One-on-One with Matt Simmonds of Air Marshal Landing

Matt Simmonds//Photo: Michael Thomas
Matt Simmonds//Photo: Michael Thomas

by Michael Thomas

Air Marshal Landing just sort of happened in the summer of 2008.

“Cory [Adrian] and I wanted a drummer, to make a band we needed a drummer, and I met Graham [Drummond] and we just kind of became a band,” Simmonds says. “There was no moment where it was like ‘This is the defining, starting point of the band.’ We started playing together and we started playing shows.”

It’s a very unassuming story, but Simmonds probably isn’t too concerned that his band’s genesis might not be one for the history books. He’s just happy that the band’s first full-length album, You Used To Be Me, is now out into the world.

“It’s not like we had wanted it out a year earlier and didn’t make it happen,” Simmonds says of the album. “It was like we got really complacent with it and almost forgot that we were working on a record sometimes.”

Some of the delay can be forgiven; Simmonds got married last year, as did their engineer Nygel Asselin. But there’s more to it than that.

“It was a long process of mixing. Not because we were super picky about stuff, because we would take too long to get back to them on notes and stuff,” Simmonds continues. “And we were mixing from a distance. It was all being edited and mastered and mixed in Vancouver and we were here. The internet’s awesome but it’s not like we were sitting in the room with the mixer. We had to listen through what he had done, make notes, detailed notes, and then send them back.

“Earlier, by this past Christmas, I was like ‘Okay, this has been a year now that we’ve just been sitting on it.’ It was done in November, the final master. And then it was still another seven months before it came out, but we wanted to do it properly at that point.”

“Properly,” of course, means making sure that their fans and the press actually knew it was coming out.

Simmonds doesn’t use the oft-repeated term “musical family” to describe his upbringing, but he certainly got into music at a very young age.

“I guess I was probably forced into it in a way. Like not that I didn’t want to, but I was really young,” he says. “Guitar lessons first, when I was four, and then I started piano at eight. So that’s how I got into it—also through the church a little bit. I knew all the basic chords and all the basic church stuff by the time I was eight or nine, so I could start playing in the church too.”

The Presbyterian church he refers to, in his hometown of Uxbridge, Ont. “The arts is really celebrated there,” Simmonds says. “There are musical theatre plays all the time and recitals for music and stuff. But not necessarily bands. When I was growing up, kind of just before I was in high school, there was a lot of punk and metal stuff going on in Uxbridge. I never was into that scene at all, so I don’t know a lot about it even. It seemed that even into high school, most bands were in a punk vein.”

The church was also where he met Cory Adrian, though they didn’t start playing together until  high school.

“[Adrian] had a band that I was envious of that I wanted to be in, but we played ourselves and started writing together in high school,” Simmonds says. Adrian’s band was called the Lemmings. “I met Graham at Western University in London. So I guess I’m kind of the middle man. I introduced Cory and Graham and it just kinda happened.”

The first recording the band put out, The Industry, was released in 2009. “We were all really young. I remember sitting in my house at school with Cory and Graham and being like ‘Are we gonna do this or not? Let’s decide on the track listing,’” he says. “It’s a record of where we were at that point. It’s nothing to write home about, really. It’s nothing super special. Although a couple of the songs are still kind of fan favourites, if you think of we have fans, per se.”

Vitamins, the band’s excellent 2012 EP, was a bit of a different story, what Simmonds called “a test run.” Though the five-song recording was quite cohesive throughout, three out of the five were written some time ago. “Dagger” in particular was one of the first songs Simmonds ever wrote, in fact.

“‘Already Dead’ was an experiment in how fast we can write and record a song,” Simmonds says. “A friend of ours needed a song for his project that he was working on for recording school.”

As for “Vitamins”: “‘Vitamins’ came on a sunny afternoon in March. You know in March how it thaws for like a week and you get nice weather for a while…It was during that week. And then the record was released in June.”

You Used To Be Me finally came out last month, and it shows Air Marshal Landing jumping between sounds, something Simmonds is totally fine with.

“A lot of bands have a sound and they stick to it, and you hear it all the time,” Simmonds says. “We maybe have a tone or a sound, but the songs don’t all sound the same. And we’re mostly not ashamed of that.” Simmonds says he sometimes wishes the band did have that “sound” that could immediately identify them, but at the same time he’s happy about the fact that there might be at least something about their music that anybody could like.

“We just write what we feel,” he says. “Whatever we’re listening to at the time has some influence.” Identifying who was influenced by what might be difficult on the album, as the songs were written by various members of the band at various times throughout the last few years, although Simmonds can identify some influence behind the album closer, “Nocturne.”

“I was trying to write in the vein of Arcade Fire,” he says. “I think it turned out that way maybe in a bit of a lyrical perspective but not really musical. I don’t think it’s an Arcade Fire song musically anyway.”

Air Marshal Landing will actually be touring their album in the fall despite the June record release date. They also have already started writing songs for their next album, in hopes of having all the songs at least written by the time they go out to tour. For Simmonds, being in this band is all about being flexible.

“As a band, it’s one thing we—not pride ourselves on— we like being easy to work with and flexible. And not dicks.”

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