In 1999 Mattie Safer was at NYU, studying jazz. However, he quickly dropped out to play bass and provide vocals for The Rapture. Subsequently getting caught up in a mad, musical whirlwind, born out of a turn of the millennium NYC punk-funk milieu – a scene recently captured in the documentary movie, Meet Me In The Bathroom. Parting ways with The Rapture in 2009, Mattie has gone on to be part of the rhythmic core behind California’s cool and much-loved Poolside, plus he now has a new side-project, lovetempo. The outfit have a strong, strong E.P. signed to Brooklyn’s Razor-N-Tape, which while totally modern, to my ears at least, seems to be an affectionate nod, heartfelt homage, to the classic jazzy Brit-Funk of the 1980s. It’s a set of sax-y boogie, bouncing to bold bass-lines, and lush with latin percussion. As smooth as, say, Sade, with flashes of Freeez on feel-good songs, such as The Sun. Fans of folks like Str4ta should definitely take note. Here, The Insider, catches up with Mattie while in L.A. preparing for a tour with Poolside.
Interview conducted by our favourite four-to-the-floor expert, The Insider.
Thanks for taking the time to chat. Where are you at the moment, how are you spending the day?
I’m in California right now, getting ready to do some shows with Poolside.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in a city in Maryland called Silver Spring. It was a pretty chill suburb very close D.C., with a nice park to run around in a plenty of public transportation to get to the city when I was a little older and wanted to start going to shows.
Who or what switched you on to music?
I have an older sister who plays piano, so I would sit on the steps and listen to her play when I was very young. Besides that, my folks were always listening to music when I was growing up, and we had very good radio in D.C., so I got exposed to all sorts of great music. I started playing piano myself when I was 12, and switched to bass at age 13, following the encouragement of a music teacher.
Are there some records that stick with you from your childhood?
The first non-children’s records that I owned were Donna Summer’s Bad Girls and Prince’s 1999. I found them in a neighbor’s trash can. I used to love listening to them on 45. A little later on I got into rap and R&B, Chi Ali’s Age Ain’t Nothin But A Number was big record for me, cuz I was seeing a kid just a little bit older than me doing it.
What artists were you into as a teen?
The Beastie Boys were pretty crucial when I first started playing music, because their songs weren’t super difficult to play, and I was friends with a great drummer and keyboard player my age. A little later I got more into punk and hardcore, but I was also playing and listening to jazz and old soul. I watched Crooklyn when I was a kid, and that movie turned me onto Cymande, The Staple Singers, The Five Stairsteps, a lot of cool music that I still listen to and cherish today. Talking Heads were a big group for me as an older teen, cuz they kinda married these two different musical worlds that I was interested in.
When did you first know you wanted to be a performer?
I saw my piano teacher’s jazz trio play at a church and I just thought it was so cool.
You went to jazz school … how did that pan out?
I made it through a year and then touring with The Rapture got busy, so I had to drop out. No regrets, but it would have been nice to have that kind of time to study and learn. The Rapture was certainly the earliest thing I did that had any level of consistency, but it became work more by accident than design.
Were you in other bands before The Rapture?
I played in a few bands in Washington DC, but probably nothing you’ve ever heard of, a pretty screamy band called Amalgamation, and another band called The (Last) Seconds (Of). Parentheses were in style at the time.
How did The Rapture begin?
The band started in San Francisco, and moved to New York about a year after. I met them at a show in Washington DC, when they were on tour, and moving to New York, the summer before I moved up to go to school. They didn’t have a bass player at the time, and I made a note to hit them up once I got to the city. After a couple months of hounding them, we got together for a rehearsal, and by the end of the year I was playing bass and singing with them.
We got to do a lot of amazing things together, and make some great music along the way. I travelled all over the world and got to work with some amazing people. I wouldn’t trade that time for the world.
You won Pitchfork’s album of the year in 2003. That must have been a pretty big deal at the time.
It was pretty wild!
And that was your debut album right?
Debut album, but we released an E.P. on Sub Pop called Out Of The Races and Onto The Tracks before that.
How did your time with the band come to an end?
I’d been in the band for ten years at that point, and the strain of some of the relationships had squeezed a lot of the fun out of it. I was ready for something new.
