Meet the Band - The Matching Shoe

Wise beyond their years The Matching Shoe breathe new life into classic and psychedelic rock with their own modern twist. Meeting up with band leaders Ben Vennard and Dillon Wilfong, we got the inside scoop on the inspiration behind the band and the music from these two musical connoisseurs. We can't wait to see where life takes these two, the band and their music. Welcome to the #TPfamily, The Matching Shoe! 

How did you come together to form The Matching Shoe?

Ben: Dillon and I have been neighbors since we were 8 and 9, and had been playing together off and on since we were in high school. Once I dropped out of music school and came back to St. Louis, we just picked up right where we left off. At first, we were mainly just working on building a larger set of cover songs, but as time went on, we started focusing increasingly more time on our development as songwriters and original music. 

How would you describe your sound?

We’re a couple of twenty-first-century youths raised on classic rock, particularly that of the 60’s and 70’s. We draw much of our musical vocabulary from that time. Almost every artist wants to be innovative in some way, but must also be careful not to alienate their listeners by drifting too far out there into musically jarring or overly complex territory. We like to use our culture’s shared language of that 70’s rock sound to keep everyone on the same page while we explore new musical and lyrical grounds. It's our way of expressing novel ideas without forcing our listeners (and ourselves) to strain themselves just trying to understand what's going on. We want the listening process to be totally natural. 

When did you start playing music?

Ben: I started playing classical piano when I was 9, and classical double bass when I was 12. I started seriously training to be an orchestral bassist when I was 16, and studied Classical Double Bass Performance at Indiana University for one semester before I decided that was not the path I wanted to follow. 

Dillon: For me, it began around 10 years old. I saw one of my good friend’s playing his dad’s Fender. He really bent those strings and made that guitar sing and I thought, “If he can play, I sure can too!” So I went to the local music store, rented an acoustic guitar, and signed up for some lessons. However, the lessons didn’t last very long due to the fact that I wanted to play the blues and my teacher wanted me to play Danny Boy. From then on, I just played along to records; Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Hendrix, Creedence, and Zeppelin were some of the biggest role models for me. 

What is your favorite moment of performing for a live audience?

When you’re on stage and you’re really into the heat of performance, there’s this place you go to that has this strange, mystical feeling to it. Pain, negativity, fear, it all sheds away and you’re left existing in this world of pure ecstasy and beauty. And once, you reach that place, you never want to go back. Forgive the expression, but performing on stage for us really is the best drug with the greatest high you can find. Money can’t buy it and nobody sells it, which is only why performers can get a taste of it.

What influences your music the most? 

People influence our music the most. When it comes to writing songs, people are a great source of inspiration. We often like to write songs through the eyes of certain characters we find interesting, often times even ones we vehemently dislike, because in real life, we learn just as much from bad people as much as good ones, it's just that the lessons are the negative rather than positive. And even when we're not writing specifically about people, we're trying to tap into some message or theme that is universal to nearly all people. Music is meant to be shared, and one of the best ways to make it resonate with people is just to write people-centric music. 

Where did the name “The Matching Shoe” originate from?

Ben and I were searching for a name for the project. We had plenty of ideas floating around, but we wanted to find a name that was generally ambiguous, a name that didn’t plant an idea of what our sound might be like. We landed on The Matching Shoe because by itself, The Matching Shoe is a sequence of words that make sense to everyone, but it’s strange enough as a band name that it doesn’t point a finger to what kind of music we play. It’s also a weird enough band name that (hopefully) it intrigues people enough to listen to our record! 

Do you have any words to live by or life motto for the band?

Don’t Hide It. Divide It. 

Why do you play music?

The same reason people listen to music; it connects with you and moves you at an unconscious level. There's this intellectual level at which you can listen to music, but most of it hits you in this totally unintelligent, visceral way where your reaction is completely involuntary. It's possibly the most direct medium through which you can express emotion, and it's because of that that there's this particularly powerful element to writing music. As much as a chord progression can be technically correct, you're always left thinking, “but does it feel right?” And there isn't a real method to know in advance what will feel right. There are promising leads that will often times work out exactly as you expect them to, but you just don't know if it's the one until you hear it and go, “THIS is the one.” 

You recently released a new EP “Don’t Hide It, Divide It”; can you tell us a little bit about the EP and the inspiration behind it?

Well, with the goal of most EP’s, we wanted to give people a nice sampler of the music we like to make and what The Matching Shoe is about. Before the EP, we had been recording at home in a basement that wasn’t much bigger than a walk-in closet. So after playing enough shows, we’d saved up enough bread to graduate from the home studio to the professional studio, and we headed to Sawhorse Studios in St. Louie to record the EP. Props to our engineer Preston Jones. He really helped us head in the direction we wanted to go in for the EP.

If you had to describe the band in one word it would be…

Ben: Whimsy
Dillon: Whimsier

If they made a documentary about the band, who would be on the soundtrack?

Well, first and foremost, I would assume the Matching Shoe, but in terms of other artists, probably Harry Nilsson, The Band, Randy Newman, The Beatles, Wilco.

What is the first record you bought? Where did you listen to it?

Ben: G├╝ero by Beck. I guess I first listened to it on my computer, but it really followed me everywhere. My car, at school, it was like my life's soundtrack for a while. 

Dillon: Chronicle: Creedence Clearwater Revival. I was a whole of 8 years old when my Dad whipped out the CCR album in his Chevy Tahoe. He popped it in and Suzie Q came fading in on the speakers. The big drum beat and that dirty guitar riff came in and I was hooked. We blared that album as we rode around. I still have the copy of the album. I throw it in every now and then for a listen.   

If you could play on any stage, where would it be?

Whiskey a Go Go. Lot of musical history at that place. 

When you’re not playing music you…

Other than playing more music, we’ll go bowling, shoot some pool, play cards, and on a nice day we’ll head outdoors for a hike.

Does anyone in the band have an unusual talent?

Ben: Dillon has a freak talent for voice impersonations. He could probably be a cartoon voice actor if he wanted. It ends up being a pretty useful in our line of work though. It makes our covers more authentic when he gets the original artists’ vocal timbre just right, and comes in handy for songwriting since he has such a wide array of vocal styles to choose from.

Dillon: Ben can sleep on command. He is the master of sleep. Doesn’t matter where or when, Ben can sleep. He could sleep standing up if he wanted to. I find it very impressive, and I envy his sleeping superpowers considering that I, myself am not a very good sleeper.

If you could perform a concert in any country which would you choose and why?

St. Petersburg, Russia. It’s a beautiful city on the Baltic Sea with a rich history and a culture that is totally alien to us. We’ve never been to Russia or have never had any relations with anyone from Russia. We’re genuinely interested in the people there and their ways of life.

As an up and coming band, do you think being younger musicians gives you an advantage or disadvantage in the music scene? 

By and large, we see it as an advantage. Of course it has its downsides, since people just expect us to be some hack garage band by the look of us, but once people hear us they get into it. I think they're even more accepting and open-minded than if we were a more seasoned looking band. People really like the idea of getting in on a band before they make it, and as young as we are, lots of people get the idea that maybe we WILL “make it”, which is pretty cool. 

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