By Agnes CONSTANTE
With his lips pressed against a silver mesh microphone grille, Matthew Sikora belts out the words to an original song he’s written:
“Oh, yea I’m talking to you/Been watching you all night long/Yea, you see I had to unwind/Now that I’m good, now that I’m good/And unraveled/What’s your name?/I don’t care if you lie.”
His voice possesses a smooth, tonal quality that is able to transition into a nice rasp, but he’s able to scream just as well.
In his home on Boston Ave., the La Crescenta resident spends a weekday evening in his double-insulated home studio working on demos for an upcoming record.
His studio is filled with various instruments attesting to his musicality, including multiple acoustic and electric guitars, a Yamaha drum set, and a piano in one corner. Sound equipment, including amplifiers, microphones, and a Macintosh laptop with Garageband running, also have places in the studio. A small whiteboard leans against the wall, containing the titles of new songs the band is working on.
As Sikora sings the lyrics to “Mr. Mr.” his fingers are busy playing the strings of a white electric guitar. At one point in the song, he throws the guitar above and behind his head, and picks away without even looking at the instrument.
At age 26, the Crescenta Valley High School alumnus is focused on furthering his passion and career in music. He is currently the lead vocalist and guitarist in his band, Matthew Sikora and the Harvestmen. Other members in the band are rhythm guitarist Daniel Rivera, drummer Ryan Fogle, and bassist Terry Linvill, who has played for rock n’ roll artist Chuck Berry.
Sikora’s musical talent extends beyond vocals and guitar. His first instrument was the violin, and he is also versed in drums, plays the harmonica, and is self-taught in piano.
Prior to his current music group, Sikora was active in a four-man band, Phathom, that went on the Vans Warped Tour in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Phathom opened for Avenged Sevenfold at one of the tours, and toured with Unwritten Law.
While his inclination toward music is evident in his pursuits, Sikora was actually considering directing as a career and attending film school.
“I really wanted to pursue it and it was kind of my life to make movies with my friends before I really got into guitar,” he said. “But as soon as I got into a band and we started playing every weekend, that dream kind of became farther and farther away.”
In Sikora’s senior year of high school, more people began showing up at Phathom’s shows.
“One day the light bulb came on, the word of mouth thing happened. All of a sudden there was a line outside to get to our shows. And I think at that moment that’s when I [realized] I want to do this. People [were] actually coming out to see us play,” he said.
Phathom came together in 2001, but the group is currently inactive. In the meantime, Sikora continues directing his talent and efforts toward his current band, which has been together since 2009.
The band released its first solo album last year, containing 13 tracks. The songs were written collaboratively by Sikora and his band mates.
“Everyone comes up with their part that’ll be an integral part of the final composition,” Rivera said.
“Sometimes Matt will ask us, ‘What do you think of this?’ And we’ll give our opinion, and then we’ll decide on one or the other. Or we’ll find something new that works even better,” Fogle said.
Some of Sikora’s musical influences are NOFX, Minor Threat, Bad Religion and Rancid. He’s also a rock ’n roll fan and hopes his music will do what that genre did in the ’60s and ’70s: get people to let loose and dance.
“That’s kind of our secret goal,” he said.
Another person crucial to the band is Sikora’s dad, Bruce, who serves as his personal manager and produced the band’s first album. Having studied music in college and worked as a sound engineer for many years, Bruce also helped The Harvestmen by playing lead guitar in the song “Hollow Day” in the band’s debut album.
Sikora’s dad suffered from bladder cancer in late 2008. Following his recovery was a strengthened bond between father and son.
“After my dad battled cancer we wanted to work together and we made this first solo record as a way to get closer and mend the hard times that we just experienced,” Sikora said.
Along with his involvement in Sikora’s music, Bruce is supportive of his son’s music.
“I think the band, the music, is great. Matt has the best work ethic and is a really talented guitar player, singer and songwriter,” he said.
Ken Seaton from Hardline Entertainment, who managed Phathom and manages Sikora’s current band, is also impressed with his music.
“I have always been blown away by the maturity and depth of Matthew’s music and lyrics,” he said. “This is something that impressed me way back when the guys in Phathom were fresh out of high school. His music is honest and simple but at the same time very complex.”
Sikora has also used his talent to help his community. He played shows to help fundraise for the memorial for fallen sheriffs; for Reese Licicero, a sick La Crescenta boy whose illness couldn’t be diagnosed; and for Sikora’s 15-year-old cousin who passed away last year. Sikora’s contributions have helped Licicero afford a trip to see a specialist on the east coast.
At the moment, Sikora is busy at work on his new album, which is set to contain both full band and acoustic songs. And while that’s underway, he continues writing lyrics to new songs as they come to him in a spiral-bound notebook.