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Sound Circuit

Whiskey drinkin’ stuff


Matthew James’ voice comes over the phone from his hometown of Carlton, Michigan. The 31-year-old musician moved to Des Moines two years ago, and now he has taken his new band on the road.

“We’ve been out for a week,” he said. “Once we get back, we’re gonna finish editing a couple songs, then we’re looking to hit the studio late this summer, beginning of fall to record out first full length album. Then we’re looking to hit the road a little harder next year.”

None of this, it should be noted, was part of the plan.

Matthew James & the Rust Belt Union play Vaudeville Mews on Thursday, June 30 at 9 p.m.

Matthew James & the Rust Belt Union play Vaudeville Mews on Thursday, June 30 at 9 p.m.

When James moved to town, it was originally as a way to settle life down a bit. He had met a girl, and when he moved here, James says that he viewed the transition as a way to pay some bills, take life a little easy, and enjoy himself. That did not last long.

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“Rumble Seat Riot used to tour out this way when I was living here, and I’d host them,” he explained. “When I moved to Des Moines, I was there for three days before we went to Gas Lamp, and the Rumble Seat guys were like, ‘We got a guy leaving town, and we need someone. You want to join?’ ”

Now, just shy of two years after he started playing and touring with Rumble Seat Riot, James has hit the road again with his own act. It is a sound that he describes as less aggressive than the hard-hitting Rockabilly that Rumble Seat is known for — something that he calls a cross between Tom Petty and Tom Waits.

“Americana, whiskey drinkin’ stuff,” he said. “Nothing fancy. Just trying to get everybody to forget their 9 to 5 for the time that we’re on the stage.”

It is a style of music that James is comfortable with — but not something he wants to remain beholden to.

“I’ve played with so many bands, so many different styles,” he said. “I just love playing music. You know, I’d love to play guitar on a hip-hop album. I told (local DJ) Richie Daggers, ‘If you guys ever need someone to play guitar, let me know.’

“I just want to get my hands on as many different styles as possible,” he concluded. “If I can learn something from it, I want to do it.” CV



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