Sound Unseen Review: Bleeding Audio
How an emo band got screwed by the industry and (almost) survived
By Richard Whittaker,
9:00PM, Sat. Nov. 14, 2020
You may or may not remember the Matches. But it doesn't matter if you're one of those loyal fans that had the lyrics from "Little Maggots" tattooed on your flesh. You'll still want to watch Bleeding Audio, the documentary about how the music industry bled the musicians out, and their fans were still there for them.
The Oakland quartet were not extraordinary, but like so many emo bands of the mid-2000s they had an unwaveringly loyal fanbase. That scene created a two-way devotion that's rare to see, and across their 12-year career they were many kids' new favorite band. It didn't matter that they barely scraped into the U.S. independent charts on any of their three officially-released albums. Their sound - less Cali anthemic, more Midwestern 90s emo with a pop-punk ear for hooks - plus being signed to the then-cool-as-fuck Epitaph, getting prime slots on the Alternative Press and Warped tours, well, all combined that should have kept them going.
It didn't, and Bleeding Audio (a reference to a track from their first album, 2004's E Von Dahl Killed the Locals) tracks what went wrong through the lens of their 2015 reunion tour.
Director Chelsea Christer clearly comes at this Kickstarter-funded documentary with a fan's ear and eye. But here's the catch, and why Bleeding Audio is a must-see for any musician, or any fan of music, in the same way that the unexpectedly fascinating 30 Seconds to Mars doc, Artifact. That film started as a run-of-the-mill, band-endorsed, making-of-the-next-album, peek-behind-the-curtain affair but took a sudden and shocking left turn into how even hugely successful bands are screwed by the deranged economics of the music business. There's a similar story here: The Matches were a band on the margins, just on the cusp, and get hit so hard by a trifecta of emerging streaming technology (damn you, Napster!), an unfair deal, and then a staggering act of mismanagement that leaves Blink-182's Mark Hoppus (who produced their second album, Decomposer) literally slack-jawed.
It's a gut punch moment, one that reminds you exactly how easy it is for a band to vaporize, and all their potential to be lost. Would they have become the next Pink Floyd? The Magic Eight Ball would say, don't count on it. But the underlying thesis, that the industry has no interest in midsize bands, or talents that take some nuanced handling, is undeniable. The Matches may not be your new favorite band, but you'll still care about what happened to them.
Bleeding Audio is available as part of the Sound Unseen Film + Music Festival, Nov. 11-15. Tickets and info at www.soundunseen.com.