Arts, The Muse

An interview with Matt Marlin of Pterodactyl

Laura Jane: Hi, Matt. I’m Laura Jane, with Boston University’s The Daily Free Press. You good to go?

Matt Marlin: Yeah.

LJ: Righteous. So, let’s start with the basics. You’re the drummer for a band called Pterodactyl.

MM: Correct.

LJ: How’d you guys get started?

MM: I started playing with Joe Kramer, the guitarist and lead singer, when we were at college together at Oberlin, in Ohio. We were pretty much friends from day one our freshman year. I was wearing this t-shirt for this band Unwound that was my favorite band and so on the first day of orientation he just said, “Hey, that’s a great shirt,” and then we were really good friends after that. So we lived in a house together in college and played in our basement and had a pretty bad college band together. We moved to New York in 2002, right when we graduated, with our friend Kurt and we were really excited about being, like, a New York band. Or I don’t know if we really thought about it that way. We just sort of all had a plan to move to New York and have a band and in 2003 we decided on the name Pterodactyl and put out our first 7”.

LJ: Is there significance to the name Pterodactyl?

MM: I think it was just kind of a fun word that, for us, kind-of invoked a child-like fascination with just cool, sort-of boyish fantasies. Kind-of just like one of those cool words that you get fascinated with as a kid and it just grips your imagination. So it’s just like a fun but sort of silly, catchy word. You know, we kind of had like an experimental fascination with sound and noise and being kind-of obnoxious and we kind-of imagined that we sounded, in those early stages, like a pterodactyl squeal or squawk or whatever. So that was, I guess, the thinking at the time.

LJ: All right. And Pterodactyl’s last release was the EP Arnold’s Park, last year, yeah?

MM: Yeah.

LJ: It’s released under a Swedish label, Deleted Art. So did you work with Swedes on that?

MM: Well, let’s see. Not exactly. We recorded it all on our own. It’s just that we had our first and only European tour coming up and we… oh, let’s see, how did it happen? Actually, our newest bandmate, Jesse, at the time, he had this solo project called Twin Towers and he had been in talks with this Swedish label, Deleted Art, about putting out a solo record. And they were sort of already talking to him about that. And then when we put together this European tour, which was like a fluke – I dunno, we just found someone over there who was into our stuff and he decided to pick us up kind of as a lark – we didn’t really have a record ready to tour with at that time. So we just decided to put something together using some of Jesse’s older solo material and some of our new self-recorded material. He had a standing offer with the Swedish label so we made the release to tour with; it was like a European-only release. But now our friend Johnny – he has a tape label called Soungs – he’s re-releasing that European release on tape and for digital download. So we’re going on tour now with that in a new format, on tape, along with our new record.

LJ: Oh, very cool. Tape is definitely making a comeback and that’s exciting to see.

MM: It is! Yeah, we were just packaging the tapes last our friend Kayrock’s screenprinting place in Brooklyn and we did hand-screened prints of all the covers. We were just looking at all the big boxes of tape cassettes and we were like, “Man, the tape industry must just be pinching themselves right now,” because, like, amidst the bad economy and the bad record sales and stuff, they’re the only form that’s making a comeback.

LJ: Right, it’s neat. Now, your next album, Spills Out, is due out in about a fortnight. You pumped?

MM: Yeah, we’re really excited. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve had it in the can maybe six months or so now. It feels like a long time coming and we’re excited to really have people hear all the songs. We’re really proud of the album and we’re excited; they’re really fun songs to play.

LJ: The single, “School Glue,” has a way more uplifting sound than your sophomore album, World Wild. It’s much less heavy and a bit brighter. Should we expect this throughout the rest of album?

MM: I think that the album kind of has, in general… the A-side is a lot brighter and more poppy, like School Glue. And the B-side is a little darker and more mysterious sounding, sort of like the EP Arnold Park was or a little more similar to World Wild, perhaps. But I think that it sort of bridges a new kind of excitement with slightly poppy, more sunnier stuff with the brooding, moody noisy stuff of the past.

LJ: One of my favorite things about World Wild is the little strains of ethnic musical references that weave through certain songs. Does Spill Out keep on with those global influences?

MM: Interesting question. Joe, especially, experiments with finding funny, weird sounds and some experimental, electronic stuff. I think if you’re hearing a world influence it’s probably not very specific in terms of, like, “Oh, this is an African drum from here,” or “This is an Indian drum from here.” It’s like, just kind of weird sounds with whatever odd instruments are hanging around the practice space. I don’t know if you’ll hear that as much in this record. I think maybe it’s more conventional rock instrumentation more of the time, but you might hear some of that here and there.

LJ: Do you know the band Akron/Family? You guys give off similar vibes in terms of the feelings your music inspires.

