By Luke Voogt
Matthew Jelley has gone from struggling with confidence to being “a demon” on the mic since becoming the front man for Modern Divide.
The withdrawn 30-year-old from Thompson describes being lead singer as “ironic”.
“It’s something I wouldn’t think I’d be able to do with my confidence,” he says during practice at the band’s recording studio.
The long-time guitarist played with another local band, Oceans Collide, from 2005 and 2010.
But when they split he decided to put together his own group.
“There’s a lot of guitarists in Geelong but I couldn’t find a singer,” he says.
“So I thought I’d do it myself.”
In early 2015, after two years of singing lessons, Matt contacted friend and guitarist Josh Dowling – now Modern Divide’s resident “ideas man”.
“We’ve all known each other a long time,” Josh says.
Josh had been working on a new guitar sequence at the time.
“The band started on that riff,” he says.
“I sent it to Matt and it kind of went from there.”
It’s a formula that stuck, says bass guitarist and “perfectionist” Keaton Marin, who met Matt at Geelong High School in 1998.
“Usually Josh will come up with a riff and we’ll all just write a song together,” Keaton says.
But some things have changed – the boys will no longer smash out a multitude of songs in one session.
“We wouldn’t be able to do that now because we are too involved,” Keaton says.
“I think the newer stuff is a lot more next level as we’ve put a lot more time into it,” Josh adds.
Initially the band “was only ever going to be a studio project”.
But Josh’s connections scored them a gig at the Workers Club, which has become the band’s “home ground”.
About 120 people packed the club in just the band’s second show last year.
“I was a bit freaked out really,” Josh says. “I wasn’t expecting that many people at all.”
The band is reminiscent of Tool or Perth prog rock Karnivool, according to local fans.
“When we hear people say stuff like that it’s amazing,” Josh says.
The band released its first six-track EP, Beneath the Lies, in May 2016.
“A lot of the lyrics are about personal and mental struggles that I have had or of people in general,” Matt says.
“And sexual innuendo,” adds the band’s drummer Ben Watts.
Most of band would love to open for Metallica or Tool. Already they’ve played with prolific Melbourne rockers The Getaway Plan.
But Ben has a more pragmatic plan.
“I’d love to play before the Wiggles – get the younger generation involved,” the 27-year-old says.
“They’re all already all excited for Dorothy the Dinosaur.
“We’re up there playing and rockin’ with Captain Feathersword – f__k yeah! I know my daughter will be in the front row.”
Last year was big one for Ben who “finished GTA on the highest setting” and played with Modern Divide at his own wedding.
“I became a dad too (in 2015),” he says. “That’s weird.”
Modern Divide was recently working on Revival, the latest of its two upcoming tracks, which has a dystopian edge.
“(I) started (writing it) because I had a really sh_tty day at work,” Matt says. “But if you listen to it you could think it’s about the end of the world.”
Josh says Matt has come out of his shell since taking the lead role.
“You’ve turned into a real demon, a real pain in the a_se,” he jokes to Matt as the band prepares to jam.
Despite being regular performers on the Geelong scene, they’re all juggling music with jobs while looking for their big break.
“If we had the opportunity to just be doing this that’s what we’d all be doing,” Ben says.