an interview w/ Jonah Matranga of Far (who are back with more tour dates & a new album on Vagrant Records)
by Black Bubblegum
Jonah Matranga & Ian Love at Gershwin Hotel (more by Tim Griffin)
Jonah might be playing that and a few more shows (listed below) solo, but - even more than before - Far is back...
Vagrant Records is proud to announce that Far has signed to the label. The recently reunited quartet is currently wrapping up their fifth full-length release in The Airport studio in Southern California with producer and guitarist Shaun Lopez at the helm and an early spring release date is expected.
"We had no idea all this would happen," says vocalist Jonah Matranga. "We were just planning on getting to know each other again and playing a few shows... all of a sudden, the songs are coming, and it feels really good."
Far has added a few new West Coast shows in May and June, including one opening for Kings of Leon in Santa Barbara, CA. All dates below, but nothing on the east coast yet.
In the tail end of last year (while he was here for that Gershwin Hotel show), we caught up with Jonah Matranga and asked him about Far, his solo venture(s), and what it means to be back in lock-step with the guys again. Check out that interview below.
Meanwhile, some of Jonah's bandmates in New End Original are getting their old band back together as well. Split Lip, which became Chamberlain in 1995, will reunite with all original members to play a handful of shows in their native midwest, and eventually, the east coast. Tour dates are below.
The dates coincide with the re-issue of Chamberlain's emo-influential Fate's Got A Driver LP on color vinyl with bonus tracks.
Chamberlain's Fate's Got a Driver delivers more emotion in its 30 minutes than most bands do over the course of a career. The record is thought provoking and musically adventurous, a rare feat for a band whose members were barely past twenty when it was recorded. With nods to the Everyman side of Sunny Day Real Estate and the insistent melodicism of Fugazi, Fate's Got a Driver consistently impresses. It's all the product of lead guitarist Adam Rubenstein's thick, Fugazi-style progressions and David Moore's highly poetic lyrics... An amazing achievement by such a relatively young band. -[allmusic]
Jonah discusses Lupe Fiasco, Sepultura, Fort Minor, Radiohead, and more, in the interview below...
Far in Rehearsal 2008
So why Far? Why now?
Jonah Matranga: The only phrase that keeps coming that feels like the best way to articulate it was that there was this conversation that we were having called Far, and there was a lot of other stuff around like our lives and business, and somehow or another that other more important conversation got drowned out. Right now it feels like it's a good time to finish the conversation. Not that I'm looking for any sort of big, On Golden Pond wrap up or whatever, but it's really nice to get together with the guys after ten years have passed and just look each other in the eye.
I don't feel that we have unfinished business as a band. Frankly, I think that the music we made still comes out pretty well, and I'm really happy about that and feel very lucky about that. I don't feel that there are any songs that we never wrote, or places we never got to commercially.
You feel like Far is a statement unto itself.
Absolutely. A complete statement. I understand that there have countless people that have said over the years "Oh, if you hung on that one more year you would have been huge." Obviously, those are all easy things to say after the fact, but when it doesn't happen it's a different story. Anyways, I feel no pull for that. All I've ever felt a pull for is "how are those guys doing"? "What would it be like to sing with them again?" So that part feels real good. Just to talk to them. We've had some great conversations where it's like "so what was this like for you?" Without all the weight of being...
In the moment?
Yeah, like literally stuck in the tour van together, and stuck in the moment figuratively as well. We don't have that weight anymore and we can kind of go "Oh you thought that then? I thought this." But we never could of said that back then. It was way too much. Not animosity or hatred, not any of those words, but just...
Yeah...Very well said. So why now? I have no idea. All I know is that we got to talking, it felt good. Also, there was a little bit of now or never. I think it's pretty stupid, frankly, for dudes much older then us to play music this angst-y. I know people do it, but I just don't think that it's very becoming. So I guess if there was anything like "if we're gonna do this you guys, let's just go do it, and let's see if this is still fun", then this is the time. And it could have not been fun... but it is.
Far in The UK, Winter 2008
How did those first reunion shows go?
The first show was, and I should really put this in bold face italics... this is me talking about my experiences in the band. One of the problems that we did have was me becoming the defacto spokesperson for the band, being the singer, being pop music and all. And when I would express something that one of the other guys didn't feel, especially when it was politically or socially or something, they would feel spoken for. I didn't get it at the time, but I really get it now.
So do you think that maybe contributed to the original break?
I think it was part of the problem. I'm just a very un-compartmentalized person, and it was hard to separate from me as a person from me being in this band with these guys. Especially in a rock band, I am the voice of the band no matter what, no matter how anyone tries to interview somebody else, it's just rock rules. None of us can really do anything about that. It's a very rare band where the singer isn't the mouthpiece.
As a rule probably, but I can think of a few exceptions... The Who immediately comes to mind...