MM: Yeah. We’ve heard that comparison before. We’re flattered by it. I think those guys are really cool and I dig their stuff a lot. We’ve never met them or played with them, but we’re definitely aware of them and think they do really neat stuff.

LJ: Yeah, it’s a cool feeling that it all gives off, your music and theirs. So you guys start touring now, right? Anywhere you’re particularly stoked to play?

MM: Yeah, we do, we start in Portland, Maine and then we head down to Boston. We’re playing O’Brien’s Pub in Allston on Thursday. And we have a sort of a love affair with the Bay Area. We have a new keyboard player with us on this tour named Duncan Gamble and he’s a great friend of ours who used to live in New York, but he’s from the Bay Area and now he lives back out there. So he’s flown out to practice with us to get ready for the tour and that’s going to be our second home base. Like, Joe’s parents live out there, Duncan lives there; we’re excited to be there. We’re gonna be there for Thanksgiving, and my girlfriend is flying out there to meet us halfway through the tour and I just proposed to her, so we’re engaged and I’m really excited about that. So I’m really excited to see her in San Francisco.

LJ: Oh my goodness. That’s lovely! Way to go!

MM: Yeah, I know, I popped the question two nights ago. I was gonna wait until Thanksgiving but, you know, it’s such a long tour. I wanted to have something to be excited about while we were apart. So that’s really exciting.

LJ: That’s definitely it, man. That’s beautiful. Now, you’re hitting up Boston on Thursday. Come here often?

MM: Fairly often. I’m from Boston, myself. I grew up in Cambridge and I lived in Newton and Concord. My family lives in Lincoln, now. So I come to Boston a lot, personally. We play Boston maybe once a year. But we always love going there. We’re going to have a day off on Friday so I’m going to spend some extra time with my folks.

LJ: Very nice! But how is Brooklyn, compared to Boston?

MM: Well, I mean, I never really lived in Boston as an adult. I just sort-of lived there… so Brooklyn is all I know post-college, so I can’t really compare them in that way. I know Boston more as kind of, like, to see family more so than to see music. But I remember I went to the Middle East a lot and TT the Bears. I remember seeing Unwound and Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill and all these bands that I loved when I was in high school in that area. That was in the mid-90s, so I don’t really know much about the Boston scene these days. I have great friends in what used to be the band Big Bear who live there, and Thunderhole and Beautiful Weekend and stuff, I know those guys. We love the band Neptune and we try and see them a good deal when we can. But, you know, those are the kinds of little bits and pieces that I know but I’m sure that there’s a much larger scene that I don’t know about.

LJ: Well, Brooklyn it’s sort of getting too big for its britches, don’t you think? I live in Allston, which is probably where you’d point to if you had to choose Boston’s Brooklyn-equivalent. It’s tops, you should try it. We’re still underground.

MM: Oh, yeah, totally. Brooklyn, like, it has Williamsburg which is really near to Greenpoint, where I live, it’s ballooned to almost a ridiculous degree. It’s like walking down Bedford Avenue is this weird hipster Disneyworld. And the practice spaces are like these breeding grounds for bands. There’re just these huge underground complexes of dozens and dozens of mostly mediocre bands, by the numbers. It’s just kind of an industry. It feels very overgrown. It’s such a huge city, you can obviously find amazing stuff if you’re looking for it. But it’s definitely not underground. CMJ comes through every year and there’s definitely a corporate feeling. I love places that do feel truly underground and I think, in that sense, I wouldn’t be surprised if Allston takes the cake.

LJ: Yeah, and I bet our rats could take your rats.

MM: Oh, really? You want to compete on that too, huh?

LJ: I think it could happen.

MM: Yeah? Okay, good to know. We’d have to take some photos and tweet them at each other or something. Have a rat fight or something.

LJ: A rat-off.

MM: A rat-off, yeah.

LJ: Now, very finally, what’s your favorite dinosaur?

MM: Can I just say the boring answer?

LJ: No.

MM: Okay, okay. Aside from that, I would say… brontosaurus. Brontosaurus is like the giraffe of the dinosaur kingdom. It’s just really graceful and beautiful and elegant. Like, the badass dinosaurs, they already have their due. Like the velociraptor and the t-rex and the stegosaurus, they’re all cool, it kind of goes without saying. But the brontosaurus definitely holds it down in terms of grace and beauty.

LJ: Marvellous. Thanks for talking with me, Matt. Best of luck on tour and a million congratulations with the proposal! I’m pumped to see you guys on Thursday.

MM: No problem! And thanks so much, it’s exciting. See you then.

One Comment

  1. Hi guys, I’m the music editor.

    Just wanted to say that Pterodactyl is playing TONIGHT at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston. So if you liked the interview, check them out.