By David Beard
While preparing to interview Matthew Jordan, I was in the process of indulging in Mike Love’s 12 Sides Of Summer and working on the Fall 2019 edition of Endless Summer Quarterly … fitting since Matthew sang backing vocals on “California Beach,” “Surfin’,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “Over And Over And Over Again” and “On And On And On.” Matthew also worked on Mike’s Reason For The Season holiday release in 2018.
It was fun chatting with Matthew and hearing his story of being brought in by producer Sam Hollander (voted the #1 Rock Songwriter by Billboard this year), but things got interesting because Matthew had not yet been contacted to go on tour at that time (7/12/19). Soon, he had performed with the group, and was asked to return for two months on the road while Brian Eichenberger is away on paternity leave.
The opening to Matthew’s bio reads: “With edgy rock piano grooves, radio-friendly hooks a la Andrew McMahon, Sara Bareilles, CHVRCHES & Ben Folds, and lyrics that evoke shades of Ed Sheeran and Jackson Browne, Matthew Jordan’s songs appeal to all different generations of music lovers.”
That may be true, but I guess the reason I like Matthew is he loves the music of The Beach Boys. In fact, the opening chorus on the first song of Mike’s 12 Sides Of Summer – “California Beach” – was something that Matthew had a hand in bringing to fruition, but there is a lot more to his story, so read on.
Endless Summer Quarterly: How did you end up getting involved working with Mike Love?
Matthew Jordan: For me … this entire thing was out of left field. I’ve always had a massive amount of love for The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson has always been a hero of mine. I always loved all those songs … “God Only Knows” is a personal favorite of mine.
I was doing music since I was a teenager, and I started doing all these YouTube videos about 10 years ago. I made a big production out of them. I’d record all the vocals and these instruments and then edit them all together … it was sort of like a visual music video because you could see all the parts I was playing and singing. I’m 35 now, and all the people who were doing what I was doing when I was in my early to mid-20s were doing covers of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber. … I didn’t want to waste time doing covers like that … I tried doing pop covers and got burned out.
I decided I wanted to record music I was passionate about. I had done a cover of “God Only Knows” early on, and in 2014 I decided I wanted to record “Good Vibrations” … I wanted to do all the parts … I wanted to do it perfectly … and I wanted to do it as my ultimate tribute to The Beach Boys because I’m such a big fan.
I tried to make the video as perfect as possible and Carnie Wilson saw the video, contacted me, and invited me to see Wilson Phillips. That was cool. More importantly, I was referred to Sam Hollander last year. Sam had posted on Facebook that he was looking for someone who could arrange, sing background vocals and really be faithful to The Beach Boys sound. This mutual acquaintance of ours linked Sam to my “Good Vibrations” video. I was traveling out of the country on a corporate gig and I got this Messenger message from Sam saying that he was working on a new Christmas album project for Mike Love from The Beach Boys and that he needed someone to help him arrange vocals, would I be interested in doing that? I was thinking, “Is this a joke?” [Laughs] Obviously, I told Sam that I wanted to do it.
Sam brought me into the studio one day just to see what I could do. I ended up recording all the initial vocals for what eventually became “Celestial Celebration,” which – at the time – was called (something like) “Lonely on Christmas,” but there was another title that was too similar [Author’s note: most likely “Alone on Christmas Day”]. When I heard it, there was only the piano and a solo vocal of Mike. Sam told me that he wanted to put more vocals on the song to make it sound more like The Beach Boys so Mike could get more excited about working with Sam. Mike hadn’t worked with Sam yet, and didn’t know what he could do. I recorded a bunch of oohs, and sweet surf rock vocals on there and Mike really liked it. I ended up working on all the tracks that Sam produced with Steve Greenberg. I sang and arranged vocals and played keys one day with Mike, John Cowsill and Keith Hubacher. That was fun!
Working with Sam … I don’t know what it is … he’s just a really, really awesome person who wants to help people. I’ve been in this business for roughly 20 years now, and I have never … or very, very rarely (at most) ever met people who are as generous and as helpful as Sam has been for me. He just put his butt on the line for me with Mike. I asked him why he was being so supportive, and he told me that he believed in paying it forward. I ended up having a creative contribution on “California Beach,” and getting a co-write on the song.
ESQ: When were you initially contacted to record for this album?
Matthew: I was contacted about 12 Sides Of Summer … I think it was early March 2019. Sam told me he and Josh were doing another album with Mike and they were going to record an acoustic Jack Johnson-like version of some of the classic surf rock songs and other cover songs. When I worked on Reason For The Season, I did some of the work remotely from my studio, but for 12 Sides Of Summer, I recorded the entire album remotely from my studio. They would send me tracks and I would record a bunch of stuff over them and send a bunch of files back. We all live in Los Angeles, but we did it all remotely.
