Match by Match
by Chris Berggren
Match By Match's soft, hypnotically intricate sound grabs me from the first song. Gray Bouchard stands center stage with his acoustic guitar and curious tuft of dyed blond hair hanging awkwardly above his forehead. He's singing not only to the audience, but to Melissa Coppola, who occupies the space to his right and plays the accordion and keyboards, while vocally returning the favor. Coppola has colored her hair as well, but more completely. Purplish-red locks dangle from beneath a beret-like cap. At first glance they may appear an odd couple, but there's a noticeable chemistry between the two that goes beyond the way their voices mesh. The two are genuinely enjoying each other's presence and the music they're making. The song is highly orchestrated and reminds me of the Decembrists in both sound and construction. To Bouchard's left stands Linden McEachern, the band's third member, who plays stand-up bass, both with and without bow. The three blend a well-developed supple acoustic sound, which creates the perfect playground for Bouchard and Coppola's beautifully interchanging vocals.
The majority of the songs Match By Match plays are from their recent album, American Crowbar, a concept record about the unusual happenstances surrounding the life of Phineas Gage, a nineteenth-century railroad construction foreman, who survived a freak accident in which an iron rod was driven through his skull, injuring his brain and reportedly changing much of his personality. Bouchard stumbled across Gage's story while surfing the net, and it intrigued him enough to formulate an entire body of work based around the themes of how things in life can change you against your will. Incidentally, the Gage-inspired songs that Match By Match created have subsequently inspired the New Theatre Project, an Ypsilanti-based group, which collaborated with the band to turn American Crowbar into a musical.
After the performance, Bouchard explains that discovering an interesting story online and turning it into a work of music is not unusual for Match By Match-"the entire band
is an Internet-based phenomenon," he says. He and Coppola, who are indeed a couple, met on Chatroulette, an online site that randomly pairs individuals without regard to location or compatibility. After connecting musically and then carrying out a six-month cyberspace courtship, Bouchard moved to Ann Arbor from Boston to be with Coppola late in the summer of 2010. They began the band as a duo with the sole intention of creating music that they'd both enjoy listening to. McEachern joined later, after answering a plea for a bassist on, yes, the Internet-Craigslist, to be exact. Cyber-luck certainly appears to have played a role in their creation, but Match By Match's music has everything to do with talent and their fresh approach.
Match by Match is one of several top local bands featured at Ann Arbor's long overdue first Beatles tribute show at the Blind Pig, Friday, March 2.
[Originally published in March, 2012.]