Matt FX may be best known as Broad City‘s music supervisor, but like the clusters of tropical citrus that adorn his shirt at this Wednesday lunch, there are many shades to his musical life. As a DJ, he’s soundtracked New York’s wee hours in clubs around the city. As a musician, he’s spearheading Scooter Island, an artist project preparing to unleash a myriad of EPs and artwork. And as for Broad City, the music has become an integral part of Comedy Central’s hottest show, and Matt’s sharp ear for transitions that sometimes only last a few seconds is one of the reasons why.
Now he’s turning that job into a slew of others. After picking up a manager (a fact that still comes with a chuckle when he says it out loud) and booking a week full of meetings in Los Angeles, Matt FX is approaching the next level.
What was it like, going to high school at a creative arts school like LaGuardia?
Well, I didn’t go to college, so I really look back fondly on those times, that was where I had a lot of firsts—like, I started partying at LaGuardia—not in LaGuardia, for the record.
Around, on top of…
I graduated senior class president too. I didn’t do a great job as class president, I kind of shirked away from leadership after a while.
But what wound up happening was—we were like, “we’re gonna remodel the senior lounge, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do that.” I think we just remodeled the senior lounge by the end of the year, because the administration was just not gonna let us do anything. And of course, as soon as nothing was happening, the students wanted to blame me, and I couldn’t be like, “well the principal won’t let me do it.”
But that’s the thing about being a leader: you still have people in suits above you saying, “You can’t do it like that.” Still, I think a lot of the formative experiences people have in college, I had during high school. I think a lot of people still keep in touch from there.
Goes back to our label discussion. Just a teenaged, pimply version of everything else
Which is why maybe I should just start putting out all these EPs and do my own stuff. I know that the listens are going up, slowly but surely. At least, I keep telling myself that.
When did you realize a manager had become necessary?
I’ve been told the rule of thumb is, “get a manager when you need one. Don’t get a manager when you want one, get one when you need one.”
It started about halfway through Broad City’s second season. I got hit up by this dude on Twitter being like, “Yo man, I’m a director, can I give you a call?” He ended up living six blocks down the road from me, and he’s making his first feature film. He’s spent the last 10 years working for Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino by association.
So we’re talking, we go out to lunch, and eventually he’s like “Oh, you don’t have an agent?” And so he calls William Morris for me, and then a week later, I’m out in LA meeting with them. They didn’t fly me out or anything, but I called my dad and he was just like, “Go.”
So I was talking to this guy on the phone who was a potential agent, and he was like, “Look, come out, I’ll set up a bunch of meetings, we can really talk about this and see what’s going on.” So I rolled out there and my publicist at the time was actually in LA, just living there. I remember walking into the office and thinking, this is crazy, this is like Ari Gold from Entourage stuff. I get there and he introduced us to his boss and his assistant and I remember thinking, thank god I brought my publicist and my girlfriend—three of us, three of them.
That had to feel good. Because you were saying earlier the video premiere didn’t necessarily live up to your expectations.
Yeah, it really was hurting that the video wasn’t doing well. Especially after we put our second video on hold—we spent two months grinding, having so many things going perfectly well. And then the premiere doesn’t do that well. Now we’re going back to LA next week for like, 25 meetings.
If you had to choose one thing out of all these projects you’ve have going—Scooter Island, the music supervision—what’s the one thing that stands out as what you want to be doing to ten years down the line?
I don’t know. I don’t want to come off as too lofty here. Music supervision is pairing someone’s picture with someone else’s music. Eventually, I want to be sharing my own picture with my own music. Music supervision feels like, in a lot of ways, buying ingredients at a supermarket that are already cooked and putting them together – it’s not my show, it’s not my music. Hopefully sometime it will be my own show, my own movie.
When it comes to Broad City, does it feel you have songs already in your mind, as you’re seeing how the scenes are coming together?
