Written by Gregg Shapiro
Matthew Sweet’s first new studio album of original material in six years, “Tomorrow Forever” (Honeycomb Hideout), is a marvelous return to form.
If you fell in love with Sweet’s power pop revivalist sound via his breakout album, 1991’s “Girlfriend” — containing the hit singles “Divine Intervention,” “I’ve Been Waiting” and the title cut — then “Tomorrow Forever” is sure to please.
The Kickstarter-funded, 17-song album, with its retro Maio cover art, features an all-star lineup of guest musicians and includes outstanding tunes such as “Entangled,” “Country Girl,” “Nobody Knows,” “Music For Love” and “Finally.” Sweet answered a few questions for WAG in advance of his concert tour, which includes an early fall date at the Tarrytown Music Hall.
After releasing a couple of albums in the late 1980s, you had a considerable commercial and critical breakthrough with 1991’s “Girlfriend.” Do you remember how the favorable response to that disc made you feel?
“(Laughs) I think I realized what was happening with it, because of how busy I got, how much demand (there was) for talking about it. I remember being in a boardroom at (record label) Zoo Entertainment, doing a bunch of interviews. Someone asked me a similar question to yours and I was kind of like, ‘Wow. I guess it is starting to happen.’ I think I was happy. It was something I didn’t expect at all and it was slightly shocking. The real way it changed my life was just the intensity of the amount of promotional stuff that I had to do. It was a mixed bag of knowing that something was happening, but I was also working harder than I ever had in my life.”
In 2006, 2009 and 2013, you released collaborative albums with Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles as part of the “Under The Covers” series. How did that musical partnership come to pass?
“I met Susanna back in the ’90s. She came to a show of mine and brought Mike Myers with her. That’s how we all ended up hanging out and eventually doing stuff for the ‘Austin Powers’ movies. That’s how I got to know her better, still not as well as I did once we did the (‘Covers’) project. I went to a Bangles show to sing on something at this little Los Angeles acoustic club called McCabe’s. The Bangles were doing a Bangles & Friends thing where various people would join them onstage.
“Backstage, I told Susanna that I always really liked her voice and said I’d love to do something together if she was into it. I thought we might write songs together for an album of hers. I wanted to hear her, not me singing. It so happened that she was in discussions with (record label) Shout Factory. She brought me up to them and they were interested in the two of us doing something. They wanted us to do something that was more of a novelty than just making an original record. That’s how we came up with the idea of doing these covers records. We thought we were just making one. When the first one came out, it said, ‘Volume One.’ We thought that was really funny. We had no idea if we were even going to make a second volume. But they stuck with their original idea and, in fact, we did make all three volumes.”
Another member of The Bangles, Debbi Peterson, is one of the musicians performing on “Tomorrow Forever.” How did that musical collaboration come about?
“I got to know Debbi when I produced a Bangles record a few years ago. I knew she was a really good drummer. There was a point during the work on ‘Tomorrow Forever’ where (drummer) Rick (Menck) couldn’t get the time to record and I was on my third batch of songs and trying to keep it rolling, because I was already late in terms of my Kickstarter deadline. I thought of Debbi. I was really flattered that she would travel all the way out here to my studio in Nebraska to record. She had the unique task of playing on a lot of the slowest songs that I wrote. We did get in one upbeat song, ‘Come Correct,’ which was sort of a sleeper.”
In addition to being released on CD, as well as a download, “Tomorrow Forever” is also available as a double LP. What do you think of the vinyl revival?
“I love it. I think it’s fun. Still, I think it’s sort of a novelty, although everybody thinks of it as being a huge boom in people listening to vinyl. I think the numbers are still pretty small. The great thing about it is that everybody seems to want to make vinyl now. There are people who want to buy it. The diehard fans, if they have a setup where they can play vinyl, they like to get it. It’s funny that you brought it up. I just received my first copies of the vinyl. It looks gorgeous. Right before we started our interview, my wife came into my studio, where I’m sitting at my computer desk and set one of the vinyls in front of me. (Laughs) I’m looking at it right now. I think she thought it would be encouraging to have it sitting in front of me (Laughs).”
Matthew Sweet performs Sept. 22 at the Tarrytown Music Hall. For more, visit tarrytownmusichall.org.