Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Matthew Danger Lippman has always had a taste for the theatrical, once showing up for sixth grade show-and-tell in a bikini. Throughout his adolescence he began to funnel the class clown antics into music; his high school band Brimstone Blondes put out a few releases via Western New York-based label Admirable Traits Records. In the years since leaving Buffalo for Brooklyn, Lippman’s sound has shifted from angular guitar punk to lo-fi bedroom pop. “I just liked making noise,” he says, but as he began toying with a dreamier sound for his solo work, or, as he puts it, “experimenting with a tenor and a sound that was more earnest.” The positive reactions – and the opportunity to open for the likes of Foxygen, Shonen Knife, and Caleb Giles – left him “feeling like it was a better way to connect with people and a better way to be truthful,” he says.
Since joining forces with jazz bassist Arden Yonkers and drummer Oliver Beardsley (who refer to themselves as the “Molson Twins”), Lippman has settled into a “psychedelic widescreen rock & roll sound,” evident enough on his forthcoming EP Touchdown U.S.A., out March 5th. Today, he’s premiering a video for EP cut “Suburban Girlfriend,” and once again, Lippman spares no theatrics.
Equal parts shoegaze, glam rock, and bedroom pop, “Suburban Girlfriend” is a nostalgic plea, a desperate wish for a simpler time. Lippman went back to Buffalo to shoot the video with longtime collaborator Jacob Smolinski. He’s stars in the video wearing garish dollar-store makeup beneath a glaring light, traipsing around his hometown with clips from classic sitcoms and old YouTube videos of himself from middle school spliced in, resulting in what he calls a “collage of pop culture memory.” His aimlessness, combined with the strangeness of his appearance in this idyllic suburbia, create a feeling of alienation hinging on the realization that he’s become a stranger in his old haunts. Lippman says he “wanted it to be this Lynchian, horrific vision of the past, longing for something and knowing it can’t be replicated. The total loss of self when you desire things you can’t replicate.”
Lippman wrote and recorded Touchdown U.S.A. pre-COVID; because the project is a product of the before times, he says, “These songs gained some preciousness in my life, because it was like the documented evidence of this era, and this concept. The songs were about longing for connection – something that is earnest and simple and physical and beautiful – when anxiety takes over and you can’t fully express yourself. Those are easy topics to tap into anyway, in the 21st century, but especially in an age when people are so isolated.” He notes with positivity that while he always intends for his music to be experienced live, the fact that people have to listen to the EP at home may bring out more nuance in the sound that might’ve gotten lost in a raucous live setting.
Though he jokes that on release day, he may just play Touchdown U.S.A. on Instagram Live in his bedroom for eight hours straight, Lippman says he’s not quite ready to adapt to this new digital performance landscape. “I don’t fully, at least for my own sake, buy into the totally paranoid – or maybe some would say kind of accurate – futurist version of the world, where it’s like, time to adapt! This is now!” he says. “I still believe music is about a physical presence and a physical connection and I love that stuff so much.”
He has been able to explore aesthetic interests he wouldn’t have had as much time and inclination to unpack in the past, like the very editing of this music video, which he did himself. While he’s accepted these new circumstances, he knows many artistic friends who aren’t faring as well, who require the energetic feedback of a live audience to push their visions toward completion. In a return to his own theatrical nature, Lippman would suggest to those people to “find those ideas that are a little more embarrassing, where they push them away because they wouldn’t want to do it in front of someone, and for the next few months have fun indulging in those. That’s what I’ve been doing. [Something] I just recorded this week is borderline cringey for me, but it’s lit for that reason.”
There is no such thing as a comfort zone for Matthew Danger Lippman – and he hopes “Suburban Girlfriend” will pull viewers into that same frame of mind. “I would like people to see the video and let it unsettle them maybe,” he says, “in a good way.”
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