You can’t reinvent your voice any more than you can reinvent a wheel, but you can sure as hell make sure it’s not just rolling around in circles. Which is to say, this is Mat Joly like you’ve never heard him before – and by before we mean as the dynamic and impassioned frontman and co-songwriter for Juno Award-winning alt-rock phenomenon Mobile. But as is said, that was then, this is now… But first, a quick refresher in the “then.”
In tandem with Montreal city-scene contemporaries like Sam Roberts, The Stills and The Dears – among many others – Mobile lit up the radar of music fans across Canada and beyond with their audaciously named, eyebrow-raising 2006 debut album, Tomorrow Starts Today (Universal Music Group Canada).
It was a lightning-strike arrival (actually the end result of several years of uncommonly dedicated writing and rehearsing) that produced four electric singles in the form of the unforgettable Montreal Calling (featured on EA Sports’ NHL 07 and MuchMusic’s Big Shiny Tunes 10), Out of My Head (the video for which was nominated for a MuchMusic Video Award, and the first video in MuchMusic history to reach #1 on its charts two times, while also setting a record for the most number of weeks on their charts at 22), See Right Through Me and Dusting Down the Stars. In 2008, Mobile followed up with the ambitious Tales from the City, which debuted at #26 on the Canadian Album Charts, and which saw lead single The Killer make a strong showing in the Canadian Hot 100.
In sum, all of these combined for a #1 radio single, five Top 10 radio hits (including two Top 5 radio hits), a Juno Award (2007’s New Group of the Year) as well as a Juno nomination (2007’s Rock Album of the Year), a Gold record for Tomorrow Starts Today, a radio award (for Best New Band) and a SOCAN award (for the hot single The Killer). And just as all of the best things in life must eventually come to an end, so did Mobile.
“Things started coming apart within the band, and when it was clear that it wasn’t salvageable, I made the decision to strike out on my own,” says Joly. “Obviously, it was a heart-wrenching decision. But you’ve got to go with your gut feeling, and after not going with my gut feelings for far too long while I was with Mobile, I decided to take the next step and do things in a way that was true to me.”
He is clearly a (work)horse that was ready to break from the gate. In the short year since Mobile’s dissolution, Joly has racked up an impressive array of writing credits, not the least of which is a nearly-completed, wide-ranging 12-song solo album that finds him claiming vast new creative territories as both a writer and, as mentioned, a vocalist. Songs like the sing-along, dance floor crashing Headlights to the impulsive and compellingly quirky rock rave-up Don’t Tell the Girl to the introspective and cinematic, piano-driven In Between the Lies (to name a very few) find an artist opening his eyes to his own potential. There’s an excitement in the writing that Joly’s doing a very poor job of containing. Hell, he can’t be good at everything.
This rapid expansion and maturation, which sees Joly broadening his palette beyond rock into soul-styled dance and pop that marries complexity with accessibility, has not gone unnoticed. An in-demand collaborator, Joly has recently lent his writing and performing efforts to a number of worthy projects. These include electro-pop-rock duo The Easton Ellises (“We knew each other from high school but never really hung out until recently… We ran into each other in a bar and talked about all the bands we love and decided to do a song together, and we’re both more than happy with the final result”), seriously up-and-coming Montreal alt-rockers Nil (who this past March won the nearly year-long, national “RU The Next EMI Music Superstar” band contest courtesy of the smashing Joly-sung single Fix Me Up) and the punk-influenced, hot-tip upstart outfit Bones Brigade (“Two best friends coming together to make powerful indie rock music”). And there are more in the proverbial pipeline.
Anchoring it all are Joly’s now broadened and emboldened vocals – you’d swear you’ve never heard the man before. At least not like this. There is a freedom to his range and application; a spontaneity and ear-opening flexibility in the execution. But with freedom comes responsibility, so goes the maxim, and in setting his own creative course, Joly is now responsible for much of the best we’ve yet to hear from him, and with the confident promise of so much more to come. He’s quick to credit his history, while at the same time keeping a decided eye on the future.
“I look back and I feel great about everything I accomplished with Mobile,” Joly says appreciatively. “I feel blessed that I was able to be part of a band with my closest friends. But sometimes life has other plans and you’ve got to follow your instincts and live your own dream.”