Dallas-based As Strange As Angels are gearing up for the release of their single "Mirror Mirror" on Friday, March 15. The track is the title from their forthcoming debut EP, which drops on April 26.
The As Strange As Angels project is the brainchild of former Murder FM frontman Norman Matthew. After Murder FM went on hiatus in 2016, Matthew focused on raising his son after a rough divorce while juggling his work running his music school, The Sound Foundation. Along the way, he channeled all the emotions from the last few years into his solo work, which turned into the passionate As Strange As Angels adventure, which Matthew has coined "heart rock."
Joining Matthew are his longtime friends Nicholas Klinger on bass and backing vocals and Michelle Graves on drums.
"Mirror Mirror" was co-written and produced by former RA front man Sahaj Ticotin (Starset, Sevendust). The 4-song Mirror Mirror EP also features the track "Love and Death" with Drowning Pool's CJ Pierce on guitar. The other two songs, "Days Go Bye" and "Right Beside You" were produced by Matthew and Mick Kenney (Motionless In White.)
Recently, Matthew checked in with AXS to talk about the project and to share what went into finally getting it all together.
AXS: Well, you've got a lot going on right now.
Norman Matthew: Finally, right?! Yeah, I had to be in the right place in my head and be in the right place in my heart. The songs had to feel right because I'm not going to be one of those guys who does it if I'm not really bringing anything to the table.
AXS: And you have the new single "Mirror Mirror" premiering on Friday. The track has a lot of emotion in it.
NM: Thank you, I tried everything in the world. There have been so many songs tracked for this record that I'm really surprised that we've gotten it together because I've been so picky. Also the climate in this, the music model, has been so different. One minute it's like, let's release a record on cd and vinyl and then the next it's like, no one is buying records so let's just do single cycles. And then it's like, psych, it is selling so let's release an album. It's crazy! My team was told there's a little more demand out there right now because I had no idea. I was thinking that there were going to be like two people out there who were going to like it. [laughing]
AXS: Yeah, there was an article the other day talking about how vinyl and cd's outsold digital.
NM: Yeah, and it was thanks to rock and metal bands. It can be difficult because the culture hasn't caught up with streaming and stuff like that yet and I think that's the trick and is what makes it hard to consider rock and metal a mainstream success because they may not be putting the numbers on the board, but when you look at it on the other side, they are making the most money across the board. Even with touring because you had bands like Metallica and Guns N' Roses going out on tour and really doing it.
AXS: What do you want people to know about this track?
NM: That I tried everything different in the book that I could possibly cook up. For anyone that was possibly going to listen, to take the time out of their day to check it out and listen to the three and a half minutes of what I had to say, I at least wanted to make a very good attempt at trying to do something different.
Working with Sahaj on the track was pretty grueling to be very honest. He was breaking habits with the way that I sing, the way that I phrase, the way that I attack certain words in certain ways and the different ways I would move melodies. It wasn't because he thought they were bad, but he had the goal and the mindset that we were going to do something different and that was my big thing too. I didn't want to be the guy in a band who is like, I'm going to do a solo project and then it sounds exactly the same as what they were already doing. I mean, it was going to move and breathe like a band, but I wanted everything else around it to be different.
I mean, you can't really change the sound of your voice. Dave Grohl, from Foo Fighters, going from drums to guitar and then vocals made sure that anything he did was going to be different, but me going from vocals and guitar to vocals and guitar wasn't going to be that much different. So it was literally like breaking a horse in a way. There were some pretty frustrating moments within the songs as well when I was working on them because I had been challenged in a way that I had never been challenged before. I even doubted myself at times, it was like, can I even sing this man? Is this even in my range?
So, I guess I just want everyone to know even more than the story behind it is everything else that went into the song and to at least say thank you for humoring me your ears as I really try to serve up something different. Having said that, "Mirror Mirror" is about reconnecting to those that matter most in life. About reconnecting to yourself and not getting lost in the noise in life, but rather captivated by the things that illuminate in your heart.
AXS: Now there are four tracks on the EP?
NM: Yes, I'm actually going to be doing multiple EP's and slowly pushing them out because musically I was jumping all over the place. I was open to anything and everything along the way so whatever it took to get there was what it took. The cool part of doing a solo project was that I didn't have a set cast of characters that we didn't have to, not necessarily cater to, but just that once you have a band set up, you kind of have to write your songs based on that setup and kind of the sound that the band represents. With a solo effort, there's no real shackles on you and I really wanted to see where the project was going to go.
