LeakyNews: How did you get started in music? How long have you been performing?
Matt Maggiacomo: My first significant musical experience started in sixth grade, when I joined school band to play clarinet and also took a general music class. There was a unit on guitar, during which I learned how to play Eternal Flame by The Bangles. From that moment forward I was secretly plotting to quit clarinet and learn how to play guitar properly. Later, as I entered high school, I informed the band director that I wouldn’t be continuing with band and that I’d be taking guitar lessons outside of school. She was quite disappointed in me, and disapproved three years later when I started a rock band with her son Andy.
LN: What instruments do you play?
MM: Primarily guitar, but I can also play bass and fake my way through drums. I also sing.
LN: How did you get involved with the online music community?
MM: When I decided to take The Whomping Willows seriously as a band, I also made a decision to invest a lot of time into the wizard rock community itself. I participated in the original wizard rock group on MySpace, which is where many of the first community friendships and relationships were forged. I saw wizard rock as a scene that could teach many budding musicians how to be in a band, and that was the primary motivation for my investment of time.
I never expected that The Whomping Willows would develop into a successful band in the process (but I’m certainly glad it did!). In general, I think wizard rock has maintained a very unique community dynamic where emphasis is placed on friendship, helping each other out, and working together to affect positive change.
LN: What is it like being both The Whomping Willows and Matt Maggiacomo?
MM: It’s… a lot of things. I love playing shows and I feel very lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to tour full-time for nearly five years. It’s incredible. I’ve also integrated myself extensively into my wizard rock, so the Whomping Willow persona overlaps quite a bit with who I am in real life. I do get a little tired of people taking pictures of trees and tagging me on Facebook, but it’s a small price to pay for doing what I love. I also hope that wizard rock fans will support what I’m doing under Matt Maggiacomo, because ultimately it’s not that far off from my last two Whomping Willows albums.
LN: Tell us about When I Was Your Age.
MM: It’s been a fairly mind-blowing experience all around. I started writing songs for this album in December 2010, and somewhere along the way I decided to fund its production and release with a Kickstarter campaign. Although I typically have no problems funding releases with pre-orders, with this new solo album I wanted to make sure I had the money to make it the best album it could possibly be. The Kickstarter campaign was ridiculous. I set out with a goal to raise $1,700 and ended up raising $4,335.
This allowed me to get the album professionally mixed and mastered, and I also upgraded from my usual cardboard envelopes to standard jewel cases (so fancy!). It also rendered this release a completely risk-free endeavor, and that took a lot of worry away from the situation and allowed me to focus solely on making the album awesome. I think I succeeded, because this is the first album I’ve released that I can listen to from start to finish without cringing at some little detail and wishing I could fix it. In terms of my own personal limitations with vocals and instrument-playing, I feel that this album is as good as I could’ve possibly made it. And that’s an awesome feeling.
The plot of the album is straight-forward: It’s a chronological exploration of true stories from my high school years, beginning with my first day of high school and ending with my first significant heartbreak, which occurred halfway through my senior year.
LN: Tell us about the music videos for When I Was Your Age.
MM: I’ve been having a lot of fun putting together these music videos, with the help of my wife Lauren and a few awesome friends. I am not very good at vlogging, but I think I’ve stepped up my game considerably with these music videos. With each one, I’ve tried to enhance the story of each song and make each video as close to a short film as possible. STD Puppet Show is just ridiculous. Lauren and I had a blast putting together the puppet show theater and all the puppets and stuff.
I’m actually more proud of the videos for My Baby Eats Flowers Like They’re Salad and I Don’t Want To Be Happy. The latter especially creates its own weird universe, where letters are delivered by crumpling them up and throwing them in the air, and a snowball fight can be an expression of emotional ambivalence. I really love all three of these videos and I hope they pick up a little more steam on YouTube, because I think they’re worth viewing.
LN: What is it like being on the DFTBA record label?
MM: Honestly, not much has changed. I enjoy working with Alan and Kristen, and it’s awesome to not worry about shipping for a change. I don’t think the partnership has reached its full potential yet, as I think I have a lot more work to do in exposing my music to the larger Nerdfighter community. Overall, I see it as an investment for the future. DFTBA is a fantastic label that’s run by fantastic people, and it’s very compatible with the values of the wizard rock community. At the same time, DFTBA artists retain their autonomy and it’s up to them to make their albums and merchandise successful. I’m definitely up for the challenge! I see DFTBA as my new home and I’d like to stay here for a while.
LN: What’s next?
MM: Gah. I keep deciding I’m going to do this and then changing my mind and going back and forth, and then I remember I have six Kickstarter reward songs to write and record, and another EP that I’m supposed to be working on with Lauren, and then I remember that I’m in charge of booking three tours for the summer, so currently I’m a jumble of ideas and responsibilities and concepts and expectations, and I’m not sure where I should focus my energy. Most likely though, I’ll be working on some new Whomping Willows songs and I’ll continue to release new When I Was Your Age videos throughout the winter and spring. Then summer tour begins on June 8!
LN: Favorite musician/group of all time?
MM: The Hectic Glow.
LN: Favorite Harry Potter book?
MM: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
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[Photo credit: Alicya Tebo]