Unabashedly gay British pop-rock artist Matt Fishel is returning to airwaves with his new single and video "Bored of Straight Boys," the anti-bro anthem we've all been desperately waiting for. It's the follow-up to his 2013 album Not Thinking Straight, and the first song off his forthcoming sophomore LP M/F, due out next year via the label he founded in 2010.
His foray back into the public musical realm is full of cheeky lyrics anyone who isn't a beer-chugging frat brother can relate to, backed up by a strong pop-rock hook and a colorful, clever animated music video.
We talked with Fishel in depth about what makes M/F "larger and more cohesive" than his previous work while remaining just as "unashamedly gay and proud," as well as catching with the musician about the many grievances straight men make against him every day that didn't quite fit into the song's verses.
Take a look at the video for "Bored of Straight Boys," then read our interview with Fishel below:
Tell me what prompted you to write this song. Obviously we're all bored of straight boys all the time - but was there a specific incident that made you decide you needed to write about it?
I like to write songs on topics that I've rarely heard sung about, and I haven't heard many songs that call out stereotypical "guy" behavior sung from a male perspective, so I thought it would be fun to give it a go. I feel like I've been collecting these stories and experiences throughout my entire life in a variety of scenarios, but there was definitely a tipping point a couple of years ago. This loud, abrasive jock-type guy I had literally JUST met at party drunkenly threw his arm round me and spontaneously began to recount, in graphic detail, how (and where) he likes to finish off when he’s having sex with his girlfriend, and how much she “loves it” – as if these were details I’d somehow requested! This same idiot, on discovering I was gay, proceeded to ask me that old tiresome cliché: “so, like, in bed – which of you is the man and who is the woman?” … and I’m like, YAWN, eye roll, here we go again! So I started to ponder how I could put this all-too-familiar experience into a song, but in a fun, tongue-in-cheek way. Once I really started to reflect, it dawned on me just how frequently I’ve found myself in these scenarios, having similarly tedious encounters and conversations – from high school, through university and into the workplace – and so many funny little grievances and annoyances just started pouring out onto the page. So it turned out I had a lot to get off my chest and writing this song was clearly some kind of catharsis from years of observing and feeling exhausted by that stereotypical, intimidating, intrusive, machismo “laddish” behavior (not to mention having to continually feign interest when repeatedly being lectured about soccer!)
Are there other annoying things straight boys do/ say that didn't make the cut for the song?
Haha, how much space do we have? Seriously though, I did actually have to cut it down quite a bit. There was a section about obsessions with fast cars; some references to bachelor parties; and then, you know, just small things like rage and pent-up aggression and that clichéd inability to deal with emotions and express feelings coherently; territorialism, chest beating, pack mentality, group intimidation – all of which I decided to edit down quite significantly as I wanted to keep it more light-hearted and fun. Oh, and the fact that most straight boys I know seem to hate on Madonna. And Céline. And Barbra – perhaps the most unacceptable behavior of all!
What was your most painful straight boy moment of 2017?
A perfect example of what can happen when this stereotypical ‘straight boy’ machismo bullshit becomes normalized and accepted. He’s the ultimate chauvinistic bully who proudly and publicly defended misogynistic “pussy-grabbing” behavior as mere “locker room talk” while the world recoiled in horror! And yet here he is, in 2017, validated and legitimized as the elected Commander-in-Chief. I mean, it doesn't really get any more painful than that!
The new album - what did you draw inspiration from writing it? How is it different from the old one?
Whereas ‘Not Thinking Straight’ was recorded in small blocks over a 2-year period, ‘M/F’ was recorded over a shorter, more concentrated space of time. I really wanted to go for a much bigger rock production this time around, so I reached out to Lee Batiuk, an amazing UK producer who had just produced and mixed one of my favourite rock albums of the last few years (Deaf Havana’s Old Souls). I just loved the sound of that record, and Lee’s also a total guitar genius, so I really wanted to infuse my new songs with some of his ‘classic rock’ sound that he does so brilliantly. This album is also mastered by the legendary Ted Jensen at New York’s Sterling Sound, which I’ve been insanely excited about as Ted has mastered so many of my all-time favorite albums over the years. I really wanted to have his sonic magic sprinkled over these songs and having Ted’s sound on this record is a dream come true. Therefore, M/F has a larger and more cohesive sound but the songs are still as unashamedly gay and proud.
Where'd you record, and what kind of collaborations did you enlist for the new album?
Unlike ‘Not Thinking Straight’, this album was recorded on location in various studios around the UK. I also got to fulfill a dream of mine by hiring a studio in the UK countryside with beautiful views and a swimming pool and retreating for several days at a time for focused recording sessions. I even recorded some of the vocals in Warsaw, Poland, with me directing the sessions from my London studio via Skype linkup, which was an entirely new experience for me, and a lot of fun!
There are many more guest musicians on this album too and a wider range of instruments. There were some specific people I was really keen to work with, including a fantastic London horn ensemble called The Killer Horns, who appear on 3 tracks on the album. It’s the first time I’ve had horns on my songs and they were a dream to work with. There are also some sassy Cheerleaders on the record, UK singer/songwriter Zarif appears on 3 of the songs and I was always going to have some fierce Rock Diva fabulousness in there, so I reached out to Polish diva extraordinaire Ola Bienkowska to lend her fierceness to three of the songs.
What about in terms of motifs and message?
In terms of inspiration and themes, I have a lot to say with this album and a lot of commentary on society and the world around me as I perceive it. There’s a lot of stuff about life from my perspective as an out, proud and happy gay man, working things out as I go along; politically passionate; in a beautiful, happy relationship; embracing and exploring many aspects of LGBT life whilst on my journey and curiously questioning the world around me and how I fit into it. Many of the songs on ‘Not Thinking Straight’ were about youth, growing up and coming to terms with one’s sexuality, and there’s quite a bit of teen angst running through that album. On this new album, I’m still finding my place in the world and curiously questioning how to navigate life and society as a gay man in 2017, but I definitely feel a lot more grounded and comfortable in my own skin this time around and I think that really shows in the songs. The album is overwhelmingly positive, upbeat and celebratory, with a little touch of melancholy thrown into the mix every now and then, but the overall tone is definitely one of joy and the songs are filled with positive energy and celebration.
How does this song fit into the context of the new album - can we expect more in this vein?
I put out ‘Bored of Straight Boys’ as the first single because I think it acts as a good bridge between the old sound of Not Thinking Straight and the new, bigger sound of M/F. I think it certainly gives you a good taster of what’s in store on the new album, sonically, but there’s a much more eclectic mix of musical ideas and lyrical themes running across the new songs. Not all of them are so tongue-in-cheek and there are songs about my relationship, politics and many of the joys and complexities that can accompany life as a gay man in the modern world, as well as tributes to different elements of LGBTQ culture, past and present.
If I could sum up the new album in one sentence, I’d say: A bigger sound; lots of huge melodies and sing-along choruses; LGBT-positive lyrics and stories, rock diva fierceness, guitar and sax solos aplenty, cheerleaders, horns and a whole lotta gay rock fabulousness!