By Julia Weber, Features Editor
[Photo courtesy of Sophia Matinazad]
Matt Vinson is the bassist in the Ohio-based folk band Caamp. He also plays solo music as The Wonderfool, and is an Ohio University alum. I recently talked with Matt about the upcoming Ohio University Music Industry Summit, his time spent in Athens and Caamp’s newest single and upcoming album.
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]
I wanted to talk to you a little bit today about Caamp’s upcoming appearance at the OU Music Industry Summit. Given that you’ve graduated from OU, how does it feel to be coming back as a keynote artist for the Music Industry Summit? How does that resonate with you?
Matt: I think it’s going to be real special for us. We obviously love Athens dearly and we haven’t gotten a chance to go back since, I think, 2019, so that’s special, but to play an OU event is extremely special for me having been an alumni. Obviously, I loved my time there, and I remember I didn’t get to see too many bands at MemAud (Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium) but I’ve heard of The Avett Brothers playing years ago – Wood Brothers and all these cool bands, so it’s cool to be one of those things. When I was a student, I’d see bands coming and I’d be like, dang, that’s cool. The school is doing some nice vetting of artists.
That’s really awesome… I watched your performance at the virtual Nelsonville Music Fest in 2020 and it’s always so cool to watch you guys perform together, but I thought it was especially impactful to see you guys performing at Strouds Run. How was that? How did that influence your performance, playing in such a special spot?
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely made it easy for us because we spent a ton of time at Strouds and the Misty album artwork is a photo of Strouds, so it’s a near and dear place to our heart and we made a whole day out of that and stayed in Athens that night and really dug in and had a few beers before the set and were just feeling really good and nostalgic. It definitely played a part in us just feeling natural and being eager to do it, you know?
That’s so awesome. Do you guys have any special spots in Athens? Obviously, Strouds is a big one, but any places you like to visit regularly when you’re in town?
Matt: I always loved when I lived on campus to bike over to Witch’s Hill and Radar – I camped up there a few times. We love the Hocking Hills region. So, even just once I got a car, getting out to Conkle’s Hollow – that’s all good stuff… I loved going on the Dow Lake side of Strouds… I loved finding my way to the bamboo forest on the West Side. Whenever I first found that, it was an accident and I was like, ‘What is this?’ Yeah, there’s a ton of gems around it.
Does performing in Athens feel any different than performing at other shows?
Matt: It’s been a while, but the last time we did, it was extremely special, and I think that this time will be the same regard. It’s a strange thing because Caamp got its start before me in Athens when we were all just buddies playing in our own bands… Columbus is definitely like the home of Caamp where Athens is the hometown, so it’s weird. Since the band has gotten big, and especially since my time, we haven’t played much other than that one Union show. So I don’t know – it’s gonna feel great. It’s not a real tangible feeling, but we just know it’s going to be awesome.
Can you tell me a little bit about your experience in the Athens local music scene, aside from playing with Caamp?
Matt: For sure. Yeah. That’s actually a roundabout way of how we met each other. When The Union burned down my junior year of college, we all kind of took to the house show scene and there was obviously the long-standing punk scene that goes on in Athens and I was just starting out the Wonderfool project… It was kind of a necessity of not being 21 and being able to play Casa shows and really have a time like we wanted to. There’s the punk thing like I was saying and we kind of started doing seated or backyard (shows), like super silent proper folk shows where it wasn’t a party and people were just there to be attentive. A lot of that (was) rooted in Haden DeRoberts’ Folk Fest that happened in Athens for a few years. Yeah, we got the house show buzz because I think everyone can agree there’s not really anything quite like that. I started doing some shows and then the boys at the time, before the first record, were out, saw me play one of my shows, and then we just kind of connected that night. They released the Caamp record in their living room of their house and it was definitely more of a… party than a folk concert, but we loved the house show scene. That’s something that I’ll always kind of long for as the shows get bigger, but there’s always space for that in the world.
Do you have anything on your agenda for when you come back to Athens in a few weeks? Is there anything in particular you want to do?
Matt: I personally love Miller’s Chicken, so I’ll probably get a Super Chicken. We all love Bagel Street, and then maybe have a drink at Jackie O’s, Casa… There’s always fun stuff. We’ll probably make it over to Strouds. Just look at it. There’s always new shops and stuff. When we go now, and obviously the bars don’t change, but it’s always a little unfamiliar when we go back. There’s just one new food spot that wasn’t there when we were in college, so that’s always fun to try stuff.
Caamp recently released the new single, “Believe“… Congrats on that! Can you tell me a little bit about the process of writing and recording that?
Matt: Yeah, Taylor writes all the songs, we just aid in his process now and again when he needs some help, but he’s got the songwriting under locks very well. We actually recorded it (“Believe”) – I think it would have been 2020 and at the studio in Columbus called Oranjudio. I think we did that one mostly live, how we’ve done a lot of stuff, but there’s kind of a different variety of how we did stuff with the rest of the record, but that was one of the first ones that we did for it. It’s special when you can at least incorporate a few elements of a live performance into a studio take, the process goes quick. If you’re practiced, it feels really natural and I think that song from the start of the record was always, like, ‘Heck yeah, this is like a really nice, uplifting, you know, believe in yourself, believe in the ones around you’ and yeah, it just came naturally.
I know that you guys have Lavender Days in the works – that has yet to be released. Can you tell me what readers might expect from the album?
Matt: Yeah, honestly, it’s just a little bit elevated songwriting. You know, Taylor gets better at his craft every year and I’d like to think that we all get better at our instruments every year. It’s a Caamp record at the root of it – it’s not, you know, ‘Caamp goes disco’ or anything like that. I think there’s pleasant surprises and a level of growth that can be heard in both the sonic qualities because we have some real badasses who worked on it. And yeah, also I think the songs are just great and people are gonna love it. You know?
That’s awesome to hear. I’m personally so excited to hear the new record. You guys have a ton of shows coming up in the next few months, both alongside The Lumineers and headlining your own tour. How does it feel to be getting back out there and playing some new tunes for people?
Matt: That’s always exciting. We haven’t really rehearsed since we recorded the record for it, but that’s great. We’ve been lucky enough… to have released a new record every couple of years. Right when you’re getting stale on the full batch of songs that you have, you have a whole new record-worth to mix into the set. It’s exciting. It’s gonna be hard to think about what we can play and getting all the songs that everybody wants to hear every night. I feel like we already have a problem with that with how many we have, but it’s always exciting… I can’t wait to rehearse it.