There are at least two personas in the package known as Matthew Good. One is raging rock star, the cocky, charismatic frontman of one of Canada's brightest new bands. The other is unassuming product of the suburbs, a daydreamer from Coquitlam, B.C., who grew up street smart yet literate -- and mad about soccer, which he played throughout his youth. Although he's now 29, with a career that has him and his group crisscrossing the country and, soon, jetting around the globe, Good has never lost touch with his roots. Beautiful Midnight, his group's current, top-selling (nearly 200,000 copies) album, is filled with songs steeped in childhood and teenage memories and even includes a chant by the current cheerleading squad from his high school.
Recently, Good sponsored the soccer league in his old neighborhood, donating uniforms to both a boys' and a girls' team. A further connection with his past can be found on film. A community college dropout, Good held a number of blue-collar jobs before devoting himself full time to music, including pumping gas and moving merchandise in a department store's shipping and receiving area -- roles he has reprised as characters in several of his band's videos. A working-class hero then? "Well, not exactly," says Good's longtime friend David King, a Vancouver author who writes under the name David Dylan. "But Matt is very firm about the importance of community and never forgetting where you came from. He's actually been caught by surprise with all this rock celebrity stuff."
The buzz about the group -- which includes guitarist Dave Genn, 31, bassist Rich Priske, 32, and drummer Ian Browne, 27 -- began several years ago. After the release of its 1995 debut album, Last of the Ghetto Astronauts, the Matthew Good Band landed a major record deal and went on to multi-platinum success with 1997's Underdogs. Featuring three hit singles, including Everything Is Automatic, Indestructible and Apparitions, the album sold an impressive 150,000 copies, while garnering Good a reputation as a writer of acerbic rock. Several cross-Canada tours, some eye-catching videos and a snazzy Web site with the songwriter's imaginative musings on topics ranging from advertising and air travel to suicide and pornography helped to further boost the band's popularity.
By the time Beautiful Midnight (Universal) came out last September, anticipation was running high among fans and critics. The album made its debut at No. 1 on the Canadian SoundScan chart, selling nearly as much in its first week as Celine Dion did with her album the year before. Led by the edgy singles Hello Time Bomb and Load Me Up, it has already matched its predecessor's sales. Now, with four nominations at the March 12 Juno Awards -- including ones for best single, album, video and group -- and another major national tour starting next month, the Matthew Good Band's prospects have never been better.
Good seems genuinely unfazed by it all. When Maclean's spoke to him on a recent Sunday afternoon, the rock star was relaxing at home in his small Vancouver apartment, more caught up in the excitement surrounding the Canadian national soccer team's victory over Colombia in the Gold Cup than his own Juno nominations. "It's incredible that we won," said Good, adding sarcastically: "For a couple of minutes there, we actually looked like a football team." That's high praise from a purist who insists on calling soccer "football" and who inherited from his father an intense passion for the Arsenal team of the English Premier League. "Yeah, my dad and I are kind of like the father and son in [author Nick Hornby's best-selling] Fever Pitch," admits Good, "except my dad would never grumble about having to travel to watch Arsenal play. He'd go anywhere." Good, who coincidentally attended high school at Coquitlam's Centennial School with Carlo Corazzin, the Gold Cup's top goal scorer, admits he has incurred the considerable cost of flying to London for Arsenal games. He also confesses a weakness for soccer jerseys -- his collection now numbers more than 100 from around the world. Not surprisingly, his group's merchandise includes a soccer shirt complete with a crest sporting the letters "MGB FC," for Matthew Good Band Football Club.
His soccer obsession reflects the boyish side of Good, which occasionally surfaces in his videos. Good's lyrics, however, tend towards much darker subject matter. Jenni's Song, from the current album, is about alcohol abuse -- which Good himself says he successfully battled years ago. Boy and His Machine Gun, although seemingly inspired by the high-school shooting in Littleton, Colo., deals with a patient in a mental institution. Meanwhile, Hello Time Bomb barely conceals the singer's contempt for the music industry in the lines, "down at the radio shack, we're turning sh-- into solid gold." Asked about the current state of pop music, Good scoffs outright. "It's all a backlash against rock right now," he says. "You've got the Backstreet Boys dancing around and Britney Spears' breasts keep getting larger. She talks about being a good little Christian white girl while the plastic surgery bills add up. She denies it, but she's just selling sex. So why beat around the bush about it?"
According to David King, Good, who is single after the recent breakup of a seven-year relationship with a Vancouver woman, has always had strong opinions. And the singer's gift of the gab evidently comes from his father, Robert, whom Good describes as a consummate storyteller. After a brief flirtation with art studies at college, Good gravitated to music, writing songs in a folk style and singing them at coffeehouses in the Vancouver area during the late-1980s. On one occasion, he recalls, he ate a Big Mac from the stage of a vegan eatery, savouring every mouthful as it appalled his audience. "Everyone was eating their tulip salads and looking at me like I was the devil incarnate," he laughs. "I loved it. I absolutely cannot abide people who see moral or ethical issues only in black-and-white. Life's not that simple."
Some critics have called him cynical. But Good, an avid reader who cites Kurt Vonnegut Jr. as his all-time favourite author, prefers the term satirical. "The world's a pretty ridiculous place," he says. "There's only two things you can do about it -- laugh or get pissed off. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Just turn on the news and go. I could write enough songs for 100 albums about how crazy the world is." His band mate Genn has no doubt about that. "Matt's writing all the time," says Genn, "whether it's video treatments, lyrics for songs, short stories or just plain rants. I've never met anyone as prolific or with as much of a work ethic." Already, Good's so-called manifestoes on the band's Web site have been published in book form under the title Black Market Surgery. And the singer says that he intends to start working on a novel -- as soon as his music career, and his soccer fixation, permit.
Maclean's March 13th, 2000