Better With A Few Good Friends- Joe Restivo and Matt Louis of The Classical Bring Us Exciting New Label Paintbox Records. By-Joshua Reedy

Written by on December 9, 2021

The Classical is Joe Restivo and Matt Louis, who have teamed up to create their beautifully psychedelic debut album titled Graffiti Chorus. On top of working on their music, the duo also co-operate Paintbox records, an independent label they founded alongside Brendon Snell of Senior Living. Joe and Matt wrote in the description of their new album, their fellow artists and what Paintbox Records means to them.

RRX: So, from what I understand The Classical is primarily the collaboration between Joe and Matt. Can you guys give me some insight into how the project started?

ML: The Classical essentially started out of necessity. Joe and I have been playing music together since high school, but once we started Paintbox Records we needed a name to release our music under. Our previous group was slightly horrible, with some sparse bursts of real interesting sounds that served as stepping stones to the music we make currently. 

JR: Yeah, there was some flailing around when it came to what our sound was going to be over the past couple of years but ever since we started The Classical I think it’s been much easier to narrow down what our true influences are when you listen to the music, I feel.  

RRX: Obviously, you guys are fans of the Fall (at least I assume so). Do you find that the Fall influenced some of your sound/what other styles guided you toward the sound you have now?

ML: The Fall are a great group. There is definitely a bit of their influence in our music. And I just think The Classical is a really good band name. It’s wonderfully pretentious and I think it fits our music. 

JR: The Fall are one of my favorite bands ever, Mark E. Smith was a genius; he ran his band like a punk version of James Brown. The name The Classical comes from the Fall song of the same name, it came to me spur of the moment and we sort of never looked back? I guess?

RRX: What was the songwriting process for the album like? Did you have these songs for a while, or were some of them written specifically for the album?

ML: Even though The Classical is both Joe and I, obviously, we still have our own processes for writing songs. I very rarely sit down with the intention to create a song because that mostly just leads to frustration. I think the best songs are the ones that insist that they be written, they come to you, rather than you are fishing for them. 

JR: I think it’s safe to say almost all of the album was written over the course of the past six months, Matt will usually send me over a song that’s fully written, and I do my bit by sampling drum breaks that we record and manipulating some of the arrangements if need be.  We record everything on my computer which makes it more efficient, songs like “The Idiot” and “Teevee” we tracked in like one day.

RRX: We talked briefly about your friend Ethan, who as I understand is also a part of Neon Novo. Can you tell me about that project and Ethan’s role in Graffiti Chorus?

ML: Ethan Bedeau is a true musician; I’m honored to be able to work with him. He mastered our songs, gave them the “production-edge” that we were trying to achieve, and provided some wonderful synthesizer overdubs throughout the album. Neon Novo is his outfit with our friend and label-mate Lucas Bruce, they played on our song “D.O.S.” the first song I’ve ever released without touching a guitar. Two fantastic musicians I want to continue making music with.

JR: Ethan did so much when it came to troubleshooting stuff for our album, we learned so much from him when it comes to finding loops and breaks. His synth work on the album is amazing especially in the song “Margaux”, he composed this part for the outro which completely blew my mind when I first heard it.

RRX: Graffiti Chorus, your debut album, has been out for a bit now and it’s phenomenally put together. What was the recording situation like? 

ML: The recording situation was about as dull as watching paint dry, but that’s exactly the way I prefer it. I save the “fun” for creating and performing. Most of, if not all takes, I do on any instrument, whether it be guitar, drums, bass, keys, etc., I’ll do over and over until it sounds as close to perfect as I can. It’s boring as hell, but the satisfaction of completing a song is more than worth it. Simple yet dynamic music, no gimmicks. Just keep a case of beer in the fridge and sit down till six a.m. 

JR: I’d have to agree with Matt here the recording process was at times very drunk and very boring, but with moments of excitement when we did actually come across something cool sounding.

RRX: What are your plans for the future? Obviously, Joe currently plays with Senior Living as well but does The Classical have plans to play some shows again soon?

ML: We do plan on playing soon, we’re in the process of auditioning rhythm sections to play with us. The goal is to find a drummer and bassist who, like us, are losers who care about making music more than anything else, and we’re finally getting close to achieving that.

JR: Yeah, we’re trying to get a band going for 2022, we wanna get the live band just right for what we wanna do, so we wanna rehearse a lot before we play our first show.

RRX: Tell me a bit about Paintbox Records and what it means to you guys as I know you both have involvement in the organization of the label. 

ML: Paintbox Records was started by me, Joe, and our friend Brendan (Senior Living) about a year ago. Since then, we’ve accumulated four solid groups (five if you include Neon Novo), and I’m very pleased with how it’s been going. I think of the label as a big motivating machine, it gives artists incentive to deliver great products and potential to reach a wider audience. Also, not for nothing, it never hurts to say “I’m a co-owner of a record label” when talking to someone.

