If he didn’t know any better, Matt Mahaffey might be a little Self-conscious about his band’s recent appearance at the Taste of the Grove festival in Miami.
Playing to 5,000 people – “some hanging in palm trees,” Mahaffey said – the Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based alternative-pop quintet Self discovered a new audience trend.
“They were throwing plastic water bottles at us from the mosh pit,” Mahaffey said recently. “I thought they didn’t like us, but apparently they want to get a reaction out of you, to see if you’ll yell at them. Either that or they really didn’t like us.”
What’s not to like? When not touring, Self is a virtual one-man show in the studio – Mahaffey’s baby from the beginning. The 22-year-old self-taught whiz wrote, produced and performed nearly all the instruments on Self’s debut Spongebath/Zoo album, “Subliminal Plastic Motives.”
The album is a witty slab of tuneful, hip-hop drenched songs mercifully short on narcissistic excesses. From one nebulous track to another, Mahaffey is never content to stick with one style – he mixes it up, tossing in surging guitars and homemade samples (not one generated by a computer).
Jaded and unchallenged by his courses at Middle Tennessee State University a few years ago, Mahaffey hooked up with Spongebath Records president Richard Williams, who offered to take his demos to the major labels. Before he knew it, Mahaffey was putting together a touring band – which includes his brother, Mike, on guitar – and playing to label executives at the Nashville Extravaganza Music Convention. Zoo Entertainment bagged them but certainly isn’t confining them.
Now Self’s first single, “Cannon” – a loose tribute to Williams – is making headway on modern rock radio.
“This is the record I’ve made,” Mahaffey said, “and hopefully people will get something out of it. They finally played ‘Cannon’ on (MTV’s) ‘120 Minutes’ last weekend. That’s when it hit me, ‘This is really happening.’ “
Mahaffey is still trying to adjust to his position as the band leader.
“This is strange,” he said. “I’ve never fronted a band before. I always did things on my own, but I’m getting used to it now. We’ve been playing a lot of shows, and sometimes I get stage fright a little, but it wears off quickly.”
This is no small feat for a group from conservative Murfreesboro.
“It’s a very small, quiet and flat town,” Mahaffey said. “I always like coming back to it after being on tour. I never did a whole lot of traveling before this. Now I’ve been Los Angeles and New York and lots of points in between.
“But you won’t hear me complaining.”
BWF (before we forget): Self’s second Spongebath album, “The Half-Baked Serenade,” is available through mail-order only. The quickest way to order is by visiting the label’s Web site @ www.spongebath.net.
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