I encountered the music of Matt Maeson for the first time several years ago when his song “Me and my Friends are Lonely” made its way onto my Discover Weekly Spotify playlist. A grim tale: “Me and My Friends are Lonely” is a song about the survivor’s guilt felt by Maeson and his aforementioned friends after the death of someone close to them, presumably from either drug overdose or drug related violence. The subject matter is mirrored in a haunting yet very catchy tune. I listened to the song enough times that I still remember it years later and it spurred me to explore some of his very small body of work, but after a brief infatuation it fell out of my Spotify rotation and Matt Maeson was lost to me.
Or so I thought.
Earlier this month I found myself humming a very odd, self-deprecating refrain from a song that I had kept hearing on my daily mix as I worked.
“I just couldn’t open up I’m always shifting. Go find yourself a man who’s strong and tall and Christian”
When I finally took the moment required to see who was responsible for this peculiar earworm, I was surprised to see a similar name. Matt Maeson. I had completely missed the release of his first full length effort “Bank on the Funeral” back in 2019. Intrigued, I listened to the album in full and was surprised by the remarkably poignant inner dialogue Maeson had chosen to put into music. The back and forth of the album hit very close to home for me, as it reminded me of my own mental state while I was struggling with my own waywardness
Right off the bat, Maeson hits us with false party animal bravado in the acoustic punk tune “I Just Don’t Care that Much” which is the musical equivalent of declaring “Who wants to live to forty anyway?”. This song perfectly encapsulates the defiant arrogance that young drug users display to the world as a defense mechanism and partial rationalization for their behavior. (Say it enough times, and maybe you’ll believe it too!) Maeson follows that up with a little dose of reality in “Cringe” where he recounts running into an old flame who cringes at the sight of the washed out, stoned Maeson. When he tries to lie and say he’s just tired she corrects him . . .
“You’re just high”.
The next song, my personal favorite of the album “Go Easy” Is a desperate plea to a lover (or the audience?) declaring “Please just go easy on me baby, can you understand it? I can’t keep living for the damage.” He’s begging her to stay, telling her that he has to change eventually, and he will. Though he accurately concedes that love can’t be the thing to change him, he knows eventually he will get himself together and she should just stick around until he does. As anyone who has been in a serious relationship built around the idea that one person needs to change knows, it is not a formula for success.
He follows up this story with “Don’t Tread on Me”, which feels almost like a defense from this interaction. He asks who are we to judge him, since he’s trying and as he puts it “I’m on my feet for now” He lets us in on his addiction struggles here for the first time, as he works to control and manage his drug use and lifestyle while resisting the notion that he has to give it up entirely.
“I’m trying to live in the moment, like you told me. I’m trying to control it, without giving it up”
From there Maeson returns to the hopeful in the bombastic “Legacy” where he encounters a man who tells him “It’s not too late to pick up the pieces” This is one of the albums weaker entries and feels like Maeson doing his best Philip Philips impression. From there we get his hit single “Hallucinogenics” where he invites to join him as he uses LSD to escape his feelings towards this girl and let her go. Instructing her to “Go find yourself a man who is strong and tall and Christian”, all things that he can’t give her.
All of his themes come to a head in the incredible song “The Mask” where Maeson fully fleshes out the dichotomy of mind that plagues him, torn between his Christian upbringing and his partying lifestyle. “With one grip on several Psalms and one grip on the gun And it holds the rope that spins me in circles and dizzies my head and says “Sleep when you’re dead”” and explains how he reconciled these two halves of himself by crafting a mask, and he’ll never look back.
From there, we get Maeson’s second hit from the album “Beggar’s Song” which is the earnest, hopeful sequel to “I Just Don’t Care that Much”, replacing the latter’s angry, "fuck you" attitude for an uplifting romanticization of living that poor, party boy artists lifestyle. Funnily enough, these two songs are more or less saying the same thing and reflect and change in mood rather than a change in message.
“We’ll sing that beat-down, washed up beggar’s song and we’ll sing it even louder when the money is gone because we’ll be damned if we let it keep us down”
After a glimpse into the hopeful, Maeson immediately returns into the desperate “Tribulation”, an explanation of how he does not think he can ever be the proper partner for this woman due to his substance abuse issues and the underlying personality issues that cause them. (I have no evidence to support the notion that the several songs on the album that reference a woman are referencing the same woman, but I like to think they do.)
“Darling don’t you see I’m a broken man with addictive tendencies but I think I love you, but I don’t think I can ever learn how to love you right.”
The last several songs on the album all continue this up and down internal dialogue until he concludes with the titular “Bank on the Funeral” where Maeson laments that we should anticipate a funeral, as it’s the only way he’ll learn his lesson. A natural conclusion of the despondent addict, who has tried and failed countless times to best their demons. The song’s position on the album make give the false impression that Maeson’s ultimate conclusion is that he will never become sober, however he will wake up in the morning and cycle of false bravado, quiet desperation, self-loathing, and rationalization interspersed with moments of hope will continue.
“Bank on the funeral, since I learned all my lessons that way”
I must applaud Maeson on his honest, open approach to his music. Good art connects with the audience and is open to interpretation. When Maeson chose to communicate a very specific, personal message he narrowed his audience to people who can identify and see themselves in his experience, of whom I am one. (Or just people who just dig dope hooks) The result is a work that feels intensely personal. I may be way off base with this entire interpretation of the album. I could easily just be projecting my own experiences into the music. I considered scouring the internet for interviews and clips of Maeson providing additional context for his work to gain more understanding, but I ultimately prefer to let my interpretation stand as my truth. By letting this be, “Bank on the Funeral” can be a sort of strange, cathartic gateway into a state of mind I struggled with for years. Oh and the music’s not bad either.