What Time Signature Is Matt Schofield’s Betting Man?

It’s fair to say that, as a music lover and occasional DJ, Matt Schofield’s output is pretty eclectic. Not only does he produce reggae and rock songs, but he’s also featured on tracks by the likes of Lady Gaga and The Darkness. So, what is his secret musical weapon? It’s probably the variety of time signatures he uses – often incorporating fast, slow, and intermediate parts – to create unique and memorable songs.

From Swing To Reggae: From 4/4 To 9/9

Though he’s probably best known for his energetic, dance-pop songs, Schofield actually began his musical journey as a guitarist in a ska band. In fact, the roots of his musical identity can be traced back to this era, specifically 1980s London, when he was often performing alongside bands like The Specials and The Selectors.

It was during this time that he began experimenting with various time signatures and expanded his use of the guitar to incorporate percussive elements. This is evidenced on his debut album, The Japandroids, which was released in 2011 and marked a significant shift in his music. The first song, ‘No Horizons in Sight’, runs for over 10 minutes and is a phenomenal showcase of his diverse array of talent. The song alternates between slow, mid-paced and up-tempo sections, with Schofield playing a mixture of acoustic and electric guitar.

While much of The Japandroids is written in 4/4 time (taking its cues from classic ska and rocksteady), ‘The Return of the Jedi’ makes extensive use of 9/9, the tempo at which Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi is most often performed. The track was released to critical and commercial acclaim, and introduced the world to Matt Schofield, the man who can do anything. It seems he’s not just limited to one tempo either, as ‘Oddity’ – a song written for the soundtrack of Gareth Edwards’ 2014 film, Monsters – is performed at a brisk pace, while the title track from 2019’s Pallet’, ‘Bold’ – is a more reflective number, slowed to a near-ambient pace. Perhaps most notably, the guitar solo on ‘Bold’ is nine minutes long. It’s fair to say that Schofield is a man of varied musical interests and skills, who continues to experiment and challenge himself, with each new release.

Solo and With Band: From Solo To Groupie

While The Japandroids marked a significant turning point in Matt Schofield’s musical career, it wasn’t his first time at the top. That title goes to 2012’s I’m With The Band, a solo album that sees Schofield playing everything from guitar and bass to keyboards and drums. His use of a full band is something new for Schofield, and while the album draws inspiration from his past, it represents a significant leap forward, both sonically and conceptually. The first song, ‘Get Over It’, sees him backed by a four-piece band. The stomping rhythms and heavy bass line hint at punk influences, and the lyrics – about a relationship that just isn’t working out – are brimming with angst.

Indeed, as a songwriter, Schofield is often accused of being “curious” and “inquisitive”, asking questions and continually wanting to find out more about the world around him. As he puts it, “I just want to know what is going on. Where do these people come from? What is the air like?” In an interview with The Quietus, he even describes himself as “someone who likes to dabble in as many musical genres as they can”.

Where Do These People Come From?

The group of friends and collaborators who come together to form Matt Schofield’s Betting Man – AKA the ‘collective unconsciousness’ of the band – actually hail from further afield than you might think. The guitarist, singer, and songwriter, from London, spent most of his life growing up in Gloucestershire. This is where he learned to love the county and its people. He also attributes his love of the English language to his time spent in Gloucester, where he learned to speak with a Cotswold accent. This love of the English language is something he proudly displays on social media:

“When I put lyrics and music together,” he says, “I find it really hard to find a creative writing teacher who can help me with my English. It feels like a real link to my identity as a musician.”

While living in Gloucester, Schofield also started an arts education foundation to help young people explore their creative side. He now runs this side project, called ‘Go Creative’, from his home in Hackney. It’s a place where he can bring together artists and performers of all kinds for workshops, jams, and group discussions. It’s there where he learned to embrace his inner monologue and open up to new ideas and perspectives. This is something he encourages his students to do too, as he explains:

“We are creative because we are human and can only see the world from a certain perspective,” he says. “It’s about learning to see things differently and not being so afraid to show weakness because then something wonderful might happen.”

The Specials, The Selectors, And Me

One of the first bands Schofield ever saw – and heard about, due to his love of ska – was The Specials. This group of musicians influenced him a great deal, both musically and socially. He even cites them as one of the primary reasons he chose to live in London, having fallen in love with the city after his experiences gigging with The Specials in the suburbs. This love and knowledge of the genre led to him curating and playing alongside some of the most renowned ska artists in history. These experiences, seeing some of the greats like Madness and The Selectors in person and in the flesh, have left an indelible mark on Schofield and continue to inspire and inform the way he looks at and approaches music. It’s clear that ska, and the British rocksteady and 2-step that it spawned, has had a significant impact on the way Matt Schofield makes music:

“If you ask anybody who knows me, I’m usually playing ska or rocksteady,” he says. “From the moment I started playing guitar, that’s all my friends wanted to hear.”

Interestingly, though Schofield was raised in Gloucester, he never actually set foot in the city. He would go on to describe the experience of finally visiting his home town as “surreal”, and credits it with helping him to find his feet as a solo artist. He decided to put the city on the map, with a gig review in The Guardian, calling it a “quintessential English city” and a “must-visit for anyone interested in British history”. He eventually moved there after finishing university and is now looking forward to bringing his music to a whole new generation.

And, just like that, we’ve arrived at the end of our brief excursion into Matt Schofield’s impressive discography. As we’ve established, the guitarist, singer, and songwriter is a pretty busy individual, but someone who clearly doesn’t mind spending hours in the recording booth. Still, while his music is varied and often creative, there is one thing about it that never fails to impress: It’s pure fucking energy. Every time someone new hears one of his songs, it keeps getting better and better. Though he’s been making music for some time, it’s only fair to say that Matt Schofield’s journey is just beginning.