Matt Hsu is quick to smile and has a larger than life personality. With a trumpet strapped to his back you may find him playing music in The Mouldy Lovers, performing solo or doing flips at circus school.
He describes himself as “wilfully untrendy” with a penchant for tokens from around the world such as kurtas, middle eastern tunics and native american moccasins.
How would you describe The Mouldy Lovers music and what is your role in the band?
With great struggle! We’ve distilled it down to three words – ‘Subtropical Gypsy Ska’ … which is shorthand for a horn section that headbangs and jumps into the crowd, spine-tickling accordion playing, a raucous rhythm section and the most jubilant 45 minutes of dancing you’ll have in a long time.
People say we’re like The Cat Empire, but younger, more unhinged and more gypsy.
I write and toot on the trumpet chiefly, but have been known to snakecharm on clarinet, boom out some bottom end trombone, and sing vocals. I tend to also climb on tables and tall furniture during gigs.
Are you a full-time musician? And what other creative ventures do you spend time working on?
It’s nearing that stage of full-time music, but with gigs typically on Friday and Saturday nights, it leaves room for circus school and my job as QUT’s social media guy. I freakin’ love that job.
Mouldies are on break at the moment with members travelling and recharging, so I’ve been doing mini-collaborations, like a little troupe with my Mouldy bandmates Gav and Nick and a duo with Lisa Rowe of Woodville House.
I’ve also been writing and performing solo songs – my first gig at the Metro Arts Theatre went hilariously good/bad. I forgot lyrics, played rubbish guitar (being a trumpet player), but the mistakes made it really enjoyable. I hope I make more mistakes.
What inspires you creatively?
Books, lately. I’m reading stories from the Arabian Nights collection which inspired a little number, and before short stories by Etgar Keret and old science fiction. Learning what people are passionate about is incredibly eye opening – plant biology to clowning, I love hearing what other people are nuts about.
Oh, collaboration also crowbars my head. I sometimes get asked to record with other bands, like Fat Picnic, Clare Quinn, Amela’D, The Phoncurves and a film score with Josh Beattie from The Forty Thieves. I learn lots every time about how others write and arrange, and discover plenty about my own playing style and placed to untap.
Who are your favourite musicians?
- Shugo Tokumaru
- Hiatus Kaiyote
- Laneous & The Family Yah
- Tom Waits (particularly Alice)
- Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire
- The Barons of Tang
- Count Basie
- Gogol Bordello
- Josephine Foster
- Fleet Foxes
- Little Joy
- The Middle East
- Nathan Johnson (who scored Brick and The Brothers Bloom)
- Dirty Projectors
- Esperanza Spalding
Matt, with fellow Brisbane creative, writer Freya Wright-Brough.
What does 2014 hold for you?
Early in the year I’m heading to New Orleans on a bit of a jazz quest with my journo buddy Alita Pashley. I’ll strap a trumpet on my back and jam with musicians I meet, and try to spend time with Tuba Skinny.
I joined circus school this year and fell in love with it, so 2014 holds swinging, climbing and flipping about.
I’m also starting a research masters on music celebrity and media which will involved interviewing a bunch of people I admire, and it looks like I’ll be tutoring an Entertainment Industries subject too.
With The Mouldy Lovers, we’re kicking off the year with shows supporting Babylon Circus and then writing new material for another release. We had some plum shows last year like Harvest Festival, that ended up being cancelled, so we’ll keep at it and just get a tonne of people dancing.
Best of all, I’m really excited for what my friends are getting up to and helping out if I can. My bestie Helen Todd just started up an eco-fashion line Kind Clothing, Anzjuli Venter expanding her puppet adaption of Frankenstein, Hannah Gartside is adding live performance to her craft box, and Freya Wright-Brough (pictured with Matt) is doing a 365 day extreme writing challenge.
What were you wearing and how would you describe your personal style?
I’m wilfully untrendy. I like to wear things that might’ve been worn 50 or 100 years ago. The idea is that I’ll be able to continue wearing that stuff for the next 50 years.
Basically, things that makes me feel mischievous or tokens from around the world, like kurtas, middle eastern tunics, native american moccasins.
I also have a bunch shirts for bands and causes I get behind. Today I have on me some comfy overalls, an old henley… and Mitchdowd boxers.
I also tend to strap a trumpet over my shoulder when I’m out… it’s handy when I meet musicians and buskers. It’s a great way to sneak into overpriced gigs too, I just say I’m guest trumpeting on the next song. Bouncers don’t tend to question why a guy would be carry a trumpet into a venue.
What are your favourite places to shop?
I don’t tend to buy things from physical stores and if do they tend to be during travel as a functional keepsake. But there are two places you can’t keep me out of because the people are so nice – Audrey’s Music Shop and Jet Black Cat Records. I’ve also found my neighbourhood is abundant for gift-getting – Nook, Hanasho, Happy Cabin, Avid Reader, Gear bicycle shop and Biome across the river are full of good stuff.
At gigs or on tour I’ll tend to pick up shirts of bands I’ve seen or played with to dog-ear that memory. Most other things I’ll buy online at stores like Yellow Bird Project, Monkee Genes, Society6 or eBay. Sometimes I’ll forget I bought a thing, so when it comes in the mail it feels like a present!