Show in Millvale, PA. Photo: Stephen Odom
Everyone goes through their struggles, and Tiny Moving Parts are no different. Composed of Matthew Chevalier on bass/vocals, his brother Billy on drums, and their cousin Dylan Mattheisen on guitar/vocals, the trio face it all the time: when they're not touring or recording, they're still three normal (albeit wild) boys who play technical music from the town of Benson, Minnesota, with nothing to do but confront the struggles every 20-something faces in their small town lives.
Their upcoming third album, Celebrate, out May 20 via Triple Crown Records, shares what they've learned about overcoming those problems: hold on to who is important and fight to hold onto optimism even when trouble arises. Recorded in September and October 2015 with their friend Greg Lindholm, who previously produced the band's first album, This Couch Is Long & Full Of Friendship, Tiny Moving Parts started with thirteen songs before whittling away the excess and finding the core in its ten song form.
"With this record compared to the one before it, Pleasant Living, everything felt really comfortable; all the parts were secure before we recorded it," Matthew says. "We weren't nervous in the studio this time. Last time was 'the second record', so we felt a pressure to keep the torch going. This one was more casual; we went in with thirteen songs and chose the strongest ten."
"On This Couch, we were kind of heavier compared to the newer material," Mattheisen says. "We wanted to tour basements and play house shows because that's all we knew; it was really aggressive. And then Pleasant Living, we wanted to spice it up, more catchy but without losing our vibe. Now with this, it's a nice blend of the technical and the catchier songs."
With This Couch providing the first impression into their space-age punk and the more song-centric Pleasant Living behind them, the family mixes both sounds for ever-impressive results across the ten tracks of Celebrate. The album starts with darker, sadder moments, like "Happy Birthday" and its story of being left, and fights to stay positive as it carries through. "Prodigy" Mike Abramyam played violin on the album to provide a new tone, and "Breathe Deep" tells the story of a snow man trying to make it beyond winter and through summer over chipper, videogame-like guitar. Eventually, Celebrate blooms into full blown optimism on closer "Minnow".
Show in Stroudsburg, PA. Photo: Keeyahtay Lewis
"We wrote 'Minnow' about being lost, but being happy at the same time," Mattheisen says. "That we're young and often confused as hell, but that feeling is OK."
The length of the album isn't unintentional. "We wanted to make sure this record was 10 songs," Matthew says. "We wanted to make it a real tight half hour."
Starting as a family band with more straight forward influences, the group changed their name in 2008 after high school as they got more technical and decided to take themselves seriously. Named after a lyric from Circle Takes The Square's "Kill The Switch" ("Tiny moving parts make up the whole"), they've grown from teenagers screaming Blink-182 tinged punk to a unique mix of the tapping and tapestry of Tera Melos and Taking Back Sunday's shouting lyricism. The band's garnered critical acclaim from the likes of Noisey and Alternative Press, and earned fans in The Wonder Years and Say Anything's Max Bemis. Bemis was such a fan, he had Mattheisen play guitar and sing on some songs on their recent album, I Don't Think It Is, flying him out to Texas during an off-day of a tour.
"We all love Say Anything," Mattheisen says. "Max was such a nice guy; everything felt right at home, and then the day after recording I flew back to Ohio to continue touring."
When they're not on the road, Tiny Moving Parts family nature truly comes through. Bidding their time with temporary jobs, the trio still hang out with each other via visits to the movie theater (though not yet seeing the latest from their favorites, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers), catching up on Better Call Saul, and acting like any other three best friends would.
"We get home and people don't really understand we're a band playing originals across the country," Matthew says. "Even at Christmas time, we end up sticking together. If we weren't touring as we are, I think the three of us would still be as close as we are."
That support structure is what gets them through. While they still get down sometimes, they're always aware they have each other. "I always keep the highs and lows of life in mind," Mattheisen says. "They never stop, and we try to write about that."
"At the end of the day, if people connect with that, that's amazing. That's what makes our lives great, and that's what really matters: getting through with what you love."
