Twenty-three-year-old Matt Kamm, a scrawny, excitable musician with a long bowl cut and a toothy grin, has all the reason anyone needs to be worn down. Kamm has worked the local music scene since he was 14 years old, and while the band he formed with his friends when he was still prepubescent earned buckets of critical acclaim from those in the know, Dodger’s more challenging pop tendencies (they were heavily influenced by ’60s garage pop) kept them from permeating a broader consciousness. He also stretched himself impossibly thin as a member of lauded bands past and present: the Heathens, Mumpsy, the Ocean Floor and Band of the Name. Kamm watched last year as Dodger’s uneventful demise was capped by the nonrelease of their first full-length album, Popullution. (In September 2007, they finally released it for free online.)
But Kamm has never been the type to mope around for long. In person, he exudes the jittery ambition and unencumbered mirth of a kid who just won the lottery, and in a way, he has. Following the end of Dodger’s odyssey, Kamm rallied the troops and co-founded his own record label, Gone & Records, with former Dodger members Miguel Miranda and Sean Moore. He has since released two experimental noise-pop solo records under the pseudonym he uses for his artwork, Tele (“It’s got a better ring,” says Kamm. “You know, Da-li, Te-le”) as well as a solo album from Moore, and he has at least a dozen other projects in the works, in which he’ll introduce the work of underground artists from Texas, Maryland and all over Florida.
Kamm is a few credits away from a Digital Media degree from the University of Central Florida, where he met Christina Rapson, a ruby-haired stunner he won over by playing her a T.Rex record. The only time his voice deviates from its philosophical disorder (“What were we talking about?” is a frequent phrase when he talks) is when he speaks of her, his girlfriend of three years. He becomes reverential.
“I went to this party, it was somebody in the local music scene’s house, and first thing when I walked in the room I see this girl sitting in the corner,” says Kamm. “Just beautiful big eyes and these big eyelids that move so slowly – absolutely beautiful. I wanted to talk to her the whole night, but I didn’t for some reason.” They met again later at a Heathens show and Kamm was finally ready to talk. “When it comes to physical and emotional relationships, I proceed with caution. And she was just so right. It’s been magical.”
His bare candor is emblematic of a slow progression toward the real Matthew Kamm. Since he essentially became a solo project, Kamm has admittedly used the Tele character and his “Cheeseburger Adventures” as a kind of cloak, enveloping the albums in a fantasy world of “Wendell” creatures and, in the case of Tele and Big Tie Moldies, a time-traveler here to warn us of World War III. The albums are self-contained meditations on these characters, complete with backstories and continuations. But he says he may be edging closer to a more emotionally naked outing that gets to the heart of who he really is. Kamm says he might someday even ditch the moniker and record as simply “Matt Kamm.”
“It’s kind of weird that I don’t [record] under ‘Matt Kamm,’ but there’s so many Matts in the world,” says Kamm. “It’s a band name, although I’m not a band.”
“What I’d like to see Matt Kamm do is maybe a two-track recording, finger-picked guitar and vocals,” says Moore. “When I think of Matt Kamm, the person, I see him with an acoustic guitar or piano. I’d like to see a one-on-one kind of thing, [him] and an instrument.”
Kamm continues, “Tele is a character. It’s an opportunity for me to rant about some of the crazy stuff I’m reading about. Just [an opportunity] to escape myself.”
Moore says he’s willing to push him to a more honest place, however, and Kamm seems energized by the possibilities. He claims there will be much more of himself (and less of Tele’s world, despite the name) in his next project, Telethon Veginald Cheeseburger.
“The next record, a lot of [the songs] are getting to that raw nature of emotion or experience,” says Kamm. “The songs know where to go, and they’re wrapping themselves up.”
He thrives on connections, no matter how brief. His countless side projects and collaborations are born more out of an extrovert’s human necessity, rather than artistic fidgeting. During lunch at Dandelion Communitea Café, he glows each time an acquaintance walks in, and at Dandelion, that’s always. He almost takes on a Jack Benny intonation whenever they pass, something like:
“Here’s my good buddy, Sean Moore! Sean Moore, everyone. Our server today is Matt Butcher, you know him from the Revolvers. It’s a great show tonight. And now a word from Canada Dry.”
He interrupts an astrological discussion to point out a quickly passing car: “That’s my friend Phil!” Phil’s in a band, too. It starts to seem as if the show never takes a break.
But suddenly, there’s Christina.
He says he doesn’t write love songs, but that Rapson has allowed him, for the first time, to infuse his music with a truth he couldn’t get to before.
She shows up at the end of lunch, and Matt’s Variety Hour closes its curtain. She’s everything he touted: no-nonsense, beautiful, refined; and he’s no longer “on.” Whatever Tele is, it’s nowhere to be found, and somewhere in his head a Matt Kamm song is finally being written.
More stories about I-4 Fest 2008: