Liam Goslett

Ottawa songwriter Kalle Mattson brings angsty alt-rock tunes to the prairies

By Jason Herring, September 29 2015 —

Ottawa-based singer-songwriter Kalle Mattson is on the cusp of hitting it big, even if he doesn’t admit it. His 2014 album, Someday, the Moon Will Be Gold, was an intimate record that made waves with a long-list Polaris Prize nod and widespread critical acclaim.

Now Mattson returns with Avalanche, a six-song EP that builds on his previous work. He’s touring  across North America and into Europe, and he’ll stop in Calgary on Oct. 8 to play at SAIT’s the Gateway.

On Avalanche, Mattson evokes the sound of Canadian alt-rock slackers Broken Social Scene as he effortlessly shreds his way through angsty rock anthems. He says the EP took life while touring Someday.

“Those six songs were basically the first six songs I wrote after finishing my last record. I didn’t write songs for a good few months after I finished Someday, basically because I didn’t know what to do or if I had anything to say yet,” Mattson says. “But as time goes on you end up coming up with more ideas, so Avalanche was written in between being on tour last year. I half-jokingly say that it’s a mini-record about not knowing where your life is in your early 20s.”

Mattson launched Avalanche with a music video for the EP’s title track. The video steps through musical history by paying homage to over 30 albums that have impacted Mattson’s music. The cover art parodied ranges from Bob Dylan to Jay-Z, an eclectic assortment of artists that Mattson incorporates into his own work.

“Certain records and songs are always going to be touchstones for what you’re doing or what you’re going after,” Mattson says. “Someone asked me why the new record sounds so ‘80s, and it’s basically because [Bruce Springsteen’s] Born in the USA is my favourite record of all time. I want every song to sound like one of those songs.”

Mattson says he still tries to keep his music distinct, even when these influences shape his songwriting.

“All those records in that video were records that I love,” he explains. “The influences, I don’t always think about them, which is probably a good thing. But I listen to a lot of different records and some of them seep in more than others.”

Even as he experiences success, Mattson still discusses his success with trepidation. “Anytime you feel really good about yourself or what you’re doing, there’s inevitably something that happens immediately after that makes you feel terrible about it,” he says.

The songwriter is adamant he won’t change the way he approaches music as he continues to grow in profile.

“This record was recorded a bit different from my other ones and the next one will too. That’s not fixated by success, but by finding new ways of doing things. Writing songs has never been a set thing. It changes every time because every song’s different,” Mattson says. “And I’m not gonna fight that.”

Kalle Mattson plays at the Gateway on Oct. 8 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 online at ticketmaster.ca and $12 at the door.

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