[SINGER-GODFATHER] “There are so many Matts,” Matt Cadenelli says of his singular sobriquet, the Don of Division Street. “I was glad when that stuck; it was something different I could perform under.” Cadenelli got the nickname after working two jobs on Southeast Division. No doubt partly due to his ethnic surname, one Detour Cafe employee likened him to a mafia boss, roaming the avenue and collecting dues.
On Animals in Love, Cadenelli’s debut CD under the handle, the singer-songwriter—who plays drums for local acts including Fernando and Dr. Theopolis—travels a street dividing his own darkness and light. Many of the disc’s songs are upbeat pep talks or declarations of love, so it’s shocking when the two penultimate tracks burst forth with palpable rage. “Ezra likes to call me ‘The Hateful Hippie,’” Cadenelli says of co-producer Ezra Holbrook. “I don’t think I’m hateful, but I do have anger issues.” That emotion is exorcised in “Fantasy Girl,” a Positively 4th Street dose of vitriol, and “You’re Gone,” about the overdose death of Cadenelli’s friend and musical partner, Pete Ellis.
Fittingly for a long-delayed debut (the disc was recorded in 2007), the opener is titled “When I Release Me,” though it concerns not albums but that aforementioned anger. “It’s about getting over myself,” Cadenelli says. “Dealing with resentment of circumstances growing up.” The final tune, meanwhile—following that pair of rage-rockers—is the tender ballad “Lost in the Daylight,” featuring Michael Jodell’s gorgeous harmonies on lyrics concerning “a tumultuous past relationship, taking responsibility for my part of the madness.”
Holbrook and Cadenelli have been musical cohorts for years. It was Holbrook’s Dr. Theopolis that lured Cadenelli back into drumming, advancing him a new kit after he’d sold his own during a “broke and jaded” phase. The two have mounted several unique tribute concerts, honoring such disparate acts as Morphine, Neil Young and obscure Athens, Ga., rockers the Glands. “The original idea for the tribute shows was, let’s just have fun instead of constantly promoting ourselves,” says the Don. “That gets really taxing, energetically, so let’s just play some music we love. Of course, it turns out that’s a lotta work too.”
SEE IT: The Don of Division Street releases Animals in Love on Friday, Aug. 7, at the Secret Society Ballroom. 9 pm. $10.