Melody Maker: Singer-Songwriter Matthew Sweet Talks Pottery and Power Pop

Matthew Sweet might be most famous for his 1991 alternative rock masterpiece Girlfriend, but that doesn't mean he isn't still putting out quality tunes some 23 years later. Late last month, Sweet announced that he will soon be working on followup material to 2011's Modern Art by utilizing a Kickstarter campaign to fund his new recording, a move that will allow fans to get their mitts on demos from the record, 3-D copies of Sweet's pottery and maybe even a cast-bronze cat or two. Say what?

"I've been making pottery for, I don't know, maybe 12 years," Sweet explains via phone. "So one day I was working on a record in a studio at Bad Robot, and I had some pottery there, and they have a great, big 3-D printer there that the art department uses."

The printer piqued his interest and before long he invested in a small 3-D printer of his own. Sweet learned how to use the machine and proceeded to scan pieces of his pottery and began applying patina to give his works a distinct aged look.

"I thought that those were sort of like art pieces themselves, so I decided I would include those as one of those rewards," he explains, "with an eye toward making some actual cast-bronze cats that I will prototype using the 3-D printer."

Sweet says he hopes to put up time-lapse footage of the process to give fans a glimpse into the making of the pieces.

As of early July, the campaign had already raised $22,509 of its $32,000 goal, which Sweet hopes to reach by July 26. Besides the possibility of receiving a bronze kitty crafted by the artist himself, some of the other exciting rewards that Sweet is offering his fans include a 30-minute Skype call with the musician. Fans can talk about a topic of their choice. He's also offering a 180-gram colored vinyl pressing of the new album and even a $270 "Rocky Mountain Reward" that will gift the recipient with two hours of "jazz cigarette" smoking time with Sweet on 4/20, 2015.

Sweet says that moving from Los Angeles, where he has lived with his wife for the past two decades, to Omaha, Neb., was at least a partial catalyst for his decision to start recording new material.

"We decided to come back to Omaha so we could be nearer to more family," he says. "We don't have any kids and we have tons of extended family here, and it's been really kind of awesome to be in a new environment."

He says that the new material won't resemble the playfully cobbled nature of Modern Art.

"Modern Art was kind of grown out of pieces of driftwood, so to speak," he says with a laugh. "Whereas this new material is going to be a little different because I'm writing before I'm doing any recording or making demos, so it's a little bit of a throwback to how I would have done it about 25 years ago."

In the video for his Kickstarter campaign, Sweet assures fans that the new album will be "rock and roll, guitars, bass, drums," much in the vein of his finest, gutsiest work. By injecting his pop tunes with healthy doses of crunchy guitar riffs, Sweet has been called the perfect power pop artist. Sweet says he doesn't mind the pigeonholing.

"You know, I'm happy with any way that I'm thought of or remembered by," he laughs. "Power pop seems like the genre that has embraced me the most and I love a lot of groups that are categorized as power pop. It means your music is electric and loud, but it is always melodic and I've always really liked melodic music, so it works for me."

Sweet is currently playing with Velvet Crush's Ric Menck and Paul Chastain, as well as Dennis Taylor, on a 16-date tour that kicked off on July 11 in Norfolk, Conn. Although Sweet said that he used to dread playing live early on in his career, he has long since left that stage anxiety behind.

"When we do shows now, the people who come out are really the big fans," he says. "No matter what the turnout is, we have a lot of fun just because they're like a bunch of old friends."

Fans can expect a set list that includes songs from Sweet's entire discography, including many of his most beloved tunes from Girlfriend.

"We were doing the whole Girlfriend album the past two or three years because it was the 20th anniversary, and we've stopped doing that not quite a year ago," he says. "Having said that, the set is pretty heavy on Girlfriend because we're used to playing it, but there will also be some stuff from Altered Beast and 100% Fun and onward and outward."

Sweet says he is particularly excited to return to the Beachland Ballroom.

"I'm really glad that we're going back to Cleveland because my last time there a few years ago was really fun," he says. "We had a really good show there and I have very fond memories of it, so I assume it's going to be great again."

Matthew Sweet with Tommy Keene

8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $18,

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