Animal Instincts: Title Holder

Today we take a journey into some new East Coast territory…New York. There we find a gentleman who seems to be a Jack of all musical trades. His name is Matt Sullivan and he is about to take us on a journey into the land of Ska. Grab your sax and let’s head to the Big Apple.

Now, let me properly introduce you to Matt Sullivan. Matt Grew up in CT, playing in local bands from his teenage years well into his early twenties. He then became intrigued with the recording and production aspect and decided to further his education in Boston.

From there he was given opportunities to work in studios in NY. And as if that wasn’t enough, Matt started a band known as “My Kind Of Fire”. The band played together for a handful of years, but eventually, members started to step away to start new projects. He then joined a friend’s band, this band being the gem that is Card Reader. The band has been releasing music since 2020. They have released a few singles and an EP, which they recorded in Hammonton, NJ with of course the great Nik Bruzzese.  

Now we fast forward to the present tense and Matt has another project on the horizon. A Ska band. And not just any Ska band, it’s one that is lined up with some insanely talented musicians. Their debut single “Animal” is one you’ll have a hard time not keeping on repeat. And besides the epic horn section, they’ve managed to create in my opinion, what would be if you slapped some ska vibes on a 90s Alt band such as the Gin Blossoms or Counting Crows. And that is something I think we can all appreciate and enjoy the hell out of.

Now not only does this dream team of a band have some amazing individuals, but the music they’ve created also had some of the greats producing. Those greats would be Chris DeMakes (Less Than Jake) and Nik Bruzzese (MOB & Casa Loma). Now to tell us more about that experience and how it all came to be, I recently asked Matt a few questions pertaining to his background, why ska, and of course his influences.

  • Now we know you from your work in Card Reader and My Kind of Fire. Can you give us a little history lesson on yourself? Where you’re from and all that jazz. And how did you get into playing/producing?     

I grew up in Connecticut, playing in local bands from the time I was 15 until 23. One day a friend of mine invited me up to Boston to record a few songs at a studio he had been working at called Rear Window in Brookline, MA. After the weekend passed I knew I wanted to further my education and focus on audio engineering and music production. The next year I moved to Boston and enrolled at The New England Institute Of Art.  It was a great experience for me, I had access to several recording studios and was surrounded by TONS of talented and motivated people all looking to break into the industry. In 2012 I received an opportunity to work at a studio in Manhattan called The Engine Room and decided to move to NYC. From there I was invited to be a partner at a private recording studio called Capture Sound in Brooklyn which I was a part of for a few years. While there I took advantage of having my own space to start a new band ( My Kind Of Fire ). We played constantly for 5 years and it was a blast! We all decided to step away from the project for a little while and in doing so everyone started new projects ( which was super exciting! ) There were no bad feelings, we just all moved on. In the downtime, my good friend Tom had reached out about a new band he started called Card Reader and wanted to know If I’d play bass for an upcoming show they had booked. Of course, I said yes! Then the pandemic hit and everything got pushed but we hit the studio and recorded the Mental Scars EP that summer. Over a year in Card Reader has some big gigs lined up for later this year and we’ve nearly finished tracking a 3rd EP that will hopefully be out early next year!

  • Can you tell us who some of your biggest influences are that inspired you to start playing/writing music?

Pop Punk & Ska have always been something that influenced me from an early age. I was big into Blink 182, Good Charlotte, New Found Glory, Goldfinger, Midtown, Mest, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish &The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. When I heard those bands I knew I needed to learn how to play guitar. One of the first songs I learned on guitar was ” Motivation Proclamation” by Good Charlotte. I thought I was so badass for knowing those chords! 

  • So, your new project Title Holder has quite the lineup of musicians! How did this project come to be? And why ska? 

 I always wanted to have a ska band from day one… I just never knew any horn players that wanted to jam! It was something that was honestly always cooking in my head… When the pandemic hit I made a decision that I’m not gonna talk about it anymore… I’m gonna do it. I began writing and demoing these new Title Holder songs in April of 2020 and I sent them to a few friends who all said: ” you need to make this record “, and here we are over a year later and the record is DONE!

  • Now you had some awesome producers for the record, Chris DeMakes (Less than Jake) and Nik Bruzzese (MOB/Casa Loma). You also have some other greats adding to the ska vibe, John James Ryan (Keep Flying), Matt Stewart (Streetlight Manifesto), Dave Heck (Aaron West) and Buddy Schaub (LTJ). How was it working together and watching this project come to life? And with the first single dropping, should we expect to be seeing an EP or album drop in the near future

      It was pretty surreal working with Chris. He’s been such a huge influence of mine and to have the opportunity to work with him remotely during the pandemic was very cool. He played a huge part in the arrangement of some of these songs and really pushed me to get the songs as good as they could be. If you listen to his podcast ( Chris DeMakes A Podcast ) he always does a deep dive into the lyrics of the songs he’s reviewing and when it came time to go over the lyrics of my demos, he really helped get the best out of me. In Feb 2021 the songs were all finished and ready to be recorded. I’ve been working with Nik for several years on all my projects so I knew I wanted to bring this to him. The energy that we have together in the studio is crazy. Nik has always brought the best performances out of me. Something that makes me love working with him so much is we’re never afraid to take chances. I’ll get in the booth to start singing and he’ll seemingly grab a harmony out of the sky and go ” hey, sing this part this way real quick “. It’s scary how good he is, I love it! When it came time for the horns, Nik got me in touch with John, Dave & Matt and they listened to the demos and all immediately said they’d love to come in and record the parts! It was such a fun day having so much talent all in the same room. It went by way too fast.  A couple weeks after the sessions ( after listening to the songs a million times ) I thought it would be cool to add some more trombone to the mixes. Chris sent me Buddy’s email and I asked him if he’d be willing to blast some more trombone on these songs. He agreed and I couldn’t be more thrilled for people to hear these songs! I’m aiming to put one song out each month until all of them are online, then I’ll repackage them as a complete EP. I’m so proud of these songs. I think each one deserves to stand alone for a month or so. 

  • If you could go back in time and play on any tour, with any band/artist, who would it be and why?

        The Drive-Thru Invasion Tour straight-up changed my life. That lineup was crazy. I must have been 15 or 16 at the time but I still remember going to that tour in Hartford, CT. To share the stage with The Early November, Allister, Senses Fail, The Starting Line,  The Movielife & Home Grown… If you had told me I could go back in time and play that tour I’d probably sell my soul. 

Now whether or not you’ve ever been a fan of Ska or not, this band is one you should not pass up on listening to. “Animal” is just the first single and if this is what the rest of the future EP sounds like, well then, we’re in for an awesome ride. Now go listen to Title Holder, dance to their tunes, play the trombone, and as always, share this amazing band and their music with your pals.

Article by Kristen Hernandez

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