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  • Tracy Heck

As Strange As Angels release anthem 'Never Broken'

As Strange As Angels, the Dallas-based alternative passion project from Norman Matthew that also features Michelle Graves on drums, have released a new single, "Never Broken," an anthem for overcoming adversity in your life.

The single dropped on Friday and the band performed a online release party at their Youtube page, which can be seen here.

Rock Life caught up with Matthew last week ahead of the single release.

Q: You have the new single "Never Broken" out now?

Norman Matthew: Yeah, the single dropped on May 15. The video just came out on Saturday and it's blown up already. I was not expecting the reception that we've already got from it. I think I even saw today that the site that premiered it,, we're one of the most popular stories on the site right now. I was like, what?! I needed to send the link to somebody and was copying and pasting and then saw on the sidebar that we were one of the most popular stories in the top 4.

It's been really cool because coming out of doing "Mirror Mirror" and "Miracle" and having that, just really awesome run, it was like, I don't know if I can or where I can go from this because I didn't think I would ever even get to that point that I had. So now that I have, it's like, well what do we do now and it's like that weird thing that getting there is always super fun and in some ways easier because you have no expectations. For us, we were able to land on the Billboard charts not once, but twice and it's kind of like, the third one has got to knock it out of the park too, right?

You just never know and I didn't think those two would be there either and there's no set formula to make it work and "Never Broken" is something a little different. It's a little heavier and it's a little more riffy so it's going to be interesting. For me it's fun because it also keeps it fresh. That was my whole big thing with not doing music for awhile in the first place when things went a little wild in my world. I didn't feel it was fair to not be in love with it and trying to get the audience to have that love for it. I felt that wasn't cool, but not that I'm crazy in love with writing my own songs and challenging myself and doing different things, that makes it fun and now we have that really cool business side to it and can't wait to go again.

Q: And it's a great track to have out right now with everything that is going on in the world.

NM: Yeah, it was so weird how that happened. I've had some people ask me if "Never Broken" is about everything that's going on with, god, I don't even want to have to say it, but COVID! It wasn't, but it was so weird how it just happened to work out so great.

When Chris Dawson and I and Jimmy Beattie from the band Seasons After had started this, and they'd had a really good run with Any Given Sin and the band SAUL and we've always wanted to work together since we were on tour together. We finally had the chance and we started working on the track in January of this year and we really didn't know what was going to happen. I remember driving to Dawson's studio in Kansas not knowing what was going to happen and then leaving there with this super awesome song. It was super magical in that regard; I didn't really have to do much else.

And that's what happened with "Mirror Mirror" and "Miracle"; they just organically happened and I think that's part of why they caught on so well. For one, the situations were similar. I was in L.A. for 18 hours working with Sahaj [Ticotin] and we did those two songs within that time and now it was the same thing with Jimmy and Dawson. I told them I only have like one day dudes and we got right to business and we had to capture the moment and had to capture a very real feeling. We didn't have a lot of time to get premeditated with it and figure out a way to make it cool. Basically, whatever was done that day was the culmination of all of it put together.

With "Mirror Mirror" and "Miracles", I was so deep in my feels that this time I said I need a song that really kicks and just makes you go, uh, right? Because now that I've gotten out my sappy stories and shown that side and been vulnerable in that regard, now I need to show that there is also another side to that because I feel like that's a natural step to what I want to do. I want to empower people to feel good and make them feel that it's okay to have human emotions. Once you go through the sad, you got to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and so with "Never Broken" my whole thing was about having a anthem about overcoming adversity. I wanted to have something that people could listen to and people could be like yeah, twist me, bend me, but I still won't break.

That brought on the riff and brought on all of that and it was just a beautiful thing and it was just so weird with the timing of it because we finished it a week or two prior to all this starting to really go down with all of the quarantines and everything. I said how weird and this couldn't have happened at, I don't want to say a perfect time, but just that it felt like I was tapped in to life for the first time as a artist. I've never really done that; never really wrote from like a lifestyle or cultural perspective. So it was just weird in how it lined up with the adversity that we're all facing now and how this track can really speak to that and I hope this track can help some people that are going through these hard times. You don't need to feel broken, it will get better.

Q: What has been the best feedback that you've gotten?

NM: So far, it's just been that the song has given them that 1-2 punch that they wanted. It's like yeah, we're going to get through this and I'm going to be okay. Things like that have been super cool. And in another way it helps people realize that you can take control of your life and not let the things that happen in life define you because they don't; they're just moments. It's all about who we are and I think that's a great thing as well. Take that power back and let's do it!

I'm very honored that I was able to write something that would touch people like that and touch their souls.

Q: And we've talked before about having that passion for what you are recording and I think that's something that translates and makes the songs something that can strike a chord no matter when they are heard.

NM: Yeah, and that's something that I feel very proud of because it was very hard for me to do. I didn't want to let down that curtain so-to-speak and I didn't want people to know I feel, I hurt, I make mistakes and whatever it is that we all go through. I wanted to feel like I was this immaculate being, but I'm not and not being afraid to say that is huge. It goes back to what I said about moments not defining your life. Anyone can walk themselves into a bad moment, but that doesn't define the person that you are.

