The words Matlen Starsley may not have meaning to most, given the fact they’re completely made up.
But the folksy forces behind the name are eager to share it with country listeners, particularly in Langley, where the bulk of the band calls home.
Lead vocalist Dennis Matechuk and guitarist Kevin Star have bounced in and out of each other’s lives since the 1980s; several years back, they reconnected after discovering their kids went to class together at Langley Fine Arts School.
“We happened to hook up by chance at a jam session and it all took off from there,” Matechuck said.
The pair recruited another Langleyite, drummer Jim Wesley, and bass player, Don Lennox, to form the group.
Taking bits and pieces from their last names, Matlen Starsley was amalgamated into the bands title.
“A keyboardist, Darryl Hebert, came later. He was was only meant for a few recording sessions and odd gigs, but after playing with us, he said he wanted to be part of it,” Matechuck explained.
With five members all together, Matlen Starsley hit the recording studio and cut 10 tracks for their debut album, Rollin’ Again.
Matechuck penned the lyrics for each one of the tunes, saying that corporate gigs and cover songs weren’t cutting it for him creatively.
“We were getting to age where we just wanted to be creative,” Star said.
Though Matechuck said he had initially “pulled chute on music career,” this opportunity pulled him back in and provided a home for that creativity to flourish.
“They’re about life experiences… making sense of broken hearts and being on the road,” Matechuck said of the songs.
With a background steeped in a heavy dose of ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Allman Brother covers, Matlen Starsley Band’s sound is proudly all over the musical map.
“The genre is a touch of everything,” Matechuck assured. “Straight country… blues… hard rock. People have said they love the idea because they don’t know what’s coming when they listen to the album.”
“If we liked the song, we’ll record and play,” laughed Star, summing up the band’s genre as “simply southern-rock-bluesy-Americana music.”
Rollin’ Again was produced by Ray Roper (of Stonebolt fame), and released in July of last year at the Columbia Theatre in New Westminster.
Available on Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, and even in the physical form, Matechuck said they are making headway with building a fan base.
“It is starting to roll – we got 10,000 streams,” he said, noting that the band is happy to see where it goes – there are no expectations.
“We have an awful lot of freedom when were not doing it for a living,” Star said. “We don’t have to compromise creatively.”
All but one member has a day job, while Star and Matechuck were quick to point out their age might be a little past rock star prime; a factor they figure makes their sound all the better.
“We drink tea at rehearsal instead of passing around a bottle of Jim Beam,” Matechuck laughed.
“There’s no attitude or ego,” Star added. “We’re not young dealing with addiction or lifestyle issues. We’re better song writers – maybe not better players – but, we understand how everything fits together and I think you can hear that maturity.”
With thousands of shows between the five of them, the newest part of the whole process is how the music landscape has changed.
“It’s independent labels… meaning marketing and promoting is done by ourselves,” Star said. “It used to be the record label taking care of all that; social media is a whole new ball game… a full time job in itself.”
Still, for Matlen Starsley, the music is at the centre of it all, something their all chomping at the bit to get back to later in the year.
“We have eight songs ready for some February recording sessions,” Matechuck announced, hoping to have a new album out in the near future.
A few summer performances will also hopefully be on the docket, with the band aiming to have a full two hour show comprised of all original work.
“The musicianship is tight,” Matechuk said. The singer-songwriter started in 1974, but expressed that this is by far the best band he’s ever fronted.
“I don’t even want to do the singing – I just want to sit in the audience and watch these guys play.”
For people interested in doing the one thing Matechuck cannot, www.matlenstarsley.com contains their latest news, performance schedule, and music.
Is there more to this story?