I’d say three out of five times, I’ll get the song on the first try, within fifteen seconds of seeing the scenes. There was a band last year—I think they were called Deers—two girls from Spain, scuzzy fuzzy guitar rock, kind of silly vocals – I thought it was perfect. This is perfect for Abbi going about her day. And the editor thought it was perfect. So we tried it on like four or five episodes, and it never clicked. By that point, Abbi and Ilana were like, “we’re not gonna say yes to this song.”
And I’m like, “why don’t you like it, it’s so perfect!” My girlfriend said it was almost too close to them, too much like them. But generally I’d like to describe their taste and my taste as a Venn diagram in which the middle circle is very, very big. There’s definitely stuff I don’t necessarily fuck with, and they don’t listen to house music.
What are a couple of examples of where you’ve clicked instantly?
I think the transitions are what really sold them. I think they’d had a lot of trouble, more in the first season, of figuring out that sound—specifically those 3 second soundbites. I knew, pretty much upon meeting these girls, that’d I’d met these girls before, you know? And eventually, I was just scanning through beats and Ilana was like, “That, play that again.” And I go to the beginning of the song, and she’s like, “No, no that wasn’t it.” And I’m like, this was the song and she says “skip in, skip in,” and I skip 40 seconds in and she’s like, “There, just those three seconds,” and it’s just the one part where the kick drops out, at the beat. It was a 50-second demo my friend sent me, but it was just that four bars.
Are they always taken from pre-existing tracks or demos? Do you ever compose them yourself?
I haven’t ever composed a transition. There have been a couple of Scooter Island tracks snuck into the season, and a couple of house tracks, stuff that I DJ. I threw one on the background of a porn shop, I threw one on at the gym. But I’ve never actually composed any transitions. But pretty much every producer on Scooter Island has had a transition or two in Broad City.
How does it compare, working with them versus when you’re working on a feature film?
There’s a lot of trust. There’s very little back and forth. Even if they want me to replace a track, I’ll get it right the second time. And if there’s a problem where I don’t get it the second time, I’ll sit there with them until it’s done, but it’ll still only take 120 seconds. In feature films, it’s such a huge thing, and you’re trying to get that perfect aesthetic, so there’s a lot of back and forth with higher-ups.
The relationships that Abbi, Ilana and I have to the music in the show are pretty set. There weren’t a ton of notes from the executives on the first season, and there were barely any on the second. I think everyone trusts the girls, and the girls trust me, and we get the job done. It’s nice.
With everything else, there’s been bureaucracy—the show runner, the executive producers, and then the network—and then it feels more like a job. With Broad City I’m being creative and having fun. It doesn’t feel like work there.
“Breezy” is the big Scooter Island single, thus far. You’re in the video—were you involved in the direction too?
Yeah, I helped direct the music video for “Breezy.” The concept was mine. Dave Fitz, who normally directs his own stuff, functioned as the cinematographer and we directed it together. Over the course of the summer it was just the two of us really. For the big rooftop scene he had one other person with him, but that was it. And then we edited it together.
The next video was gonna be like, eight times more complicated – costume building, set building, celebrity cameos and very, very large dance sequences. Hopefully we can still make it by the end of the year. Sometimes I feel like with the “Breezy” video, and the track in general, really – people won’t expect anything crazier.
Is the idea that this group will eventually function as a label?
I don’t think I could run a record label. I was talking to one of my best friends and he was like, “If you start a record label, I see an even more stressed-out Matt in the near future, and stressed-out Matt makes me sad.” That being said, I’m pretty damn confident that if I really set my mind to it, I could release five songs between July and January, every month.
And really, the goal is just get to January and take it from there. In an ideal world, I’d love a major label with sub labels, where we could do full releases and remix releases and dance EPs, whatever the hell we wanted. But realistically, the goal is just like, get to August. Six months of EPs, keep ’em rolling. I have to decide soon, because I did the thing—I kind of regret this in retrospect—I put a date at the end of the “Breezy” video. So, like, something’s gonna happen on 7/7/15, I don’t know what it is, that’s gonna happen, but something’s gotta happen now.
