Words by Keane Fletcher

Bargo-based musician Matthew Neal, aka Neon Puppet, might be living on a farm at the moment (thanks COVID), but make no mistake, the music video for his latest single ‘Do You Feel the Same’ is pure beach-y goodness.

‘My best mates [made the video] while living it up in Indonesia during the lockdown period. I had some new song ideas lurking around in the back of my head and asked the boys (Team No Plan as they call themselves) if they would be interested in putting some of their surf clips behind a new tune I’d been working on...’

And what a tune it is. With its bluesy structure, soupy reverb and deliciously extra electric-guitar solo, ‘DYFTS’ is giving us in the office complete psychedelic 60’s vibes, making it the perfect song for watching the summer sun go down on a beach somewhere...even if that beach is only on YouTube. 

We recently caught up with Neal to talk all things music and inspo, check it out below. 

1- Where are you based at the moment?

I’m living at Bargo on a large property of 40 acres. It’s been a great place to relax and work on new music during Covid. Doing some farm work helps break up the routine of being in the studio for too long. 

2- You’ve played with a few bands in the past; what was behind the decision to go solo? How would you describe your sound?

My last band Maximon, was a rock/jazz/rap vibe, formed with some mates from Uni. We were deciding to have a bit of a hiatus, as our lead guitarist, Jarrah had made plans on travelling to Berlin for some time. So seeing as there wasn’t much happening with the band side of things anymore, and with the world going into lockdown, I focused all my spare time on staying creative and starting the recording process on all my songs I had written for a solo project a long time ago.

I draw a lot of my melodic and vocal sound influences from 90’s rock, with my guitar playing style being a mix of blues, from Gary Moore, SRV, and John Mayer on the bluesy side, with the psychedelic aspect from David Gilmore, Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Hazel to name a few. I don’t plan to put myself in a box as some of my upcoming tracks will most likely have all different mixes, from some acoustic folk, to jumping back to some hip hop.

3- How does the creative process usually work for you? How do you go about writing and developing a song?

My creative process does change a lot due to the fact of trying so many different genres from song to the next. I have songs that kind of write themselves in a way, that I can have the instrumentation down with a melody and lyrics in one day, to then having some that I have all the instrumental compositions worked out, but have been sitting idle for years, because I just can’t seem to get my head around the feel of the song, and where I want to take it lyrically within the story. 

With all my experience playing in my previous bands, I’ve developed my own way of how I work on a song. I always start with the music, once the vibe of the song has been established, then I can get a good idea of the emotion of the story I want to portray. I follow up by doing a improv skat over the song with random words thrown together, I find doing this let’s me be more free with writing Melodic and  rhythmic ideas without any restrictions to word play. Then when I am happy with how that sounds, I put pen to paper keeping it old school and fill in the words like a crossword puzzle to make a story.

4- Your new single ‘Do You Feel the Same’ is a cruisey, bluesy, psychedelic jam about troubled love. Is there any particular story that inspired this song?

The main idea of the story I was going for was about lack of communication within a relationship, and how one persons actions can also affect their partners mental state in a major way. Everybody goes through some sort of internal battle one way or another throughout their life, and being afraid to express their feelings or talk about it only makes the struggle that much harder. I tried to emote the sense of loneliness and isolation between two people who are supposed to share everything together.

5- Tell us a bit about the new video for the song. It’s giving us all kinds of wanderlust vibes, especially considering we can’t jump on a plane and head to Indonesia at the moment.

Yessssss, the all inspiring film clip my best mates made while living it up in Indonesia during the lockdown period. I had some new song ideas lurking around in the back of my head and asked the boys (Team No Plan as they call themselves)  if they would be interested in putting some of their surf clips behind a new tune I’d been working on as a film clip. They we’re excited with the whole idea of us collaborating on a project together, with it evolving the further we went along. From the main idea being one track, with a simple psychedelic guitar groove, to becoming two tracks ‘Do you feel the same?’ With it’s laid back chilled vibes, to the more fitting heavier rock track of ‘Release The Beast’ for the Bigger wave section toward the end of the video. I had a blast working and talking back and forth with the boys on capturing a sound that they felt help emulate the feeling they get when riding these monsters. I’m so happy that they are out there doing what they love most and doin it with style.

6- How has 2020 affected your creative output? Do you have a preference for performing live or recording in the studio? 

2020 has made my creative ideas explode, having made my own home studio to record at, and with all this extra free time on my hands to manifest these ideas that float around in my head, has been awesome. I’ve probably learnt more about music this year than I ever have. With making my own studio at home I’ve had more time to analyse my song writing processes, and change the way the song develops at my own pace. I have learn’t so much behind the scenes,  writing music compositions as a whole,  being a solo artist as I am playing all the instruments in the songs myself, from vocals, harmonies, guitar, bass along with midi drums and keyboards.

I’d have to say performing live is one of the main reasons I play music, especially playing with a band. I’ve had some of the best times of my life playing gigs around Sydney with mates, and also some wild times with most of my other mates filling up the crowds and going a bit crazy sometimes.  

7- How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business? Are streaming services like Spotify and Soundcloud making things easier or harder for artists to get their music out there?

Well it has definitely changed to when I was younger. I think It can be good and bad. It’s great in the way that it gives more upcoming musicians an equal chance to be heard, when writing and recording a new song used to take forever and was more expensive. It also helps develop a lot of new artists bringing more genres that push the new sound of the way music is made through new creative thinking that you would never normally get the chance to listen to before.  The thing is with everyone having the same idea, It’s created an influx of new music which can be a bit overwhelming and make it hard to know what or who to listen to. Overflowing the market can make it harder to get your music out to more music lovers too.

8- What's next for you?

I’m currently working on recording and releasing new music before the end of this year, with maybe one more single and an EP to come. Coming into summer soon I’m booking gigs again and will be playing with a full band that I have put together with some mates down the South Coast, and will carry on into next year with the same.

Thanks for stopping by Hipland!