QUIZ SHOW by Quiz Show | INTERVIEW
Author: Sean Manuel
What happens when the members of legendary DC-area alternative mainstays Shudder To Think, The Dambuilders, and Guided By Voices amalgamate their talents into one? You get our artist spotlight this week: Quiz Show! Quiz Show's debut album features guitarist and frontman Chris Matthews, drummer and vocalist Kevin March, and bassist Frank Gibbons. Today, the lineup consists of Matthews, drummer and vocalist Joe Billy, and bassist and vocalist Jesse Krakow.. Spurred into creation by Matthews's decision to end his 25 year hiatus, Quiz Show's eponymous debut album release Quiz Show features 12 songs produced by Montclair Magic Door Recording Studio's Ray Ketchem and (for most) released as singles from 2017 to 2020. Connoisseurs of artists such as The Pixies, Joy Division, The Ramones, and Husker Du will find this album a no-holds-barred earworm. There is zero need to wait, for it is live for your listening enjoyment on all streaming platforms! First, let's conduct some investigative work on Quiz Show...
Hey there, Quiz Show! The Quiz Show LP stands as a point of origin and features founding bandmates Chris Matthews (guitar and vocals), Kevin March (drums and vocals) and Frank Gibbons (bass). As there now exists a new lineup with some familiar faces to BlowUpRadio.com, please introduce yourselves.
The new line up is Chris Matthews on guitar and vocals, Jesse Krakow on bass and vocals, and Joe Billy on drums and vocals. The band changed over in 2020 after the pandemic and due to the fact that Guided By Voices became a bigger commitment for Kevin. It's really exciting to be playing with Jesse and Joe. Jesse was part of the Shudder To Think reunion tour band (along with Kevin) and Joe is an incredible drummer and local music superstar. The new line up has already released two 3-song EPs on Magic Door Geographic and Stole the Sky. The new LP brings together recordings that we released as singles between 2017 and 2020 along one unreleased song. The recordings have been refreshed and remastered. I wanted to do this to put everything out under the Magic Door record label.
Your eponymous debut album is a powerhouse original collection. From what I read, I understand Chris's return from a 25-year songwriting hiatus catalyzed Quiz Show's formation and subsequent releases. (Chris) What brought forth the songwriting spirit's reinvigoration?
I owe everything to Kevin March! I had not played any serious music since leaving Shudder to Think in the early 90s. I met Kevin in Montclair when he saw my name on a 'Parents Who Rock' performers list. He asked if I was the Chris Matthews who was in Shudder To Think, which was a big surprise since I had no idea anyone would remember any of this. After we met in person, we decided to play together. In the sessions Kevin insisted that I had a sound of my own, which was incredibly flattering (and I assume a sign of my poor training and skill set). Still he was serious and made it his mission to bring my music out of its dormancy. It's been amazing to add writing, performing, and recording music again to my life. I've loved writing these songs and can't believe I am getting to do it!
"Sound of Kissing" opens the album in a C#m tonality with lyrical themes of desiring more time to love. Two particularly relatable and affecting lyrics are, "He plays it loud and he likes it soft," and, "I'd change the end of summer." The former ("He plays it loud and he likes it soft.") illustrates a compelling duality. While someone may be seen as outwardly aggressive/boisterous/forthright, is it but a compensation for being especially sensitive/loving/vulnerable in their private life? The latter ("I'd change the end of summer.") expresses a popular association of the warmth and life of summer with love. Is there too little time to enjoy summer love? Conversely, would we cherish it as much if it wasn't scarce?
Sound of Kissing is a love song for my partner about the summer we met, which was followed by being separated for several months in the fall. The lyrics you picked out are emblematic of this encounter and our relationship. Saying anything more would be too personal! In a nutshell, this was the happiest time of my life and I never wanted it to end.
I believe the next track entitled "Almost Famous" captures in a bright modal D major tonality a frustration many independent artists can relate to. Gone are the days commercial success would occur seemingly overnight on the strength of a single song or record on the radio; instead, many an artist writes a song they express deep belief in to, whether it be from music industry pundits, labels, or listeners, soon witness it not receive the commercial appreciation they hoped for. Is commercial success of greater importance? Or, is personal validation in writing something you enjoy (and others may happen to do so in the process) paramount?
Good questions! I see where you're headed but this song is less about the band and music than the way people build up a lot of energy about great ideas and actions but often bail out at the end if they don't get the validation that was really what they were looking for. Even more the validation they are afraid of. "I wanna hear you say that it's really good, but no not yet"
A curious track emerges with "Dime A Dozen." The chorus lyrics focus on a "heart of darkness" (and eventually, a "heart of hardness") and communicating the irreplaceability of every person. Please tell us about the "heart of darkness" and who is marketing it.