I mean, was it going to be some of the electronic stuff that I've been working on or was it going to be the kind of singer/songwriter Butch Walker guitar-type stuff? I wanted the songs to be able to grow. So we wanted to do a bunch of EP's with each one telling its own story and each one having its own soundtrack, rather than trying to shove everything into one big record.
AXS: And you've added in Nicholas and Michelle to the project, what is it about this lineup that has really brought together the whole As Strange As Angeles project?
NM: They were going to be perfect in every way. First of all, having a female drummer is just the coolest thing ever. Michelle is awesome. She's been in the scene for years and in all kinds of bands and we're really, really close friends. So how she kind of came into the mix was that she was a real big supporter on a personal level as a great friend. She saw a spark in me. I felt like being in my own little world and kind of just scared of the world there for a little while with everything that I had gone through in my personal life. So she saw a spark there that no one else had. It was really important to get out there and it took me a while to do it and she was really there for me at every turn. It kind of just felt natural to have her behind me on the kit. It fit like a glove in that regard and I knew if I fell that she would be there to catch me.
And then Nick has been in a ton of great bands too, a lot of really heavy hitting Dallas rock bands. He's really revered in the scene and he's also been a really good friend of mine as well and has been supportive of every project that I've been involved with. We talked all the time about doing something together and he had been wanting to try different things because he'd always been in goth metal type bands. So when this project came up, I was like, hey man, do you want to give this a whirl? It was something different for both of us and he was on board. So having different people involved who I'd never worked with on a musical level, but that I knew on a personal level was really cool because there was a safety there. There wasn't a fear about doing videos or performing live because there was no worrying about whether we were going to like each other or whether we were going to want to strangle each other after awhile. There is none of that so I feel very blessed to have them at my side on this because it started with the friendships first.
AXS: Do you have any live dates coming up?
NM: Yeah, actually we've got a few acoustic shows that we're going to be doing, which I love because I've been playing in bands since I was 16 years old and to kind of go the opposite way is nice. On March 19 we're playing New York City. Tommy London, form SiriusXM is presenting a show that As Strange As Angels is on with Frank Ferrer, the drummer for Guns N' Roses. So you can't say no to that! And then on April 6 and 7, we're actually opening for John Corabi from Dead Daisies and Motley Crue. Again, he's doing an acoustic set so naturally, we have to do one as well.
So yeah, the opportunities just kind of presented themselves that way, but what I do like about acoustic sets is that because there is so much emotion in these songs and they were all written acoustically first, it just translates well that way on stage. It's another sign of growth because with my other projects there was this wall of sound and all that noise and just going out there and being as ridiculous as I can be on stage, but with these acoustic sets, it's so different and so vulnerable because it's just my guitar and the songs. In a way, it's more difficult because there's nothing I can hide behind.
AXS: What has been the best feedback that you've gotten so far?
NM: You know, the biggest one, after the couple of shows that we've done so far, is just the general consensus that no one has really realized, and I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but they say that they didn't realize that my voice was so good. I'm just like, so it sounded bad before? [laughing] But really, I've just never been able to really sit down and showcase what I could be capable of as a musician. I've been playing for a long time and some things came naturally, but I've never really thought of myself as a virtuoso in anything. So to hear a compliment like that is really cool, especially with my voice because it's so different. I definitely stick out of the pack, especially in the climate of today because the tone and my approach is very different. It's my blessing and my curse because it can be rough sometimes because you're not going to fit in everywhere, but at the same time, that's what's cool. It kind of gives me my own identity and it's comfortable to me because I grew up on dudes like Robert Smith from The Cure and Chino from The Deftones.
AXS: And what is it about this moment in time that has made it all come together for you?
NM: Like I was telling you earlier, it had to be the right time. I had to be right with my heart and right with my head. My little boy is the absolute most important thing in the world to me and I kind of built my life and sculpted it around that. He is absolute number one and there is nothing on this planet that I'm going to do that's going to keep me from him. When I was 22 and 23 years old I was writing songs until five in the morning and then waking up again at 9 o'clock to do it again, but now I've got to make sure that I'm doing what I need to do for him first when it comes to traveling and doing shows. I build my schedule with my son at the forefront of all of that.
Just making sure that I was very self-aware was kind of what held the project up for so long because I was extremely adamant that I didn't want to lie to myself or throw music out that I thought people would love to hear when in actuality they wouldn't. I wanted to offer something new and fresh and evolve physically and mentally. I wanted to evolve as a musician and as a person and I wanted all of that to be reflected creatively as best I could. At the end of the day, I had to be happy with it and it had to feel right.
To be one of the first to hear the new "Mirror Mirror" track, you can pre-save the song on Spotify and listen to their first single "Waves" here.