Exactly, exactly. And even that's just a really weirdly dysfunctional relationship. I mean it's class and beautiful. Maybe Oasis too I guess. With all that said, with that huge disclaimer, for me, the first night for all of us was just a huge, joyous, cathartic release. It felt so good to play, we felt like we played well. We all literally were so excited that we forgot to play in certain junctures but that's a great reason to fuck up... is being that excited. We all were just so jazzed. Anything that we were giving out felt like it was just coming right back and vice versa. We might have just been feeding off them. It was just perfect. I feel like we could of just stopped right then. All of us were just glowing afterwards. The next night was also awesome, and I think that we actually performed better. I felt more in control, like as myself a little more voluntarily and a little less involuntarily. It was really L.A. too. There was a big guest list, a lot of stress about it, and we took great pains to have it not be stressful on that level, but it was. And around the middle of that set I found myself thinking "Oh yeah, this is the feeling that I can get sick of after a couple of weeks, this is that professional rock feeling that I've just always been allergic to." So I don't know how much of that the other guys shared, but for me it was a little hint of "Oh this is what that habit rock feels like."
On that first night were there any nerves going into it? Did it feel comfortable getting out there?
Yes. The nerves we didn't have was "will this be impressive to people"? "Will they enjoy it?" One of our favorite things about this right now is that we have literally nothing to prove. We don't have a label [no longer true, see above], we don't have to sell anything, we aren't a new band on the scenery or anything. The people that love us, love us, and the people that don't, don't. So it's not about winning over new fans, so those nerves we didn't have.
The nerves we did have were my favorite kind of nerves. I'm just so excited to go out here and do this thing that I love and of course I want to do it as well as I think it can be done, I don't wanna go up there and go "Oh god, I really wasn't there." So there's that kind of stuff but I love those nerves. They go away probably the day I stop singing. I like those, and I want them.
London, UK Setlist from Winter 2008
I'm getting the sense that you guys are just are seeing where everything is going, so that said, when can we expect some more dates, and possibly an NYC date?
We all care very much that anyone cared about the music, it's a little bit stunning to be in a band that has sold as few records as we have that still has anyone that gives a shit ten years later. As far as touring goes, sure, we wanna be everywhere, but one thing that we're pretty united on is that if this starts to be a drag, we don't want to do it, and we don't think that anyone who wants to see us deserves to see us...
Kind of sludge your way through it?
Yeah. I'm very cynical about reunions, and I can safely say at least eighty percent of the reunion shows I've seen looked like a wax museum of that band that I loved. I can still appreciate the geek factor in me just loving it. I can't control what everyone else thinks, but I just want to know that we think we're kicking ass, and so that's important.
Jonah solo @ Snitch in NYC, 2006 (more)
So you're always dropping stuff on your website, but your last full on record was in 2007. Are you recording at home?
No (chuckles) I'm so not recording. Right now there are a lot of ideas that I've had over the past years with the website that have a little bit more to do with the stuff I've already made. I really have an exhaustive website looking at the music I've made. Both stuff that's on labels, whether it's linked to Itunes or other labels, or something that's been made on my own, that you can buy from me...
Like a true discography in a sense...
Yeah, I really want to get that going. It's one of those things that I should have done forever ago and I feel a bit daunted by the prospect. Up until a little while ago there wasn't really the infrastructure to do it right on the internet. There still are too many middlemen I think on the internet between the artist and the people that want to get their stuff. So it's just now coming true. I think the next year is gonna be spent playing playing these shows while having as much fun as I can out here, and then hopefully doing something with Far, and working on the website a lot. If I write, I write. I have a couple choruses that I'm super excited about, and I'm always hoping for something, but I've really learned to not be impatient with that stuff.
I wrote a song called "14 to 41" and I'm approaching the age of 41. I mean I'm 39, so it's not tomorrow, but it's soon. So I literally think the next release I do, which will be a very personal made to order release, is gonna be literally my high school band's recordings that are horrendous, but there's an innocence to them that really gets to me. So my arc concept is to put out this record called "14" that will be recordings literally from when I was 14, and then I have the feeling that my next complete new record will probably be something really melodramatic to release on my 41st birthday and it'll be called "41." And it'll be all about here is this now. And in between, there's gonna be a ton of stuff that will probably be weird covers that I think of, and live shows that I put online.
I really want to give songs time. I never want to make a record to make a record. I want that to be fantastic. I frankly hope that everything works out swimmingly. I'm gonna do a bunch of festivals, and maybe work on some unfinished songs. The good thing is we don't need a label for this. So, we'll see. That was the very liberating thing about "Pony." We were able to just create a fake band name, do a goofy cover, and put it out on the internet where anyone can have it that wants to and nothing else needs to happen.
Jonah Matranga at the Gershwin Hotel (more by Tim Griffin)
Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park had literally called me on tour the first time he met me and he had heard a song I had written called "Pollyana." I don't know how he heard it, but I think he liked Far actually. So we got to be friends and I was producing Fort Minor while he was producing the Lupe track. So I came down in one session and did both of those things. Those two things have bought me more schoolyard credit then fifteen years of hard labor (chuckles.) And ironically Pony is now being spun a lot on Live 105 and Sacramento radio. Like way more than a Far song ever was spun. I really feel like we as a band and me as an artist are just made of these accidents which is very funny to me. I wish I could say "Yeah, me and Lupe were hanging out..." But no. I never met Lupe Fiasco. I would love to. I think that record is great. I don't like his new shit, but I like the first shit and I want more man. I wanna be the man going to Gwen Stefani. I'm totally in. Bring on the hip hop artists. It's sooo fun, cause as a singer, I don't get to be like a bassist and jam with other people. I'm a singer, you can't really do that. So hip hop guys, I wanna write hooks.
