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Behind the Noise: Interview With Southtowne Lanes

Edited by Anna Mengani

A black and white photo of the members of Southtowne Lanes standing in a line  shoulder to shoulder.
Photo credit: Jed Hamilton

Making their triumphant return since 2017, Oregon's hardcore emo band Southtowne Lanes looks to turn heads and touch your heart with their second studio album, Take Care, which was released on May 10th, 2024. We had an opportunity to sit down with the lead vocalist and guitarist, Matt Kupka, to discuss their evolution as a band, the struggles of grinding as a DIY band, the creative process for their new album, and more in this exclusive interview!

Iceis: So, I thought we [should] just start off with a few fun questions before we get into anything too serious.

Matt: Let's do it.

Iceis: If your band was a book, what would the title be?

Matt: I think the title of our book would be something ridiculous. I think it would be a teen thriller. We love each other, and we're fantastic, but we can be very passive-aggressive. That's how we deal with a lot of our band dynamic. We're all very dramatic people. Thus, the kind of music that we play is also pretty dramatic. So, I like to believe it would be something that you'd find [in] the young adult section of a bookstore called The Witching Hour or something like that. Something that's very intense and dark but for young adults. That's how I would sum it up.

Iceis: That sounds like something I would probably add to my Goodreads list if I found that in the book section.

Matt: That's awesome. I'm glad to hear it.


Iceis: If bubble gum was a song, what song would it be?  

Matt: If bubble gum was a song, I think [it would be ‘We Like to Party’ by] Crazy Frog. That’s what I would pick. That's what bubble gum [would be] to me.

Iceis: If only we could get that into a bubble gum brand’s advertisement.

Matt: I know.

Iceis: That would be iconic!

Matt: Yeah, that's true.


Iceis: If you could turn a food into a human to hang out with, what food would you choose?

Matt: I think I would pick chicken wings. To be honest with you. I think they’d be the life of the party. I love chicken wings. I think they'd be the life of the party. I think they'd be all over the place. I think they'd be game for anything. I think they'd be game to hang out. Yeah, that's what [I’m going] with. That's my answer.

Iceis: Hell yeah. So, we just need to find a way to make a reincarnated human version of chicken wings. Easy!

Matt: Yes, exactly. I'll be happy. I’ll quit everything for that.

Iceis: I have a deep love for sushi. So, I feel like I would definitely try and make a human sushi friend ‘cause it’s so colorful and fun.

Matt: Very true.


Iceis: If you found yourself at an alien rave club, what song needs to play to get you to jump on the dance floor?

Matt: ‘Smooth’ by Rob Thomas and Santana.

Iceis: Okay, okay.

Matt: I'd be all over it. That'd be awesome.

Iceis: Hell yeah! We’ll have to work that into the playlist when we find the existence of alien rave clubs.

Matt: We will. The moment [the] drums and the guitar [come in], I'd be on it.

Iceis: We are going to get into a deep topic. Everybody wants to debate if a hot dog is a sandwich. But I now pose the question to you: Is a taco a sandwich?

Matt: No, I don't think a [taco is a] sandwich. And I will not elaborate further. No.

Iceis: Wow, we’re just shutting this down. Point blank. I see you. Alright, so we will notify the public that tacos are not a sandwich.

Matt: I appreciate that. Thank you.

Iceis: The big takeaway from the interview.


Iceis: [Now, to learn] more about your background as a band. You started the band a little over ten years ago, right?

Matt: Yeah, our first demos were recorded in 2012, but our first real release was in 2013. So, it's been eleven [or] twelve years now.

Iceis: Hell yeah. What originally sparked the idea [of creating] the band, and how did you all get acquainted and [get] together for that?

Matt: So, it's me, Tyler, Helena, and Matt. Tyler, the other guitar player in the band, [and I] have known each other since kindergarten.  since we were little kids. [We grew] up together. So, we've always had a relationship. And then we all met in high school, essentially. After [we had] graduated high school, we all loved playing emo music. So, it started the way it does a lot of the time. We would all go to the same parties, and we [would] be at the same friends’ houses hanging out, and we were like, "We should do a cover show where we just shamelessly play the popular emo songs [of this] time!” Which [was] pop-punk. We covered The Story So Far [and] covered a lot of SPEW. We did a bunch of stuff like that. After doing a couple of shows like that, Tyler was like, "We should do an original song. We should have our own song.” And the rest of us were like, "That’s lame. Why would we do that? That doesn't sound fun at all. We should just keep playing these cover songs.” And then Tyler was like, “No, we should actually do this.” And so over time, [we were] like, “Okay, let's give it a go.” And that's how it was born. The project really was a lot more pop-punky. More [of] that vibe earlier [on] when we started, for sure.