Dylan Mattheisen of Tiny Moving Parts discusses gear, recording the band’s third album, and eating the world’s hottest pepper.
American Musical Supply had a chance to catch up with guitarist and vocalist Dylan Mattheisen and discuss the new album, gear, and how a music video centered around what you would do with 24 hours left on earth was both the best and worst idea they’ve ever had.
AMS: Hey Dylan, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us, how’s it going, you excited for the upcoming tour?
Dylan Mattheisen: Yeah! We're actually a few hours away from getting back home from the previous tour, we've been on the road for a month or so and we’re heading home tonight. We just left Chicago earlier this morning and in a month and a half we start our first headlining tour. We can't wait, it's going to be a lot of fun.
Naming the album Celebrate kind of means just enjoy yourself, have a good time.
So you’ve got a new album coming out in May called Celebrate, how’d the writing and recording process go?
It went so smoothly! After we got done recording the previous record, Pleasant Living, we went on tour and started writing for this next record, just so we were never falling behind or needing to write at the last minute. We just wanted to continuously make new songs, so I would say it was a good solid year of writing. We went into the studio with our friend Greg Lindholm who lives in the suburbs up by Minneapolis.
It was really nice, because we were with him for like a month straight. The studio was connected to his house, so we got to stay there six nights a week. It was really comfortable because we've been friends with him for years, he actually did our first record This Couch is Long & Full of Friendship, so we kind of knew what we were getting into a little bit. He really helped us finish off some of our songs because he knew the direction we were trying to go in. It was a perfect fit!
So what made you decide to go back to Greg after Pleasant Living?
Well, for Pleasant Living we went with J Robbins out of Baltimore, we've always enjoyed the work he's done. We just went in and did that record with him in a little over two weeks, and it was a really great experience! It was a little more stressful because it was a bit time crunching and we had never met him beforehand, only e-mails and phone calls.
For Celebrate, we figured we’d just go back to our friend, because we love everything Greg has done and he does a great job. So we're like, “Let's just go stay with him for twice the amount of time and just kind of bang out songs whenever we feel like it, whatever feels right for the vibe.” It was great, any time we'd do vocal takes or something like that, any time my throat started hurting or something wasn't working, we'd go in the backyard, drink some beers, and play yard games with each other. It really helped take our minds off the stress and then we'd go back in the studio and bang it out. We have no regrets at all, we all just knew we wanted to go back with Greg and we're very happy how it turned out.
Did you do anything else different with this album production wise? I thought it sounded crisper than past releases.
It does sound more crisp and punchier and we really love the way it sounds. We actually had it mixed with this guy named Vince Ratti (Circa Survive, The Wonder Years, Title Fight) out of Philadelphia. We had heard of him before, we know he's mixed some records and stuff, and Triple Crown recommended he do a test mix of a song to compare his version to Greg's version. When they compared the two together, Greg's sounded awesome and Vince's sounded amazing, so it was kind of a nice blend of both of their greatness into one.
Why name the album Celebrate?
The whole album is kind of like a theme of trying to be optimistic in life. Even if there are shitty situations going on you still gotta try and power through it because life goes on regardless. Naming the album Celebrate kind of means just enjoy yourself, have a good time.
Behind the scenes of the 'Headache' video shoot.
You recently released a music video for your latest single “Headache” and it featured some really crazy stunts, where'd the ideas come from for that?
We were just talking a lot with the director Kyle Thrash. He did our music video for “Always Focused” in the past, we became great friends ever since, and we knew we wanted to work together again. We were just tossing around ideas and he came up with, “What if you guys had one day left to live, what would you do?” Together we made a big list of fifty or so different things, then we cut it down to logically what would make the most sense, and what would look cool visually.
We went skydiving and that was pretty crazy, we were all terrified since it was all our first time. Kyle and our friend John helped with the video too, and we all went together and did this for our first time. It was perfect, the vibe was right, it was a sunny day with nice weather, we were all laughing and excited, and it was really fun.
Born in the USA.
What were some of your suggestions for this list?
