Matthew Sweet has evolved over the past 20 years from being the Girlfriend guy to… well, something else entirely. To some, he’s the Neil Young of his generation. But, really, he’s so much more than that. As a solo artist, Sweet has released records sporadically over the post-Girlfriend years. He also joined forces with Shawn Mullins and Pete Droge to form the short-lived Thorns collective.
Then, he teamed up with Susanna Hoffs (under the Sid n Susie guise) for a series of decade-based cover albums aptly titled Under the Covers. Volume 1 reached back to the 1960s, while Volume 2 rummaged through the ’70s. (Volume 3 is currently in the works with an eye on the ’80s.)
A second collaboration involving Hoffs found Sweet as a member of the Mike Myers-as-Austin Powers-fronted Ming Tea band. Yet a third Hoff-related project put Sweet in the producer’s chair for the upcoming Bangles record, Sweetheart of the Sun, due on September 27. The same day, Sweet also has a new solo record coming out, Modern Art, a taste of which is available on NoiseTrade.
NoiseTrade: It’s hard to believe that Girlfriend came out 20 years ago. What have been the biggest, most impactful changes for you since then – in yourself, the world, the music business?
Matthew Sweet: In myself, I’m just not as scared of life as I once was. The world has been changed forever by the Internet (which I dig). The music business, as we once knew it, is essentially gone!
NT: You’ve never been afraid to wear your influences on your sleeve. Do you still mostly listen to rock legends, or are there contemporary artists that you dig?
MS: Honestly, I don’t listen to either one very much. I’m kind of a silence guy, maybe because music is in my head so much. After working on music for long hours, quiet can be quite nice!
NT: Say some kid who was born in 1984 has a band now and U2 is his Beatles equivalent, Michael Stipe his Mick Jagger… Is that enough or should he dig back through the history of rock to really get an education?
MS: Sure, an education would be good! I mean, Robert Quine taught me about Elvis who, of course, I now love. When I was a kid, I kinda thought that stuff was just Happy Days.
NT: You wear so many musical hats, as it were. Between solo artist, producer, duo, trio, and band, which one suits you best? Or do they each feed different sides?
MS: I think I’m best-suited as a solo artist, but have enjoyed being in other roles sometimes. It is awesome to have a friend or friends who share the burden with you, the nerves, etc. and it is fun sometimes to capture something new through engineering and producing. So, I guess they do feed different sides, yes!:)
NT: For the Sid n Susie collaboration with Susanna Hoffs, you guys are right now digging into volume three which covers the ’80s. Are there plans to keep on going until you bend the time-space continuum by catching up with yourselves?
MS: Ha! Well, we haven’t ever really discussed beyond the ’80s, but you never know! We love to have things to work on together, and it was fun when we toured together.
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