Iceis: What did you have against original music at the time?

Matt: I think it was just such a daunting concept. You play music that everyone knows. Everyone loves it. Everyone's having a great time. Everyone's partying. Sorry, I keep talking about partying like we were crazy. That's not what it was. But everyone is enjoying it, everyone knows the words, everyone's participating, [and] everyone’s hanging out. And then to do an original song, I just was like, “Oh, then a bunch of people will just look at [me] like, ‘What is this? What song is this?’” Eventually, what I saw [was that] it’s much more fulfilling to write original music and play it. So, I think we were all just having fun, and then we wanted to take it more seriously. But granted, we were all [around] nineteen at the time when this was happening. So, [it has] been a little bit.

Iceis: Yeah, it does seem a lot more daunting and vulnerable when you compare it to covers versus [originals] because with covers, a majority of people already like their songs. They've already been written. They’re already hits. You don't need to worry about that. But with your own original music, you're opening a whole new gateway of opinions and criticism, and it’s like, “There was that one person who said, ‘Your band sucked.’” [And] all you can think about for the next ten years [is] that one person in high school. So, I can see the different dynamics.


Iceis: Looking at your goals and objectives when the band first started versus what they are now, how do you think they've evolved over the years?

Matt: Oh, [it has changed] so much. When we started, we [weren’t] even twenty-one yet. [On] our first tour, we weren't even legally allowed to drink. We were kids. We were young. [In] the beginning, from my perspective and where I was at [at the time], we had so many expectations of where the band would go,  how the band was viewed, where we fit in [in] the scene, how we could get noticed, [and] how we could become just like all the bands that we had covered in garages. We wanted all [of] that. We expected [That] if we toured enough, tried enough, and worked hard enough, that we would get there. But over time, we found that that's not always the case. The more expectations you have, [the more] it can lead to having to deal with the failure of those expectations. That can wear on you as a person and as a band. If you keep saying, “Well, we're going to do this.” And then that stuff doesn't happen. It can start to be really demoralizing, especially when you're pushing it too hard. It's how we get to burnout, and that's what happened at the midpoint of this band. [We had] a pretty significant burnout. We were touring all the time, but it was DIY touring, so it was just us getting our asses kicked out on the road constantly. We hadn't exploded like we wanted to, like every band wants to. That's kind of the whole point. So, yeah, we took a break for years. We went away. We stopped. I stopped playing music with the band. Now, to answer the second part of your question, "Where [are we] now?” We all [have come] back to the table quite a bit older [and] with a lot more perspective. By the time we started getting back together with it, we were all twenty-eight [and] twenty-nine. Basically [it’s] ten years later from [when] we started. We approached it with much more of a “Hey, no matter what, we love playing music together as four people.” And we really [are trying] to do this next iteration of Southtowne Lanes [and] this next generation of it without [expectations]. Just with the intent of playing music together and trying to have our music reach as far as it can reach. But that's about the furthest the expectation goes. The number one most important thing to us with this album, and with this band, is that everyone is having fun and playing music together. It's not about what we can sacrifice to get noticed by a label or get on a show with this big band or something. To sum it up, I would say in the beginning, we had every expectation. And now, we have very, very few expectations.

Iceis: Well, and I feel like when it comes to being in bands or just an artist in any form, we all have a bucket list [of] things we want. We all have big goals, but sometimes, going in with no expectations or very low expectations is better and easier. Because then, if you get something really good out of it, it’s like, “Oh, my God, we did this! This is amazing!” At the same time, especially when you're a DIY band, grinding, touring, and going all over the state [and] the country, it can get hard. And it's only you. There's nobody else really helping to push you or support you. You’re going all over the state [and] all over the country or whatever, and you're doing everything by yourself, and you're losing money, but you’re hoping it’ll pay off in the future. It gets really, really heavy, I imagine.

