Richmond rocker Matthew E. White brings Spacebomb Records to the Rock and Roll Hotel

December 5, 2013

Spacebomb Records founder Matthew E. White will play guitar with one of his opening acts on Saturday at the Rock and Roll Hotel. (Shawn Brackbill)

Richmond-based indie musician Matthew E. White is pulling double duty on Saturday. Before his headlining set at the Rock and Roll Hotel, he’ll step back from the spotlight and play guitar for one of his opening acts, Howard Ivans.

It’s just what White envisioned when he founded Spacebomb Records in 2011 as a way to foster a musical community in Richmond. Saturday’s show is part of the Spacebomb Revue, a brief tour celebrating the label.

Unlike most modern labels, Spacebomb takes its cues from a time when the company putting out a record was as important as the artist. Like Motown or Stax at their peaks, Spacebomb uses a house band — White’s core touring group — that injects the label’s recordings with a consistent energy and spirit.

“That’s been something we’ve talked about from the beginning: We’ll release a few artists and then we’ll go on tour and we can be the band for both of them — that would be killer,” White says.

With his breathy, deep vocals, White himself sounds like a throwback to different eras and styles: ’60s soul, ’70s funk, jazz, reggae, gospel and rock ’n’ roll. The singer/guitarist, 31, says his music is a true representation of who he is.

“Anything that is honest and good and courageous resonates,” White says. “Whether that’s symphonic music, hip-hop or punk rock — whatever it is — if it’s an honest statement and it’s well crafted, that’s a powerful thing. So I think that’s what Spacebomb is trying to do, what I’m personally trying to do: make something that’s very honest and well done.”

White has let his career develop naturally. His solo 2012 debut, “Big Inner” — Spacebomb’s first release — was, in his mind, recorded as a demo.

“I made that record in seven days. It was not meant to be a thing,” he says. “I felt like it was great — I just didn’t think [others would].”

They did, especially after Domino Records rereleased the album this year with an expanded version, “Big Inner: Outer Face Edition,” featuring a new five-song EP.

Now he’s looking forward to bringing the Spacebomb Revue to his fans. Joining White on Saturday’s bill is friend and Andrew Bird collaborator Dosh and Howard Ivans (the solo project of The Rosebuds singer Ivan Howard). White’s band will play with Howard Ivans, take a break during Dosh’s set, then get back onstage for the main event.

White is particularly excited about getting to hang back and play guitar.

“I’m a guitar player. That’s what I did for my whole life until I accidently sang on a record,” he says. “Not having to sing and just being able to groove out with the same guys I’ve been touring with for two years — that is just incredible.”

Inside Tracks

Whereas big horns, Southern guitars and bright keyboards define much of Matthew E. White’s debut, “Big Inner,” his follow-up EP, “Outer Face,” eliminates them completely. “It doesn’t sound empty because everyone’s playing a lot but there’s only four things happening: vocals, strings, drums and bass — that’s it,” White says. In part, it’s a reaction to multilayered digital recordings that pile sounds on top of each other. “There’s only so much space for your ears,” he says.

Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE; Sat., 8 p.m., $12; 202-388-7625. 

Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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