I wrote this song after the Parkland shooting and the amazing reaction by the students who stood up to the gun nuts and politicians who offered their thoughts and prayers. These are the people marketing darkness. I also borrowed the lyric from Joseph Conrad's book. Those kids changed so much, but for too short of a time. The song is also about taking care of my own kids, who struggle everyday having to live in this messed up world with school lockdowns and mass shootings. The change in the lyric is "heart of heartness" which I meant to say that we should resist darkness and elevate love and care above all.
In a callback to the wishful thinking for an endless summer love from "Sound of Kissing," the track entitled "Monumental Shade" appears to call for sunshine to wash away the gloom. A guitar riff ending on F# and travelling through accidentals musically personifies the urgency for the sunshine's reappearance. What is the "Monumental Shade" representing?
Monumental Shade is about tearing down the confederate monuments and opening the space to people who have suffered the generational trauma of living in the United States as people of color, LGBTQ, etc. To me these monuments are dedicated to hate and why the fuck would we want this?
The failures of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and Silvergate Bank this month are a pressing news story "Big Bank Theory" appears to address in a predictive nature. Please tell us when and what circumstances led you to write this anti-"too big to fail" narrative. Can the banks be trusted to responsibly handle other peoples' money? Can the government be trusted to provide oversight to the banking system and limit bailouts taxpayers will pay for?
This song started off as being about the "too big to fail" banks in 2009, which should have helped us see not only how fragile our economy is but how power we have ceded to the major financiers. I could not pull this off so I used these feelings to write a break-up song. Too big to fail becomes a metaphor for how two people might think of who they are as a couple, until... I turned the story a bit in the last verse by offering the hope that it could still bloom. I also have to give a shout out here to Mindy Fullilove's book Root Shock, which I was reading at the time.
"The Construct" hits a similar message to "Big Bank Theory" in so much as society protects wrongdoers and little progress is ever achieved. The opening guitar riff pans from ear-to-ear in a cycle, seemingly foreshadowing the lyrical theme of societal deja vu. Is justice truly applied equally across all strata of society?
Of course not! This song is about the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination hearings. I am still in shock about this. I am not sure the whole Trump story has not caused a collective PTSD. If nothing, it showed how clearly possible it is to accumulate and use power to get your way, despite the fact that we live in a democracy where this should at least be a little harder to do.
The Quiz Show LP was released under the Magic Door Record Label. Please tell us about producer Ray Ketchem and Magic Door.
I met Ray through Kevin March who knew him from the music world. Our first recordings were in Ray's home studio in Montclair. Ray later opened Magic Door in a commercial space in Montclair. It's a beautiful studio. Ray is an amazing person and musician and we have some shared background in the 80-90s indie music world. He is the drummer for Elk City. Renee Lo Bue is the singer for Elk City as well as co-founder of the Magic Door label. Renee also made the collages that are the cover art of the album and Sound of Kissing single. My favorite part about Ray is how easy it has been to feel like we are in tune musically. In a lot of ways he is like Kevin in that he has been a real fan of the music I am writing. Of course, it feels great when pros like these guys say nice things!
Where can people go to connect and interact with you?
Go to the Quiz Show Bandcamp page: https://quizshow.bandcamp.com/music
You can follow us there as well as find links to our social media. I also post news about upcoming shows, and, if I can get my act together, I'll have merch to sell!
Do you have any live shows you would like to promote?
I am playing a solo show on April 15 at Endless Life Brewing in Brooklyn and we are having a record release show at Prototype 237 in Paterson on May 12. Other Magic Door bands Elk City, Rob Munk, and CR and Nones will be joining us there.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Lazlo is amazing! Thanks, Sean!!
Quiz Show is a continuation. After a quarter-century break, Chris Matthews, a founding member of legendary DC hardcore band Shudder To Think, picked-up his guitar and began to write songs again. Luckily he lives in the same town as Guided By Voices drummer Kevin March, who agreed to jam and write with Chris. Uniquely, Kevin had also been a member of Shudder To Think, so the pair had lots of influences in common. Husker Du, Pixies, Ramones, Firehose, Joy Division, Fugazi, Sonic Youth, Jawbox, and Girls Against Boys all spring to mind.
About the Author: Sean Manuel is a Senior enrolled in New Jersey City University's Honors Program. A Music Business major, Sean specializes in the piano and bass guitar. Outside of academia, Sean performs in and manages the Bayonne indie-pop group BreakTime: a four-piece writing modern pop tunes with generous vintage allusions to artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Are you interested in their music? Follow BreakTime @breaktimelivenj and stream their releases on all platforms.