Clubland: Former Valley musician Matt Hebert to perform at Iron Horse in Northampton
“Music is such a huge part of road trips and tours,” said once-local singer-songwriter Matt Hebert. He knows firsthand, having spent countless hours on highways, especially in recent years. In 2008 he left his Valley life to move across the continent to Vancouver, Canada, and soon after to Austin, Texas, his current home.
The traveling — and the favorite old music Hebert listened to in the van, odometer working overtime — fueled the inspiration for his strong new album, “Tomorrow In the Sun,” released a few weeks ago.
Hebert’s back in town for the wedding of close friend (and former bandmate) Bob Hennessy, and will play some of his new songs at the Iron Horse in Northampton Wednesday at 7 p.m., opening for singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters.
“Tomorrow In the Sun” is an immediately galvanizing mix of happy and sad, featuring catchy and bright rock songs dealing with separation and distance.
When Hebert’s wife, Sam, had to relocate to Canada for her job, Hebert followed, leaving Northampton for Vancouver, “which was exciting and bittersweet,” he said. “I was heading toward Sam to try something new but leaving family and friends behind.”
When Hebert couldn’t get a work visa, he found himself making another big move, this time to the music mecca of Austin.
“Sam took the trek with me and made a road trip out of it, knowing that we would be apart for six months. We listened to The Lonesome Brothers driving across East Texas through the night and it kind of made things OK,” he said.
As soon as Hebert got to Austin, he wrote a batch of songs, some of which ended up on the new record, including the title track and also the stomping rocker “Lite Brite,” which shares some musical syntax with the solo work of The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg.
“I won’t sleep if I know that you’re awake / and I won’t sleep e_SSRqtil I know that you’re OK,” Hebert sings over anthemic electric guitars and groovy tambourine.
“I wanted this to be a fun sounding album about a depressing topic,” he said.
A punchy energy lifts much of the record, even when the lyrics concern rats, bitter pills, sorrows, being haunted, holding onto thin air.
“Maybe You’re a Ghost” crunches along with layers of guitars and some of the record’s most memorable riffs and lyrics, and “Love Yourself” puts a yearning melody over an insistent drumbeat that’s part dance-floor filler, part ticking clock with time running out.
Hebert was inspired by the music he’d been listening to in his new homes and on the treks in between, records by bands like Built To Spill, the jangling Scottish pop outfit Teenage Fanclub and others, groups who wore their hearts on their sleeves, even if their hearts were broken.
“I’m super excited to see my family and play the Horse and of course my good friend Bob’s wedding,” Hebert said. “It’s also the most beautiful week of the year in New England.”
And though Hebert might live thousands of miles away, part of him is here in the Valley. “Every time I see Transperformance photos I have to stop myself from quitting my job and heading back,” he said.
A number of his longtime Valley friends contribute to “Tomorrow In the Sun.” Spouse frontman Jose Ayerve, now based in Maine, sings backing vocals; onetime Claudia Malibu drummer (and Wormco record label owner) Jeremy Marusek, now working in California, designed the striking album art; and Northampton engineer Danny Bernini mixed and mastered the album.
And though it’s been three years since Hebert’s last record (“The Deep North,” from his previous band, Haunt), he’s already recorded a second new disc, “Loss,” due to be released next year.
In addition to the Iron Horse show, locals will have one more chance to see Hebert perform live, at Luthiers Co-op in Easthampton October 14 at 7 p.m., sharing the bill with locals J Johnson (from National Carpet) and Brothers Born.