Analogue Music | Fleece


By Matt Conner

"It's allowing us to focus on the music at least."

Even when Matt Rogers, the front man and principal songwriter for Fleece, is talking about a worldwide pandemic, he's still focused on the positive. These days, Fleece is all about the positive vibes, armed with a new trio of singles that harness well the band's newfound focus on pop melodies best described as "fun" and "beachy."

Fleece wasn't always this positive. Neither was Rogers. In fact, Fleece's last album, Voyager, revolved around an artist trying to seize control of everything he could, as Rogers grappled with his sexuality. To hear him tell the story, it was a recording process filled with internally-felt pressures that produced a cathartic release. Perhaps Voyager can be viewed as the necessary portal through which Rogers had to walk, personally and professionally, to arrive at this happy new state of being (and playing).

If you've not heard from Fleece in a few years, then you're missing a seriously sunny turn for the band. With a new set of bandmates, Rogers says he's quite thrilled with the current chemistry and creativity. "Fleece wasn't Fleece yet" on those past albums, he says.

Even in the face of a disrupted music industry due to a virus gone global, Rogers sounds quite happy about the state of the world—or his world at least. And Fleece is all the better for it.

Analogue: Certainly you didn't intend a song like "So Long" to be released during the coronavirus, but it oddly speaks to our times.

Matt Rogers: Yeah, it was more for social media than coronavirus itself. When we were writing it, I felt like we were entering this age where I felt we couldn't get off our phones forever, that well always get our information through these social media venues. At the time, it was more me being frustrated like I can't get away from my phone. But now there's a second layer. I wake up and get this weird feeling of excitement and horror of looking at the news. I think a lot of people feel that way as well. It's addictive to get all this information.

Before I was like, 'What do we do with this information?' With COVID, now I realize we have to interact with it. Before I wanted to step away and not use my phone but now we have to try to engage because there's literally a war going on with social media and we have since Trump got elected.

Analogue: Let me ask about your approach there. Is the song like that just an organic response to what you are naturally thinking about or was it more of an intentional statement directed at the times we're living in?

Matt: It's a mix. Usually most of the songs I write are personal, but I always try to write my lyrics in a way that others than get their own take from it. For example, I would rather not be on my phone all day dealing with this shit, but what I want others to do is question entering this new world of technology. Let's question the technology. Let's question what's going on. But mostly I want others to dance. That's another thing as well.

People will take what they will from the music. You can't force what the audience wants. This is my story. Some people might take that for a minute and others might enjoy the songs because it's fun. When I'm writing lyrics, that's what I want people to want: the either/or.

Analogue: I'm glad you brought that up, because I wanted to ask about threading that needle. The band is clearly focused on positivity and fun and you've said so yourself. At the same time, the lyrics can be quite personal in this yearning or even heartbreaking way.

Matt: Well, Voyager was a really cathartic album for me. It was me talking to myself who was a teenager in the closet who is gay. I wanted to tell him it was going to be okay. That was trying to get all these feelings from my past to the surface while also trying to maybe talk to kids who were listening who needed someone to anonymously tell them it would be okay.

With this newer stuff, I think getting away from the cathartic-ness of the songs by making them feel happier... I love the contrast of talking about dark shit on a really fun song. [Laughs] I think it's a really fun way to deal with it. This new album we're making more is way more bangers, way more fun songs. The songs aren't all dark, per se, but a lot of it is introspective and deals with communicating with yourself or others. I think how we communicate is one of the biggest themes in Fleece these days.


Analogue: How much of that is a response to the marketplace?

Matt: Hmm, I think the response to the marketplace for me comes more in writing pop melodically or instrumentally versus lyrically. Lyrically, I'm never like, 'I want people to relate to this and get the songs to be more popular.' But definitely with songwriting structure, I'm focused on writing hits. I think hits are really hard to write. Something that's catchy and does well is really exciting to me. For some reason, it always ends up sounding still like Fleece and definitely not like a pop hit whenever we do stuff. [Laughs]

But lyrically it doesn't have to do with the marketplace. I want fans to be able to relate to the lyrics, but I don't think Fleece fans listen for the lyrics first. I think most of them listen because they enjoy the music, and then there are some fans that really delve in. I don't know if we're necessarily that band where people are like, 'You have to listen to these lyrics.'

Analogue: Are you comfortable with where you're at or do you wish that was true?

Matt: Hmmm, whatever people take away, they take away. I learned this from our video we did that went viral called "How to Write an Alt-J Song." I learned then that you cannot control what people are going to take away from your music. What people say about the video, I had no idea that the video was even like that before we uploaded it. I didn't realize half the shit that was going on then.

I find that I like seeing what people had to say and then tapping into that more, because that's what people like about the music. I kind of go at it in a more organic, coming-from-my-heart way and then see what people like the most. With the video for "So Long", I know people fucking love seeing our positivity.

"​When we started, that was never something I was tapping into musically—getting that positive dance vibe. I think the rest of the band really helped to bring that forward"

When we started, that was never something I was tapping into musically—getting that positive dance vibe. I think the rest of the band really helped to bring that forward, because they all pretty psychedelic, fun people—Megan [Ennenberg], Jameson [Daniel], Ethan [Soil]. They really brought that exciting element of Fleece to the surface.

Now we know that's what people like about Fleece, so we're tapping into that more because we know that works for sure. Obviously we'd like to get bigger and the way to get bigger is to listen to what your fans like about you and tap into that more.

Analogue: You said that wasn't your initial aim to be so positive. What was that initial impulse or aim for you?

Matt: Our first record was completely different members. It was five boys going into a room and then making music that they thought sounded good. On the second album, we had two guys leave the band and then I felt this need to take control and write all these songs on my own. We went into the studio and I told everyone what parts to play. On this upcoming record, I think we've finally come into what Fleece is which is that fun, beachy vibe while also talking about shit that's meaningful to us. And it's being best friends. That's the vibe we're trying to harness now.

Analogue: Listening to you talk about Voyager sounds like it was a portal for you, that you had to walk through it in order to get to where you're at now.

Matt: 100 percent. While writing it, I was still dealing with coming out as well. I still didn't have much of a sense of the gay community yet. I just needed everyone to know I was gay for some reason. I was like, 'I just need to get this out there. I need to scream from the rooftops what I'm going through right now, because there's still this underlying shit in the closet that I need to just bury.' I wanted to bury it but I also wanted to let people know. So it was a hurdle but it was also a portal.

However it didn't feel that way at the time. These guys had left the band and I wanted to show them what our music was actually like. There was that pressure, too. It wasn't what Fleece is now. It still feels pretty young. I think it's a lovely record. I'll never listen and really enjoy it because I'm a perfectionist, of course, but there are some good songs. But I guess I did need to get it out of the way.

Then again Fleece wasn't Fleece yet. Megan and Jameson were just studio musicians; they weren't in the band yet. It was pretty much me and Ethan and then Gabe [Miller], the bassist, would come in and we'd teach him the parts. It was just not what it is now. It was a transition into what Fleece is now.

Analogue: We talked about the positivity of the music, but are you the most positive now about where Fleece is going than any other point?

Matt: Yeah, I love where Fleece is going. We were just in the studio recording our next single and I was like, 'We have never sounded this good.' Our chemistry between the four of us is pouring onto the page. I think that's a super-positive thing. I think we're on the right track.

VISIT: Fleece

Photo: Dylan Mitro