When not creating numerous indelible characters on a variety of British and American TV shows, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Matt Berry spends his time re-creating the sounds of the obscure albums he collects on songs that blend gentle British folk, wistful psychedelia, and rambling prog rock. Teaming with the venerable Acid Jazz label, Berry released a series of albums that explored pastoral folk-rock (2013's Kill the Wolf,) new age synthesizer music (2014's Music for Insomniacs), and country-rock (2020's Phantom Birds.) No matter the stylistic route he chooses, Berry plays it straight and his surprisingly tender vocals and knack for a hook make it clear that he's not just an actor dabbling in music as a hobby.
Born in Bromham, Bedfordshire in 1974, Berry graduated with a degree in contemporary arts from Nottingham Trent University, where he regularly performed in several bands. Starting his career as a runner, he then became a presenter for a video game magazine show before concentrating on comedy, landing roles in cult show Garth Marenghi's Dark Place, The Mighty Boosh, and his most famous role, Douglas Reynholm in The I.T. Crowd. After writing and starring in his own comedy show, Snuff Box, he appeared in episodes of The Sarah Silverman Show and the promo video for Super Furry Animals' "Runaway," and fronted the spoof Save the Workers charity appeal for Adult Swim.
Berry continued to juggle his musical ambitions with his TV work, penning the musical theater parody AD/BC: A Rock Opera, for Channel 4, composing music for Saxondale, The Peter Serafinowicz Show, and sketch show Blunder, and releasing his self-funded debut album, Opium, for free through his website in 2008. After appearing in the films Moon and The Devil's Chair, and hosting his own slot on Absolute Radio, he signed to Acid Jazz Records, where he recorded and played every instrument on his '70s prog/folk-rock-inspired sophomore album, Witchazel. Featuring vocals from Paul McCartney ("Rain Came Down"), it was released in 2011 on the back of a U.K. tour with his Brighton-based experimental backing band Jonas 3, and a collaboration with the Bluetones' frontman Mark Morriss (under the guise of the Swedish Twins). Berry followed up the album in 2013 with the release of the richly autumnal Kill the Wolf, which featured guest spots from Morriss, Eric Johnson of the Shins, and James Robert Shaw of Everything Everything.
He remained busy afterward with his TV series Toast of London, but found time in 2014 to release an old-school, synthesizer-led new age album, Music for Insomniacs. The next year he took his band, now called the Maypoles, on the road, documenting it with a live album, Matt Berry & the Maypoles Live, that November. When it came time to record his next album, 2016's The Small Hours, Berry headed to Rimshot Studio in Kent, where they used a hand-built 60-year-old mixing desk. He also used his home studio and for the first time recorded his band laying down the basic tracks live. Once they were finished, Berry took the songs home to add vocals and instrumental overdubs himself. Guest musicians on the record included horn players Ben Castle and Steve Jourdonas, as well as longtime backing vocalist Cecilia Fage. The next year Berry did a remix of Saint Etienne's "Dive" and released Night Terrors, an EP that served as a companion of sorts to The Small Hours. It contained Clark's eerie remix of the title track, Saint Etienne's take on the same song, a version of "Lord Above" with vocals by Pugwash, instrumental pieces drawing from library music and African jazz, and two oddball pop songs.
His acting career continued to flourish with starring roles in the shows What We Do in the Shadows and Year of the Rabbit, and his musical career continued apace. He released an album in 2018 where he covered television themes from the '70s and '80s titled, appropriately enough, Television Themes, and appeared as a guest on 2019's Desert Sessions, Vols. 11 & 12. The next year Berry issued his eighth album, Phantom Birds, where he added some country-rock inflections to his usual mix of sounds with the help of drummer Craig Blundell and pedal steel wiz B.J. Cole. ~ Jon O'Brien