Matt Squire and the rebirth of emo
A dusty boom-box covered in band stickers sits in the middle of the floor at Matt Squire’s recording studio in Maryland. Five guys who look like they’ve been plucked out of the crowd at a Fall Out Boy show are gathered around it, listening intently to the grainy song playing over the speakers. Squire himself is lounging on a black-and-white checkered futon next to a half-eaten bowl of cereal. At the end of the song, he gets up and hits STOP. It’s time to get to work.
Squire recorded this tape a couple of days ago during a practice session with the five guys sitting before him now, members of the latest band he’s producing. The six of them together have a long day ahead as they prepare to go through all the songs, one by one, and pick apart every chord progression, vocal melody, and chorus – only to piece them back together again. “I always make little boom-box demos during pre-production,” explains Squire. “I feel like if a song sounds great there, before we set up mics, then it’s going to sound crazy once we actually do the tracking, and that rule usually works.”
As producers go, Squire is still a newbie, but his pedigree has got the makings of a champion. Before he moved behind the boards, Squire signed to Irving Azoff’s Giant Records imprint as the guitarist in Miltown, a volatile Boston-based group that imploded before finishing an album. After graduating from BU with a degree in Psychology, Squire worked under legendary producer Paul Kolderie, and, while still living in Boston, cut his teeth recording the Explosion, Midtown, and Thrice before moving home to Maryland to open up a studio of his own. In Maryland, where the rent is cheaper and the studio competition isn’t nearly as cutthroat, Squire came into his own and delivered his best production work he’s done to date. His biggest commercial success thus far, Panic! At The Disco, went gold earlier this year; and when they took home Video of the Year at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, they thanked him from the stage. But despite the success, Squire says that he has no plans for slowing down or cutting corners. “I try not to half-ass anything,” he says. “It’s the only way to do it, otherwise I can’t sleep.”
So you started out as a musician, how did you end up transitioning to engineering/producing?
I was over the hill at 25. I was at the end of the road. [Laughs] I did a bunch of home recordings and there were a couple of bands that heard my home recordings and asked me to do either EPs or records for them. I don’t know if you remember a band called the Cancer Conspiracy, they’re from Vermont, they’re on Big Wheel, they were the first. Then I did a Tonsils record and an Explosion EP – Tonsils is like an Explosion side project. I did that stuff pretty soon after I started. After that, I got booked and I was like, “Screw it, I’m going to stop playing.” I was really lucky.
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