JR: Starting a label was always something I wanted to do eventually, and we are more than lucky to have the network of incredibly talented people that we have.  This thing would be nothing if it weren’t for people like Gavin Brown who designed our logo and merchandising, and Ethan Bedeau who mixed and mastered 3 of the 4 records that we put out this year.  

RRX: Talk to me about some of your peers at Paintbox. Pencildive has a lot of traction but there are other great projects featured in the lineup as well. 

ML: I adore all of our bands, but I’ll leave the Senior Living portion to Joe since he has a bunch of firsthand experience with them. I play lead guitar for Pencildive’s shows and having already been a fan of their music before playing with them, I think they have great music, very emotional. And then there’s Mellophobiac, in all of their psychedelic might. They’re incredibly fun, and they write songs that allow every musician to show off a bit, which I always love.

JR: I’ve been a member of Senior Living for the past four months or so and it’s been such a rush playing with Zac, Brendo, and Jordan almost every weekend, we have a fast hard hitting live show that doesn’t let up and it’s a blast playing guitar and performing with those lovely gents every weekend.  I fell in love with Pencildive right when I first heard them. Gina’s songwriting is so beautifully layered, textured and just straight up catchy and it was a no brainer to ask them to join the collective. Ryan and Zach are also extremely tasteful as a rhythm section and Matt’s added a great layer of guitar to their live performances recently too.  And Mellophobiac are not mortal, their riffs leave audiences gob-smacked and horrified (in a very very good way). They’re on a bit of a hiatus right now but I can’t wait for them to be doing shows again.

RRX: What are some of your favorite local bands outside of the Paintbox lineup?

ML: Great Pacific Garbage Patch and Proximity Crush are my two local unsigned favorites. I would love to hear more from both. 

JR: GPGP and P-Crush are two big favorites of mine as well, I’ve been listening to The Droogz a lot lately, also Jake Nitti’s project “Plano Stano” has two new tracks out that are just brilliant. Lemon of Choice is awesome too!

RRX: I know you guys are from different areas, but can you tell me something unique about your scene or the greater capital district scene?

ML: Joe and I are from the same town, so we pretty much share the same “scene.” The closest thing we have to a scene down here is an hour away in Brooklyn, the mecca of our type of music. I don’t think there’s anything unique about Brooklyn, but I do think that it produces many unique artists and bands. So maybe that is the unique part of Brooklyn. I once saw a group called Porches in the back corner of a small clothing shop in Brooklyn before they had a following. I thought that was pretty unique, you see a lot of that stuff out there. 

JR: Yeah, there’s not much of a live music scene where we come from, but that’s not to say there aren’t great creatives around. 

RRX: Which of your own songs resonates with each of you the most?

ML: For me personally, I’d definitely say “I Could Spin.” I think that captures us at our purest musically, considering how it was written. We had been trying for hours to record this older song and it just wasn’t happening, so I just played around with a bass for about five minutes, pulled a bassline out of the depths of hell, Joe threw a guitar track over it, and there it was. It was written out of frustration and something beautiful was created, I think there’s a lot to say about that. 

JR: I agree with Matt. I think “Margaux” and “I Could Spin” perfectly display who we are as music makers, especially “Margaux”. That track comes from a sample that Matt found on a radio app on his phone. 

RRX: Spotify says fans of yours also listen to Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. When can we expect a modern classical album?

ML: Haaa. “Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news”. I like the idea of adding a sort of “classical” element to our music, even though that’s usually as simple as adding a layer of orchestral strings to a song. It all fits the narrative of being called The Classical.

JR: For the next album we’re commissioning the London Philharmonic to just sit there and do nothing, like a John Cage composition.

RRX: In seriousness, are you guys working on new material or taking some time to let the album stand on its own?

ML: We’re always working on new music, we have about half of our second album written right now. I can’t be comfortable without writing new music constantly. Like I said earlier, we never sit down with the intention of writing an album, we conjure up a handful of songs over a few months and there’s an album. 

JR: We try not to ever stop recording; we’re always putting ideas into our DAW’s and trying to come up with something new.  I think our next release is gonna be late 2022-ish cause we are probably gonna shoot some videos from the last album and get them out soon.

RRX: Is there anything else you guys would like to plug or give a shoutout to?

ML: Keep your eyes out for new releases this year from Paintbox Records! I’m proud to say we’re all working on new projects, so there are definitely some releases to be excited for. Oh, and I’m also always ready for new Beach House and Wilco releases. Get Fugazi back together. Clapton is not God. The Bells is Lou Reed’s best album. MBV is better than Loveless. Acoustic drums are always better than electronic drums. Marlowe 2 is the greatest hip hop album of the 2020s. Thanks for taking the time for us!

JR: Support local music, buy a T-Shirt from our Paintbox T-Shirt store if you can spare the funds, tell the people you love that you love them, stop worshipping celebrities (they don’t care about you), country music is terrible, and as Josh once said, “listen to more Wire”.

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