Suitcase Junket: Matt Lorenz puts some grit — and junk shop finds — into one-man band

Union Leader Correspondent
January 04. 2018 8:27AM
Matt Lorenz, otherwise known as the Suitcase Junket, fashioned his one-man band out of flea market market finds and junk-shop odds and ends. His “swamp-Yankee” sound melds raw vocals and songwriting with gritty drum beats and a bluesy guitar with a muddied reverb. 
Matt Lorenz describes himself as a “tinkerer and builder.”

On stage, he's known as the one-man band Suitcase Junket, and he's a master of making music with - and on top of - his own assortment of makeshift instruments.

He's headed to Bass Hall at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in downtown Peterborough for a 7:30 p.m. show Saturday.

The New England-based musician and purveyor of a style he calls “swamp-Yankee,” was playing in a three-piece band when he got the idea to add the beat of a bass drum while playing his guitar.

“Hey, I'm tapping my feet - might as well get some sound out of it,” Lorenz said in a recent telephone interview with NH Weekend.

Using old wooden chair parts, Lorenz built a drum set he could control with his feet. His signature bass drum is an old suitcase. He sits on both when he performs.

He finds the parts he needs at junk shops and flea markets, including kitchen utensils and pots and pans.

At first the one-man band concept began out of financial necessity.

“When I was first starting off I didn't have that much money,” he says. “I was building them when I really didn't have access to funds for regular drum stuff.

“I think it would be more work to retro-fit real drums in the ways I want to play these,” he added. “Going to regular instruments now probably wouldn't work for me.”

Lorenz, whose new album is called “Pile Driver,” pairs his guitar playing, raw vocals and songwriting with his self-made percussion to create The Suitcase Junket's unique sound.

“No one ever wants to put themselves into a genre, but how else are you going to tell people what they are going to hear,” he said. “It's rooted in the blues and folk traditions. I think ‘swamp Yankee' does a pretty good job of summing it up.”

His vocal style, which draws comparisons to Tom Waits and Bob Dylan, was honed while Lorenz was busking on the streets when he traveled through Europe after college. That's where he gained volume, bravery and sincerity, he said.

“You had to sing louder than the street traffic to make your money for dinner,” Lorenz said. “The thing about singing is as long as you are doing it with a certain amount of sincerity and gusto, you can get away with things that you couldn't if you were doing it halfhearted.”

The Suitcase Junket went from a side project for Lorenz in 2009 to today's full-time gig. He plays about 200 shows a year for the past couple of years. He was named to Spotify's Best of 2016 Folk & Americana and Blues & Roots Rock play lists.

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