Matisyahu has devoted his musical career to delivering highly introspective messages in a style that’s all his own. Fusing reggae with hip-hop and layering it over a jam band style of indie rock, he has released a number of albums — including two Gold Certified records and the Top 40 hit King Without a Crown — that touch not just on personal themes, but on his religious views on Hasidic Judaism as well.
His latest record, Undercurrent, is described by Matisyahu (whose real name is Matthew Miller) as what he imagines Abraham’s walk back down the mountain was like after being instructed by God to kill his own son.
“I think you come back from dramatic or intense experiences, or a series of experiences, during a certain part of your life,” Matisyahu said. “And then there’s the next period of coming to terms with who you are and who you are becoming, where you are and the next phase after that.”
It picks up where his previous record, Akeda, left off, a time when Matisyahu was undergoing an extremely transitional period in his own life.
“I’ve definitely written some songs that are more inspirational or two-dimensional, but this music I feel definitely conveys more of the full human experience,” Matisyahu said. “I feel the two records come and go together — at this phase in my life, they belong together.”
The entire band’s approach to songwriting also sets Undercurrent apart from previous work. A deliberate focus was placed on capturing the group’s live performances, specifically the improvisations, which resulted in eight tracks that average around eight minutes in length each.
“A lot of the music was written on tour already, written during live improvisations,” Matisyahu said. “Then we brought those improvisations back into a studio space and tried to craft them into songs. It was all born out of the live experience on this record for sure. … I wanted each song to traverse into the many different styles, genres and feels that we go into, just like in a live show.”
This latest album was also the band’s first self-produced endeavor, which allowed more creative exploration, something the band found it does just as well in the studio as it does on stage.
“We work together really well, we write together well, we play together and we live together,” Matisyahu said. “We do so many things together, so it was very natural to be writing and recording together.”
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