There is absolutely nothing more powerful in this world than music. It can draw people together, influence behavior, heal pain; the abilities of music are endless. With such an amazing power in their hands, musicians are in a much more significant position than they often realize. Dead Fish Handshake vocalist, Matt Paul has no trouble recognizing the impact music can have on its audience and is keen to ensure that his music leaves a good impression.
“I’m not trying to preach to anyone,” Paul explains. “The things I talk about in my lyrics are things that I’ve gone through. While the topics may be a little on the depressing side, the message is just to let people know that there’s somebody else who’s gone through what they may not be able to express. Hopefully as a singer I’m in a place where I can give their feelings some words. That, to me, is the best thing about music.”
It’s easy to understand why this is Paul’s favorite thing about music, but when it comes to Dead Fish Handshake, there is oh, so much more to admire. Composed of a collection of members from other bands in the area, Dead Fish Handshake is an effective combination of a variety of influences and excellent musicians with a message for their listeners.
“In this band, it’s funny, individually, we’re all into such different bands,” Paul explains. “We’re all on different platforms, and when we put those genres together I guess you get Dead Fish Handshake.”
The music industry couldn’t have asked for a better combination. The DFH sound is a healthy blend of old school rock and decade influences underscored by soulfully written lyrics that simultaneously expose band members and embrace fans. Like any good musical group, DFH has witnessed the growth of their sound into the perfect blend of their individual interests.
“We wanted to have heavy aspects, but we’re also fans of acoustic, electric, classic rock, soul music,” Paul explains. “I think we’re still defining that sound. If you go to the first album, those songs were written acoustic and we built them up to make the rock songs you hear on the record. A lot of those songs touched on a lot of different sounds.”
As a result of their hard work, dedication and production work with rock staple, Sevendust‘s Clint Lowery, the boys from Dead Fish Handshake have just released a new album that captures their sound much more accurately.
“Clint brought the intensity of Sevendust to Dead Fish Handshake but let us be ourselves,” Paul notes. “When you’re inspired by people, you take things from them, and what was cool was that Clint let me keep what I was influenced by, what I was inspired by, but he kinda brought my own voice out of me. With The Sixes we finally created the DFH sound. As far as what our sound is, we’re not reinventing the wheel by any means, but hopefully we’re re-injecting some life into a genre of music that’s taken a lot of heat lately.”
Beneath all the effort and growth Dead Fish Handshake has experienced, the message of their music remains one of the most important aspects of what they do as a band, and their combined forces couldn’t be more perfect for such a mission.
“Mark and Darren, being the rhytmn section, they’re what gives it life. They’re the heartbeat,” Paul says. “They’re there to give that emotion, that idea that Rob and I have, life. I’m a guy who writes introspectively. I pull from things I’ve gone through in my life. There are a lot of heavy topics, like suicide, low self-esteem, things like that. They’re just things I’ve gone through myself, and this record was an outlet. I’ve had a lot of heartache in my life. We’re not an emo band, but I do think music should be powerful and there should be emotion behind what you do. Hopefully the topics, while they focus on a darker side of life, it’s letting people know that they’re not alone.”
Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of the DFH process is the cathartic and therapeutic effect the creation of music has on the band members themselves.
“You start out writing these songs for you,” Paul admits. “I wrote these songs to help myself. I never in my wildest dreams thought there would be people out there who took comfort from it. One of the things I truly love is interacting with fans. Music aside, I love meeting fans. That’s something I always make it a point to do. They give meaning to that stage. That’s pretty much my therapy. What they do for me is giving me that opportunity and helping me cope. When I go out and sing, in a lot of ways I’m bleeding out those things, and I need that as a human. I hope that when people come see that they maybe sense that, but in a positive way.”
The purpose behind Dead Fish Handshake is a testament to why music is so incredibly powerful, and why it is such an integral part of our lives. We are all human, and we feel so many things. So often, all we’re searching for is someone who understands those feelings.
“Everybody’s problems are all relative,” Paul says. “It’s based on what you’ve gone through individually. I think as a society, we don’t all have enough love for one another. That’s evident. If there’s anything observational in my music, that’s a big one. As beautiful as something like love can be, music can be just as beautiful. The best thing about music: it’s a timeline for what you’ve been through. Everybody needs that time to reflect or to re-evaluate.”
In line with this message and the idea that society should help, not hurt, one another, Dead Fish Handshake is participating in a benefit concert for Students Against Being Bullied on November 16 at Asbury Park’s Stone Pony. Just a few days after their upcoming November 14 show with Hurt and Smile Empty Soul, DFH will join musician Apryl Evans to raise awareness of bullying in school and the devastating effect it can have.
In an era where mainstream music is focused on partying, physical appearance and meaningless sex, Dead Fish Handshake is a welcome respite and reminder of the impact music can and should have and the undeniable influence it has on everyone involved. Thank God for Dead Fish Handshake.