Matthew Bell & The Next of Kin: A Family Matter
I'm about to make your day a better one. Go fill your ears with Matthew Bell & The Next of Kin. I assure you this Frisco-based folk-soul ensemble will do your heart some good.
We've watched these guys evolve over the last few years, and they've graced a few of the Frisco Music Scene stages through the process with their ceaseless energy and crowd engagement. MBNOK even helped us launch our first Whistlestop Jamboree festival in 2016 on the main stage, and their fiddler, Daren Denniston, put his name in the hat to be drawn into one of the Scramble bands that year.
Well, their sound has reached a new pinnacle as they prepare to release their latest album, Hear The Sunrise this week. It's a soulful collection with immaculate harmonies and unforgettable hooks.
Did a little Q&A with their front man, Matthew Bell, and it's easy to see the source of much of their music's positive light.
Brooks: Matt, give us the gist of Matthew Bell & The Next of Kin.
Bell: We call it folk-soul, but we definitely veer into indie territory from time to time. Sometimes we’re folk, sometimes we’re soul, but whatever direction we go, we try to keep it tight.
Brooks: As a band, what's your primary purpose/mission, or ultimate goal?
Bell: First and foremost, we stand for humans, but not the human condition. And by that, I mean that we advocate for the broken (which everyone is) without condemning or chastising the circumstances that lead to brokenness (self-inflicted or not), and try our best to offer truth, hope, and love. Honestly, we love telling stories, but I think more than anything, we want people to walk away feeling good. We’re not trying to melt anyone’s face. We speak truth when it needs to be spoken, but overall, we want to do one of two things: move people, or make them want to move (physically, emotionally, or otherwise).
Brooks: Who are some artists/bands that inspired your sound - those who, if our readers enjoy, would also enjoy your music?
Bell: Biggest influences: Josh Garrels, James Bay, Allen Stone, Blitzen Trapper, Elton John, The Beatles, Ray LaMontagne… I could probably go on, but those are the biggies.
Brooks: "Next Of Kin" has significance, as you all are family, correct? Can you tell us a bit about your history and how you got together as a band?
Bell: So, two of the guys in the band are related to me by marriage. Daren (violin) is my sister’s husband. He and I have played together in some capacity since about 2003, but seriously since about 2008. And Jarod (drummer) is my wife’s brother. He and I met at a church in Celina (where I met my wife, as well) and led worship for the youth group. It all sort of blossomed out from there, honestly. We played as a folk trio for a few years (Jarod played mandolin in those days). Then in 2017 we brought Ben in as a bass player so we could move Jarod back to drums. In 2018 we brought in Cameron on bass, moved Ben to electric and just felt the sound really start to evolve.
Brooks: Describe your songwriting process.
Bell: Typically what happens is, I’ll write something (maybe a verse and chorus) with a really singer-songwriter-y feel. I usually take it to Jarod first, just because I really trust his instinct on groove and feel. Plus, it can take the song in a really cool direction I may not have thought of (All Eyes On The King was originally acoustic guitar, kick drum, and harmonica). Then it’s brought to the group and we start filling in holes. But, we’re trying to change that a bit and have the whole band come in much earlier in the process.
Brooks: What's one of your favorite of your songs to perform live?
Bell: One of my favorites is “Enough.” The way that song came together with Ben on the ukulele was really cool. We really didn’t know what we were in for until we played it live for the first time. We were just all feeling what each other was doing and it just melted together like you wouldn’t believe. Still a top song for me.
Brooks: Trying to get to your personalities a bit: You and your bandmates are stranded on an island. Describe how each of you would likely deal with that situation.
Jarod - “Well, these things happen.” He would then head to the closest shady spot to set up camp. Also, a sandwich would magically appear in his hand. Don’t ask how. The guy can make a sandwich out of literally anything.
Daren - Make a lot of dad jokes to lighten the mood.
Ben - He would probably be the most level-headed and come up with an actual workable game plan.
Cameron - (after doing something amazing that leaves our jaws on the floor) “I’m really sorry guys. This is probably my fault.” Which we would all know is an absolute lie.
Matt - Wonder how on earth I’m going to explain this to my wife. And frantically ask the guys if they think I can still make it home on time. But also put everyone to work, haha.
Brooks: Tell us about your experience at the 2016 Whistlestop Jamboree and the 2017 pre-party at Stan's.
Bell: I think the best part about both of these was the sense of camaraderie, not only for local musicians, but the support from the surrounding community. The coolest thing that these events provide every year is just a deeper sense of unity in the arts community of this area. Which we desperately need. I love how supportive all of the artists in this area are of each other’s work. You don’t get the sense that anyone is just out for themselves. It’s like everyone understands that if one of us is successful, it kind of feels like we all win.
Brooks: What are your typical fans like?
Bell: I think one thing I love about our band is that there isn’t a specific demographic that we trend toward. I mean, when you look at our band alone, the age range spans almost 20 years. It’s a pretty cool thing to see multiple generations enjoy our music.
Brooks: Do you have any upcoming news/projects to tell us about?
Bell: Our new album, Hear The Sunrise, comes out August 23! This has been a really long time coming, but we are really really excited to share this with the world.
Brooks: What albums changed your life and the way you view music?
Bell: Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer Of The Void
Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue
Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
John Mayer - Continuum
Brooks: Where can folks can find your music, catch a show, or follow your activity?
Bell: You can find us on Spotify and iTunes, and keep up with us on Facebook or Instagram (@mbnok).
Brooks: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us, Matt. Anything else you'd like to add?
Bell: We can’t express how much we love seeing this music scene grow around us. Frisco is starting to become a place for original artists and original music, setting itself apart as its own hub for great things to come. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Catch Matthew Bell & The Next Of Kin's album release show on August 24th at Two29 On The Square in Celina, 7pm-10pm, and take a little sunshine home with you.
Jeff Brooks is co-founder of The Frisco Music Scene and fronts the Dallas-area band The Bodarks.