Past fixations

True confessions: Frontman Matt Evans says Old Flings’ songs are inspired by past loves and personal experiences.

Asheville's Old Flings revive '90s rock and failed relationships on their full-length debut

Old Flings, an Asheville rock trio that first emerged two years ago, has a name that readily encapsulates its sound. Hooky and melodic, the band’s music taps into the combination of gritty tones and accessibly simple structures that dominates the landscape of today’s modern rock airwaves. It’s post-grunge reconstruction assembled from that era’s most immediately catchy hallmarks.

Old Flings inhabits the tunefully distorted riff rock of bands such as Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins. Singer Matt Evans broods as much as he croons. His tonally rich mumble resembles Eddie Vedder even as it occupies a higher register more similar to Michael Stipe. In short, these Flings are a nod to some of today’s most enduring musical nostalgia, making their moniker a near-perfect marketing tool, as much a tag line as it is a band name.

But when Evans thinks about it, he finds himself obsessing over a very different part of its meaning.

Your band name is your image,” he explains. “And now that I think about it, a lot of the songs are about old flings of mine. I don’t want to pigeonhole it. But everybody can relate to songs about boys and girls, you know? It’s kind of funny.”

True to his word, most of the songs on Spite, the full-length debut that Old Flings will release on Friday, Sept. 28 concern Evans’ former love interests. These songs resound with a bittersweet sense of regret, fetching melodies and insistent rhythms hurtling forward as Evans' pained moans explore broken hearts almost exclusively in the past tense. The music longs for an era that is just barely out of reach, a fitting pairing for the unrequited feelings that power Evans’ energetically downtrodden odes.

I’ve definitely had a lot of experiences,” the 25-year-old says. “I remember being a teenager and trying to write a song. It’s hard to write a song when you have no experience at all because you’re like, ‘Cool, I think I saw this in a movie somewhere.’ But now that I’ve actually lived a little, the songs are real. They come from somewhere. Some of them are influenced by other things. But most of the songs are real. It’s like my journal. It’s like true stories of Matt Evans, if that makes sense.”

Such romantic expressions haven’t always been the norm for Evans. He’s also the guitarist for Just Die!, a fast and efficient hardcore band. As its name implies, that outfit concerns itself with angry anthems, not bruised and bitter break-up songs.

The impetus for Old Flings came in 2010. Two artist friends of Evans’ were hosting an exhibition in town, and they wanted music to accompany it. Evans penned a few acoustic songs and, upon being pressured by his friends, he recorded the compositions to release on a cassette. On a lark, he and some of his buddies got together and taped full-band versions of the songs and threw them on the B-side. The joke caught on, and Old Flings was born.

When you go from [hardcore] to playing acoustic, it’s really a bummer,” Evans says.  “You know, to try and sit there and entertain people when you’re used to loud music, and you sit there with your acoustic guitar like, ‘Here I am. Do-do-do.’ I wanted to be able to play live, to juxtapose some soft vocals over it. It sounded a lot cooler, I thought. It opens it up a little more. You can tour better with a band. It’s a little bit more accessible with a band. That’s kind of where that idea came from.”

Evans is enthusiastic about where the idea is going. He’s always loved the ‘90s music that inspires Old Flings, and he talks excitedly of hitting the road and meeting bands that are exploring similar sounds, pointing to Richmond as a place where they’ve had particularly meaningful experiences. In Asheville, Old Flings find it a bit harder to fit in. Evans says they’ve made few inroads with the jam bands and indie-rock outfits that dominate the city’s scene, but he isn't worried.

I love being from Asheville, but everyone here’s in a band and no one really likes the kind of music we do,” he says. “That’s something that I’ve grown to understand over the years with Just Die!. I understand we’re never going to be the biggest band in Asheville, and that’s totally fine with me. I would be doing this no matter what. With Old Flings, these are just the songs that are inside my head. I don’t really care if people like them or not. The bands in Asheville are all going after a certain sound, and we probably don’t have it. I’m OK with that.”

Jordan Lawrence is music editor at Shuffle Magazine and a contributing writer at The Independent.
who: Old Flings, opening for Cursive
where: The Grey Eagle
when: Wednesday, Oct. 3 (9 p.m. $12/$15.

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