Formerly known as Tom Lark, Shannon Matthew Vanya is an artist familiar with reinvention. The Spinoff is extremely excited today to premiere his new single ‘Closer’, a roller disco hit that walks a careful line between Japanese city pop and smooth French neo-disco. Here, Shannon explains how it all came together.
I worked on a lot of songs over the Tom Lark years, but many of them didn’t see the light of day because they were either tied up with a label or I was waiting for a manager to recognise something I’d written as a potential number one smash hit. In hindsight, it sounds a bit pathetic, but I think I really had to learn how to speak up instead of being a victim of industry happenstance. In 2016 I’d finished three albums worth of music that I was at some point excited about. But feeling thoroughly jaded, I just stopped working on my music. Lots of friends gave me pep talks, but it took a really long time to want to make music for myself again. I think it had to feel fresh, but also like I’d really done the research to follow my new pop compass.
In the past, I think I’ve used songwriting as a vehicle to make some sort of wry comment, or as a need to express frustration. Behind most Tom Lark songs I’d begin unpacking something that felt really heavy, and just follow some stream of consciousness around how I felt. In writing Shannon Matthew Vanya songs, I imposed more of a sense of discipline for myself – if I felt like I was being too clever I’d ask myself how would it sound if I were to try and speak more simply.
Before long I’d begun to set a course into a different pop universe, almost like the movie Easy Rider but with synthesisers and old drum machines. I think I have this sweet side that comes out in songwriting; the first person narrative [in ‘Closer’] is about expressing romantic idealism but admitting shortcomings, almost like a glass-half-empty romantic. “If I was with you, I would do my very best.”
I may have oversold Jordan [Arts, the video’s director] on my ability as a skater. I used to play a lot of roller hockey when I was a kid, but I wasn’t the best – I spent most games playing defence, and in the three years I played in a team I never once scored a goal. Maybe this music video is a way of revisiting my childhood – with a little bit of camera magic I sort of look like I belong on a roller floor. We thought it would be cool (just in case) to get a stunt/skate double to handle some of the funkiest moves. I seem to be quite good at coming up with the absurdities and Jordan is really good at translating and talking them into actionable ideas. He’s obviously a man of many talents.
‘Closer’ is the second single from Shannon Matthew Vanya’s first EP, coming later this year on A Label Called Success.
Subscribe to The Bulletin to get all the day’s key news stories in five minutes – delivered every weekday at 7.30am.