Last month I had the opportunity to sit down with Matt Gund, vocalist from Long Island, NY metal band: Letter Of Marque. Matt and I spoke about how Letter Of Marque came to be, what prompted the band to change from their original name Obelisk, the most recent line-up change including the addition of Derek Lankeaux on bass, the band’s unique feature of including the cello heavily in their recordings, and so much more. Read the exclusive interview with Matt below!
ST: Give me a little bit of background on the band and how you would personally describe the band’s sound because I know you guys have a unique metal aspect to you guys.
MG: Right. So, me and Vinny go way back to high school and we actually didn’t speak much in high school. But, our friends set us up after high school and we started jamming. I was playing the drums and he was on guitar. We just eventually started jamming with more people and we found Jeff. So, I switched from the drums and started singing and screaming. That’s how we ran into Griffin, because we needed a new drummer. And yeah, the rest is pretty much history.
ST: You guys had actually had a different name before Letter Of Marque, right?
MG: Yeah, we were calling ourselves Obelisk for a good amount of time. The reason for that was none other than the fact that it was a cool name I guess. There’s also an obelisk on Jones Beach, and we’re from Long Island so we thought that was kind of cool.
ST: What made you guys decide to change the name?
MG: I don’t really remember why, I just remember that we all decided we wanted to change it. Jeff, our cello player, he likes to write… his style of music is very influenced by older stuff. We decided Letter Of Marque would be a good fit because he writes a lot of music from that time period. It’s a cool name and we figured we could do a lot with it. We have a song called “Privateer” which is someone who gets a letter of marque to be able to raid a ship back in the day. It’s a letter from the government pretty much; the parliament. They give you permission to raid other ships and what not. Don’t quote me on that though, Jeff can explain it way better than I can.
ST: So, you guys recorded your debut album back in 2018, right? What was the process like of getting that together? Were you guys all in the studio together? Just describe a little bit of that process and what it was like creating that first record.
MG: Our first record was a good learning experience and the main thing we learned is, don’t go into the studio unless you’re one hundred percent ready to go. We started, but we had two songs that weren’t even completely finished to be honest. We didn’t realize how much it would be to get it all done, you know? So it kind of took us a while. Once we all finished it up we were so relieved and so happy with the way it came out. Westfall [Recording] did a really great job. Every time one of us recorded we were all there watching, giving our feedback, making sure everything sounded good for everybody. It was a really fun experience. When we record album two, we’re probably going to do it at Westfall as well.
ST: Are you guys all based in the same area?
MG: Yeah, pretty much! Me, Vinny, and Griffin all live like ten minutes away from each other. Then Jeff and Derek are the ones that kind of live a little far. Derek is kind of by Huntington [New York] and Jeff is by Shirley/Mastic [New York].
ST: Gotcha. So you’re still able to all get together to write and record.
MG: Of course! We get together every Sunday and every Wednesday; we at least try to.
ST: I know back in July 2019, Derek joined the band as a bass player so that’s been the most recent line-up change. What does he bring to the band that you guys were really looking for and that made you guys want to stick with this line-up?
MG: We had a few different people that we were looking at and we had a bunch of people try out. Derek really just stood out ’cause he really knows how to move and he gets really into it. He’s really into the music. He’s just a really cool dude and we all really liked him and thought his style meshed well with ours.
ST: I know you recently mentioned the second record; did you guys started writing with Derek for this record that might be coming up?
MG: Yeah, fortunately for this record, all Derek’s ideas will be on it as well. The first record he wasn’t in the picture at all really. We’ve been working on that and we’ve also just worked on a cover that we’re going to release in a few months. We’re not trying to release what the cover is yet, but I will say it’s a My Chemical Romance song. We just finished recording that, it’s mixed and mastered and the next step for that is we’re going to shoot a music video with Tom Flynn. He’s the guy who shot our last music video.
ST: Right, you guys just released that most recent music video for “White Lie” which was pretty great. That was filmed pre-COVID, right?
MG: No, actually! So, we were supposed to originally film it in June and Vinny was at a small gathering with his friends and one of his friends turned out to have COVID. So, of course we told Tom we couldn’t do it. It was very unlikely that Vinny had it, but we just wanted to play it safe. He got tested and was negative, but we had to reschedule fo August. Tom worked super fast; everything is so professional and so well done. He literally sent [the video] to us the next day.
ST: “White Lie” was a song that was off of your first album. Do you have a personal favorite off of your first album that you might recommend for people to listen to to get into the record?
MG: It depends. Each song is so different. I feel like each song could appeal to a different audience or a different genre. But, my favorite song is a split between “Succubus” and “Privateer.” “Privateer” is a very weird… there’s a lot of violin in it and the singing is kind of classical. It’s a very unique song. And then “Succubus” I love because I love really heavy music and that’s definitely our heaviest song on the album.
