DIY kind of music guy: The Suitcase Junket has a new album, show at Shea Theater

  • Matt Lorenz of the Suitcase Junket fleshes out his guitar and voice with drums and an eclectic array of items he uses for percussion. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Lorenz of The Suitcase Junket talks about his music during a recent interview at The Parlor Room in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Lorenz of The Suitcase Junket talks about his music Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at The Parlor Room in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Lorenz of The Suitcase Junket talks about his music Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at The Parlor Room in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Lorenz of The Suitcase Junket talks about his music Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at The Parlor Room in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lorenz worked with veteran musician/producer Steve Berlin (of Los Lobos) to craft his new album, “Mean Dog, Trampoline.” STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Lorenz, seen here in a recent video shoot in Greenfield, is an original and genuine one-man band.   Photo by Georgia Rae Teensma/courtesy Signature Sounds

  • Matt Lorenz of The Suitcase Junket performs during a video shoot this week in a Greenfield bank vault.  Photo by Georgia Rae Teensma

  • The Suitcase Junket performs during a video shoot in Greenfield in a bank vault.  Photo by Georgia Rae Teensma 

Staff Writer 
Published: 3/27/2019 3:58:27 PM

A gas can, saw blade, cook pot, and suitcase aren’t exactly thought of as musical instruments. But for the Valley’s Matt Lorenz, who performs under the project name “The Suitcase Junket,” these unconventional instruments are almost all he needs to play as a unique blues/indie folk rocker —  a one-man band who also uses a no-brand-name guitar he found years ago in a dumpster.

The last few years have seen Lorenz tour nationwide and overseas, release a number of well-received albums and play with other noted musicians, like veteran singer-songwriter Chris Smither of Amherst. Now he’s got a new album coming out and an April 6 gig at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls.

Lorenz sat down for a recent interview at the The Parlor Room in Northampton to talk about his new 12-track album, “Mean Dog, Trampoline,” due out April 5. It’s his fifth release and second full-length studio album with Northampton’s Signature Sounds Recordings.

Before he signed to Signature Sounds, Lorenz released three albums on his own, and in 2015 he released an EP with Signature. But this is the first time he’s worked alongside a producer to craft the album out of dozens of early drafts of songs. 

“This is the first album that I really invited someone else in on the process — Steve Berlin [of Los Lobos], the producer,” he explained. “I brought him in really early and sort of shared half-finished songs with him, which I hadn’t done in the past with anyone. I keep it pretty close to the vest usually. I’d been doing it my way for so long, I was excited about bringing him in and giving him a fair amount of control over the tunes.”

“I sent him probably 35 or 40 tunes of whatever was speaking to me in the moment,” Lorenz added. “He made some notes on them and sent them back. He made his list of favorites. And we went back and forth about what we wanted to get on the record.” 

One song, “Heart of a Dog,” has a delta blues sound reminiscent of bluesmen like Howlin’ Wolf. 

“That’s where a lot of those influences come from,” Lorenz said. “A lot of early Junket stuff, especially in 2012, was pretty consistently grimy, ‘slidey’ dirty blues kind of stuff. As the project has changed and evolved and widened the palette of sounds, I don’t want to leave that behind.” 

For that song, Lorenz said he took apart a Casio keyboard, opening up the back to do some circuit bending to create sonic experiments on the record. In another instance, he employed his use of throat singing for an unexpected twist on a blues song. 

“There’s a wildness that happens on that first instrumental break, and then on the outro,” he added. 

His aforementioned dumpster-found parlor guitar produces jangly and buzzy notes, but Lorenz hasn’t found another guitar to replace it. 

“It only really sounds good in an open tuning and for a long time, you couldn’t really fret it up the neck because the intonation was so off. It wouldn’t sound good,” he said. “There was no sticker on it when I found it except ‘Made in Japan.’ ’’

Lorenz also calls it “this really tiny parlor guitar. It’s a plywood piece of junk. Basically, it’s a Sears mail order, [the kind of guitar made] after they shipped production from America to Japan. You don’t see that many of them because they’re garbage.” 

He said he fixed up the cast-off instrument and started playing songs on it because it sounded different from other guitars he’d played. 

“I’ve tried to replace it over the years, but it still sticks with [my music],” Lorenz explained. “It bites back a little bit. The action’s super-high. It kind of fights you, which I enjoy.” 

Lorenz is used to challenges, whether battling a tempermental guitar or logging many miles on the road. Last year, he says, he performed 180 shows, and he’s typically on his own when he tours, acting as his own manager, roadie, and merchandise seller. 

Another of his new songs, “Dandelion Crown,” seems to take its inspiration from country and folk music. 

“That one’s a sad tune when you listen to the lyrics,” Lorenz said. “It’s kind of upbeat with a strolling rhythm and the feel of it is kind of pleasant. And the lyrics are like, ‘Oh man, this person’s sad.’ But there’s redemption in that as well. I like that old country stuff because the messages were relatable and relatively simple, but [there’s a] depth you can get with simplicity.” 

The album’s title is drawn from lyrics from one of his new songs, the folky “Scattered Notes From A First Time Home Buyers Workshop.” That song title describes exactly where the tune comes from: Lorenz took a first-time home buyer’s workshop several years ago and revisited his scribbled notes from the course, deciding to create a song from the jumbled text. 

“I was a very bad note taker,” Lorenz noted. “Mostly the notes were little sketches of imaginary creatures and just incoherent words next to each other. There was a mild amount of re-jumbling when I put the lyrics together, but pretty much that was it.” 

For Lorenz, his formative years as a student at Hampshire College — he graduated in 2004 — helped make him the person and musician he is today. 

“I was doing experimental music and adaptive design and visual art,” he said. “It was the same thing I’m doing now, but incubated.” 

He said he hopes Hampshire College can continue granting students an experimental approach to higher education, despite its current financial woes. 

“When you’re experimenting, you might run into some financial problems now and then … But I hope that they can figure it out. I worry that not taking a freshman class is self-fulfilling. If you don’t take a freshman class, where’s the money coming from? Fingers crossed.”

Chris Goudreau can be reached at 

The Suitcase Junket will have an album release show at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls April 6 at 8 p.m. Singer-songwriter Aubrey Haddard opens. Visit for more information and to buy tickets.

More information about The Suitcase Junket is available at

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