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While on the road as members of The Shins, Yuuki Matthews and Richard Swift had a lot of free time on their hands – they’d watch movies, do art projects, and became good friends.
Then, Swift, who also worked with The Black Keys and had a solo career, asked Matthews if he’d be interested in collaborating on some music. “One day he was just like, would you ever want to just like do a recording project that was just you and me. You know, we were pretty much best friends, but I've always been a fan of his,” says Matthews, “I was like, absolutely.”
Swift passed away in 2018 from complications from alcoholism, but Matthews is releasing those recordings today (Monday, March 16th), which would have been Swift’s 43rd birthday, under the name Teardrops. Sound & Vision host Emily Fox spoke with Matthews about the collection and his memories of Richard Swift.
He was very, very lovable, just such a sweet, humongous heart on that guy. And he was the funniest guy I've ever met. But he was very troubled and that would show itself with his drinking. You think about the greatest comedians of our time or in history, these people bring so much joy to so many people. And then at the end of the day, they go home. And I think there's a sense of loneliness and a sense of unfulfillment somehow and I think he definitely had that.
There was actually a moment when we were working on this where he looked at me and he said, you're my best friend. And it really caught me off guard and I think the reason why is because knowing all of his faults really made it difficult for me to open up completely to him. Like, we were 99 percent there, but there was that little bit where I was like, man, I don't know if I can really attach myself because I don't know where this road is going to go.
I knew he had a drinking problem when we were on tour with The Shins. It was clear that he had a problem, but then it sort of grew into this demon. And I remember his wife called me to ask if we could do hospice at my house. And that was sort of the first moment I knew that it was really serious because honestly, I had stopped communicating with him because it was so erratic and the drinking had gotten so bad. So, she asked us to do that, but then they eventually found a place down in Tacoma. And I went to visit him and then right before he died, I visited him one more time and I got to sit with him and hold his hand and tell him I love him and that I’m going to miss him.
I have an emotional response to it, a good emotional response, and it sort of makes me nostalgic and makes me think of the time that I spent with Richard making this thing. As for what people could get from it? I don't know. There's a lot of him on it. And I think that's pretty apparent when you listen to it. I think you can hear a different side of him on this record that you didn't necessarily get with his singer-songwriter stuff or even his production stuff. This is something totally different.
The recording engineer’s work is highlighted on a new Light in the Attic compilation titled Kearney Barton: Architect of the Northwest Sound.