Q: And how did the video come together?

NM: The video was incredibly interesting. We were actually set to fly to New York to work with Tom Flynn, who I'm a huge fan of because he worked on the new Lamb of God "Memento Mori" video, Saul and All That Remains and all these big cats like even Ice-T. Michelle and I were like this is going to be so awesome plus we love New York. I remember on one of the conference calls with Tom, I said what if we like shoot the video in two hours and then that way Michelle and I can hang out in New York the rest of the time!

Then, it was supposed to be the week after the first lockdown and it was like, what are we going to do about this video? I mean, do we even drop this single? No one can even tour and what do we do? None of us knew what was the right thing to do so we sat on it for a minute and then we came up with this idea again about what if we embrace the moment. Necessity being the mother of all inventions, if you will, it was like well, if we're now immersing ourselves in the culture and all that's around us, let's see if we can make the video remotely.

We decided let's get our hands on a video camera and shoot our themes separately and get it done and then Tom will edit it all together. We went over the theme, you know, the binary code and the whole we're all just in the machine type of thing, but we're not going to let that break us. That's what it feels like right now with us all in this big machine and we're all just supposed to follow the ones and zeros, right?

So actually, my son Dexter, who is six years old, worked the camera for some of my vocal scenes, which was super awesome because he likes making videos anyways. He thinks he makes a Youtube video, but he doesn't actually have one. He'll grab the camera and record himself playing video games or playing with toys or something. i think it's beautiful because it gives him a moment to be creative and let that out. So I told him he was going to record daddy's video and he set up the stuff and was holding the camera and all the crazy scenes where basically you're getting dizzy and wondering what is up with the camera guy is my son. it was definitely a trip man!

Q: It came out great!

NM: It was a story to tell and we still got to work with this really cool director that we wanted to work with and I think it gave the whole video a different feel. That was great too for us because we've got some band performance videos, but I don't know that I want to keep doing that over and over again. I'm not a actor so it was hard trying to bridge that gap. This was cool because we got to perform different ways. In some of the scenes I was holding the camera and some of them were static. I played guitar in some of it and Michelle did different things within the video and we just made it chaotic because that's what everything feels like right now. -

Q: And what's next?

NM: That's a very good question. We will definitely be doing online live performance stuff; they're super fun. We are doing one to celebrate the release of "Never Broken", but they probably won't be long one, maybe a few songs. We'll be doing everything we can to tie those knots together. I know some places are starting to open so maybe we'll have some spot dates here and there, but I don't foresee any big touring this year. Right now, we've just got our eye on the prize for pushing "Never Broken" as much as we can and wherever we can.

Q: Just talking to some of the local places around here, they aren't expecting much national touring either, but maybe it's time for the local bands to step up and fill that void.

NM: Yeah! It's going to be a interesting time. I had a conversation with my brother who plays guitar for Dorothy and I was like dude, it's such a weird time I feel like the indie bands and the regional middle class bands are going to be the champions of the scene. They're going to be the ones who are able to branch out to five different cities or whatever. I think people are going to be opened up to listening to these emerging bands that are out there trying to do it. So it's weird in that, is it a curse or is it kind of like a blessing in a horrible time? It's changing the game for everybody and leveled the playing field in a way. I really hope the scene pulls together and backs up music.

Q: And then with your Sound Foundation school, how is that going? Anything new coming out?

NM: You know, we've actually had a bunch of new artists who have dropped some stuff. Emma Evans just dropped a hip hop dance single called "F the Bank {F.T.B.}", which I love that because it actually has nothing to do with money. It's pretty funny and she's super clever. And then I have a girl Kellsey and her band just released their single "Haunt Your Heart" and we're about to drop the second one, "Butterflies," which is super cool. I've just produced some stuff for From The Grave and Burning Bridges as well. We've got a lot of artists who are getting stuff out there. One thing that has been great during all of this is that I have been able to get a lot of mixing done for my artists. Being at home has allowed me to complete a lot of these projects.

Q: Has there been something outside of the music that being home has allowed you to do?

NM: Probably being healthier than like being out there in that routine that we live in. I've eliminated the commute so my stress levels have been incredibly low. I'm not dealing with crazy downtown Dallas. My house has never been so clean and then I cook for my son, he calls me his personal cooker, not a chef! That's super cool too because I've become like this soccer mom the night before going, what are we going to have for Thursday and it's only like Monday. It used to drive me crazy when my mom would ask me that and now I get it! It's like yeah, let's do that and I'm going to need to defrost the meat and get the sauce and all of that. It's been super cool to just share all day with my son. We're together all day learning how to navigate life and really realize what is super important in the world. You sit back and say, I can't believe how much time I would waste worrying about certain things. It's refreshing in a way because you learn to eliminate a lot of the nonsense. It's clean, cook, teach, play music and then repeat!

Q: Anything else you want to add?

NM: Just thank you to whoever is reading this and listening to the music and checking our stuff out. I truly, truly appreciate it and I hope that "Never Broken" can be a source of inspiration for you to overcome and keep fighting whatever adversity you are facing.

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