Courtesy of Erin Trigg
With song titles such as “666” and “Say10,” one might think Matt Toka’s music is satanic worship, but reading deeper into the lyrics, his songs actually have a message to be on the lookout for evil.
Toka is scheduled to perform with Breathe Carolina and The Ready Set as part of the Blackout Forever Tour Thursday at Newport Music Hall. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Toka started a band named Cherry Monroe in order to find a way out of Youngstown, but not having a side job had major consequences.
“I personally didn’t take it seriously,” Toka said. “I thought bags of money would fall from the sky and that I would have a house on ‘Cribs.'”
After Toka streaked naked through a meeting with the record label, the band was dropped.
Toka decided to move across the country to California.
“It was one of the most liberating things,” Toka said.
Toka said he works every day honing his song writing skills, just as a guitarist practices the guitar.
“I write like every day, it’s like therapy for me,” Toka said.
The songs Toka’s audience connects to are about his emotional ties with his family, and he feels they come too easily, he said.
“The ones that really connect are the ones I don’t even feel like I should get credit for,” Toka said.
For instance, Toka said “Angel” took him 10 minutes to write.
“I feel like I didn’t deserve the credit for it because it came way too easily,” Toka said.
Toka said he draws his inspiration comes from different musical angels in songs ranging from Bob Dylan to Black Sabbath.
“Before when I was into Metallica, (Jimi) Hendrix and Green Day, I wanted to play guitar, but once I discovered Bob Dylan, I was like, ‘F—, I want to be a song writer,” Toka said.
Toka considers his new album “Straight to Hell” autobiographical in nature. He said trying to discover his place in the world, in music and in life was a living hell.
“For me, it was like I was dead and already in hell, and that’s how I felt for a very long period in my life, so that is where all the devil metaphors come from and the title ‘Straight to Hell’ has come from as well,” Toka said.
Others agree the range of songs on his new album have range in their meanings.
“Other tracks on the album like ‘666’ and ‘Good Times’ are punk rock odes to raucous debauchery; another, ‘Angel,’ is a tender yet honest tune about a smitten rocker admitting he’s rough around the edges,” wrote Jeremy Craig for The Augusta Chronicle.
Toka said Satan’s name being in the song “Say10” is more of a warning to watch out for things that are evil in the world.
“What I did with ‘Say10,’ Satan is literally in the song, so, ‘Let me hear you say 10,’ is like, ‘Let me be cautions about all the bulls— in my life so it doesn’t f— me up,'” Toka said.
The recent tour has been an amazing life experience, he said.
“For me, being back on the road and seeing the country has been phenomenal,” Toka said. Blackout Forever is his first tour since signing with WB Records.
Toka admits his shows are not for the faint of heart.
“Its straight-up punk rock, aggression, rebellion and high energy,” Toka said.
Fans of Toka said they like the energy in his music.
“His music is really energetic and upbeat,” said Amy Leimenstoll, 29, of Columbus.
Toka also said reactions from the audience can be a mixed bag, but for the most part, his music is well-received.
“Sometimes we play some Misfits or Metallica and no one gets it, except someone’s dad,” Toka said. “Some of the younger kids get freaked out which is funny, but the overall response is well.”
Toka will be playing a couple large festivals this summer. He will be on the Vans Warped Tour, which will stop at Blossom Music Center July 11 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, with punk rock bands such as Rise Against and New Found Glory. He will also play at Bamboozle May 19 in New Jersey with acts such as Skrillex and Blink 182.
Tickets for the Columbus show are $17 in advance and $20 the day of the show.