It’s the day before the Super Bowl, and the poles in Philadelphia aren’t yet greased to scare off potential climbers. (Not like that would anyway, but it’s the thought that counted.) If you hung a left past where a blurry mess of green and silver chanted “GO BIRDS!” while clogging a Modell’s on Chestnut Street, you’d be at my apartment building. It’s where the first underdog story was committed to tape that weekend. Matt Scottoline bested me in four Grand Prix cups of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but he would almost always ascend the podium as a second-place overall finisher. He’d always play as Luigi, drive the coveted Mercedes with matching wheels, kick my sorry ass — but clinch silver against AI foes. This is the story of Matt from Philadelphia power-pop outfit Hurry.
But unlike another story about cartoonish racers, Matt isn’t too concerned about his pole position. He’s very set in his ways, a Philly guy as informed by the city’s relentless arts culture as he’s revitalized by it, and those ways are usually categorized as “experiments.” Everyone Everywhere might be his most well-known, a time trial that was recorded too early to explode with the rest of the “emo revival.” (It’s bittersweet irony that one of the bands Scottoline played in before EE was called My Turn to Win.) “I think anyone who thinks anyone cares about their band is delusional,” Scottoline tells me while we tear up Sunshine Airport, one of his chosen courses. “It just never felt right to me to make those assumptions.”
Matt assumes that Everyone Everywhere reached its climax during the recording of the band’s 2012 self-titled LP, which followed their self-titled debut. The fact that both records are self-titled might be no accident: the second one sought to warp a lot of the neural networks built on the first. There’s a track Scottoline calls out in particular, “The Future,” which showed the first creative division within the group. “It’s just one part the whole time,” he confesses, nodding to his own centerpiece of a bass line. That track’s simple construction might be where Hurry’s backbone began to take shape. “I think that’s when we began to go off in different directions.”
Matt pauses to tell me about the importance of acceleration in Mario Kart, as by this point, I’m building a comfortable nook in 12th place. There’s a thread which follows about Hurry, Scottoline’s latest and primary series of “experiments,” which gets its name from the speed he writes and finishes songs. “I’m not good at going back to things. There’s like 50 half- or quarter-songs on my computer. I can’t get back into the right headspace for those.”
Headspace is an important concept to Hurry, one that’s mutated alongside the nature of the experiment. Everything/Nothing, the toothy 2014 LP recorded by Hop Along’s Joe Reinhart, bristles with clamor and fuzz. “I recorded that record with Joe at the old Headroom. It was just one room with no isolation. A loud, tight place. It lent itself to making a loud, crazy album.” It’s a rush of chaos, a go-for-broke approach perhaps necessitated by a thin recording budget. Lyrics get lost in noisy translation, and so this first headspace is muddy…a quick outline.
The trio of releases Hurry has issued with Lame-O Records — the LP Guided Meditation, its companion Casual Feelings, and their follow-up Every Little Thought, released just last Friday — are linked to a different scientific method. “I wanted to replace any impulse I had for fuzz or noise with a cleaner tone. I set this arbitrary rule for Guided Meditation and tried it,” Matt explains. Just listen to the twin versions of “Shake it Off” for results. The first, written and recorded in less than three days for Lame-O’s Strength in Weakness comp, rips open with guitar feedback. The second, included on Meditation, shimmers with light reverb, literally shaking away that raw introduction. And if the previous record cycle was Matt’s test run, he explained “Every Little Thought is me feeling empowered and committing to these ideas 100 percent.”
These records are linked in personnel — Scottoline is joined by cousins Joe and Rob DeCarolis as a full band—and production values, having Mike Bardzik in nearby Thorndale behind the boards. It’s these two added elements to the Hurry soundscape that’s cleared it up for listeners, but perhaps just in vocal filter territory. “Mike and I just have a good understanding of each other and he’s seen me evolve as a musician. He’ll hear a part I brought to the studio and say I couldn’t record in this key. I don’t even know what keys are, really.”
Scottoline met his Hurrymates years ago through Centerfuse, a Philly-based message board where he used to post Everyone Everywhere gig dates. Bardzik was the engineer behind both EE LPs. Hurry in 2018 seems like the culmination of lifelong friendship, a tagline shared by the band’s own Bandcamp page. Yet, the Hurry headspace is still largely a Matt Scottoline production, one influenced by his own aging (he’s 31) and swirling anxieties. “If I spend too much time thinking about something, I’ll talk myself out of it. A lot of Hurry songs are about, in their own special ways, overthinking things.”
Look no further than “On the Streets,” a mid-range jumper on Every Little Thought. It explodes early, brightened by confident strides of guitar, but its chorus retracts some of that coolness, where Matt broadcasts “I didn’t know” while ride cymbal carries him away. “When you turn 30, something happens to your brain. I’m not dissatisfied, but a lot of that insecurity and anxiety is on this album. The older you get, the more the granularity of life weighs on you to figure out what’s important.”
This desire to get a grip on life is explained to me while Matt, as Luigi, gets first place on Excitebike Arena with his trusty Mercedes. “I didn’t know I was even in first place,” he tells me with a bit of a laugh. Despite all the uncertainty coloring the Hurry canon, its nucleus is brimming with a relaxed sense of humor about things. It shines through in the band’s natural salesmanship. They’re the only band with an app where users model Hurry headgear, and the only band who eschewed premiere culture with a YouTube video of them ignoring the camera while the album streamed overhead. It’s a natural progression from introducing themselves on Facebook event pages or on stage as @hurryband since Matt feels “everyone has a cool Twitter account now.”
“I just wanna do the things that I think are interesting,” Matt tells me right before my last-place Pink Yoshi shocks him with a shrinking bolt. “I’m gonna be a musician no matter what. I don’t know if I’m gonna ‘make it’ as a professional, so the best thing I can do are things that make me happy. I hope people can appreciate that long-term, even if they may not have in real-time. I think that’s what happened with Everyone Everywhere…definitely nobody cared about us when we were a band.” Whether through writing a great pop song or love song (or both, like “Waiting for You,” one of his favorite songs on the new record), Hurry’s playing the long game here.
Mario Kart lends itself to the fast and the creative, where shortcuts add a layer of strategy. Matt and I finish our afternoon at the races with the updated Rainbow Road from Mario Kart 64. He asks me if the original shortcut from the Nintendo 64 track remained, where you could launch off the star railing and land further down. I wasn’t sure, but felt compelled to tell him he just summarized his own career by asking that question. And instead of testing his theory, he stayed on the main roads until finally finishing a Grand Prix in first place.
Every Little Thought is now available via Lame-O Records.