Local standout Matt Ellis’ new album speaks to changes by the beach and around the world
Nothing like your own songwriting to predict your family’s future. Mar Vista’s Matt Ellis, releasing his sixth album “Rambler Pacifico” this Friday, says he was just “jamming out songs” when he unexpectedly hit on this “spooky” lyric for “Some People”: “Some people getting ready for the end of the world/ Some people getting ready for their first-born girl.”
“It was written about a year before my wife Vavine and I discovered we were having a girl,” Ellis says, chuckling. “I had no reason to call a lyric out like that.”
Their daughter, who turns 1 in April, also inspired feel-good country shuffle “Oh My Magnolia,” but more rocking tracks (“Isolationist Blues,” “Guns & Drugs,” “The Bottom Line,” “The Kids of America”) comment on the state of the world. The title of “Some People” was sparked by numerous conversations around town beginning with that phrase as people discussed changes occurring in Venice, where Ellis is entrenched in the local music scene and curates bands for the Abbot Kinney Festival’s Locals Stage each year.
The melodic set features background vocals from local favorites Lacey Kay Cowden and Paul Chesne, and a motley crew of non-musician friends who dropped by Ellis’ home studio to enhance the “loose and live feel” by chiming in with group oohs and handclaps on the deceptively cheery “The Lucky Ones.” The soulful harmonies of Kam Franklin, dynamic frontwoman for Houston ensemble the Suffers, help reinvigorate Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer,” while the pedal steel-gilded “Wake Me Up” inhabits the daily grind amid political turmoil: “Tired from never giving it up/ Tired from trying to make it enough/ Sometimes it’s just survival/ …We’re just living our lives in between all the lies.”
“A lot of it is real response to the rhetoric we’ve all had to endure the past couple years,” explains Ellis. “But it isn’t purely about what’s happening in the States; it’s equal parts what’s going on in the UK with Brexit and a divisive government in Australia. It seems like the whole world is going through growing pains right now.”
— Bliss Bowen
Listen to “Rambler Pacifico” at mattellis.com