It’s the first EP from Martinez-based indie rock band Box of Matches, led by singer-songwriters Kendra Meneghetti and Aaron Baker. Rather than describe what one can expect from this EP, I’d like to share with you the unique experience the couple behind the music endured prior to working on it.
“Kendra had known she would need a transplant for most of her life,” says Aaron, who married Kendra in 2016. “She told me after a few months of dating when we were in our late teens/early 20s.”
Kendra was diagnosed with Primary Pulmonary Hypertension when she was almost 2 years old. She grew up with this chronic illness, knowing that one day she’d need a combined double-lung and heart transplant.
“I’d been on and off the list for receiving my second chance since around 2015,” explains Kendra. “You have to be a certain BMI to stay on the transplant list, and it’s hard to keep weight on when you’re in active heart failure.”
“It was something we both really dreaded and were trying to avoid, until one of her lungs just sort of gave out in June 2021,” shares Aaron, whose anxieties about the looming operation inspired a number of Box of Matches songs.
Kendra’s disease had progressed, causing her left lung to repeatedly collapse. She was hospitalized and bumped to the top of the organ waitlist. Due to heart failure, she was unable to undergo any procedures that required anesthesia, leaving her fully awake every time tubes needed to be inserted into her chest for survival.
Three months into her hospital stay, “the call” came, and Kendra embarked on a life-saving operation. It was a success, and Kendra recovered over the next three months in a hotel close to Stanford.
Aaron recalls that they used some of this time in the hotel to get back to working on music by finishing their 2021 single, the self-titled track “Box of Matches.” “In hindsight, that feels a little insane, but I think it helped to have something to work on at times.”
Kendra and Aaron formed their band in 2017, a few years ahead of the inevitable transplant operation. Their first few singles are a bit of a throwback to garage rock revival sounds of the turn of the century. There’s an innocence to much of the early work when compared to their later output. Considering what they went through, it should come as no surprise that their newer work carries heavier emotional weight.
“No More Sad Songs” includes two songs with lyrics that speak candidly about the difficult experience. In “Two Kinds of Sadness,” Aaron sings of the anxieties leading up to receiving “the call,” assuring that “if it rings, I’ll be as calm as you need me to be.” Kendra sings the tear-jerker “Annie” from her hospitalized perspective, wondering what it’ll be like to feel “brand new” and asking her loved ones if she’ll be loved and remembered the same as before.
With hope that her most difficult days are behind her, Kendra feels a mix of gratitude and luck as she looks to the days ahead.
“I’m lucky to be existing today, two years later. I have to remind myself that healing isn’t linear with solid organ transplants. I have no immune system, my bones and muscles are crap due to long-term prednisone use … but I’m so lucky. I’m so grateful and I’m so, so lucky.”
“No More Sad Songs” will air in its entirety on a special episode of the Beat of Diablo featuring Kendra and Aaron on 90.5 FM and KVHS.com at 7 p.m. Dec. 17.
Contact Dave Hughes at MrDaveHughes@gmail.com.
Dave Hughes is a local music advocate with an extensive network of independent artists. He produces and hosts a local music program on KVHS called The Beat of Diablo, every Sunday at 7:00 PM on 90.5 FM. Dave also catalogs local music releases at ConcordRockCity.com.