Meet The Suitcase Junket’s Matt Lorenz, one-man-band and instrument-builder
The Suitcase Junket plays at The Press on Thursday, Aug. 1
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — If your ears happen to stumble upon The Suitcase Junket’s folky, bluesy, pysch-rock music, you’ll probably have a tricky time identifying the sounds you’re hearing.
The Suitcase Junket is a band with one musician and a constantly fluctuating number of instruments, many built from what most people would consider garbage by the aforementioned one musician.
Meet Matt Lorenz, Amherst, Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and instrument creator. Lorenz has been creating and playing music as The Suitcase Junket since 2009. His latest album is “Mean Dog, Trampoline,” released in April following “Sever and Lift” in 2009, “Knock it Down” in 2011, “Make Time” in 2015, “Dying Star” in 2016, “Pile Driver” in 2017 and “Live W/ Others” in 2018.
The Suitcase Junket takes the stage at The Press at 8 p.m. Thursday, August 1.
What: The Suitcase Junket at The Press
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1
Where: The Press, 1009 Lincoln Ave.
Explore Steamboat: Which came first: the singing and songwriting, or the junk collecting and tinkering?
Matt Lorenz: Once I convinced the babysitter, as a six-year-old, that it was okay for me to take the phone apart, that I had no interest in putting back together — my parents had me find stuff to tinker with at the dump. And I was always a musical kid, playing violin and piano, but when I started playing guitar at 13 or 14, I started writing, too — whiny songs inspired by the 90’s. Repetition, and eventually improvement, hopefully.
ES: Tell me about the process of turning a suitcase, or another non-instrumental item, into an instrument.
ML: I was at a point when I didn’t have much money but I wanted to have more instruments in my life. It’s like having hungry ears — you’re looking for sounds all over the place. I was really interested in listening and all the ways you can listen. I was interested in the infinite possibilities of a tin can. It was a really rich time for me in terms of exploration and failure, of course.
Suitcases are great little pieces of culture. Nowadays, I’m trying to limit my acquisition; I have more stuff than I need. We have a great dump — a transfer station. I don’t even let myself go in there anymore.
ES: When you’re touring and traveling, have you found some areas or cities that have junk that’s especially good for turning into instruments?
ML: There’s this one really big, three- or four-story flea market place in Kansas City — I don’t go to Kansas City that much, but I’ve gone to this flea market three times and come away with gems every time. How I pick stuff out is just whatever’s speaking to me that day. For a while, it was all baseball stuff. I was just feeling really drawn to old baseballs.
ES: What’s the most recent instrument you’ve made?
ML: Lately, with the scaling back, I haven’t been creating a ton. But the most recent one is basically a high hat, with bones and silverware hanging off, and it makes a wonderful little crunching sound. Stuff like that doesn’t often make it out on the road, because it’s cumbersome.
I’m also thinking of getting back into making more wind instruments.
ES: What do you think people can learn from all of this and from thinking about how you do music?
ML: There’s this ethos: “Don’t let anything go to waste, how can you access the value in everything, reuse everything.” It’s good to acknowledge that once in a while — we create so much garbage, but we have enough.
But when I’m performing, I’m not necessarily trying to change anyone’s mind about their relationship with their garbage. When it comes to a show, it’s really about telling people stories and getting people on your side. It’s more “let’s feel somethings together” kind of experience.
ES: What kinds of things?
ML: I sing a lot about having things and then losing them. There’s a lot of longing, but the musical vibe is pretty hopeful — stand and sway. I’ve been getting excited about getting people to dance — playing more festivals has gotten me hooked on that. I tell stories to try to generate a chuckle, because I find that when people laugh, they’re more susceptible to feel other emotions. If I get them to laugh, then play a sad song, they’ll feel it more. So basically, I get on stage and emotionally manipulate people through a series of different moods.
ES: What are the benefits of being a one-man band?
ML: We’ll start crass and say financial, then we’ll go to the creative: I’m very comfortable creative alone. I’ve been in bands, and I like creating with other people, too, but there’s a certain freedom in creating by yourself, and not having to check with anyone. I definitely miss singing harmony with people. And during the crappy nights, there’s no one to complain with; and during the really great nights, there’s no one to share the glow with. But I’m not always so alone.
In the beginning, it was a challenge creatively, but now it’s inertia — the machine is going. On the next album, I’ll probably start pulling more people in for fun.
ES: Is your next album already in the works or more of a vague idea far in the future?
ML: Both of those things. I’ve been writing a bunch of songs, the writing’s in and we have a vague window about when we’ll get it recorded, but the details have yet to be decided.
ES: What can you tell me about the energy of the new material so far?
ML: I can’t tell you anything! In my brain, it would be commenting on the future career of an infant.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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