I think I brought up eating the world's hottest pepper, and when we did that I completely regretted that, because it was brutal. I love having hot sauces and spicy things, but that Scorpion Pepper was next level and it was so painful, we were all in tears and kind of dry heaving a little bit. It was unbelievably hot and I'm definitely never going to try that again.
We did that in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Kyle just ordered the pepper online from some website. It was really cold and we were sitting outside on that bench and then we ate that burning hot pepper. Then after that shot we went and jumped in the ocean naked and that was freezing water! It was a roller coaster of burning hot to freezing for a good hour, but it was completely worth it, the footage was worth it.
Okay let’s switch gears a little bit, what’s your rig rundown look like?
I have a Fender Supersonic 60 Watt combo that we pulled the speaker out of and made into a head, and then I've got it going through two 2x12 Supersonic cabs. I really like Fender, I've always used Fender Thinline Telecasters for our sound and I really enjoy it. For pedals I use the Line 6 DL-4 quite often, it's just a really cool pedal. I usually try to put in a little fuzz, and the loop . . . you can double the loop. A lot of people ask me about this one noise I like to do, I just have this infinite delay and repeat part. If I tap it and hit a note it'll do this [recreates noise vocally] and stutter, you'd have to physically turn it off or it'll just go on forever.
Fender Super Sonic head and cabinets with custom grill cloth.
Oh yeah, you used that effect for the intro of, what was it the third or fourth track on the new record?
Yeah, “Breathe Deep” was the song with the loop, so I used the DL-4 pedal for that. I'd loop the notes twice the speed and then right before we go into the verse I'd do half the speed. Playing it live can be kind of tricky but it's going to be fun, I'm excited to play that song.
Any other new songs you can't wait to play live?
Well, when we were writing we knew we wanted to make sure every song was really fun live. The song “Breathe Deep” should be a really fun one because the ending is pretty chaotic. I think the last track “Minnow” is going to be really cool too. I feel like once people know the words it'll be fun to sing along. There's some cool guitar riffs. . . I really enjoy the whole song, we all really enjoy that track!
Yeah, so I'm really excited to play “Breathe Deep” and “Minnow.” Like I said, we just came back from tour today so we're going to start practicing a new set, getting ready for our first headliner. We're going to just test the waters and see what makes sense to do for the tour.
Are you going to approach shows differently now that you're headlining instead of opening?
I guess so. We're so used to opening up for bands, so we play like a quick half hour, in and out. We don't like to talk too much between songs because all the people are there for the headlining band and we just want to help the show out. The fact that we're headlining will bring more responsibility, we want to make sure that everybody leaves the show very satisfied and wanting to come back the next time we're in town. We have a good month and a half before we hit the road, so we're going to practice our butts off, brainstorm ideas for certain parts, and just make sure the overall bill is really fun for the audience and for us!
How are you planning on mixing the new album into the set?
We'll play the new singles for sure because they're really fun. A lot of our fans listen to all our music, not just one specific record so we like to do a nice blend of all that stuff. We definitely want to play a handful of new songs, but not too many because the record comes out on May 20 and the tour starts the day before. It's going to be very new, and we want people to know the tracks and have a good time. It's always fun when everyone's singing along!
Billy with his Ludwig acrylic kit.
Was there ever a specific moment in your career where you felt like things really started to take off?
I would say early 2013, when we released our first record This Couch is Long & Full of Friendship. We bought a van on Craigslist, a real crappy one for like five hundred dollars, and we were like, “Let's go on tour, let's do it!” So we booked a 64-day US tour just playing basement shows and DIY small spots, with a goal to do the tour and come back breaking even. On that run, on that tour, our van broke down in North Carolina and we had to miss all of the Florida shows. It was just like regular band stories you hear about life on the road.
That whole two months was the perfect experience for us! I wouldn't say we “made it”, but it was eye-opening when we were playing these random cities we never played in before and maybe a handful of people were singing along, then it was two shows in a row people are singing along, then three shows, and that was just. . .wow! It was sort of like a snowball effect and that was when we realized we had something going on. It was cool!