During office hours, Mattiel Brown works as an ad designer and illustrator at MailChimp, a position she’s enjoyed for four years. Out of office hours, Brown swaps the design studio for the stage. When she gets on stage, this softly-spoken, chilled-out design nerd turns into a rock & roll belter, performing bold, vintage soul as Mattiel (pronounced ‘maa-TEEL’). Brown grew up on a five-acre farm in rural Brooks, Georgia, the only child of a Detroit native. As an adolescent, Brown delighted in the ‘60s folk and pop of her mother’s limited vinyl collection, which featured artists such as Donovan and Joan Baez. As an adult, she relocated to Atlanta and found a new crop of artists that she’d sing along to on the radio during her long drives to work: Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Andre 3000, Dylan, Marc Bolan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Jack White.
Soon, Brown began working with InCrowd, the Atlanta-based songwriting and production team behind her dynamite eponymous debut. She had no gameplan beyond the fun of “creating something out of nothing.” However, her producers, Randy Michael and Jonah Swilley, knew a good thing when they heard it: Brown and InCrowd had chemistry. InCrowd’s founders, both skilled multi-instrumentalists, met in 2014 as session musicians touring with soul man Curtis Harding. Michael, who plays guitar, is an experienced player who’d co-written with Harding and racked up impressive session spots with the likes of Bruno Mars and Next Day-era Bowie. Swilley, who plays drums, is a producer, writer, and performer. He also happens to be the younger brother of the Black Lips' bassist. On the road, they bonded over a mutual love of vintage R&B and ‘90s rap. Back in Atlanta, once the Harding tour had wrapped, the pair formed a band, Black Linen, writing reverb-washed guitar music inspired by Tarantino soundtracks, by way of ‘60s Cambodian psych.
Mattiel’s sound might borrow from the past, but their art direction – Brown’s inspiring handiwork, of course – is decidedly forward-thinking, all colour block aesthetics (á la the White Stripes) and artful, design-savvy music videos. Mattiel is a “fresh mesh of retro and contemporary,” says Swilley. With a European festival circuit tour scheduled for this summer, Mattiel is no longer Atlanta’s best kept secret. Look out, world.