The debut solo single by Mat Hook, “Runaway Road,” is a triumphant return to the indie music scene that will undoubtedly have listeners hitting repeat. Drawing inspiration from glam, Brit-pop, and alternative rock soundscapes, the track presents a carefully crafted stereo field that immerses the audience in its sonic universe.
From the first notes, “Runaway Road” envelops you in a soothing harmonic bed, setting the stage for Mat Hook’s distinctive vocals to take centre stage. The track’s use of VSTi elements creates a lush and dynamic backdrop, blending seamlessly with acoustic drumkit and overdriven guitar preamps, adding a gritty edge to the composition. This combination of elements results in a sound that is both nostalgic and fresh, reminiscent of the mid-90s rock and roll wave that took the world by storm.
IMF got in touch with Mat Hook to discuss his latest studio effort.
In conversation with the singer-songwriter
1 > Runaway Road is a perfect blues rock number with a hint of 90’s nostalgia. The song has a steady rhythm complemented by a canopy of distorted guitar riffs. Walk us through your vision for the track and your most significant influences during the composition stages.
The vision for the track was just kinda creating a groove, an energy, trying to convey a feeling and sound of something, you can’t ignore. My influences are pretty obviously the 90’s English indie-rock scene but also at this stage the biggest influence is my own life. I’ve spent a lot of years just kinda going down my own road in various aspects and I think the sense of that comes out in my music now.
2 > The lyrical narrative closely explores the nuances of self-discovery and growth as one walks down the path of life. How would you narrate the importance of personal experiences as a reflection of your songwriting?
Well that pretty much leads on from my last answer. It is, I’d say, the defining aspect! At this stage I’m singing songs about my life and what I see and feel around me. This song in particular is so intertwined with my journey and life, that it’ll always be special to me.
My sound is (thankfully) unaffected by what’s “current” or “popular”. I’ll be honest I wouldnt even know what is current or popular? I did have the life-shortening misfortune the other week to discover an American-based duo called ‘The Island Boys’, who have seemingly millions of sales… I guess sometimes the public gets what it settles for….
3 > The sonic landscape of your recent release is visibly different from the darker, more alternative-sounding “Dare to Dream”. Please walk us through the evolving sound that fans may expect from future records. And what affects the changing moods?
Well the ‘Dare to Dream’ recording is just the re-release of the song from my old band ‘Kartica’, so that’ll explain the slightly differing sound. It’s just a favourite song of mine from that era and none of the band’s music is available to buy anywhere anymore, so I thought I would stick it up again. It was my dads favourite (God rest his soul) so again, a special one to me. I think my sound I’m aiming for now is just a bit warmer maybe? I try not to overthink it too much to be honest, I just think if it makes you feel good, cool.
Fighting till the end and a brighter tomorrow
4 > What was the studio experience like during the production stages of Runaway Road? Is a full-length record by Mat Hook in the works that‘s set to make a statement in the near future?
I don’t know about making a statement, I’m not really that kinda dude. But the recording process, I really enjoyed, it’s just dead chilled. I recorded it with Paul Tuffs, who’s kinda like the foundations of a house for local groups in Sheffield, he’s constantly recording, running venues, assisting with events etc for local or touring musicians. Most of our the time in the studio involves him beavering away behind his desk, while I’m stretched out, yawning away on the sofa with a cuppa, every so often engaging in various anecdotes about various musicians.
I’ve already got a 2nd single just about finished and three further tracks laid down, so the plan is to release a full album by either the end of this year or the start of the next.
5 > Tell us how important the love and support of the Sheffield indie music scene is for your relentless perseverance.
To be honest I don’t really know many people in the Sheffield music scene, especially now. Even back in the Kartica days we were very much outsiders until we got too big on a local level to ignore. So yeah out of the bigger fish in Sheffield, the nationally known bands, I’ll know some of them to say “hello” or possibly a quick chat with but I never moved in their circles or anything.
Nowadays it’s all changed. Some who were on the same scene in my past era, really pushed on… Catfish & The Bottlemen, The Sherlocks.. and I noticed recently Alvarez Kings & October Drift have also done pretty well. But generally it’s a whole new generation. What I would say is the ones I’ve come across now all seem really decent kids. Maybe with age comes a different perspective but it’s been a pleasure meeting most of them and nice to see any doing well.
As far as the fanbase of the music scene itself, that’s a more difficult one to gauge. I think younger people are generally a bit different now in their tastes.
There seems to be some decade-delayed ‘Jersey Shore’ vibe going off in most bars in Sheffield, which of course I avoid like the plague. People like Tufty and Ciaron Elm are worth mentioning for all they’re doing on a grassroots level for gigs, but they can only do so much. Live music in Sheffield seems to have become a bit like Wimbledon for Tennis, where around Tramlines (the high profile city music festival) everybody’s interested for a week and then they go back to hanging in places that look like a cocaine-fuelled episode of ‘Love Island’. There’s a street of bars like these in Sheffield that has become well-known for loads of trouble recently, all these identikit morons causing mayhem every week… And that’s just the girlfriends!
“That’s just life as an indie musician – Mat Hook
Following on from that what were your biggest lessons looking back at your Kartica days?
Probably not to get so wrapped up in it all and to just enjoy more all the aspects that making music entails, without it taking over my life. There were lots of stresses in that time that I just simply dont have now.
I’m definitely more open and understanding to other musicians too, again, I think that comes with age more than anything. Some of these kids are half mine and I’ve been where they are and I can see through all the bullshit. I also feel like I’ve got nothing prove… and maybe nothing to lose!
Can your fans expect you to hit the road again? In addition, what do you seek to achieve through your music? What is of primary concern at present, from an artist’s perspective?
I’m not sure I’ll be going too far afield anytime soon, but if there was genuine demand to play particular places or any decent support slots get offered up then who knows? It’s looking like there might be a plan to do a Sheffield headline gig towards the end of the year and if we can generate a bit of a buzz there, then it’ll I’ll try and use that momentum going forward. This game is all about momentum, knowing when to push, and when to pull back.
As far as what im looking to achieve, I’ll just ride what I’m doing, however far it goes. I’d love to sit here and come out with the typical “This time next year Rodney…” jargon but the reality is, I’ve been around the block long enough to know that’s largely out of my hands. Making and releasing the music’s the main achievement and if we play some good and memorable nights off the back of that, then great. Out there, there’s some of our favourite songs, that we’ll never hear, made by people we’ll never know about.. That’s just life as an independant musician.
A Perfect Soundtrack for Adventure Comedies
The song’s cinematic quality is undeniable, conjuring images of open highways and adventures waiting to be had. It wouldn’t be surprising to find “Runaway Road” featured in soundtracks for films like “Into the Wild,” which captures the spirit of a road trip and adventure, or “Almost Famous,” known for its rock ‘n’ roll journey.
The musician’s journey from fronting the Sheffield indie rock band ‘Kartica’ between 2008-2014 to re-entering the live and recorded music scene is a testament to his enduring passion for music. With “Runaway Road,” Mat Hook not only showcases his evolution as an artist but also his ability to capture the essence of indie rock with a modern twist. As he embarks on this new chapter, his global debut serves as a promising glimpse of what’s to come for Mat Hook.