glad that you are enjoying the record.
I think the whole band is interested in a wide variety of music. Certainly, I come from more of a pop background, but I’m not the only one [in the band] listening to that type of music. There are a lot of different influences in the music, and I think that it’s a record that’s reflective of the times that we live in. I don’t really know anybody that just listens to one type of music anymore. It’s kind of hard to define any kind of music just by one genre anymore— to me. It’s a project that we’re really excited about.
I hear you on the live performance front. I think it’s fun to see how things sound in a live environment compared to the studio for sure. The studio is naturally going to just be so much more “sterile” than a live show would be. We’re excited to, at some point, get out and play these shows for an in-person audience.
I really appreciate that you were still keeping the idea of stage banter alive despite the fact that there was no in-person audience there— you were playing to a virtual audience. Even though it was a livestream show, it still FELT very much like being there. The songs really presented that “live” type of energy, and that’s really a testament to those new songs.
I know that it’s kind of hard to gauge a crowd reaction to the new songs by playing them virtually, but did you think that any of the songs, for you and the band especially, resonated whenever you were playing them live via the livestream?
Matt: I think I might need a little more time with them to give you an accurate response. With the exception of “Prayers” and “Heavier”, it’s our first time playing any of the new stuff live. A lot of MY attention was put into trying not to mess us *laughs*. To give you an answer though, I thought “Bury A Lie” was a lot of fun live, and I can definitely imagine that one being fun maybe at like a festival-setting. I’ve kind of always heard that song in that kind of way.
“Bury A Lie” was fantastic last night. I also really liked that you played “Like I Do”. I think it’s cool that you incorporated your acoustic background into that track, and it really gives it so much more of a diversity in its sonic-palette of ideas. And it’s a great album closer! Like I mentioned, the album sequencing is fantastic. I’m sure that you all in the band had a hand in that.
I also would like to speak to the fact that ALL these songs, now that you bring up the festival environment, would sound great at a festival. These songs are just so much bigger. To actually demonstrate that, I’m curious what you Spotify/Apple Music/YouTube numbers have been for the new singles since they dropped. Have you been paying attention to that?
Matt: Well thank you again man! I appreciate you saying that. As far as the album sequencing goes, I know Zack had a lot of input into that. He usually comes up with the sequencing of the songs for live sets as well. I think it kind of just comes naturally to him. Thinking about the songs in terms of tempo and flow, and he’s also the one making a lot of our interlude tracks and everything. I know he’s really interested with musical directing and stuff like that as well. I can definitely see him doing a lot of that work in the future.
In terms of our response on the new material, as far as streaming goes, it’s been really great. I think our monthly listeners on Spotify have more than doubled since I joined the guys, which is huge. I’m really happy with that obviously *laughs*. It’s been great.
I was very interested in knowing if any of these songs were written with the intention, or even just an afterthought, of getting these songs into Rock radio, or Pop radio, or Alternative radio. Really, like I said earlier, the crossover potential with these songs is massive. I think that they can succeed and really gel on any of those aforementioned styles of radio. I’m curious what your perspective is on that with these 10 songs on To Better Days.
Matt: Going into the record, we thought it would be amazing to land a song on Octane. And during the writing process, we thought maybe something like “Bury A Lie” would play well to Octane. I was surprised and super hyped that Octane was into songs like “Heavier” and “Talk To A Friend” -songs that I wasn’t sure fit the vibe of active rock radio. Honestly, they’ve shown us an incredible amount of love over at Octane. I think Octane is great for bringing in new bands like us to the station and injecting a new sound into their program. I think that they’re really trying to bring in a lot of new blood over there and present a modern rock sound to their listeners, which is really great.
That’s so awesome. I find that Octane is a direct influence on big touring and festival bills. And that’s why you see so much diversity in those lineups. It’s a great thing, truly. As a pop singer in an alternative post-hardcore band, I’m sure that resonates with you in particular. I really think what listeners are looking for these days is something more than the norm of just power cords and tough guy vocals. They want emotion, they want substance, and they want diversity.
Matt: I think sometimes people lose sight of the fact that heavier music CAN be, and more often than that, IS, very emotional, and emotive. For example, “Talk To A Friend” was a song that was originally NOT slated to be a single and have a music video. And that’s something that me and the guys advocated for. I felt like even if it wasn’t the most commercial song sonically, I just felt like it was probably the most important song on the record. I’m really glad it became a single and it’s wild seeing how well its performed— from a commercial standpoint. It’s really nice when that happens and it’s always hard to predict what fans are going to reacted to, but it’s nice when they react to the things that are your favorites. To be fair, I’m a fan of all the songs on the record.
I kind of wanted to mention that I noticed that during the livestream last night, the name of the band was stylized as “SLVS”. I was just wondering, is that a clue or a preview or what the name change could be?
Matt: So no, SLVS isn’t really a clue in terms of what the name change will be. It’s just an abbreviation that the band’s been using for some time. We kind of just like it better than the full name.
The new name will be something that is pretty different than Slaves. It won’t be “SLVS” or anything really similar to that.
That’s a bold and honestly scary decision that I respect highly. With a name change comes essentially starting over in a way. Were you or any of the band members scared of losing listeners due to the lack of familiarity having to do with a new identity in the band name?
Matt: We might lose some listeners when we change the name, but it’s something I feel really strongly about. Our fans have been very supportive so far and I’m ready for a fresh start. The band as it stands now and our fans need a name everyone can feel good about.
Do you believe the name change will close the current chapter of the band and begin a new, more positive direction both for the band’s identity and the tone of the music?
Matt: Honestly I don’t think much will change beyond the name. Still the same five guys making music together but under a more appropriate name that the current line up and our fans feel more comfortable with.
“Talk To A Friend” just might be the band’s biggest song as well, so I think you’re on to something there having it as your favorite on the record. Knowing the album has been done for a year and the song topics tend to be quite heavy on To Better Days, what is your headspace when performing or looking back on these songs? They’re new to the listeners, not quite so new to you.
Matt: It was hard to get a feel for them during the live stream without an audience. A big part of getting into the performance for me is about feeding off the crowd and their energy around the songs. I’m sure it will be more gratifying to see the crowd singing along to my lyrics but I’ve always enjoyed singing ‘Beautiful Death’ and I put a lot of myself into those performances.
That’s certainly something any viewer of the livestream could see last night too. Highly commendable that even with songs you didn’t originally sing on, you gave it your all. That’s something you took with you from ‘The Voice’, I figure. Speaking of The Voice, were there any other prime time reality shows/competitions you had put your name in the hat for? Or would still?
Matt: Absolutely. There’s nothing wrong with a good cover! *laughs* That’s definitely something I learned being on ‘The Voice’. I never saw myself being part of a reality singing competition- I didn’t think I fit the mold because I grew up playing in indie rock bands and performing folk music. It was a pleasant surprise to see that I was what the show, and the audience at home, was looking for. It was a really positive experience for me and a great vote of confidence in my ability as a vocalist. It’s where I first learned that I perform well under pressure. In terms of auditioning for a show now I can’t imagine that. But I am grateful for my first big break on ‘The Voice’. I’d love to be a coach one day!
Matt, I really appreciate you giving me some of your precious time on the eve of the record release. Before we go, what have you been up to during the off-time? Any video games or interesting hobbies? Maybe watched some cool movies? I hope you’re staying healthy and sane in these ever-changing times.
Matt: Anytime man, thank you for having me. Now that the livestream is over I’m excited to retreat back into isolation with my girlfriend and our dog *laughs*. I’ve been playing Zelda! Catch me on Twitch man.