With a new album and lineup, looking toward the celestial and the more introspective, Everpresent’s Mathew Cahoon invites you to join in his musical journey.
An InterView with Matthew Cahoon of Everpresent
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Since first appearing in 2002, Everpresent has undergone numerous transformations, all spearheaded by band founder and vocalist Matthew Cahoon. Exploring and blurring the lines between darkwave, goth, and electro-pop, his band’s latest incarnation has taken a definitive leap out of the darkness of the past toward lighter, more celestial and introspective themes; hence the title of the latest Everpresent album, Introspekt. Featuring a new lineup that includes vocalist and dancer Cat Waltzer and percussionist Balint Boldog, Everpresent’s music defies categorization while staying true to a decidedly accessible pop sound that emphasizes melody, atmosphere, and musicality, most clearly evidenced in the band’s single and music video for ‘In My Veins.’ Cahoon speaks with ReGen about the evolution of his band into its current form and the subjects and themes he shares through his music and lyrics, inviting listeners to take part in his pleasantly engaging musical journey.
Since the band’s inception in 2002, you’ve gone through numerous lineups, both live and in the studio. How did the current lineup come together and how did the collaboration affect the sound of the band on the new album?
As Everpresent has remained firmly in the realm of electro-pop, you’ve incorporated elements of R&B, synthpop, darkwave, and world music. What has been the greatest challenge for you in bringing all of these components into a singular sound that audiences can identify as Everpresent?
Cahoon: I wouldn’t say that it’s been a total challenge to bring them in, but I did challenge myself between our second and third album. While the debut and Singles and Remixes went together and vocally were in that darkwave/rock style, Collage was me stretching myself vocally into more soulful territory, and it was more of a risk for our listeners as well. I don’t consider Collage to be as strong as the others, but it is very important as it is the transition between Singles and Remixes and the more accomplished Middle Eastern pop that became Phoenix, and it was a necessary stepping stone for me.
Collage and Phoenix expanded our audience beyond the goth/darkwave/rock crowd that was our first audience on the first two albums, and the videos from Phoenix (‘Darklight’ and ‘Haunt Me’), combined with the previous foundations of college radioplay from the Singles and Remixes, that brought us to a much wider and international audience. Phoenix especially got a lot of attention in the Middle East and Cambodia. The challenge I think has been for our audience to get used to the metamorphosis, but I think the pop vocals that are usually present in at least several songs on each album, and the blend of electronics and acoustics in several songs on each album (this one featuring acoustic piano and acoustic drums) is what remains constant. I think that we finally settled into our sound between Phoenix and now with Introspekt.
The previous album, Phoenix seemed rather heavy on the incorporation of Middle Eastern sounds and undertones, which seems to have been muted somewhat on Introspekt. Was this intentional?
You mentioned that Phoenix had gained some attention in Cambodia and the Middle East; what do you find to be the major challenges in attaining an international audience – especially since Everpresent, like many bands in this day and age, does not have the benefit of the major label machine that can actually afford to send you and your music into other markets?
Cahoon: Well, as far as the large label backing, we are seeing signs that we could be getting some bigger people behind us soon, but thus far, we have had some new silent partners offer some assistance due to their belief in our persistence and longevity. As independent operation, Facebook and Twitter have been a very big part of us reaching other countries like Germany, France, Greece, and the UK, and especially Egypt. The videos also have increased our following dramatically, having been broadcast on actual TV networks in the UK and South Africa.
Introspekt is also interesting in its color scheme – in the past, Everpresent has taken on an almost gothic tone with heavy use of black. On this album, there’s a much more celestial vibe with lots of blue and white. How do the visuals tie in with the themes prevalent on the album, lyrically and musically? As well, was this a conscious break from the styles of the past?
What sorts of challenges have you faced in bringing the music to the live setting?
Cahoon: The things that I would say are challenging about the live performance are number one – the mix. The electronic tracks are very layered and dynamic and require a very balanced yet dynamic range of sounds and levels that change from song to song. The vocals and sequences are top priority. The understanding and multiple meanings of my lyrics must come through to the audience, and I’m very particular about the vocal balance between myself and Cat’s vocals in specific sections of the songs. Balint has the challenge of holding everyone together and has to have a perfect blend of a click track, the sequences, and also to especially have the music down so instinctively that he can interact with my cues and movements, which correspond to certain snare and cymbal hits that he does. Cat’s challenge is alternating between certain dance sections and maintaining breath control to switch to areas where she is singing more. So I’d say mix (as I’m very into having things sound as clear and tight as the albums) and us locking into the electronics is where the main challenges lie.
A lot of thought is clearly put into every thematic element to each Everpresent album, and this undoubtedly applies to the music videos as well; ‘In My Veins’ is comparatively simpler than your past videos as it features the band in performance – in what ways is this complementary of the album’s themes?
Cahoon: Well, I like to make each video have a different setting so we are not repeating the same type of video. So with ‘Darklight,’ I wanted to really emphasize that the single and album were all about the Middle Eastern video and I always wanted to participate in dance more, even though I am always a musician first. So that was a ‘dance-based’ video. Then, ‘Haunt Me’ was centered around a story that very much pertained to the lyrical content and showed a bit more performance musically speaking, but was still in a dark, shadowy dream atmosphere. After that, with having done those, I wanted ‘In My Veins’ to show much more a true representation of our onstage vibe and energy and have the focus be more on us and not in the shadows or effects. It was to show us actually playing and singing to show what an EP show is like, to show our ‘chops’ more and what everyone does when you come see us.
Regarding Balint’s progressive rock/metal chops that you mentioned, this reminded me of the presence of Kai Kurosawa on your first album. As ‘genres’ tend to change definition with each person, how do you define progressive music and what are your thoughts on its influence in modern music, especially in the electronic and pop realms?
Over the years, what would you say has been among the most valuable lessons you’ve learned and how have you applied it to the development of Everpresent’s music?
Cahoon: Lessons… choosing the right team and that though musical chemistry is critical, so is the personal chemistry, lifestyle, and attitude, and approach and personal vibe and energy not just on but offstage. Everyone has their quirks and it’s important to make certain that those quirks are compatible. This is very important especially on the road. This also applies to not just immediate band members, but to the extended family as I like to call it – video directors, set designers, sound technicians, and even the venue staff. I am very meticulous about the vibe, energy, and attitude of the people in all of these situations, and I watch very closely for compatibility in these situations before entering into agreements and long term work relationships where we may be around each other for many days and hours on end. I am very into the study of personality types and how people’s brains are wired. Dedication and singular focus and not compromising the long term vision of the art is also important. Music industry sounds, production styles, looks, and vibes come in and out of popularity faster than ever these days, and I think that it’s important to not get sucked too much into those trends, because in a year, those trends will have come and gone. Stay true to your art, and the art you create will be timeless.
What’s the next step for Everpresent?
Thanks to all to those who have supported us since 2002!
Photos courtesy of Niki Hinkle