Matt: Yeah, I would say it [basically] broke us. There’s always a bunch of different sides and a bunch of different things happening, but I think we all got [burnt out], and we weren't able to really connect, and it all fell apart for a bit. But we're all older, we've learned, and we are in a better place with it now.


Iceis: What were you doing when the band took its hiatus for a while?

Matt: I've always been involved in [the] service industry, like many musicians, so I focused on that a little more and got out of the trenches of [the] service industry a little bit. [I] got more into management. So, I furthered what essentially is now [my] career. I put a lot more time into that. I also played in another band. It was a two-piece. It was a band that was reactionary to a lot of the hurt and a lot of what you described. How hard it is to tour [and] how hard it is to do that and not get what you want. So, [it was this] two-piece fuck it band. It was like, “I'm gonna do it exactly how I want to do it, and it's not gonna make sense. We’re not gonna be marketable. We're not gonna post on social media. We're not gonna do anything. But we're also going to try to tour all over the world, [including] Japan and Europe. [We’re gonna] do all this stuff while not playing any part of the game whatsoever. We won't do any of it. Just pure experience.”

Iceis: So, basically, a big fuck you to the entire industry.

Matt: Yeah. The ironic part about all that is the industry is like, “Okay, cool. We don't care. Yeah, whatever, dude.” So, the experiences I had in that band and playing [in] that are memories I'll hold on to forever. It was some of the most incredible stuff. But also, you're gonna end up right back at square one. Unless you're the one in a million or you have the talent that somehow transcends the random selection of bands that make it and bands that don't make it. That’s how it was. It was good for me to do. But when you don't play any of the game, and it's a two-piece where I was doing a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of band organizing and stuff, which was always [part of] the deal with it, you get burnt out a lot quicker when there's not four of you doing it. It [was] me and this other guy. I was like, “Please, can you help me? And [he would be] like, Okay, I'll help you. I'll do this thing.” But after the end of about two years of, again, hard-touring, I was like, “Let’s take it to the next level and do DIY touring [in] Japan and Europe.” I, one hundred times out of one hundred, [would] rather lose money and get my ass kicked in Japan than in the United States. It also takes so much more out of you financially, time, and all of it. So, I once again found myself reeling and [being] like, “God, how do you win at this? If I try to play the game, it doesn't work. If I don't play the game, it doesn't work.” And [that leads] back to your previous question, but [it] has become such a pivotal thing for me. I had to stop trying to make it work. That was really the whole point. It shouldn't have been about “How do I make it?”? Because it's really about validation. It's not about money. Anyone who plays in music knows, for the most part, [that] unless you're at a Green Day level, popular bands don't make a huge amount of money. It's not like bands are swimming in money. If your goal is money, trying to be a musician is definitely not your most lucrative way of doing it. It stopped being about trying to make it and just started being more about playing music in the most honest way that I could.

Iceis: Well, I feel like when you're [thinking] of doing it to make it, it's literally just a game of Russian roulette at that point. There's no way to go step-by-step straight to “We made it!” And everybody defines that differently. There is no how-to book on how to make it. There's just you either make it, or you don't.

Matt: It's true. It truly is. There are theories and things you can do using just money. That's what it comes down to. The more money you have, the better chance you're going to have at cracking the code. I guess. But really, that’s [just] paying people to step on other people's band. Not [exactly] step on it, but put your band first. The band that doesn't have money isn't gonna make it on the playlist, but the band that does have money that [they] can give [to] the playlist will get on the playlist, and then people see it, so on [and] so forth. That's just the way it goes. That's how it is.

Iceis: Your last album, Give Up the Ghost, came out in 2016. That is a good eight-year time gap. What made you feel like now is the right time to come together again to create another album?

