By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The members of the Matrix are not particular fans, they say, of the music that American Idolhas given the world. But Christy cannot tell a lie. “I can’t stop singing that Kelly Clarkson song, ‘Miss Independent,’” she laughs. “I gotta tell you, I love that song.” The Matrix, she says, are all “song junkies.”
Here are the elements that a non-ballad Matrix production — something like “Complicated,” or “Welcome,” the great if little-heard Matrix track that kicks off Heather Nova’s 2002 South V2 collection — typically relies on: A short instrumental intro full of rhythms and beats and noises and guitar and/or keyboard parts going a delicious kind of crazy. Verses that slink out with that irresistible, promising, slightly shadowy big-melodic momentum sung by an alluring, though not necessarily virtuosic, voice. Bridges that, for a minute or two, tantalizingly remove the heat from the verses, building further the anticipation of some kind of pop éclat. Choruses that then take the listener not into a mere textural multiplication of the verse, but, in melodic terms, somewhere else entirely. The result is a series of high-impact aural events, all lined up logically, if not quite perfectly, in a bracing rhythmic row.
“And it doesn’t have to be up-tempo songs,” Spock says. “I mean, we do that on ‘I’m With You’ as well. It’s a ballad, and it reaches out to you emotionally, but it’s sort of aggressive, too. I remember when we were working on that song; every hair on my arm would stand up every time Avril came to the bridge.”
“Yeah,” Edwards says, “for a long time, it was quite boring, Middle America, droney songs with the hits. I think we had to take it to a different level.”
“We really do live for music,” says Spock, “and we get off on it as hard as we did three years ago, when we didn’t have Avril on the radio. It’s been really good for us.”
“By the end of doing ‘Welcome,’ the Heather Nova song,” Christy remembers, “we got it to a place where we were all jumping up and down.”
The Matrix’s work bridges the MTV and TRL generations. They are “song junkies” the way Prince and Madonna and ZZ Top were song junkies. Unlike hip-hop maestros, they are not exclusively in the hot-doggin’ rhythm business. Unlike R&B savants, they don’t bank 100 percent on groove and vibe. Unlike ’90s teenpop wonders architected by Swedish producer Max Martin’s zingingly suave technological buildups of South African producer Mutt Lange (now the éminence grise of international pop), the Matrix are crafty as hell but not overtly scientific. They are melody nuts who fit their skill and love of songs into all these new languages that have in common only the radio-sired need for the cool sonic series of pop explosions. The Matrix specialize in The Grab. And in their hearts and minds, they know that, as long as people drive around in automobiles punching certain buttons, Bananarama will always have a place in history.