The singer-songwriter from Atlanta is a new kind of rock star, full of style and swagger
For so many musicians, the visual element of their music can sometimes extend who they are as an artist. Mattiel directs her own artwork and designs the sets for her music videos, so her output is 100 per cent her. And like so many other musicians, the singer-songwriter from Atlanta, Georgia, puts in a double shift each day; the first as an illustrator and graphic design artist for the online marketing platform Mailchimp, the second as a rock star.
Having creative control over visual output requires a deep sense of knowing who you are as a person and how you want to be portrayed as a musician and Mattiel Brown knows exactly who she is. From teaching herself guitar as a teenager who pored over White Stripes records, she learned about swagger and from the likes of Nancy Sinatra, she learned about style. And because an education in style and swagger is never done, we turn to Mattiel, this week’s VBF, for some essential lessons.
Dressed in white tennis shorts, a white zippy and white baseball cap for her Count Your Blessings video, a song that could have been penned for a desert-based Tarantino movie, Mattiel remains still as purple powder, chopped tomatoes, feathers, flour, paint and slices of bread are flung at her. The video, directed and produced by Mattiel and Jason Travis, mixes humour and a deadpan seriousness to create something wonderfully absurd. Teaming up with Travis again for Whites of Their Eyes, she plays the Lone Ranger with a twist. Always alone, she stands on top of a white horse, shoots red flares into the sky and studies some recipes from a Cooking with Soup book. Using close to no budget but sparing no imagination or silliness, Mattiel makes sure that what we see and what we hear is all her.
Continuing this wayward cowboy stance, her recent performance – her debut TV performance, actually – of Count Your Blessings on Later … with Jools Holland adds to the song’s ferocity. The chorus turns into an impassioned yodel, not far from Ennio Morricone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme. Dressed all in black, she throws her body into the lyrics, spitting each word out with venom, coming in like a dark force. Where there’s colour, irony and fun in her music videos, she’s an enigmatic performer who summons up dark clouds when necessary.
Relying heavy on deep south blues and rock for this record and using her songwriting as form of storytelling, comparisons vary from PJ Harvey to The Black Keys and Patti Smith. With the traditional idea of the rock star dying out and being replaced by the posturing of Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and Kasabian, it’s refreshing to see Mattiel be herself onstage and still be every inch the rock star we need in this day and age. She works off a different frequency and while she nods to her musical heroes in her songs, the music she makes feels utterly different.
Mattiel is a pony with many tricks, and even she’s still riding the wave of this year’s debut self-titled album, it feels as though we’ll see this triple threat (singer, songwriter, designer) appear in many shapes over the course of the next few years.
Mattiel plays The Grand Social, Dublin,onNovember10th