Matt: What's interesting about it is we actually came back together in late 2019. Give Up the Ghost came out in 2016. We toured through that [in] 2017, and then we hit our breaking point and stopped. It all stopped [in] 2017. [It] was only about [a] two-year-[long] hiatus for us as people. And then in 2019, we were like, “Okay, do you want to try again? Do you want to try and try and do this again?” But then [in] 2020, COVID [happened]. That basically made it impossible. Any momentum we had getting a band back together, like the rest of the world, was stopped. From 2020 to 2022 [was] two years of trying to get together, but you have to be careful, and you have to be safe. That is the highest priority. So, it just wasn't really possible for us. [Plus, we’re] living in two different cities. Half [of] the band is in Portland, Oregon, and the other half is in Eugene, Oregon, which, without traffic, is a two-hour drive. And with traffic, it's three. [It] made it hard to try and keep doing the band over the course of two years. Now, to come to where we are now in 2024. We wanted to take our time with [this album], but we've been ready to put out this record and have been trying to put [out] this record for about three years now. This record has been the culmination of the past four years, which, for a band that's 12 years old, is a decent chunk of time. So, to revisit your question, “Why now?” Mostly just [because of] how long the process actually took via COVID [and] people being older. People are married now [and] life happens. People have careers now. Back then, with Give Up the Ghost or other releases, [we] were like, “Hey, [do] you just want to come crash at my house for the weekend? We'll be in the studio, we'll get drunk every night, and we'll record this thing.” And now, it's a scheduling game. It's like, “When can you make it up here? When can we do this?” So, in short, we've been trying to put out this record since 2021. [It has] been a long time. Now, we're just glad to actually be [able to finally put it out]. It's crazy to me that it really [has] been eight years [since] Give Up the Ghost came out. That's nuts to me.

Iceis: Time flies so quickly when it comes to those things. Obviously, the process of creating a record takes a while. It is wild to think about the time when you put something out, and eight years go by. It’s like, “Wait, what do you mean it's been eight years? I thought this happened eight hours ago. What do you mean eight years?”


Iceis: Now, getting into your upcoming record, Take Care. What did the creative process look like from start to finish?

Matt: At first, the record and the songs were about reconnection for the most part. Between the band [and] between all of us evaluating where we were now [and] looking back on Give Up the Ghost. But then COVID happened. It was a lot more of a serious overtone. My father started getting sicker [and] things became more serious. So, the creative process shifted. It became a lot more intentional. It's like, “Okay, cool. We checked in. We reconnected.” But then [we were] like, “What were we really trying to say?” [It’s] amazing reconnecting with people, and trying, again, is important, but it was kind of like, “Is that what we have to say?” In our process, we were like, "No, I think there's more to say. I think we have something more than that.” So, it became intentional. For the most part, the creative process would write a lot of the skeletons that [were] the beginning, parts of songs at home, by myself in Portland, and then I would come to practice. It's really hard because you play those skeletons a lot, and you have all these ideas of how these songs are gonna go. But when you play in a band with four people, you all contribute to it. It's four people putting their ideas into it and creating one thing. So, then I would let these skeletons of songs go into the practice space, and they would change so much. One hundred percent of the time, they always [changed] for the better. If I ever tried to argue, “Oh, in my head, I heard it like this.” It would never go as well. My part is only one-fourth. It's just bringing that idea out, and then the rest of the band goes with it. The way I keep thinking about the creative process was [it was] very intentional. Every single part. Every part of the record from [the] beginning to [the] end of writing it, we always question [things] like, “Where is this in the scope of the record? How does it all fit [in] to the hole?” Every verse [and] every chorus was analyzed in a way [that was crucial to] the song, like, "Where's this song going?” But also like, “Does it make sense in the context of the record?” We lost a couple [of] songs because of that. We stripped sections, [which] happens when a band writes [a] record. To sum it up, I would say the creative process was very intentional and, at times, stressful. Most practices for this record would happen on a weeknight after Helena, and I, who live in Portland, [would] get off work and drive two to three hours to Eugene to practice for a couple of hours with our gear and then pack up and drive two to three hours back home and go to work the next morning. We’d do that once a week [or] once every couple of weeks, so we had to be smart, intentional, and [calculate] how we were going to spend our time together.

Iceis: Well, that makes sense. It's a lot of back and forth, and when you have so many other things you're trying to juggle, you gotta be like, “Okay, are we in a place now where it makes sense to meet up in person and work on this?”



Iceis: When people are done listening to this album for the first time, what thoughts or feelings do you hope they walk away with?

