For Youngstown, Ohio, native Matt Toka, rock is his therapy. After growing up in a dysfunctional household full of abuse and addiction, he’s laid his struggles out with a punk sound that can resonate with others dealing with hard times.
“Music has always been my rescue, a great distraction for me,” Toka said, speaking from Los Angeles. “There’s not much to do in Youngstown besides music. It was a lot cheaper than drugs, and it made me want to forget.”
Toka is bringing his sound to Sector 7G, 631 Ellis St., on Sunday, April 1, as part of the Blackout Forever Tour with Breathe Carolina and The Ready Set. The show starts at 6 p.m.
He describes his new album, Straight to Hell, as an autobiography set to music.
“The theme is ‘the world is a living hell, so come, let’s get wasted … that’s how you escape,” he said.
Ode to My Family describes the dysfunction that tortured him, but affirms how it made him stronger, with the lyric, “this is an ode to my family/’cos without you I don’t know who the hell I’d be.”
The line was a form of musical rebellion to his family, Toka said, but after struggling when he first came to Los Angeles, it meant something else.
“In L.A., I got a second chance and I became able to think again,” he said. “I’m thankful, looking back on it, because I had that great chance for growth.”
After graduating high school, he started a band called Cherry Monroe, and the band was signed by Universal Records, but got dropped in a year. Leaving Ohio seemed to make sense.
Leaving the Rust Belt burg of Youngstown reset Toka’s life, but life on the West Coast hit him hard.
“Moving to L.A. was brutal,” he said.
Despite his troubled youth and family struggles, Toka said he’s back on speaking terms with his family and can relate to them again.
“I get along with my family now,” he said. “My mom was in prison and I didn’t talk to her for three years, and my dad thought I was crazy to do music. But we talk frequently now.”
Other tracks on the album like 666 and Good Times are punk rock odes to raucous debauchery; another, Angel, is a tender yet honest tune about a smitten rocker admitting he’s rough around the edges.
Who is the track about?
“I plead the Fifth,” Toka laughed.
Energy is what he said he wants to bring to the Augusta show.
“A lot of high energy, the most important thing to me is explosive energy, but positivity,” Toka said.
Among the other acts performing at the show are Breathe Carolina, an electronic rock duo, and pop act The Ready Set, consisting of singer/songwriter Jordan Witzigreuter.