On Thursday, August 10th, singer, songwriter, and producer Mattie Safer takes the stage in our crown jewel, Top of The Standard at The Standard, High Line. With support from superproducer Paul Epworth, the former bassist of the Rapture has been carving his own path, his latest release being the single “Floating.” Our golden, glamorous room is the perfect setting for his sound that’s tinged with vintage soul and R&B. We caught up with him to hear all about life as a solo artist, his new sound, and what he’s learned from collaborating with Timbaland and Danger Mouse.
Standard Sounds Presents: Mattie Safer
Thursday, August 10, 8-10PM
Top of The Standard
The Standard, High Line
Free with an RSVP to AnnieO@StandardHotels.com
THE STANDARD: Where are you based now?
MATTIE SAFER: I'm back in New York City after a couple years living out in Los Angeles.
Tell us about your new single "Floating."
"Floating" is a new song that I made with my friend Filip Nikolic from the band Poolside. I was thinking about how fractured our society and discourse has become, dividing sharply along lines of income, race, gender, and sexuality. In the immediate face of our problems, it's very easy to focus on these differences and treat each other as representations of our race/class/sexuality/political party rather than as individuals. The idea of the song is that if we could step away from these divisions, if we were floating around together out in outer space, then we could set those things aside, treat each other with compassion, and work together to find solutions. The melody and rhythm just flowed out at the same time. I recorded the vocal and laid down the keys, drums, and bass underneath. I knew working with Filip it would be perfect, because I love the sound he gets on the Poolside stuff. We fleshed out the rest of the arrangement in his backyard studio over the course of a couple days. I wanted to do something up-tempo and fun, but something that still had something to say and I think this song really nailed it.
How did you get together with Blende for your remixes project All We Are?
Those are two separate things. I did a vocal feature with Blende for Eskimo Recordings called "Back To Summertime." He was introduced to me as someone who I might vibe with, and I really liked one of the instrumentals he sent over, so I laid down the vocal and we worked through the details over the Internet. I still never met him in person or even heard his speaking voice, but such is modern life. All We Are (Remixes) is a project I put together when I released the single "All We Are" from my debut EP of the same name. I thought it would be cool to hear a few different takes on songs from that EP, so I asked three different producers for remixes: Dave Nada, Thando1988, BL'EVE Brown, and John Hamilton. I released that earlier this summer and I'm real happy with the way it came out.
You had the opportunity to tour and work with some of the best in music...Daft Punk, Danger Mouse, Timbaland, and Paul Epworth. Tell us what you've learned from some of the greats.
Touring with Daft Punk was a clear lesson in following your vision, sweating the details around the presentation, and taking the time to do things right rather than rushing to be ready on other people's schedules. Danger Mouse was one of the sweetest people I've worked with, and he showed me the importance of brevity. When he is working on a song he always listens down from the beginning of the song every time and the way he decides it's time to change a part or end the song is when he gets bored. He is a great editor. Then again, I'm loquacious as hell, so maybe I didn't really learn that one. Timbaland showed me the importance of excellence at one's craft and being prepared. He's a legit genius in the studio and he works fast. If you can keep up, it's one of the most amazing musical experiences you'll ever have. If you don't know your shit, he'll try to accommodate, but ultimately, he is going do what needs to be done to finish a song and make it great, with or without you. Paul taught me the importance of finding your voice and following your artistic vision, even if it's not cool or what people are expecting.
Favorite tour memory?
The best memories from touring are from the early days when we had nothing and were just driving around in a van playing for 50 people a night and sleeping on people's floors. Dumb things like arm wrestling contests on some stranger's coffee table while listening to Le Tigre or getting a flat tire on some back road outside of Memphis and having to spend the night in a "no tell" motel. That's what sticks with you.
How are the guys from The Rapture? Do you think you'll work on any music together soon?
I think everybody is doing fine. I've spoken to everyone at some point this summer. Everybody is enjoying doing their own thing at the moment, but I don't think the idea of doing something is out of the question.
Are there any tracks by other artists you currently have on repeat?
Here's a few recent releases that I love: Roxiny’s "9 Months", Denitia’s "Waiting", The Hundred In The Hands’ "Red Eye Rising", and Latasha Alcindor’s "Don't Be Mad".
Tell us about your love for soul music and how it inspires you in your music.
Soul music, funk, and jazz are how I found myself as a musician. I was taking basic little kid "hot cross buns" style piano lessons and then my mother took me to see the music teacher perform with his jazz trio. It spoke to me, and that was when I decided I really wanted to be a musician and started taking it seriously. So I was studying jazz at school, but then me and my friends were listening to records by A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, The Pharcyde, Beastie Boys, etc. and then digging into the sample sources to learn about those old records. I was playing bass along with James Brown and Earth, Wind, & Fire records, or trying to play live hip hop like The Roots. I was also playing in punk bands and going to shows in Washington, D.C. Soul music has always been an influential part of the music that I'm making to one degree or another.
What can we expect from your show The Standard, High Line?
I perform with a three-piece band. It's mostly original music drawing from my debut EP All We Are, plus my new single "Floating" and few unreleased things. I think live performances should be different from the record, so we always bring an element of improvisation to what we do. So we play together, have fun, and I try to tell stories with my songs. If everything goes well, it will be a transformative experience for all involved.
What's next for you?
I'll be releasing more music throughout the year, both under my own name and as a featured vocalist with some other producers. Hopefully I’ll continue performing around the city. I love getting on stage. The best way to keep up with my comings and goings is to visit my website (mattiesafer.com) and follow me on social media (@mattiesafer on all platforms).