ST: I think it’s really interesting because you guys have Jeff, who is the cello player and also plays lead guitar in the band, which I think is really great because a lot of metal bands don’t get many string players involved. How did you guys find the sound and discover that that’s what you guys wanted to really go for?
MG: Well, Jeff was always playing the cello. That was his main instrument. Not that I don’t think he’s amazing at the cello, but he thinks he’s better at the cello than the guitar and I think he’s so great on the guitar. He was the one that was really pushing to incorporate it and we were all very open to it because like you said, you don’t see that everyday. At first, we didn’t know how it would sound. We would kind of limit how much cello we wanted, but then it grew to Jeff: you do your thing, I’m sure whatever you come up with is going to be great and if it doesn’t sound like it belongs than we’ll just get rid of it. So, we just let him do his thing with that now.
ST: It definitely makes you guys really unique, because you see a lot of string instruments in power ballads and things, but not a whole lot in heavier metal.
MG: Definitely. We just love having it on stage too. It’s always in our band pictures, and I’m sure people are like: “What is that doing there? They have a cello on stage?” He always kills it. He always plays it just like it is on the record, live. It’s definitely cool to have.
ST: Of course we’re in this weird year of not being able to play shows. Do you think you guys would ever do anything like a livestream show?
MG: Yeah, we were actually going to do a Twitch last week with one of Griffin’s friends who owns his own studio. But, he’s also a helicopter driver so he had a helicopter trip to do. Which is pretty cool, but unfortunately we couldn’t do it.
ST: Did you guys have any shows that were scheduled to happen this year but sadly didn’t happen?
MG: We didn’t have anything too far planned, we were definitely going to try and tour over the summer. One of our managers who helps us our, Matt Ferrara, was hopefully talking about maybe even contacting Underoath’s management. But, of course everything got cancelled because of COVID. Our last few shows that we played before… they were gradually getting bigger and bigger and I feel that this really stumped us. It also is a great time right now to write music and get all that stuff done because we were always rehearsing for shows and what not. Now we just have time to completely write new stuff and not worry about being super sharp with the original content.
ST: You guys are writing the second record right now. Do you guys have any idea when you might plan to go in to record it or when we might see a release for that record?
MG: I’d probably say we’re not going to think about recording for another year or two. Just because we’re not even too far in. We just have… I mean we have like a good eight songs that we have somewhat of a solid base for, but we obviously need to finish all of them. I’d say we have two right now that are really coming along. So, we’re just going to take our time. There’s no rush, you know? We can’t play shows right now. We’re still going to release stuff, but I feel like once you’re out there playing that’s a really good time to start releasing stuff as well as promote ourselves and brand ourselves.
ST: Well, I’m very excited to hear the new music coming up whenever that may be. Before I let you go, at the end of every single one of my interviews I ask five rapid fire questions I call the Metal From The Inside Five. You can answer them fast, if you want to think more about them you can too. Number one, if you weren’t working in the profession you’re currently in, so songwriter and vocalist for the band Letter Of Marque, what would you be doing?
MG: Well, I do work full-time as a local steamfitter for the Local 638. So, that’s pretty much my back-up. Not that it’s a back-up plan because I’m already working full-time. But, that’ll always be there, you know what I mean? So, if music doesn’t work out, which I’m doubtful of because I have a lot of faith in us, I have my job. But before music, my main passion was wrestling and mixed martial arts and all that stuff. But, too many concussions to do anything like that anymore. Although I do flip off the stage which probably isn’t the brightest idea but I get too into the music I guess.
ST: What is something you wish everyone knew about you?
MG: Uhh… I’m not sure!
ST: Do you have a secret talent or anything? A guilty pleasure?
MG: I actually have had a guilty pleasure lately, I listen to Atilla; not that they’re not a good band or anything, but they get a lot of shade thrown at them. Chelsea Grin I like. They’re another band that’s really successful.
ST: If you were stranded on a desert island and you only had three records that you could take with you to listen to, what would they be?
MG: Definitely ‘The Elysian Grandeval Galèriarch’ by Infant Annihilator, ‘Ride The Lightning’ by Metallica, and Die Hard Is America’s first EP, it’s called ‘Victim Of Death.’
ST: What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger self?
MG: Stop being an idiot and doing dumb shit all the time. Wear your headgear more. That’s pretty much it.
ST: If you could have one super-power, what would it be?
MG: Easy. I would want to fly. Especially when you live in New York, it’s a good super-power to have.
ST: Alright, well thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, I appreciate it!
MG: Of course!
Thank you so much for checking out this interview with Matt Gund, vocalist and songwriter of the band Letter Of Marque!