Gotta call Kanye for you.
See, I'm definitely into Fiona Apple, and he loves her. If there's anything that I love, and this applies to Far also, is that we can live in a different universe. Far was always a misfit band... obviously we toured with Deftones, but our other tours were with Monster Magnet, Incubus, Life Of Agony...
I can maybe see LOA, but definitely not Monster Magnet
Life of Agony, sorta... but Monster Magnet, no. Those guys were so fun and they were great guys, but... I mean we were on Sepultura's last tour... the Roots tour. I'll tell ya, I have never been so scared in my life... I literally shaved myself a mohawk on the first night of the tour in Alberquerque. It was like playing in a prison, literally and figuratively. So I shaved that mohawk, not so that I looked tough- because there was no chance of that... but so I looked weird enough so that they didn't beat me up immediately.
Gratitude at Southpaw, 2005 (more)
Hilarious. I just had one more question, which happens to be about Gratitude. How did that break up happen? It seems like the band crumbled in a lot of ways.
It was a few things. There was a big personal conflict in it with me and the guy who I started the band with. And it was very sad. I actually had written him a couple of times trying to reconcile, but things really didn't work out on a personal level. Beyond that, it was just almost a performance art piece for me in a sense. It was like an archetypal, front loaded major label band... like "spend a hundred grand on the video" type band. We were "that band" at Atlantic for a minute where everyone was hanging their hopes on it, and I had never had that.
It was all so "rock-bio"- we got signed playing for the presidents on acoustic guitars, so it was very surreal. I felt like I was reading about some other guy being in a band. Only it was me. And ultimately, it wasn't a fit for me, and I don't think I was a fit for them too. I'm not a fit for someone who wants to invest a lot of money and worry about their investment. I'm not a good investment (chuckles.) I went into it thinking "let's see if I can speak in this voice". Let's see if I can be over here and still keep what's special to me, keep those moments. I love some of the things that we wrote, and I have some great memories from being in that band. We played the Reading Festival and Coachella and it was amazing, and I'll never forget it, ever. But it was a total abject massive failure. It was very painful, and a complete commercial disaster. So this is the duality of it. I just really had a lot of fun doing it.
So as a closing question, since you reunited with Far, as a fan, who would you like to see patch things together?
That's a good question. This is not to sound cheeky, and it's gonna sound so insulting to the band, and I know everyone loves this band, but I don't think Radiohead exists anymore, so I wanna see them reunite (laughs.) I had this really funny, horrible, awkward moment with this guy at the Golden Gate festival park, and this guy had apparently signed them to their latest American deal, or their distribution, but they had just played "Exit Music (For A Film)" which to me is the most classic, scholarly Radiohead pop song. It's not even my favorite song of theirs, but it's a very perfect song.
Upon finishing, I went to the guy behind me (who I didn't know very well) and said "I know that you like their new stuff cause you signed them, but don't you wish they wrote songs like that still?" And he got soooo mad at me. He got furious with me. He was like "You haven't heard In Rainbows!" And I said "I've heard it so much man, I love this band. And I do understand, but they do not write songs like that anymore." So thats my obnoxious answer to that question.
I guess I can also say Refused. We played with them once, which was one of the great memories of my life. I mean, The Shape of Punk to Come is sick.
On the Water & Solutions touring cycle that we were doing, all I would do would be to drag kids into our van, and play them the first five songs off of The Shape Of Punk To Come at full blast and go "no one else ever needs to make a hardcore record." "It's done. It's over. This is as good as it's getting." Of course, hardcore went on for way too many years after that... it's still puttering along. I still hold The Shape of Punk to Come as being the last needed hardcore album. It's just insane. That's my real answer, but I still stick with my obnoxious answer.
JONAH MATRANGA - 2009 TOUR DATES
Apr 6: Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
Apr 7: Newcastle, Trillian's
Apr 8: Cambridge, Portland Arms
Apr 19: San Francisco, Rickshaw Stop*
May 6: Los Angeles, Hotel Cafe
May 21: NYC, Mercury Lounge
Aug 10-14 ish: Boston-ish?
* w/ Kimya Dawson
FAR - 2009 TOUR DATES
May 17 2009 Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, California*
June 3 2009 Satyricon, Portland, Oregon
June 4 2009 Neumo's, Seattle, Washington
June 6 2009 Rink on the River, Reno, Nevada
June 7 2009 - Senator Theater, Chico, California
* w/ Kings Of Leon
SPLIT LIP / CHAMBERLAIN - 2009 TOUR DATES
May 1 2009 Headliners Louisville, KY
May 2 2009 Birdy's Indianapolis, IN
May 3 2009 The Metro Chicago, IL