Assistant Professor of History Matt Kadane is half of a songwriting duo for the band The New Year. The band has released a new album and Kadane is taking time during a sabbatical from the Colleges to tour to support it.
A recent article in The Arizona Republic discusses the album and his “double life” as professor and musician.
In the article, he says of the two careers, “I think they both activate whatever sense I have of intellectual curiosity and maybe in a more negative way, the feeling of conflict, than comes with having these dual lives might work its way into what we do in the band. But mostly, they’ve been pretty complementary.”
The full article appears below.
The Arizona Republic
“9/23: The New Year”
Ed Masley • September 19, 2008
It’s been four years between releases for the New Year, but Matt Kadane can pinpoint the exact day this album started taking shape.
It was Dec. 31, 2005. He was at the piano, not quite ringing in the new year, when the aptly titled MMV came spilling out, an odd yet melancholy ballad.
“Now, I’m sitting here waiting to leave New Year’s Eve,” he sings. “Nothing good came from MMV but death and destruction, and my new resolution to drink more and laugh more and sleep more and dream more.”
It’s a haunting lullaby Kadane feels set the stage, in many ways, for the album that followed as he and brother Bubba started working on material in earnest.
“That was the first song we finished,” he says. “And at that point, we sort of felt motivated – inspired, I guess – to keep working on stuff.”
There is one older song that the brothers ended up returning to, The Idea of You, which brings the album to urgent finish.
“I know I said MMV was the starting point,” Kadane says. “And it really was. But once we got going, we went back to that song and finished it. And I think once we heard the way the end of it turned out, we realized there could be this symmetry in the sequence of the record if we put it last.”
One major way MMV ended up shaping the album is in the prominent role piano came to play.
“I’ve owned a piano for 15 years,” Kadane says. “But I had never had any room for it. My mom was keeping it, and then I moved into a place big enough in 2005, got my piano back and felt more energized playing that than I had felt playing guitar in a while, so that ended up being the starting point for a lot of these songs.”
That meant converting some of those piano songs to guitar-driven songs for the road.
“We’ve always really wanted to be able to play every song that we’ve ever recorded and have it sound more or less how it sounds on the record,” he says. “So there was probably a point where we thought ‘Do we continue accumulating these piano-based songs?’ Since we can’t take a real piano on the road, everything we can take out is gonna be sort of a lame approximation of a piano. Or do we just say ‘Let’s not worry about the fact that we can’t exactly reproduce this stuff live?’ And we went with the latter.”
They tried to take a keyboard out on last year’s West Coast minitour.
“I felt like I had found a pretty good electric piano,” Kadane says. “But once we got into these clubs we were playing it sounded like (expletive) through the PA. The alternative was to get this much bigger piano with weighted keys and all those things and then you’re spending a ton of money and hauling around this gigantic thing, and even something that’s as nice and cumbersome as that doesn’t quite capture the richness of the piano.”
As it turns out, he says, it’s been kind of exciting to have the songs feel different live.
“It’s as if we’ve got a whole new batch of songs,” he says. “And it’s a lot more satisfying to play guitars than an electric keyboard. So I’d rather feel satisfied playing the songs.”
And after all, the man did have to take a sabbatical to do this tour.
Kadane is a history teacher at Hobart and William Smith colleges.
The double life, he says, can be hard, “but it’s doable during the summers and when I have a sabbatical.”
“So we were lucky that the release of this record could be timed to come right at the beginning of my sabbatical, and we could actually tour properly to support it, which is something that we haven’t done in 10 years or whatever. But one of the nicer things about an academic life is that you do get these big chunks of time off.”
Asked if he sees a connection between his two careers, Kadane says, “I think they both activate whatever sense I have of intellectual curiosity and maybe in a more negative way, the feeling of conflict, than comes with having these dual lives might work its way into what we do in the band. But mostly, they’ve been pretty complementary.”