London musician Matt-Felix spins surrealism and romance
By Alex James Taylor | Music | 14 February 2024
Photographer Sophia French
Stylist Davey Sutton.

The music video for Matt-Felix’s debut track Leave, just to Stay is a surrealist short film reminiscent of Luc Besson or a contemporary Buñuel vision. Set in South London’s historic Rivoli Ballroom, Matt-Felix wanders through gilded rooms as strange characters come to life: a spinning ballet dancer; a sinister barman; and masked waltzers.

As the camera zooms in on the Visitor’s Book, we see the only attendee is Matt-Felix – over and over again. Is it all in his head? Is he trapped in a dream? All the while, the musician’s song Leave, just to Stay echoes through the film; a beautiful, layered tale of human duality and contrasts. With a deep passion for his craft, Matt-Felix writes with conviction and confession, translating waves of emotion through troubadour-style songwriting. In anticipation for his debut London headline gig (1st March), we sat down with Matt-Felix to explore his influences and sensibilities alongside an exclusive shoot photographed by Sophia French and styled by HERO Fashion Editor-at-Large Davey Sutton.

Alex James Taylor: Can you tell us about the track Leave, just to Stay? When did you write it and what does it mean to you??
Matt-Felix: I wrote Leave about a year ago. I sat at my piano for the first time in about a week and the song just came out all at once. I often find that when I write on an instrument I haven’t played for a while a song will be waiting. I then demoed it the same day, which is how I work most of the time. A lot of the parts on the final recording were not changed from that original day, which I like to do as it conserves that original energy from the writing process. Leave feels like the beginning of wherever I’m heading, which is exciting.

AJT: You can hear French influences in the track, there’s a rhythm that reminds me of classic chansons. Which artists do you often draw from?
MF: It’s very interesting that you picked up on that, looking back, I had just been given an original Jacques Higelin No Man’s Land vinyl, and I fell totally in love with a song called Pars, which is where I must have subconsciously got the idea for Leave, Just To Stay. I think there’s a resemblance in the drama or theatricalness of it. I remember just playing Pars over and over again, listening to all the nuances in the production and in his voice. I think it’s such an amazing piece of music, & so underrated.

In terms of classic French chansons, I obviously love Gainsbourg in all his eras. My favourite of his probably being La Javanaise – I just don’t think you can learn to write music like that, it must come from somewhere else. My grandpa used to love Georges Brassens, I remember him for Le Gorille. Another favourite is Maintenant Je Sais by Jean Gabin, a beautiful story about growing up. I don’t know how or where these French influences creep in, but they must do somehow.

AJT: There’s also a real depth of layers, with the backing vocals and guitar solo building and layering. There’s a drama to it – how did the track evolve in the studio?
MF: All these ideas were put together at home, spontaneously, I didn’t really think about it. There was a playfulness to it all. I remember standing in my shower with a mic recording all the backing vocal ideas and getting my girlfriend to come in and double them. All the different layers just came from experimenting with different sounds and textures. I was also trying to keep things as minimal as I could, so having things drop in and out constantly was a fun way to build the tune.

Even though seventy percent of the ideas are on the demo, Adam Zindani (Stereophonics) really pushed it. I went up to his studio in Birmingham where we spent two days re-recording vocals, guitars and little finishing touches. He understood the idea and didn’t want to change it, just maximise its potential, which I’m very grateful for. The most important change was the drum breakbeat in the chorus – it changed the whole groove, which I loved. They were played by Bob Hall (Catfish and the Bottlemen) in his studio in Gothenburg. So the combination of my playful bathroom recording sessions and help from really talented professionals is what made the song what it is.


AJT: And can you tell us about the music video?
MF: The video was directed by Sophia French and Max Rollason. The concept came from the three of us sat around drinking coffee and brainstorming for hours. All our ideas came together like little pieces of a puzzle. It was originally going to be me riding around on a horse in the desert. So, thank God we went with the ballroom.

I have to say, we pulled a lot of favours from all our talented friends. From the dancers to the film crew, everyone was so amazing. We only had eight hours to film the whole thing, there was a lot of pressure. For the amount of time and budget we had, I think it looks incredible. I love an interesting music video, we wanted to make a mini-movie almost. I’ve always fantasised about what a Tarantino or Almodovar-directed music video would look like.

AJT: You spent the early years of your life in Bali, can you tell us about that experience? When did you move to London?
MF: I did yes! My parents met there in the 90s – my mum’s French and my dad’s English. I spent the first thirteen years of my life there and Indonesian was my first language. I grew up in the rice paddies and jungle. It was so different to how it is now and I’m grateful to have experienced it that way. I started playing guitar at age ten and just fell in love with songwriting. Growing up in Bali has definitely shaped who I am, but I was always so serious about pursuing music that I knew I needed to be in the UK.

AJT: What are you currently working on?
MF: I’m always writing, always recording. I’ve now got my live band together and we sound so tight. It’s been a real process, but I’ve got a group that present the songs in the way I want. We played a secret show and it felt great to play the songs live. My first headline show is coming up on the 1st of March at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington, so I’m looking forward to that. I’ll also be releasing a second single soon, with many more to come after.

jacket ANN DEMEULEMEESTER archive; shirt JAC LEE; trousers KEBURIA SS24; boots PRADA archive

Follow Matt-Felix on Instagram.

Hair: Takumi Horiwaki
Make-up: Kasia Postaremczak


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