What was going on in New York at that time musically?
New York is such a big place. There are so many micro-scenes. We were mostly involved with the DFA folks, throwing parties, staying up late, dreaming dreams, and then beyond that we would go on tour around the states every few months, it was a nice life.
Who were you hanging out with at that time? What bands?
Black Dice, LCD Soundsystem, Fat Truckers, The Boggs, I dunno. Honestly, I was less excited about bands and more into clubs and DJs during that time.
The recent Meet Me In The Bathroom documentary movie captures that period in time. Do you think they have covered it well?
I felt like the movie did a good job of representing what it was like to actually be in one of those bands and live through all that craziness. I liked that there weren’t a bunch of talking heads or music journalists butting into the conversation.
You’ve worked with Timbaland. What was he like to work with?
We worked on a song called No Sex For Ben, that we made for Grand Theft Auto IV. He is a fucking genius. He worked so fast. The music just flowed, and it was wonderful to watch him take our song and build the rhythm track up from the ground using his mouth, beatboxing.
Tell us a little about your time working with Daft Punk.
We got to go on tour with them right across the USA. It was amazing to get to watch them play every night! Seeing their show at Red Rocks is an experience I will never forget.
When did you hook up with Poolside?
I started playing with Poolside in 2018, not long after Filip left the band. Jeff needed someone to sing and play bass in the live shows and he reached out. Jeff’s an old friend that I’ve known since the earliest days with The Rapture. It’s great music to play, and I’ve learned a lot about production and arrangement from working together, and met some of the lovetempo collaborators through it too!
What inspired lovetempo, and this “music for lonely hearts” sound?
I was on tour with Poolside, making music in my hotel room and on the tour bus. I had a lot of downtime and I wanted to make music with a groove to help distract myself from a recent heartbreak. I feel like a lot of the best dance tracks are born from pain.
Your debut lovetempo track, Turnaround, was released on Razor-N-Tape. How did you hook up with RNT?
Andrew Raposo, from Midnight Magic, who also plays bass in 79.5, shared the lovetempo E.P. with JKriv and Aaron and they were very enthusiastic about the music! Things got rolling from there.
What other musicians are you working with on the lovetempo project?
I played bass, sang, programmed the drums, and played most of the synths. Morgan Wiley, who used to be in Midnight Magic and now works with Adi Oasis, played all the Wurlitzer on these records, Brijean Murphy, who also plays in Poolside and has her own awesome project Brijean, played congas on the first couple of tracks I made, and Alberto Lopez, a badass percussionist out of LA, has played on a few as well. My friends, Mel Chambers and Meka Brown, added some additional vocals on The Sun. Grant Zubritsky, who I also met working on Poolside stuff, played sax on What To Do But Love You, and did some additional production on all the tracks on the E.P.
Can you please talk us through the E.P. a little?
The One is the first track on the E.P., and the first song I made for this project. I came up with the basic drums, bassline, and vocal in an Oslo hotel room on the first day of Poolside’s European tour with Tycho in February 2020. I also wrote There’s No You on that same trip, and then worked on them remotely with Morgan, Brijean, and Grant during the pandemic, in the summer of 2020, to fill them out and finish it up. What To Do But Love You was co-written with Grant later on. We based it on a sax part that he wrote for the ending of There’s No You that didn’t end up making the final version but seemed like a great seed for a new song. The Sun was just a happy bassline that got stuck in my head. I wanted to have something a little more upbeat to close out the record. Razor N Tape got Yuksek to do a remix, which was a true joy. I love his music. The overall vibe is all about having a good time and dancing the pain away.
You`ve covered so much ground in your career. Are there any musical ambitions that you’ve yet to fulfil?
As an artist I just hope I continue to be inspired to make new things that I’m excited about!
You`ve spent your life working in the music industry. If you didn’t follow this path, what else do you think you might have ended up doing?
I can’t even imagine it really, but if I had to quit music, I would probably switch things up and do something to try to help people. Making music is magical, but it can feel like a very self-indulgent way to live one’s life.
lovetempo`s debut E.P. is out today, April 28th, on Razor N Tape.