Martinez, California-based Box of Matches is an indie band. Box of Matches’ sound ranges from singer-songwriter to garage rock, with two lead singers (Aaron Baker and Kendra Meneghetti) and a wide range of influences from Car Seat Headrest to Regina Spektor to Sufjan Stevens. The band, whose name comes from Nicholson Baker’s brief novel “A Box of Matches,” has a strong focus on literature, ranging from Hemingway to Murakami. Box of Matches, a band that was originally founded in 2017, reformed in early 2020 with a new drummer (Mark Mckinney), and the new lineup—which also included bassist Garret Mingardi—released their first single, “Catherine,” in September of that year. Since then, they’ve released five more independently produced singles, and they’re currently working on their debut EP, “No More Sad Songs,” which is scheduled to be released in late 2022.
Their sixth release, “Two Kinds of Sadness”, is probably their most ambitious in terms of production. Amazingly, their lead guitarist received a heart and lung transplant while they were working on this song, and it was released before she did. It alludes to the stress of trying to live long enough to undergo this risky surgery and what life might be like afterward. Although it is a sad song, it also contains a lot of angst. Check out the song and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you all come from and how it all got started?
BOX OF MATCHES: Aaron Baker: Well, Kendra and I met in middle school and later got married and kind of got the ball rolling on starting a band from there. We met our drummer Mark through mutual friends and we met Garrett, our bassist, at an open mic when he was thirteen I believe. We’re all Bay Area people although I think only Garrett was actually born here.
2. Formal or self-taught?
BOX OF MATCHES: Aaron Baker: Garrett and Mark both have had a decent amount of training, Kendra got guitar lessons for a few years and I had a few lessons from my friend Mari when I was fifteen or so. So I guess we have kind of a range.
3. First and strongest musical influences and why the name?
BOX OF MATCHES: Aaron Baker: I fell in love with System of a Down at a young age and even though we sound nothing like them I think they’re part of the reason we always love a good crescendo in our songs. The Front Bottoms definitely had a big influence, the Strokes, Carseat Headrest. Our name is actually after a book called A Box of Matches by Nicholson Baker.
Kendra Meneghetti: I grew up listening to The Beatles. I’d play their ‘1’ album over and over again and dance to it in my room. I had a cassette tape (!!!) with The Temptations, The Partridge Family, and a lot of other 60s and 70s groups on it. I wouldn’t necessarily say we have those sounds in our music— but these artists made a big impact on my music taste and style throughout my youth and into adulthood.
4. Key elements?
BOX OF MATCHES: Aaron Baker: I think the most important thing for me is to make a connection lyrically with a listener, our upcoming EP was written from a space of watching someone really go through it and not being able to help much. I’d love for future fans to hear it and feel a sense of solace.
Kendra Meneghetti: A whole lotta sad. In a good way.
6. Role of music?
BOX OF MATCHES:
Aaron Baker: This might be a bit of a hot take but I personally don’t see music as entertainment first and foremost. I listen to music to feel a connection first and for entertainment secondly. A song can be great entertainment but if I don’t feel like I can connect with the songwriter I’ll lose interest pretty quickly. The exception to that rule of course is Disco Tits by Tovelo.
7. Do you feel your music is giving you back as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it?
BOX OF MATCHES:
Aaron Baker: I was tempted to say “dear god, no.” But truthfully, I think the answer is yes and no. There is a decent amount of self-fulfillment anytime we put out a song that feels like good music that we can actually enjoy and expect others to enjoy. However, I do look forward to the day that more people are able to connect with our stories.
8. Do you think it is important for fans of your music to understand the real story and message driving each of your songs, or do you think everyone should be free to interpret in their own way?
BOX OF MATCHES: Aaron Baker: As someone who used to think songs should be open to interpretation, I’ve jumped ship and now firmly believe that writers should be able to accurately communicate a feeling or idea. If I write a song about the death of my father and someone interprets it as a song about making new friends, then I’ve done something wrong. I think some flexibility is of course going to be there but the general sentiment should be clear.
9. What’s the most difficult thing you’ve endured in your life or music career so far?
BOX OF MATCHES: Aaron Baker: These things are tangentially related for me. I think the hardest thing I’ve endured is waiting for our lead guitarist (also my wife) to get her heart/lung transplant. In some ways I think the transplant itself wasn’t as difficult as the wait leading up to it and all of the uncertainty during those years. A lot of our music was inspired by that anxiety.
10. Creative work in a studio or home environment , or interaction with a live audience?BOX OF MATCHES: Aaron Baker: As someone who has almost exclusively been working in a home studio, definitely interaction with a live audience. I’m not someone who fantasizes about selling out stadiums but I love the idea of singing along with an audience.
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Photo credits: Ronan Furuta