Reminiscences in the aftermath of Carrillo’s passing have focused on his gentle, soft-spoken nature, even while he possessed the marked ability to channel his aggressions through his music. Cory Gray of Portland’s Carcrashlander―and Carrillo’s former bandmate in Desert City Soundtrack―explains.
“The way he played was always an expression of himself, never putting it on or faking it,” says Gray. “We had some songwriting binges that would last for days on end. I didn’t see enough of him in the last few years, and I regret it. We had always planned on making another record.”
Mike Casanova, who along with Carrillo formed Edaline in Santa Rosa in 1994 and later helped form Desert City Soundtrack in 2001, recalls Carrillo as a brother figure.
“We shared many tours, got to know each other's families well and for many years of our lives were inseparable,” says Casanova. “No matter how ugly things got in life, he was always there to listen and offer support and never, ever judged.”
Among the many releases Carrillo had a hand in, Desert City Soundtracks’ debut full-length Contents of Distraction emerges as perhaps his most ambitious. Released by Deep Elm Records in 2002 and buoyed by opening track “What to Do in Case of Fire,” the album introduced the controlled chaos that would embody the remaining two full-length releases the band put out. Carrillo’s spastic, discordant guitar work is offset by ferocious vocal deliveries, anchored by drummer Caitlin Love’s poised, busy drum work, Casanova's manic bass, and Gray’s nuanced keys. This was dark, volatile music that would somehow rein itself in at its most dire-sounding crescendos, with Carrillo's suddenly subdued vocals serving as a vessel toward the light.
“I have many fond memories of him on his acoustic, his cat Grizzly by his side, writing his melancholy songs and telling me not to take his lyrics too seriously,” relates ex-girlfriend Annie Ostrowski. “His music was always the vehicle for his anxieties and introspection, but outside of his songwriting he was always genuine, warm, emotionally intuitive, and a constant source of corny jokes to make you smile.”
Love, now one-half of Portland instrumental duo Hot Victory, concurs.
“Desert City was the most intense line-up I've ever experienced in terms of the sheer energetic output in a live setting,” says Love. “Much of this came from Matt's lyrics and how he channeled the torment he felt. Having that outlet allowed him to shake his demons and be the sweetest, most sensitive guy I've met. People would watch him on stage screaming his face off and then be really surprised by how tender he was in conversation.”
Carrillo’s soft-spoken nature resonated with former Desert City bandmate Brian Wright as well.
“Having no experience touring in a band prior to joining Desert City, I was afraid of most normal, harmless, and even fun things that happen to bands on the road, including anytime someone was kind enough to offer us a place to stay,” remembers Wright. “Matt would laugh and remind me that people are nice, telling me to relax and have fun. His compassion and kindness toward others taught me that good people exist everywhere.”
Carrillo’s premature passing has prompted plans for memorials with live music in both Santa Rosa and in Portland. Details are to come via the Simon Matthew Carrillo Memorial Page on Facebook, although the date of April 19 has been set for the Portland edition. Updates are ongoing for these two events.
“If there's been any continuous theme from the outpouring of memories that have been shared over recent days, it's definitely been that Matt was always creating, writing music with anyone that wanted to join him, and storing away tapes upon tapes of unfinished recordings,” says Ostrowski. “There must be hundreds of unreleased songs out there, and we're working together to get them out there for everyone to share and listen to.”
In the coming days, weeks, months, years―whatever you’ve got―it would do you well to revisit the below releases as they are available. Desert City Soundtrack’s output is certainly available on Spotify, Bandcamp, and beyond. Edaline's Old City Scenes is a bona fide scorcher, if you can find it (ahem... there's a copy on Discogs and I'll make a tape for anyone who contacts me wanting to listen to it).
As far as tributes go, absorbing the fruits of Matt’s creative synapses―in all their furious, loving glory―might be about as good as anyone can do. And while that might not seem like enough to you, it doubtless would have meant the world to Matt.
- Hmm Photographs
Releases by Simon Matthew Carrillo:
Kid Dynamo - Santa Rosa, CA
Shoots The Hoops (Cassette)
Super Suicide (7-inch), Kirbdog Records, 1994
Kid Dynamo/Track Star (7-inch single, split), Chocolate River (Deconstruction), 1996
Kid Dynamo (7-inch), Mustardfield Records, Unknown
Edaline - Santa Rosa, CA
Old City Scenes (10-inch EP), Flying Harold Records, Unknown
I Wrote The Last Chapter For You (CD, LP), Law Of Inertia, 1999
Live at Bottom of the Hill (CD, LP), Flying Harold Records, 1999
Desert City Soundtrack - Santa Rosa, CA / Portland, OR
Desert City Soundtrack/Divided Body - West Coast East Coast Split 7-inch, 2000
Contents Of Distraction (CD, LP) Deep Elm Records, 2002
Funeral Car (CD, LP) Deep Elm Records, 2003
Desert City Soundtrack/Settlefish/Sounds Like Violence - (Minimax, Sampler), Deep Elm Records, 2004
Desert City Soundtrack/The Rum Diary, The Untitled - Split 7-inch, Turn Records, 2004
Perfect Addiction (CD, LP), Deep Elm Records, 2005
Westfold - Portland, OR
Westfold/Aristeia, split 7-inch, 2008
Westfold, self-released, 2010