Matchbook Romance, Ready to Take Action

Pop-punkers Matchbook Romance -- Aaron Stern, left, Ryan Kienle, Andrew Jordan and Ryan DePaolo -- released
Pop-punkers Matchbook Romance -- Aaron Stern, left, Ryan Kienle, Andrew Jordan and Ryan DePaolo -- released "Voices" on Valentine's Day. (By Anthony Saint James)
By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 24, 2006

On Wednesday morning, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., pop-punk quartet Matchbook Romance will offer a few acoustic tunes and some words of encouragement on Capitol Hill, which isn't normally a stop on the Take Action! circuit. The 9:30 club and Baltimore's Sonar club are, that night and Thursday, respectively.

But as headliners on this year's Sub City Take Action! Tour, Matchbook Romance is doing its part to bring attention to the National Hopeline Network (800-SUICIDE) and its parent organization, the Kristin Brooks Hope Center, which provide support and resources for young people in crisis. Over the past five years, the Sub City label (which has just released its fifth two-CD compilation of up-and-coming bands) and Take Action! have raised almost a quarter-million dollars for the center.

Thankfully, says singer and chief songwriter Andrew Jordan, suicide hasn't touched the band members directly, "but people around us have had friends that have committed suicide. There's a bridge here [in Poughkeepsie] that somebody jumped off of, and every time you go across it, that's really the only thing you think about; it haunts you and it's really sad. Hearing my friends talk about it and being so devastated was just scary. That, for me, was enough."

Matchbook Romance, which also includes guitarist Ryan DePaolo, bassist Ryan Kienle and drummer Aaron Stern, heads a bill that includes newcomers Silverstein, the Early November, Amber Pacific and Paramore. It was only a few years ago that Matchbook Romance was in the same position, a new band trying to break through the pack with "Stories and Alibis."

Released in September 2003, the album sold more than 200,000 copies and established Matchbook Romance as emo/pop-punk contenders, thanks to a bracing mix of impassioned vocals, heartache-inspired lyrics, pop melodies and rock rhythms evident in such songs as "Promise," "My Eyes Burn," "Stay Tonight" and the underground favorite, "The Greatest Fall (Of All Time)." Addressing the lack of pain over a lost love, Jordan sang: "I'll keep this as a constant reminder/Of the nights I spent holding onto her/And rest assured I'm moving on/I miss you less with each day you're gone."

With poetic symmetry, the band's new album, "Voices," was released on Valentine's Day. "We needed a date and felt it would stick out in people's minds," says Jordan, admitting that it also made sense to tie the release date to the band's name, one he originally hated. "But it's grown on me, and it worked out well with the lyrics, very complementing in a lot of aspects."

Matchbook Romance is certainly more intriguing than the band's original name when it formed in 1997 (Fizzle Wink) or the one the members were using when they were trying to catch somebody's, anybody's ear in 2002 (The Getaway). Particularly since Internet searches under that name would yield loads of alternative choices for films, video games and, particularly, vacation packages.

In fact, the Internet would be the very tool that transformed the Getaway into Matchbook Romance.

"When the Internet was blowing up, we were all computer nerds," Jordan says. "Three of us were computer programmers and actually going to school for it [at Dutchess Community College]. Toward the end of high school, I had gotten books about how to do HTML and stuff, saw it as a new way to pass demos before a label asked for them. I kept seeing Web presences get bigger and bigger, and over the course of time it just exploded with"

Looking at how successful bands marketed themselves on the Internet, Jordan followed suit, trying "to finagle it in any way possible. I also did design for a company, animated banners and stuff, and put them in the message boards. We would keep creating sites, and our motto was just 'Make it look better than it really is and a lot more expensive than it really is and people will just automatically take you so much more seriously.'

"Obviously, it totally worked, and people started getting a hold of our music and we finally found this avenue, punknews [ ], and asked them if they would post some stuff on us, and they said they actually liked our stuff and would. And if one posts it, everybody posts it; they all copy off each other."

Jordan notes that the band also took the traditional route, mailing out demos, "but we didn't feel like it was worth it at all. And we were all in school and didn't take it all that seriously. When Epitaph came knocking on the door, it was, 'My God, you know that thing we were talking about, guys, that thing that could never happen? Well, I think it happened.' "

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