Singled Out: Matt Jaffe & The Distractions

10/23/2013
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Today 18-year-old singer/songwriter Matt Jaffe from Matt Jaffe & The Distractions tells us about the brand new single "Armistice Day". Here is the story:

'Armistice Day' was one of those songs whose creation stretched over many years, about four. For me, that kind of prolonged writing process can be painful, as it's tedious to find the same words and phrases lying around on my unused lyric sheets, never quite making it into a final product. However, when a lyric doesn't find its melodic match for a while, it often means that I'm not trying to force it to a tune, which can ultimately make the song stronger.

With 'Armistice Day,' I wrote the verses very early on, set to a different, moodier melody, and a more complex chorus line that probably just sounded convoluted. At that time, there was also a bridge that cycled through a few different key signatures, an idea that was based on the restless exploration of different keys in the Talking Heads song 'Don't Worry About the Government.' That version of the song did not yet have the 'waiting on Armistice Day' line (it was more focused on the 'meltdown' theme that only surfaces in the third verse of the final) and basically fell by the wayside for a few years, with intermittent attempts to revive it. The successful revival coincided with a renewal of my interest in Bob Dylan. While the new version of the song was not modeled on a particular Dylan number, the idea of a quasi-sing-along chorus, the elimination of the bridge, and the addition of a folksier verse melody all stemmed from Dylan's early ideas about song craft and structure.

In terms of content, both the verses and the chorus were written in the wake of certain events, even though they don't have direct parallels to those events. The verses followed Barack Obama's first few months in office and the perceived lack of fulfillment on the campaign's promise of hope. I don't really know whether or not any disappointment in his first few months was justified, but the verses were a reaction to (inter)national disenchantment with Obama. The chorus arose in the context of the gun control debates that dominated a lot of national discourse at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013. Again, the lyrics do not directly reflect an event, but were certainly written with certain topical ideas in mind.

Since its completion, the song has been played with a full band, with backup singers, with a trumpet, and with a few other combos, all of which I've really enjoyed, and I think have added to the song, but at its root, the song is the kind that is supposed to flourish with just an acoustic guitar and a voice.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself here and learn more about the Matt right here!

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