Hattiesburg singer-songwriter Matt Gill has to be Mississippi's best-kept musical secret. I remember when Jonathan McLeran, another Mississippi native songwriter, first introduced me to his recordings. I was struck by Gill's strange sense of melody and knack for stream-of-consciousness compositions.
Gill has two groups, Microdreamhome and Magic Carnie. The former is his rock band, which admittedly has barely graced my ears. The latter is his solo recording that I have been listening to for months. Unfortunately, neither project has an official release, which is another reason Gill has remained such a secret.
Gill's strange, sometimes monotone melodies that he infuses with an unemotional voice are reminiscent of Ian Curtis of Joy Division and Brian Eno. The manic nature of the music reminds me of Syd Barrett, and I consider songs like "Island of Gifts" to be the modern-day equivalent to the Cure's "Caterpillar Song." The song's oversimplified single-note keyboard parts are feverishly catchy and upbeat, while the song's melody and general vibe secrete feelings both desperate and sad.
I have yet to hear something like his music come out of our fine state, so naturally I wanted to know more.
Describe your current situation.
I work at a hotel at night. I don't get paid a lot, but it's a dream job, because I actually get paid for writing and e-mailing. I use the opportunity of solitude to get things done. In the last month, I've written this play that Microdreamhome's going to do.
What is your role in Microdreamhome?
With this band, I'm more open to the idea of sharing the responsibility of songwriting. It's become a new process. Before, I was kind of tyrannical—art was mine, and I wanted to do everything. To have someone else write the words, the accompaniment, or a few songs—it totally changes the outcome.
Are there plans to take Magic Carnie to the stage, or will you continue Microdreamhome with the occasional Carnie cover?
The thing about being in a rock band—the thing I like most about being onstage and playing rock 'n' roll, being out there and singing these songs up-tempo, loud and screaming—is this transcendent experience that can't be done with these somber (Magic Carnie) songs. It's totally kinetic. It's totally about over-the-top emotion, instead of saying, "I'm going to play something without a beat, with a computer."
If Microdreamhome exists, why does Magic Carnie need to exist?
The whole Magic Carnie project started after Katrina. I had just gotten new recording software and I was just messing around with it. Katrina came, and the power went off. When it came back on, I spent all my time in front of the computer. I started singing in a way I've never sung before and recording the vocals in a different way. I had a lot of fun, spending a lot of time by myself. I wasn't thinking about doing it live. Maybe I was thinking that I was doing sketches that would become Microdreamhome songs, but after doing it for a while, they became a thing all on their own. They became complete.
Do you like your own music? Is it something you would listen to if you hadn't written it?
I started off as a fiction writer, and I never once wrote a story that I liked. I'd go to bed happy, read what I'd written the next morning, and it would just be sh*t. The whole time I was doing that, I started playing guitar to release stress. Eventually, I started writing songs and realizing that I liked the songs the next morning. I've got this thing where it's fun doing it and I can have this result that I can look to the next day, the next year, and still like.
Gill plans to release Magic Carnie recordings as "The Significance Trance," and plans to record an album with Microdreamhome.