Echo Beach: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyor of: Ever-evolving tides of drifting, divine gloom.
File next to: Brigitte Bardon’t, Grouper, Moss Harvest
Playing: WL 702, Sunday June 12 @ Monarch Tavern. Get tickets here!

Echo Beach is the work of Montreal-via-Vancouver interdisciplinary artist Julie Matson. Through her gloomy, weighty drones, Matson channels an atmosphere that is deeply introspective, yet tectonically grounded and hyper-present — a force of nature, wielded.

Tell us about your initial venture into drone music. What led you here? What instruments did you start with?

My first instrument was the clarinet — I played for six years in band, from grade 4-10. The cool thing about that instrument is it actually super great to drone out! I did that at last year’s mega-drone for National Drone Day, with 20 of my closest friends all droning in the note of D for two hours. I had an early fascination with electronic music, mostly because I couldn’t figure out how they made it. My first favourite band, when I was 10, was Depeche Mode. When I was 13, I ended up buying a Depeche Mode songbook for fun. Looking at it, I realized I could read the music (thanks clarinet!) and then started playing the notes on a keyboard, and WHOA! I was playing Depeche Mode! I am self-taught on keyboards, and since then that has been my mainstay instrument, as well as vocals. I’ve played in many bands along the way, from all-girl punk rock to instrumental surf to minimalist post-rock, and an acoustic Aqua cover band — aptly named Maqua — for good measure. In the surf band, I ran my vintage organ through a Leslie speaker, adding a nice drone reverb to it. It is definitely a “vibe” I have been attracted to for all of my musical career. When I moved to Montreal, I lost all of my constant BFF music pals, so I started doing solo work, as Echo Beach. It just felt right to do layers of drones, since that is what I love about music.

Echo Beach’s Facebook page describes the music as “collages of sound [that] take the listener on a journey to their inner-most sanctuary.” You’re currently living in Montreal, originally hailing from Vancouver, and your latest release features field recordings from Austin, Texas taken earlier this year. Do you find that your physical location plays a major role in the music you’re creating, or do you find yourself predominantly drawing from your own internal world along your travels?

I am definitely influenced by my location, whether it be somewhere I am visiting or living. I tend to get lost in the little details of a place, and that is where I draw my inspiration from. I also tend to focus or fixate on an aspect of a location and shape my work around that thought, or feeling, or emotion.

Appended to that same bio is a line that says: “[F]unneling sadness through atmospheric analog synth processors in an attempt to make you less sad.” It seems quite unanimous among drone musicians that drone possesses some sort of therapeutic capacity — what’s your personal take on this, in terms of what it is about drone music that makes it so effective?

The thing that draws me to drone music, both listening to and making it, is the meditative quality of it. It really lets you delve deep into your mind, and you feel it resonate in your body, which keeps you present. Also, for me, I am quite a high-energy person with many things on the go, so making this music forces me to slow down and appreciate the sounds and feelings. I can get absorbed in one note or bass line and get wrapped up in the decay or delay of it. It is an experience, and that is what I hope to offer people listening to my music.

Your music is often synthesized with poetry and film, much like your video release for “Texas is the Reason.” For that one in particular, you state that you wrote the poem first and then wrote the music by “sonifying the written text, and transposing it into a musical score.” Have you always been an interdisciplinary artist? Do you find that a certain medium is better suited to communicate certain types of ideas over another?

Yes! I love doing interdisciplinary work. I love transposing writing into music, it is next-level music nerd stuff for me. It always amazes me; the result is a beautiful randomness that is actually so controlled. I have a background in creative writing (mostly poetry) and electroacoustics, so it is a natural path for my mind to travel within my work. I feel fortunate to have exhibited my soundscapes at some amazing festivals, including HTMlles Festival in Montreal, and First Festival in Troy, NY, the festival organized by Pauline Oliveros for her Deep Listening Institute Conference. I have also scored many films and documentaries, which is very inspiring in terms of drawing influence from others’ visual work and interpreting it with sound. I also love taking photos and films, so it just feels appropriate to me to add all the sensory elements to my work. My brother does live projections during my sets, and he always knows what I am looking for since we are so close. I feel it is important to have a full sensory live experience, to keep everything heightened and tuned together.

Describe the kind of desert island you would want to be stranded on.

Hmmm, tough question! I think it would be best if it was tropical, for the warmth factor and the abundance of fruits. Also, beach times to create nature’s drones; maybe throw in some random conch shells, and soaring birds, to add more drone layers to the natural soundscape of the place. Oh! An underwater cave tunnel would be cool too, for rad reverb effects! Think Blue Lagoon, but without the creepy incest factor. And just to be safe, my brother can’t come!

— Interview by Marko Cindric