Born in Hamilton, Matt Mays moved to Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia while young, and joined his first professional group, The Guthries, after moving to Halifax once he was out of high school. The band released a pair of albums beginning in 2000, but Mays struck it out on his own after the second album two years later.
He remained on the east coast and landed a deal with Sonic Records. Before 2002 was up, he’d released his self-titled debut album, recorded at Ultramagnetic Studios and co-produced with Charles Austin and Kevin Lewis. The single “City of Lakes” about Dartmouth, NS shot up the charts and prompted a video, which also got good airplay. Unlike the single, “Downtown,” “So Distant,” “Hello Highway,” were straight-out rockers, fuelling a cross-Canada tour.
Mays was nominated for a pair of Juno Awards in ’05, for New Artist of the Year and Adult Alternative Album of the Year. He set up a back-up band dubbed El Torpedo, consisting of guitarist Jay Smith, Andy Patil on bass, Adam Baldwin on keyboards, and drummer Tim Baker, who’d played with Mays in The Guthries.
Three singles came from their break-out self-titled album that summer – the top 40 “Cocaine Cowgirl,” “On the Hood,” and “Time of your Life.” With all of them riding the charts, and videos shot for all three and also making the heavy rotation list on MuchMusic, the album was certified gold (50,000 units in Canada), and they were one of the busiest bands in Canada, touring from coast to coast for the better part of the next year. “Cocaine Cowgirl” was also one of two tracks to feature guest vocals by Kate Maki, with “St George’s Lane” being the other. Kathleen Edwards also guested on the album, doing vocals on “The Plan.”
In February 2006, Mays also appeared without the band at Dalhousie University campus, doing a show with the Symphony Nova Scotia in their Rising Star series. Mays also found time to guest on Sam Roberts’ CHEMICAL CITY album that year. The band’s appearance on “Late Nite With Conan O’Brien” also helped gain enough American interest to warrant an American leg of the tour. Although they were shut out of the nominations at the 2006 Junos, they all but cleaned up at that year’s ECMAs (East Coast Music Awards), winning Group of the Year, Radio Rock Recording of the Year, Album of the Year, and Single of the Year for “Cocaine Cowgirl”), and were also nominated for Entertainer of the Year.
Their follow-up album, WHEN THE ANGELS MAKE CONTACT, was released in November, 2006. Intended to be the soundtack to an unfinished film of the same name that Mays was working on (which featured cameos from Buck 65 and Sam Roberts), the title track was the lead single, and featured Buck 65 doing a cameo. It preceded two more singles in ’07 – “850 Commando” and “Wasn’t Meant To Be.” The album also featured several other artists co-writing some of the 18 tracks, including bandmate Tim Baker (who also served as co-producer) co-writing “Officer Downe” and “The Dartsmouth Soundsystem.” Mays also called on another ex-Guthries bandmate in Dale Murray (who also played steel pedal guitar on “Good People” and guested on every album to that point), co-writing “Spoonful of Sugar” and “JJ’s Theme.”
Along with the regular tour schedule for them, that also saw dates in the UK, Mays also did a series of dates without El Torpedo again, choosing instead to travel with a nine-piece ensemble (including a DJ/turntable spinner). Playing the most recent album from beginning to end, the shows were taped for his movie project. Although Mays stated that filming was complete, funding ran out before production was completed and the project was indefinitely shelved.
“Tall Trees and “Building A Boat” were released as singles from the 2008 album, TERMINAL ROMANCE. Critics hailed it for the music’s maturity, and both singles got good radio and video airplay, and the album also marked the first time Mays and company had recorded outside of the confines of Nova Scotia. Although some studio work was done in Halifax and Cape Breton, they also travelled to Vancouver and Kingsdown, UK ot The Erology Room for the project.
A series of tours were put together for the next year that included opening for Kid Rock while the title track became the third single. In late 2008, Mays received a total of five ECMA nominations, as well as his fourth Juno nomination the following spring for Alternative Album of the Year, despite going home empty handed on both occasions.
But when the tour bus pulled to a stop in June 2009, the departure of bassist Andy Patil and drummer Tim Baker ultimately caused the demise of the El Torpedo name, although guitarist Jay Smith and keyboardist Adam Baldwin stayed on. Taking their place were new drummer Damien Moynihan, and Murray was talked into finally climbing abaord full time, who also brought along another Guthries alumni, bassist Serge Sampson.
In between tour schedules and some much-deserved time off, that saw him take up residence in Mexico and throughout the US, he released a special album through iTunes in 2011 that featured the single, “Queen of Portland Street.” He returned in September a year later with COYOTE, which debuted at #7 on the Canadian albums chart. A short cross-Canada tour lasting barely three months capped off promotion that included the single “Take It On Faith.”