Mat Cipher Discusses “Sand Toy” in Interview

Hungarian producer Mat Cipher talks about relaxing, upbeat new single "Sand Toy" in exclusive interview

Rising producer Mat Cipher unveils the soothing and uplifting “Sand Toy” alongside a music video.

Mat Cipher taps into the organic side of production, opting for lovely guitar strums and low-key beats to piece together a vibrant track. The artist freely grasps the souls of listeners with his light hand in production, providing a moving soundtrack to unwind to. “Sand Toy” uncovers a relaxing but upbeat atmosphere with its instrumentals working in tandem with Freida Mari’s gentle voice. In addition to releasing “Sand Toy,” the producer from Budapest, Hungary premiered a music video, capturing the whimsical nature of the track.

Check out Mat Cipher’s “Sand Toy” single and music video below, or stream the track via your favorite music platform.

Jillian Nguyen: Thank you for your time answering these questions! First up, how’d you find yourself learning how to play several instruments at a young age?

Mat Cipher: As far as I can remember, there was an old upright piano in our living room, and I would sit down and just try messing around. My Grandma taught me some simple pieces and since I had no idea what notes I was playing, I named every note within one octave on the piano. It was hard to get rid of it because I wrote them with a green sharpie.

After these early attempts, I had guitar classes where I got more into the theory behind the music. As I grew older, I took piano classes from a family friend and that was the first time that I was introduced to production. We were “disassembling” orchestral pieces and writing down each instrument and what they do. I’m a huge fan of film scores so we were doing this with the X-Men’s main theme. Till this day, it is one of my favorite pieces.

Before producing, you were a member of the band Walrus In The Sunshine. How’d you make the transition from rock music to EDM? How does having that background influence your sound?

The art of instrumentation made me very mindful of what instruments are playing in a song. In genres like rock, where there is a limitation on how many instruments there are, you have to be minimalistic and creative and the same time. Whereas in music production, you are tempted to overproduce because you can just create newer and newer instruments and layers until you run out of CPU. Therefore, the significance of simplicity, which occurs in live music, helped my productions.  

What was the process like working on your first album Dominoes

The moment I realized that I wanted to make an album is when I saw how many projects I had that kind of sounded similar to each other. I played them in different order and picked the best 4, then just slowly started finishing them. For example, I made the “Dominoes” beat in June of 2018, next to Lake Balaton, where I was hanging in Hungary for the summer.

I only had the instrumental at that time, but I remember my sister showing a singer named Manu Beker that she had known. I was constantly thinking that he should be the vocalist. When I came back to LA, I showed it to my close friend and frequent collaborator, Matias Rengel, and we started working on the vocal topline. When we were finished, I reached out to Manu and he was super happy to record it. We finished recording his vocals, then the song was finished.

On the Dominoes EP, Matias was my main co-writer and mentor, so we were working on the whole project very closely. We finished “Under Oath,” then “Astral Travel” came. It was an interesting record because we only wrote half of it and I had no clue what we should do with it. Then I realized I had another beat that would be very interesting with it, so I glued them together and to me, it sounded like a journey.

The original singer changed his mind, so Manu was happy to sing on the last two songs as well (“Astral Travel” and “Lie”). It was a great experience because I truly think that the EP has a very unique atmosphere, I got to know Manu through this project, learned a lot from Matias, and got to work with legendary mastering engineers such as Randy Merrill and Dave Kutch.

On the topic of your first album, you frequently worked with Manu Beker for it. How did you develop that professional relationship and what was it like working with him for the album?  

I really feel that I owe a lot to my sister, Réka, because she introduced me to Manu which led us to forming a great team with him. Manu showed up at the studio when we recorded ‘Dominoes’ and nailed it. He helped with finishing up the last two songs vocal-wise, and that was the moment when we realized that we have great chemistry. Months passed and we started hanging out and just writing new records for him and for me as well. And now, I think we form a very strong and supportive team.

How would you say your music has grown since the release of your first song, to your most latest release “Sand Toy”? 

My music was more downtempo back then, now I am trying to focus on more upbeat songs. Also, I am more focused on the vocal as well. A few years ago, I did not really care about the vocals because I just loved instrumental music, so that was my main area. However, I saw the beauty in songwriting and vocal production and since vocals are the main point of a modern song, they have to be polished to perfection.

Tell us a little bit about the music video for “Sand Toy.”

I am grateful that I have a talented sister who is in the film scene, because Réka is a cinematographer, and she partly came up with the general idea for ‘Sand Toy’ as well. Réka worked on my earlier single as well, such as “Indigo” and “By My Side”. I sat down with Réka and Bori and told them how I felt about this song. One of the key points is that “Sand Toy” is very nostalgic and retro, so they kept this scenery and created everything around it. Story-wise, I’ll just say that there isn’t necessarily one single storyline, anyone can imagine whatever they want so it adapts to the listener.

Were there any challenges when writing and producing “Sand Toy”?

I think “Sand Toy” went relatively smooth, the vision was very clear and the collaboration between Manu Beker (co-writer) and Freida Mari (vocalist) was lovely and fast. Manu was in Mexico City and I was in LA when we wrote it, then Freida recorded her vocals in Toronto, and I finalized the project in Budapest. Maybe the only challenge that I encountered was when I was comping Freida’s vocals and I was just not sure with some specific placements, arrangement-wise. At that point, I heard ‘Sand Toy’ so many times that I lost my unbiased point of view. However, one day I was like, “Okay let’s wrap it up,” and then it happened. Finishing a project is the hardest part!

Are there any artists that have particularly influenced your sound and do you have anyone in mind you’d hope to collaborate with in the future?

It would be crazy to collaborate with Khalid on a future project. Whether it is my solo project, or I get to produce a beat, his vocals, or to just co-write on it.

Do you have any upcoming projects we should keep an eye out for?

Yes, definitely! Last year we laid down a release plan for 2021 and I’m very excited to see what the feedback will be.

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Jillian Nguyen

Jillian Nguyen is a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and a self-proclaimed EDM aficionado. She loves to chase DJs to music festivals where she also shows off her shuffling. Her favorite genres are deep house and bass house, with her favorite DJs being Moksi, Malaa, Valentino Khan and Skrillex.

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