Matt: The record has a lot to do with my relationship with my father, how I felt about his life, and how he died. But the message of the record to me is still what I've always wanted to write music about and what I've always taken from music, which is that no matter how bad it gets, or how hard it gets, or how much you don't feel like it's working, whatever that is in your life, there's always something that can be there. There's always comfort that can be found that that someone else feels just like you do and that you're not alone. That's what I think I've always hoped that people would take away from the music that I'm a part of because that's how I've always related to music. That's how I've always felt inspired by music. So, my number one goal is for people to listen to something that I've done or interact with the band and be able to say, “I don't feel as alone as I did. There's someone else out there that understands what this pain or what this experience is like.” So, that's what I want people to take away.

Iceis: I feel like I would majority of the people who are in our scene [and listen to] emo, alternative, and pop-punk. That's the biggest draw to it. It is so relatable to so many people. You could be singing about something, [and], obviously, I'm not that person. I don't understand completely what the song’s about, [but] the beauty of it is being able to take it and apply it to your own life. [It’s] comforting. I feel like that’s always one of the biggest important pieces when it comes to music like that in the scene.

Matt: Totally, I agree. That's how I've always felt. I've related at times so strongly to songs just because of a line or two and not, [and then I] do further research on the song, the band, or the album and be like, “Oh, this has nothing to do with what I interpreted it as being. This vocalist, this lyricist, [or] this band was talking about this.” [That] is fine. That's not really the point. Lyrics can be very specific. It's about what you want to do. I try to maintain some level of greater perspective outside [of] the very real thing [that has] happened in my life. I could write lyrics that are just like, “This is me walking to the store. And this is the store in Portland, Oregon, that I go to.” But I also know you might not have the same [store]. So, [I like] to come outside of it a little bit more and have a little more perspective on how I felt walking into the store on that day. [It] allows me to relate to it in a [larger] sense, and I think [it] allows the listener to relate [with] how they walked into the store. Sorry, I used that example, but in terms of lyrics and how they all relate, that is how I think of it.


Iceis: I have a sentence here that has two blanks in it that I would like for you to fill in for me [really quickly]. “Take Care is the best album to listen to when you need to blank, because blank.”

Matt: It's hard to use the word best but to go with it, I would say “Take Care is the best album to listen to when you need to grieve because it explores so many parts of that process, and [it] can perhaps provide a voice and give words [to the actions] and [feelings] to all five stages of [the] process of grieving.” I think it's the best album to listen to when you are grieving because it can explore those sides and go and move throughout all of it, and sometimes shed light on parts of the process that we didn't even know were really a part of.

Iceis: That's a beautiful answer, and I can one hundred percent get behind that.


Iceis: Before we get to our last question, what is the most important thing for people to know about Southtowne Lanes?

Matt: I think the most important thing to know about Southtowne Lanes isn't a cool fun fact but a little bit about our message and where we are now. The most important thing to know about Southtowne Lanes is what we're about, which is that it's not about where you're from. It's about where you are. That's what we're all about. That is very much the message of this band. It's about where you are and where you're going. Not about where you're from. That's what I would say is the most important thing about Southtowne Lanes.

Iceis: And finally, post-album release, is there anything you're looking forward to personally, professionally, or both?

Matt: Yeah, I'm looking forward to all of it. In 2022, I said, “If this record doesn't come out in 2023, I'm gonna lose my mind.” I'm so glad [we] waited. I'm so glad we put everything into it. But needless to say, I've been trying to get this record to come out forever. So, the fact that it's actually coming out on Friday is insane to me. The sense of relief [of] finally having this record out in the world [that I'll feel is what I'm looking forward to]. I'm looking forward to the touring that we're doing in a few weeks on it. We haven't toured together as a band since 2017, so I'm excited to go out with those three people and tour. I am also pretty excited [about] my personal and professional life. I'm moving in with my partner, and she's the greatest person I've ever known. I'm so excited to be spending more of our time together and [to be] moving into a house together. I'm excited [about] my professional life because my career somehow has been able to [stay] intact. I have a wonderful summer of weddings coming up, which is what I do in my job. I'm excited to be a part of people's big days this summer. So, overall, extremely optimistic, extremely happy, and very much looking forward to the future!

Southtowne Lanes will be on tour for the second half of May. You can find more information here.


Southtowne Lanes


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