For “California Beach,” Sam and Josh sent me a track that had all these empty spaces in it. The first thing I thought was, “I need to put something in all these empty spaces.” I came up with the idea for the introduction, but it wasn’t intended that way. I had the idea of listing all the California beaches, and told them I was hearing a “Kokomo” vibe.
“Summer land … holding hands … Santa Cruz … sun and sand … Swami shores are in our reach …” Then Mike doubles me and sings, “We’re gonna’ make it out to California Beach.” That became the introduction. I told them I was hearing a “Kokomo” style section where we could name different beaches. Sam, Josh and Mike really liked that idea, and Sam just snowballed off that idea. That’s how I ended up getting a songwriting credit. Like I said, when I record these songs, I try to capture the spirit of classic Beach Boys’ songs, but in a new way.
ESQ: What songs did you record backing vocals for?
Matthew: The songs that Sam and Josh worked on … “California Beach,” “Surfin’,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “Over And Over And Over Again” and “On And On And On.” In the case of most of these songs, I listened to the original recordings. There was one interesting thing that happened with “On And On And On.” I didn’t know that the song was an ABBA original. When they sent it to me, I thought, “This song’s weird. [Laughing] What is Mike singing about with these crazy lyrics?” I thought it was an original song with crazy lyrics, so I just started to feel it out. I had no idea what the song was or where it originated. So, I just started these parts that I heard, and – after I sent it off to them to layer in – I realized it was a cover. I listened to the original and told them I wasn’t sure if I captured the feel of the song or left room for some of the important parts of the song. I think the fans that buy 12 Sides Of Summer want to be reminded of old school Beach Boys, so it’s always good to reference some other classic Beach Boys’ songs as far as I’m concerned. With “On And On And On,” I kind of did a vocal part that was like “Do It Again.”
ESQ: What moments stand out to you during the sessions for this album?
Matthew: The first things they sent me were these very stripped-down demos of “Surfin’” and “Surfin’ Safari.” They wanted me to capture the feel of the original vocals but add my own thing to give them an updated feel.
One of the things I like to do when I’m arranging these songs is to put Easter eggs in my background vocals. I like to add vocals that harken back to other Beach Boys’ songs. For example: at the end of “Surfin’ Safari” I added, “Just come along … surf all day long.” What I was trying to do was give a nod to the “I Get Around” melody. I was trying to mash-up vocal feels of other Beach Boys’ songs and just throw them in as a wink to other fans. I certainly have a new appreciation for “Surfin’.” It was sort of a song that I initially didn’t pay attention to. It has that wonderful Mike Love bass line; it has that early doo-wop vibe. It was fun to play around and do some more detailed stuff vocally on that song.
I really wanted to do The Beach Boys’ style vocals justice, but I also wanted to make sure they were different. You can always do the block “oohs and aahs” and stack those vocals, but I wanted to add something different on each song that would differentiate each from the others. That’s what I tried to accomplish.
ESQ: What was the experience like for you to perform on stage with Mike & Bruce?
Matthew: Absolutely a dream come true. Mike has been such a class act. He’s been so kind and generous … extremely easy to work with. He was so receptive to all the ideas I brought in for the album. It’s been an absolute pleasure. It’s really impressive to watch Mike work. I just had to stop and pause and think about how cool it was while I was up there (on stage). Just like “Hey, you’re singing with The Beach Boys right now! How awesome is that?!” What’s even cooler is that shortly after the show, I was asked to come on the road with Mike, Bruce and the band for just about every show in September and October. Be sure to visit mikelove.com to see where we’ll be over the next couple months!
“Matthew did a great job with the vocal arrangements on 12 Sides Of Summer, and he’ll make a great addition to our band while he fills in for Brian Eichenberger, who is away on paternity leave. … I thought Matthew did a great job singing live with us on ‘Don’t Worry Baby.’ So, we’re looking forward to having Matthew join us on the road for more shows.”
— Mike Love
Be sure to purchase ESQ’s Fall 2019 Mike Love Collector’s Edition featuring full interviews with Mike Love; producers Paul Fauerso, Al Perkins, Sam Hollander, Josh Edmondson, and Scott Totten; and engineers Jeff Peters and Tom Gordon. A link to Issue #127, for individual purchase, will be posted soon.
©2019 David M. Beard/All Rights Reserved