Last Sunday, Hodera headlined the Studio at Webster Hall for The Front Bottoms’ Champagne Jams. In the days following the show, we got the opportunity to ask Hodera front man Matthew Smith some questions. Smith talks with us about where the band came from, where it’s going, and his plans for getting it there. He also opens up about some of the personal origins of his songs, what its like to perform them on stage for audiences that know every word, and how he keeps his head through the bands continuing success.
Of course, I’d like to extend a very sincere thank you to Matthew for being so cool and taking the time to answer our questions. It is greatly appreciated.
N.J. Racket (NJR): How did Champagne Jams come to be and how did you guys become a part of it?
Matthew Smith, Hodera (MSH): We just got an email asking to play (laughs). I’m not too sure who originally asked us to play.
NJR: I’ve seen you play a show previously with dollys. What kind of history, familiarity do you have with the other bands on this lineup?
MSH: We actually knew every band on our stage (laughs). So, that worked out. I also know The Front Bottoms from when they were still a small band, so it was great playing on their show.
NJR: United by Birdcalls had a ton of success. What do you have coming up next and in what ways is it the same and different from music you’ve previously released?
MSH: We have a new album that we plan to release in 2017. It’s louder and softer, better produced, and, unlike UBBC, I actually had a band to work with on this record, so we spent a year making the album perfect before even entering the studio.
NJR: The last time I saw you play it was at The Edge Mansion, a basement venue in New Brunswick. Now playing Champagne Jams at Webster Hall on a huge ticket, speak a little about the duality of being a true underground, indie band and balancing that with emerging success and popularity.
MSH: Oh, man (laughs). Well, it’s really nice to be getting bigger show offers and I do hope that continues. The underground scene nurtured me for years, listened to my shitty bands as I learned and grew, and taught me how to slowly build an honest music career. At this point I think we’re happy to be moving to more venue shows where we can have more control over our sound and fit more people into a room, but we’ll always be active participants in the local scene.
NJR: What grips me the most about your music is how incredibly honest and personal it is. What is it like to get on stage and perform such personal material and how is that different at small shows compared to large shows like this?
MSH: It’s not different for me. As long as the audience is listening and connecting with the music it doesn’t matter if it’s a basement or a stadium. I feel sharing my personal experience is like having a conversation with the listener. It’s therapeutic for me to say how I’m feeling and for the listener to hear that someone else feels the same way as them and understands.
NJR: Our photographer, Cooper’s, favorite song of every band we’ve covered since starting this site is “Feel Better,” which is such a powerful, relatable song and is really cathartic to be able to sing along with that chorus “Why can’t I feel better?” What can you tell us about where that song came from and what it was like to write and record it?
MSH: I wrote that song after going through a stack of old journals and realizing I still feel a lot like I did all those years ago. This song was me describing that moment. But it was also me trying to figure out a way to finally be happy and realizing that maybe things aren’t so broken, maybe it’s just my perspective. Overall I just desperately wanted to feel better and put the last decade behind me, but I had no clue where to start, which brought me to that screaming yet simplistic chorus. The song just poured out of me on like an hour while sitting next to the window that would later become that album cover. The record was almost called “Feel Better.”
NJR: There were a ton of people in the crowd Sunday singing along with your songs. When was it that you realized that people were really starting to follow the band and what was that like?
MSH: I remember the exact night. There was a legendary house venue called The Batcave and it was our local spot. People were starting to sing along a little at shows but this one show in June of 2014, we had enough of the crowd singing a long that it got sort of crazy…in a good way.
NJR: Where have you toured recently and what shows, venues, lineups really stood out and were memorable to you?
MSH: We just did a month long run in the U.S. The Fest, in Gainesville. was the highlight for sure! I highly recommend. This was our second year playing. We also played this legendary venue in Nashville called The End.
NJR: You’ve been having a lot of success. The band is really getting popular. In your mind, what do you have to do to keep that success rolling and what plans does the band have to start 2017?
MSH: Releasing this new record and trying to play with some bigger acts is the ideal plan for 2017.
NJR: From what I’ve seen of you on stage, and the bit we’ve talked, you seem like a really down to earth and humble dude. What keeps you grounded as you become an emerging rock star?
MSH: (Laughs) Well, I wouldn’t say we’re anywhere near stardom, but thank you! And, I’m not really sure how to answer this (laughs). I guess, I just try and question myself a lot and mold myself into the person I want to be. I’ve spent a lot of time being really miserable and the last couple of years I’ve really just chilled out and learned to enjoy the good times when they happen. Shows also just bring out the best in me, which is the only times you really see me.
NJR: Where can all the new Hodera fans see you play next?
Adam gave man-birth to N.J. Racket and is as close to an "editor-in-chief" the site has. He's a god awful photographer.