Interview with Male Gaze vocalist/guitarist Matt Jones | By Tim Anderl
Miss Taken—the third LP by San Francisco’s Male Gaze, released June 30 via Castle Face Records—could have just as easily been titled “Love Is a Battlefield.” Navigating a pop-leaning post-punk landscape amidst fuzzy mortars and buzzing guitars, vocalist Matt Jones radios in his lovelorn shellshock to great effect.
“I had recently broken up with a longtime girlfriend and was out on the town for the first time in, like, 10 years, so that more than anything just got my wheels turning,” Jones admits. “I mean, if you listen to the lyrics, there’s all sorts of different scenarios going on, and I sort of used writing as a way to get through a bunch of different things. Turns out, I fall quickly and hard, and there were quite a few stumbles where I sort of picked myself off the ground and dusted myself off by writing these songs. It was an eventful few months. There’s obviously some wishful thinking and fictions and liberties and blah [blah blah]—it’s no tell-all—but there was a lot of heart and obsessions kinda poured into this one and populating it around the corners.”
“It’s funny, I recently started dating a girl more seriously,” he adds, “and when the band came up, I was like, ‘Well, I did just finish what amounts to a concept album about unrequited love—hope that’s cool.’ So yeah, uh, low-key concept album, I guess.”
In addition to changes in Jones’ love life, the band uncoupled from their second guitarist, settling in as a trio. The lineup change and some revised recording methods produced in a grittier record in Miss Taken. “Turns out it was more trouble than it was worth, and it didn’t really add to the sound,” Jones says of the second guitar. “I would posit that the sound changed more as a result of the recording process than the lineup, though. For this one, I took tapes back and forth between two [Tascam] 388s—one at my house and one at our practice space. I guess I was a little dismayed by how glossy [2016’s] King Leer came out in the end, and I was determined to get it to tape somewhere between the two first records in terms of noise-to-pop ratio. I kept thinking ‘spiked lemonade’ is how I wanted the electric 12-string to sound, and I played around with it until it made my lips pucker.”
Jones says he’s content with the end result for a number of reasons—and a reason of numbers. “To me, in the band as well as my own personal canon, it feels like a completion of a cycle,” he explains. “I like threes. It’s a round number, and it feels like we’re loose on this one, even though a lot of the songs are wound so tight. It had been a while since my focus was so straightforward: no impossibly proprietary sounds or fancy tricks, just guitar, bass, and drums. A triangle. Of course, I mess with alternate tunings and overdubs, but aside from that, real simple, straightforward stuff worked for me, and lo and behold, a three. Numerology-wise, I’m a three as well. So, ‘Return of the Jedi’—hopefully, minus the Ewoks.”