Dear Montecito: Matthew Rollins

By Stella Haffner   |   September 24, 2020

As a biology student, I spend much of my time learning about the effect an environment has on its organisms. As a psychology student, I focus on the interaction between an individual and their surroundings. To appreciate growth and change, these are the principles you must understand.

But these ideas are not exclusive to the world of science – as I was reminded by this week’s letter from Emerson College alum, Matthew Rollins. Twenty-year-old musician Matthew describes his relationship with the world around him as a key influence on his art. From Massachusetts to Montecito, back again, then Montecito to Vermont, Matthew’s musical odyssey features the flavor of each new locale. Please enjoy his account of the environments that inspired him and how they influenced him growing up.

Dear Montecito,

Twenty-year-old musician Matthew Rollins produces experimental music, including his latest, Sepulchre

My name is Matthew Rollins. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but Montecito is where I spent my childhood. Being not too far from Los Angeles, I found myself attracted to music and film from a very young age. Montecito’s local rock stars, actors, and artists convinced me that it was possible to pursue a career in the arts. Before I reached the age of 10, I was performing in venues around Santa Barbara without a doubt that music was my passion. From the early days in elementary school with my first band White Moon, the “pay-it-forward” culture of Santa Barbara artists has provided guidance and hope to our band and to all young, aspiring musicians in the area. The youth-oriented programs enabled us to gain valuable exposure, confidence, and encouragement through live shows and recording opportunities.

In high school, I became interested in the way sounds interact, both in music and in everyday life. I found myself inspired by my surroundings: the ocean, seagulls, and even the cars driving by. Incorporating routine sounds in a musical arrangement became my next creative pursuit. While I became more focused on producing my own experimental electronic music, I started to realize that what I create is simply a response to my surroundings.

The first project I released under my birth name, Violent Meditation, is my artistic representation of life in Santa Barbara. Recorded not long after the tragic mudslides in Montecito, I used an array of synthesizers, drum machines, and vocal samples to express my complex relationship with my city. Santa Barbara, an idyllic place with beautiful oceans and mountains, meets chaos and destruction; something that felt completely unfathomable. This juxtaposition was the foundation for this release as I attempted to translate the idea of utopia meeting tragedy.

My second project, Alt-Metall, is an homage to Boston – a city I reconnected with during my time at Emerson College – and its suburbs, where I spent the first four years of my life. With a much darker, more industrial sound, I tried to capture the feelings of urban life from a corner in my dorm room, limited to a small selection of instruments that I had access to. Hidden in the mixes, you’ll find sounds of metal clanking, the hum of vents on the side of the street, and the clamor of public transportation contrasting the quaint ambience of outside the city.

My latest release, Sepulchre, was recorded in a rural town in Vermont after my first year in college. Recorded in a barn built in the early 20th century, I did my best to capture the sounds of agricultural life using only analog synthesizers, locally-sourced organs, and sounds I had recorded around the area – agricultural tools, rain, birds chirping, etc. Inspired by Vermont folklore and mythology, I explore themes of faith and moral ambiguity through the sounds of the environment.

During this time of quarantine, I reflect on my upbringing in Montecito, the place where I discovered my passion and began taking note of the sounds that surround me. And as I continue to build upon that passion with every musical project, short film score, or sound design opportunity I take on, I’m forever grateful for the influences I have gained in the Santa Barbara community. Moving forward, I see myself using sounds to immerse myself in places that aren’t necessarily geographic – sound design and music composition for film, television, video games, and more. As I continue producing music, I hope to engage with other artists across various mediums to reimagine and create entirely new sonic environments.




A) Twenty-year-old musician Matthew Rollins produces experimental music, including his latest, Sepulchre


Dear Montecito

Musician Matthew Rollins describes his relationship with the world around him as a key influence on his art


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