Mathew Gregory DeCamara, 20, was formally in a band called Mt. Fuji Ski Resort, where they played in numerous living rooms, garages, and bars in San Francisco. Once COVID hit the bay and stopped all social events, DeCamara decided to take the songs he wrote for that band and start his solo career as Scrimminy Jim. (Amalia Diaz / Golden Gate Xpress) (Amalia Diaz)
When you give a wizard a keytar
Matthew DeCamara talks fashion, social media and his music
Twice weekly from his parent’s home in Santa Cruz, Matthew Gregory DeCamara picks up his Roland Ax Keytar, sets up his phone camera, dons one of his many technicolor outfits and records a new track for his over 1,800 Instagram followers.
Known to his followers as Scrimminy Jim, DeCamara transforms into some combination of wizard, alien and video game character with outfits and tunes to match.
If you don’t know DeCamara from his Scrimminy Jim project, you may have recognized him from around campus. The 20-year-old music major stands at 6-foot-1 – 6-foot-five if he’s wearing one of his wizard hats – with blond hair past his shoulders.
On campus, he was perhaps best known for his eccentric choice in clothing. Even in a city known for its unconventional sense of style, impressively enough, DeCamara manages to stand out. One day he might be wearing a wizard hat, bright orange bell-bottoms and a windbreaker that looks right at home in your grandmother’s closet. The next he might opt for an alien headpiece, a velvet coat and some futuristic sunglasses.
“If I see something outrageous or ridiculous, I’ll wear it because I think it’s fun,” Decamara said. “It’s really good to give someone something to laugh at, it makes me really really really happy to see everyone’s reactions.” While he may be well known for his fashion sense, his real passion lies in music. Under the stage-name Scrimminy Jim, DeCamara was able to grow his fan base over the past few months, all from the comfort of his bedroom. Despite the challenges quarantine has brought in his musical path, he’s found a way to persevere and forge his own path.
DeCamara didn’t always record music under the Scrimminy Jim alias. The Santa Cruz native moved to San Francisco in 2018 to pursue a music major at SF State. Shortly after moving on-campus, DeCamara and several other musically inclined students formed the group Mt. Fuji Ski Resort, known for their rowdy shows that rocked living rooms, garages and bars around the city.
Mt. Fuji continued to play shows up until February last year. Unbeknownst to them, their Feb. 22, 2020, show at The Depot – SF State’s on-campus venue – would be their last.
“COVID-19 happened and we couldn’t do that anymore,” DeCamara explained. “The band broke up so then I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll just take the songs I wrote for Mt. Fuji and do my own little solo career.’”
While the decision for DeCamara to go solo may have been an easy one, picking a name for his new project proved to be a little more challenging. He described testing out various wizard names to perform under, but none of them spoke to him. It wasn’t until DeCamara turned to an unlikely source of inspiration, a foot-tall plastic skeleton he had bought around Halloween who he named Scrimminy Jim.
He seems like he has no worries, no care in the world, but he’s definitely very very intricate, his emotions are very very strong.”
— Sophie Bonaguidi
“I’d take him around with me around school and everywhere I’d go I’d put him in my backpack like a baby,” Decamara said. “I named myself after him.”
With his band broken up, live shows cancelled and classes moved online, DeCamara, like many, found solace in the Instagram explore page, mesmerized by the heavy metal accounts he kept seeing. Once the Spring 2020 semester ended, he decided he would take a crack at posting videos of his own.
DeCamara posted his first video at the end of May of last year, a 60-second clip of him playing a metal riff over a drum machine. As the months went on, he found himself posting and going live more and more frequently as his follower count steadily increased. Before he knew it, he was collaborating with other musicians across the country, something that would not have happened without social media.
“It feels very rewarding to get to get that interaction from other people through Instagram,” Decamara said, “I never thought that would have been the case before the pandemic.”
By the beginning of November, his first single, “Vapid 37,” dropped on Apple Music, Spotify and SoundCloud. Soon after, DeCamara committed to posting a video of him playing his keytar twice weekly.
“Sometimes I’ll get in my head and I’m not as satisfied with it and I’ll spend two hours trying to get a good recording,” DeCamara explained about his weekly Scrimminy posts. “But other times I’ll just get it on the first take and it’s so satisfying.”
DeCamara also utilizes Scrimminy Jim as a way to collaborate with his good friends. Arthur Cameron Bell, one of DeCamara’s friends from Santa Cruz, was exclusively enlisted to do all of Scrimminy Jim’s album artwork. “He wants my style to be part of his which I appreciate so much,” Cameron Bell said.
Just as much of DeCamara’s sonic collaboration has been moved online, so too has his working relationship with his friend/graphic designer, with whom he has had to devise new ways to design album art together. “I’ll flick on my screen share and he’ll just watch me work and throw some ideas while I’m putting stuff together which can be really fun,” Cameron Bell said.
While Cameron Bell explained that he gets to mostly take the reins with the art once he’s given a direction, he added that DeCamara has a very particular palette. “He’s got an eye for color stuff,” Cameron Bell noted.
DeCamara’s eye for color could have something to do with his sense of style. When probed on his outfits, DeCamara admitted that his sense of style was not always how it is now. During high school, he shared that he had dealt with insecurity and a lack of motivation, eventually accumulating in a diagnosis of depression.
“It wasn’t because of any trauma I’ve experienced, it was just a chemical imbalance in my brain,” DeCamara said. Eventually, he consulted a therapist and was prescribed antidepressants. “That really cleared my head up, it was great,” DeCamara explained. “The thrill to wear cheetah frayed jackets returned.”
Sophie Bonaguidi met DeCamara in 2018 through an old boyfriend during her first week living on campus. From there, she said they quickly became friends over their shared interest in fashion. Admittedly, Bonaguidi dresses nothing like DeCamara (who does?) but she said their friendship inspired her to find her own style.
“I wanted to wear clothes that made me feel like I was as confident as he was,” Bonaguidi said.
It wouldn’t be Matt without the clothes, it wouldn’t be Matt without the music. It’s perfectly Matt with both of them.”
— Sophie Bonaguidi
After their initial connection over fashion, Bonaguidi found herself hanging around DeCamara more and more. One thing she noticed pretty early on was that there is a lot more to him than just outfits and crazy music.
“He seems like he has no worries, no care in the world,” Bonaguidi said, “but he’s definitely very very intricate, his emotions are very very strong.”
Even close friends like Cameron Bell were pleasantly surprised by his change of outfits and attitude. “A bunch of us would call him ‘farmersonly.com’ because he dressed in a flannel and jeans,” Cameron Bell joked. “He looked like the most average guy.”
Cameron Bell noticed that DeCamara’s sense of personal style changed after they went to Moon Zoom, a vintage store in Santa Cruz to buy vintage women’s ski jackets. “We all bought one and from that day on it was just wild clothes for Matt,” he said. Both Cameron Bell and DeCamara were proud to say that they still had those original jackets.
“It wouldn’t be Matt without the clothes, it wouldn’t be Matt without the music, ” Bonaguidi said. “It’s perfectly Matt with both of them.”