Shannon Matthew Vanya, lounging. Photo: supplied

EXCLUSIVE: Shannon Matthew Vanya ‘Closer’ music video premiere

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.

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