INTERVIEW: Matthew Leone – Madina Lake

It’s been ten years since alternative rockers MADINA LAKE roared onto the scene with From Them, Through Us, To You and as that breakthrough record celebrates its ten year anniversary, the band have emerged from the wilderness of hiatus to reclaim their spot at the top. Through performances across the UK, which includes spots at the recent Slam Dunk Festival (read our review of the southern date here), and new music on the horizon, it seems that MADINA LAKE are back with a statement of intent. At Slam Dunk South we caught up with bassist Matthew Leone to talk about Slam Dunk, the band’s emergence from the wilderness

So how has the entirety of Slam Dunk Festival been for you guys?

Matthew: I’ve got to say, we didn’t expect for it to go this well. Partly because we didn’t prepare well enough, like we got so excited writing and got sort of caught up in that process that by the time we realised we were all just like “holy shit we’ve got to play some shows”. We tried rehearsing but we’re scattered all over the world, Nathan is in Los Angeles, I’m in Manchester, England, Mateo’s in Bogotá, Columbia and our drummer Chris is from Nashville, so we had to find a time for everyone to be in one place. But we were delighted with how well it went and the crowds, that was our favourite part, we didn’t expect people to remember us.

Are there any bands you have seen this weekend or wanted to check out today?

Matthew: AGAINST ME are always up there. ENTER SHIKARI too are really big friends of ours, we toured for eight or nine years and we were sort of synchronised with them, they’d release something and then we’d release something, so we’d see each other at all the same festivals and we’d tour together, so I love seeing them all the time.

Slam Dunk and your headline dates around it have been celebrating both your return from hiatus and the 10 year anniversary of From Them, Through Us, To You, what made you choose to come over to the UK to do that?

Matthew: We really wanted to specifically come here to do it and there’s a few reasons for that. It’s no secret that the philosophy and the values system between our band members, we resonate more with the nuances of the culture here. We’re from Chicago and Chicago is like a sister city to any city in England, we have the same sort of philosophy and we just relate better, and then the record resonated better here so we came over here and ever since this has been like our home away from home.

Madina Lake live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
Madina Lake live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

Album in full shows are the traditional way for a band to celebrate an album anniversary, seeing as you’ve already done that in the UK for the 5 year anniversary, would you ever consider doing it again possibly somewhere else or were there other plans you had for it?

Matthew: Yeah we probably won’t do that again, we like to do the whole reinvent ourselves thing but at the same time I think that we worked so hard for so many years and our objective was to create something tangible that would live eternally in the world, like a piece of art or a concept so like our three records. We did that and we want to honour all of the work we put into that, as opposed to the viewpoint that a lot of bands have where they’re like “we don’t want to play our old shit, we’re tired of playing the hits and blah blah blah”, we don’t agree with that philosophy, we’ll always be playing and honouring the music that really started the magic in the beginning.

You’re a band who all through your career have been known to have a very high energy live show, how has it been getting back into that? Any rust you’ve needed to shake off?

Matthew: I’ll tell you what, what we really didn’t want to do was change or come out here and just be old men. You see that a lot and if anyone were candidates for it, it’s us! So we were really nervous about that and we spent months being really nervous about that, as opposed to spending months exercising [laughs]. So honestly we had no idea how it would go, but then you get up there and you realise that stuff is not contrived, it’s natural and whatever happens, happens. Thankfully we were okay and we just deal with it in the morning!

Has the dynamic of the band changed in any way following the hiatus?

Matthew: Erm I don’t think so and I think that’s because we created a culture with MADINA LAKE and that comprised of the friendship between the four, now five of us, Chris Mason who’s playing drums for us now, he’s one of our best friends in the whole world and so is the G-Wiz Bot, that’s what I call Dan and I’m not even going to try and explain that [laughs]. But anyway, they’re like family as well so Chris slotted right in because Dan wasn’t ready to come back out do a tour, but we’re going to do this every year now so he’ll probably be back with us next year. Like I said, it’s like a culture, the dynamic hasn’t changed at all and you just slot right back into it.

Have you also seen any change in the scene or at shows since you were last over here?

Matthew: Really we’ve been so out of touch with what’s happening, even while we were in MADINA LAKE before, we never paid much attention to what was happening but I was really surprised that things sort of seem the same. We don’t really stand out like a sore thumb, well we do to the degree with which we want, but that works, so the fact that our fanbase is still intact, that’s really all that we want and all we pay attention to, as long as that crew is in shape then that’s really all we care about, we don’t care about what’s happening around us, this could be a disco festival for all we care [laughs].

Do you think the time away has made you appreciate or have a different outlook on being in the band and touring?

Matthew: “100%. Absolutely! So transitioning away from being a career musician is an incredible challenging thing to do for a lot of people and unfortunately for most people, they really struggle. Fortunately for me, I’ve been able to make another career in the music business, Nathan and Mateo have done the same, they’re a song writing team for pop artists and Chris is a full time session and touring drummer in Nashville. So yeah, we’re very lucky that we’ve been able to stay around in music but still having jobs and bosses is something we’ve never had before and even now we’re still kind of in that situation but we’ll see how long that lasts.

So are you guys fully back off of hiatus now, could we possibly expect new music soon or are you just taking this as they come right now?

Matthew: So right now we have eight new songs, three that meet the MADINA LAKE standard, we call it the “Holy Shit Test” [laughs], so if we get a unanimous holy shit on a song, that goes on the record. Nathan and Mateo want to release a full record like the old format, I have a different idea of course [laughs], so what the plan is at this point is that every month we’re going to do a week of dates in the UK and then maybe one in Chicago and one in Los Angeles and we’re going to count down to those dates by releasing a new song every month and we’ll see how that goes!

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