Recent developments in the music world have yielded fantastic results in the collaboration between Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi and The Mattson 2. With similar styles and overall views of their craft, the three guys came together to jam and ended up recording an entire album, Star Stuff. From infinite chill to innovative tossing and turning, the record listens like something we’re not prepared for. Music is going through a transition these days from generic pop (see earlier Father John Misty post) to the creativity that satisfies the hunger of the masses.
We chatted with brothers Jared and Jonathan Mattson about style, influence and the state of things.
So tell us about this collaboration.
Jonathan: The main thing that’s awesome about it is that it all happened effortlessly. We never really planned it out and went into the studio with the idea in mind that Chaz would produce and record the album. He started contributing with his composition style and ideas led to a full-fledged collaboration where he did way more than engineer and produce, but writing the music along with us and adding his own thoughts. That’s kind of the backstory.
How long was in the works, say, from first contact to completion?
Jonathan: I think our first contact with him was at the end of 2015 and from that encounter we just kind of hit it off artistically. Then we decided to get together and jam sometime. Maybe a couple of months later we got together to jam and he had his buddy Pat Jones who does the sound for all of his performances. So he was there and Chaz had a whole recording setup ready to go, and we walked into the studio and said “Wow, rad! We’re going to record this”, so the result of that was “Sonmoi”, the opening track on the record and the very first time we ever played that song and improvised it. That was pretty amazing.
This style is such foreign territory sometimes. What goes through your mind when recording? I’m curious about your earlier record Agar.
Jonathan: I wouldn’t really call what we do jazz, but inspired by jazz. We studied jazz and classical music in college – harmonic theory and whatnot and we know a lot to create a progression but we don’t really rely on that. But one thing I love about 60’s jazz is that it was coming from an era that required a deep understanding of the repertoire, of say the Great American Songbook that was created during the Tin Pan Alley era with swing and all that. It was relateable moreso to the public back then than it is now because they weren’t regurgitating old songs but recreating their own that had a personal touch to it that people love, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re not trying to uphold this historical legacy of jazz. We don’t think it needs to be because it will never die, just like rock & roll will never die.
You guys don’t really go for vocals, but there are lines here and there on this new record. Do you think your work on Agar or say your first album beyond lyricism?
Jonathan: I just don’t think vocals would add a lot to it, but with Star Stuff it just kind of happened naturally. We actually intended for a lot of the album to be instrumental but we had such a strong interaction with Chaz and the open communication that were trying things in the studio, so we said “Why don’t we try vocals on these? You’re a singer, so that’s one of your instruments”. So he did and it sounded amazing.
After listening to you, then his stuff, I wasn’t expecting any singing. But like you said, it flowed and recorded really well. Who among your influences do you think never got enough credit?
Jonathan: I would say Eddie Fisher. Insane guitar player who was very psychedelic and really inspired by Jimi Hendrix but as a jazz guitarist would use wawa and pedals and stuff, but he has a very catchy side to him. He’s a much more soulful.
Jared: I would say Yellow Magic Orchestra from Japan. They were super huge in the 80’s but for some reason people kind of forgot about them and they were a huge influence on the scene at the time. They were the equivalent of Beatlemania in Japan, like the parallel. People like Michael Jackson and Eric Clapton have covered their work but I feel like if you talk to only musicians, like indie musicians or some jazz who know what they’re doing, I feel like they’re really the people who would know who they are. The normal, average music listener usually has no idea who they are and they’ve impacted music in such a crucial way, helping influence the first incarnations of hip hop and rap, and using drum machines in music. People overlook them and don’t even know to trace back to them and see what they helped to create.
Do you think it just isn’t palatable?
Jared: Now? No. But back then they were big.
Jonathan: I honestly feel that the collective consciousness of that time, jazz was still a form of commercial music and was still exciting for the masses. I think along the way music as a product has become so manufactured that it’s hard to blend creativity and commercial music now when in the 80’s they were one in the same. It’s become so heavily commercialized that it’s hard for people to find a band like Yellow Magic Orchestra.
I agree with that. Do you think it’s become too easy to get stuff out? It seems like it’s harder to be creative while still leaving a footprint as instruments get cheaper and social platforms become easier to use.
Jonathan: Yeah it’s all a template. People nowadays can just record and put it out there, and the dynamic of finding treasures within that is hard.
Jared: A lot of people are doing what others are doing, so if you really want to stand out in that scene you have to be different. We were at this music festival recently and it seemed like every band was trying to sound like Mac Demarco. We’re at a time where there’s a hope for eternal music, like BADBADNOTGOOD. There’s so much of the same stuff floating around that I think listeners are becoming more educated because they want new music. It’s a strange dynamic between too much information and the ability to find so much music out there you normally wouldn’t find.
Jonathan: Yeah, BADBADNOTGOOD are doing so many esoteric things. We played with them recently at Lincoln Hall in Chicago recently, sold out show. Over 500 people and the whole room was just silent, listening to us. I feel like a couple of years ago people wouldn’t have been into it but we’re at a time where they’re hungry for more and to be turned on to new stuff and expand their musical listening abilities. There were moments where the bass player would just be doing this solo bass line and everyone would be quiet until he was done, then went wild.
Catch the guys as they tour the east coast in anticipation of Star Stuff, out March 31st. Don’t miss it!