Matt Messore on Cathedral Bells new album, ‘Ether’

Matthew Messore of Cathedral Bells talks with Puddlegum about the writing and recording process of creating 'Ether'. We also look closely at the tracks.
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Cathedral Bells released a new full-length, Ether, that they recorded during the 2020 pandemic. Having released Velvet Spirit weeks before the quarantine hit, and with many of their plans canceled, Matthew Messore began working on the songs for this LP. He also further developed his band, bringing Kyle Hoffer in (he’s a recording/mix engineer at Ponderifica, and a multi-instrumentalist) to join him and Aaron Gollubier (PYNKIE). We talked with Matt about his album, and he joined us on a podcast we’re launching later this week.

How is Ether different from Velvet Spirit? Matt elaborates, “This album is a collage of songs that was worked on all throughout 2020. I feel like this new album Ether was more experimental. Kyle mixed the whole album, and I’ve been working out new songs that I normally wouldn’t try to write, but making sure it’s right for the project. I’m always trying to write something that goes deeper than before.

Cathedral Bells – Dark Aura (YouTube)

But the writing process still originates in a similar way as before. “I still write everything at home and once there’s a sequence, we just add to it and try things out to see if it works or not. Both Kyle and Aaron are very talented and multi instrumentalists like me, so it’s easy to get on the same page and make ideas.

To face the challenging year, the most upending year most of us have experienced, and use it to grow and expand is quite inspiring. “It was a really weird time working on this album just because I was unmotivated to write and uncertain of the year but now that it’s completed I feel proud and excited for the album to come out, and the future of making music and being a part of the lofi bedroom / dream pop community.”

Cathedral Bells at Ponderifica (Instagram)

As you get to know Matt, you find that writing and recording is an integral part of his life. “It’s hard to live life and not record and work on something. It’s pretty much been the only thing for me to be fully happy. I enjoy the process.”

I asked Matt about how he writes his songs, and where he begins… whether it’s a melody, a chord progression, or the beat? He explains, “I feel like I don’t truly have a formula to how it starts, but I usually try to have the drums sequenced as I’m figuring out the ideas for the song. Sometime it could be just scratch tracks just to sort out the feel for the song.

It’s definitely a uncertain process, but always seems to come together at some point. A lot of times I discover the song as recording. There’s been many times where I restructure and rewrite things completely. The song ‘Dark Aura’ was actually written overnight right before sending in the album to spirit goth. The track ‘Ether’ was also made in a short amount of time. They just came together so naturally, but the rest of the album was definitely spaced out in sessions & took longer to iron out.”

Listening Closely to Ether

Cathedral Bell’s Ether opens with Invisible, a song that was released as a single in November, 2020. The song pulls you into the album immediately with the opening synth that bounces for ear to ear, and the driving beat kicking in. The mix is wide and full, while keeping the shimmering sound. Instruments fill every space, with the reverbs smoothing everything. Matthew Messore’s vocals are mixed with a tremolo, giving it a distinct feel.

Dayflower follows Invisible, with a feel that is more open. The vocals have a phased sound, making them somewhat hollow, and drums have a shorter reverb that brings them forward. Electric guitars sit behind the drums, sounding very synth-like, and blending in with the vocals.

Rewind is more guitar centered, feeling like it was written as a band. The complexity of this song elevates it, with the complex bests, and the breakdown toward the end where the drums slip behind the music with a fast compression, and synths plus drenched vocals create a thick soothing pad.

Out of Nowhere has a picked bass that lays the foundation from the beginning. This song is more open with shimmering sounds that seem to float through the song. The mix of the synth and electric guitar leads halfway through the song feel so moody. You can hear The Cure influences, particularly their late `80s Just Like Heaven.

The height of the album pick up in the second half of the album with Dark Aura and Ether. Dark Aura’s guitar picking and fuzzed leads and vocal melodies bring an intensity. The drums have a deceivingly simple beat, while the bass holds it all together.

Ether responds to this intensity with a reflective resolution. This song is really beautiful, and is one that keep returning to. I love the subtle layers of synths, some with a strong attack and others with a smooth tone.

“Open my heart
Open my heart for you”

Cathedral Bells – Ether

Deep End is darker, mainly due to the chord structures. It takes the soothing dynamics of the keys in Ether, and opens with gritty guitars. It’s an effective dynamic.

Ghost Dream is the most experimental song on the album, with a sound leaning more shoegaze than dream pop. This song has less reverb than previous songs, allowing for the individual layers to be more distinguished.

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Kevin Flick
Kevin Flick

Kevin Flick founded Puddlegum in 1997 and has been engaging in music journalism off and on since. He's also a recording/mixing engineer and loves to help bands work through the creative process. He has coproduced and mixed for artists such as Saeyers, Midi Memory, and Cathedral Bells.

Rumors are that he's a Brighton Hove & Albion FC fan. He's also obsessed with coffee. Kevin resides in the college community of Bloomington, Indiana, where he studied at Indiana University.

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