When Matt isn’t working as a music supervisor or commandeering Scooter Island, he DJs. It’s the steadiest work of the three, and the jobs have started piling up in the last three months. The week we spoke was bookended by two festivals: Woodstock’s Mysteryland, an EDM festival, and the Sweetlife Festival in Washington D.C.
Matt FX is on stage for the transitions, playing sets all day (and at Mysteryland, all night) between acts. It’s an endurance test that leaves its mark.
Are you still having fun at these festivals?
I got sunstroke yesterday at Mysteryland. My voice is still sore, I’m peeling on my forehead and on my nose. I’ve still got this crazy chest cough. I’d like to feel better, but other than that, I’m having a great time. Mysteryland was incredible. We played BangOn NYC—this roaming party from Brooklyn. I consider them the most professional XL-sized warehouse party—they’ll do four different stages, 20,000 to 40,000 people. Their New Year’s events are unparalleled.
This year, Mysteryland kind of upgraded them to being an actual stage where, on the first night, they could use loudspeakers, the following nights it’d have to be silent disco after two A.M.
It was the only place festival-goers were able to hear music after two A.M., and actually played till seven! The BangOn dudes are pretty fearless and had us play a couple hours on the sound system before the local cops showed up; we switched to the silent disco format afterwards.
How long are these transition sets, usually?
The shortest would be 10 minutes, and the longest is about a half hour. I’ve just gotta be flexible. The real question for me is, am I using my laptop or a flash drive? Because with a flash drive, I like to be locked into a BPM, and more than likely, that’s house music.
Was Sweetlife more of the same?
Sweetlife was a solo Matt FX gig. The festival had me booked doing a set on their club stage as well as spinning each and every transition set on their treehouse stage, where I’d be directly preceding artists like Vic Mensa, Banks, Goldlink, Bishop Nehru, Wet, and more.
I’ll be the first to admit that the 16 various transition sets were a bit less consistent. Something that nobody told me about the festival in advance was that “all ages” meant, “This festival is mostly 12 year old girls.” It was definitely interesting to see what kinds of tunes went over their head. It also makes me pretty bummed to know that Gwen Stefani + Eve’s “Rich Girl” is no longer a universal jam.
I wound up staying for the full duration of both festivals, and one thing I’ve learned is that everything about experiencing a music festival as a regular festival goer is the antithesis of what it means to be a healthy performer. Exhaustion and dehydration does not an inspired performance make, and I’ve certainly learned my lesson about trying to do both in the future.
After the festivals, it was time to get down to business. Matt headed to L.A. with his publicist Marat for a series of meeting with studios. Music supervision is just a hop and skip away from film soundtracks, and it was time for Matt to test the waters in Hollywood. Five days and countless meetings later, he had time to exhale.
What happened out West?
L.A. was insane, man. Easily some of the craziest and most jam-packed days of my life—pretty sure we hit six meetings a day, five days straight, with DJ gigs on the first two nights. Everything that could have possibly happened, happened; from accidentally dissing a studio exec on his music taste, to hearing about some opportunities that I could only have dreamed of until now.
Like, dude. We met Hans Zimmer. And not just in passing or anything – we were actually invited to go to his studio-compound with the express purpose of getting to know each other. A couple days later, a director I’m currently supervising for invited me to the premiere of a film he’d recently produced, providing no information about the film beforehand; less than 24 hours later I’m shaking Chris D’Elia’s, before heading into FLOCK OF DUDES, a hilarious indie comedy featuring Eric Andre and Hannibal Buress.
DJ-wise I had the pleasure of spinning the legendary “It’s a School Night’ party at Bardot in Hollywood, as well as a set the following day at a relatively new party called Free Grilled Cheese, a house party featuring sets from LA’s heaviest hitters and some incredibly tasty, witty, free grilled cheese sandwiches. Crazy.