I hear the bell of someone joining my Zoom call just as I come back into my room. Matthew Harris' face floods half of my computer screen, short vibrantly colored hair in hues of green, blue, and some bouts of red casually occupying the space. But despite this electric appearance, his energy is calm, exhibiting patience and a perspective that reaches beyond his measly twenty one years on Earth.
The Dublin producer is used to having his name uttered almost as an add-on, a natural accompaniment to the names of the artists he works with. One of the more prominent ones is fellow Irish hip-hop artist, Malaki, with whom he's had a working relationship ever since they both started out. "Things kind of kicked off when I ran into or when I met Hugh, which is Malaki," he tells me. "We kind of met each other at a weird time because he was looking for someone to make the music and he had written loads of poems, but he didn't have anywhere to put them. And then I was writing a load of music but didn't feel like I liked my voice or didn't feel like I had something to put on top of it. So it was kind of just like a jigsaw that fit together." And so for the past three years, the two have released countless singles and a couple EPs together, beautifully melding Malaki's poetry with Harris' poignant and meaningful production. And while the experience has gained considerable exposure for the two, it has also given Harris the chance to branch out every once in a while and explore his sound alongside other artists, albeit safely still within the realm of R&B and lo-fi hip-hop.
"I was coming to a crossroads where I felt like I enjoyed making so many different types of music and I enjoyed listening to so many different types of music, and I felt like I was gonna have to choose between all of the different types of genres that I like to make. And the kind of artists that I like are ones that have some kind of consistency or that you can grow an attachment to because they have an image which is quite well constructed, or it's not all over the place." His qualms about his role as an artist come on the heels of his first solo release back in February, which was written, performed, and produced by Harris himself. Stepping away from the drums and stepping up to a mic, he unveiled a vulnerable side of him that felt bare, dressed up in only an acoustic guitar and a haunting bass line.
It would be unfair to compare "A Difficult Winter" to any of his previous works, because they're essentially in wildly different weight categories. A fact that gnawed at him, as he was eager to go further down the rabbit hole of his introspective indie sound, but wasn't ready to let go of everything else he has built—and remained to yet be built. "And I think what I kind of saw that I was doing wrong was that I was trying to release or make too many songs, which are in completely different lanes," he admits. "And I was trying to think of like, from a listener's perspective, if I was the listener listening to the stuff that I was making, I would probably only like one of the songs and I wouldn't be able to relate to the other ones or I wouldn't enjoy the other ones as much, because they were too different. So I felt, I would like to still make different types of music—but just— I'd like to have a place for it all." So rather than try to find a bigger box, he diversified, and simply created a new box for him to store his creations — his new alias, Chameleon. "I realized that the music that would be under my own name would be more kind of folk indie stuff, leaning into kind of more traditional instruments and stuff like that. And then I also wanted to make the Chameleon thing because it would allow me to create music that is more modern, or at least kind of more electronic, more keeping with the times and it would just allow me to work with other artists in that way. Because that's really what I love doing. I love collaborating, and I love working with artists who are doing exciting things. And I felt that if I was just making music under my own name, which is like the indie folk stuff, then people would not presume to ask me to work with them if they were doing like R&B or something."
While a chameleon is inarguably known for its ability to adapt, there is a distinction to be made in that it doesn't always feel the need to. Harris' reintroduction as Chameleon isn't a proclamation of an upcoming era filled with heavy electronics or trap drums. On the contrary, it is simply freeing him up to explore certain niches in his wheelhouse he has yet to dust off, or to do nothing at all but continue releasing half forgotten demos that finally have a space to occupy. His first track as Chameleon with Lucy Mcwilliams, "YOU KNOW," is in fact, one of those demos. "It was just sitting on my laptop for a while, me and Lucy had made it together. And then we kind of came back to it. And it was it was kind of around the time that I was trying to figure out what Chameleon would be and what it would sound like, and I just felt, listening back to it, that it would be a good introduction, and it would showcase what I wanted it to showcase and kind of tell people, this is what to expect, I guess. "
While Harris is still struggling to properly define what his individual sound is, "YOU KNOW" tells a larger story than he gives it credit. Yes, it's sexy with its soft horns gliding over a creamy bass line, it's soothing with McWilliams' breathy vocals teasing his warm harmonies, but more than anything, it's a mood. A I-need-to-stop-what-I'm-doing-put-my-head-back-and-close-my-eyes kind of mood. Because that's what a Matthew Harris—and now, Chameleon—sound truly is: an escape from the relentless monotony of clout chasing playlists and whatever 9-5 or 5-9 you may be suffering through. And a reminder that you're not the only one doing it. "I think people want to feel like the person that they're listening to is the same as them and they want to feel like the amount of steps it would take to get to be that person are as small as possible."
"YOU KNOW" is available on all streaming platforms now.