The first time I heard Jonah Matranga was on his split with Sense Field. The song was brooding yet beautiful, dark yet not that desperate. My curiousity was piqued, and so I visited his *awesome* website, onelinedrawing.com, and found some most-wonderful samples. I picked up some of his self-released EP's and was continually blown away. When he released his new band project, New End Original, I was again astonished by how GOOD it was. Not at all like Onelinedrawing, yet sounding like a direct flow from the same fountain, New End Original was easily one of the best rock records of last year. He recently released his debut full-length album, Visitor, on Jade Tree. I managed to hook up with him before he set out on tour earlier this week, to get his thoughts on music, the internet, and fame.
How's it going?
Pretty well. I'm in a bit of a bad mood, for all ridiculous reasons. I'm getting ready to go out on a bunch of little tours, and attempting to not go into it being sick. In general, I'm well.
With New End Original being an anagram for onelinedrawing, are you suggesting that the two are directly related, ie "14 or 41" being a revamped version of an older Onelinedrawing song?
Not really that thought out, band names are just a pain. I always wanted to try 14-41 with a full band thing. I thought it would happen on a onelinedrawing record, but the New End thing happened, so there you go.
What is it about touring that you like? Do you prefer playing live or working in the studio, and with New End Original being a red-hot live rock band, do you see yourself developing OLD a more studio-oriented project, while letting New End Original be your live, in-concert project?
Definitely not. Maybe the other way around. While it is fun to be loud and all, my favorite shows lately have been in strange, very un-rock places, like houses and restaurants and things. Right at this moment, I'm pretty much feeling like not playing in a rock club ever
again. But then, I did say I was in a bad mood. For all I know, it could end up exactly the way you said, and that could be fun too.
Since the formation of New End Original, when you sit down to write a song, do you think, "this is a OLD song, or this is a NEO song?"
Haven't really written anything complete since New End started. The past few years have just been trying to get out the stuff that needed getting out. I never really write with the intention to make a song, much less a song for a specific entity. I just try to listen.
Was your experience with Far a good one, or was it one that prompted you to avoid the full-band set-up until New End Original?
Both. And New End continues to be everything great and horrible about the rock band thing.
You've got a much bigger, hands-on operation with your website and making your own CD's. If you've done so well on your own, what was it that prompted you to release your debut album on Jade Tree?
The relationship with Jade Tree started with New End, and we just got talking about them doing the onelinedrawing records too. I don't mind help, I actually really like it. There are a lot of things that I do for the site, mailorders, etc. that would drive me nuts if they weren't directly involved with the music. Sometimes they do anyway. Funny, though, writing this, I realize that I really like being as directly connected to the business part of all this. Sometime I think that's the way it'll end up in the end. But I like Tim&Darren, and they seem to like me, and they do a really good job of getting records out without being slimy in an increasingly slimy scene.
On your website, you sell a ton of records you've created and released yourself, and are rather successful in that regard. I'm curious to know, does success online translate into a more general, non-internet success?
Good question. It could, in the same sense that word-of-mouth used to, and still does, work. People tell their friends, people follow links from another band's site that they like, etc. One strange thing is that online success seems more about just a few people in lots of different places having a connection with something you've made, as opposed to depending on a town or a scene to embrace you. I've never been very interested in that sort of thing anyway, and I don't think I fit in anyone scene, none of my music ever has, it seems. I just like the idea that people can like what you do, and tell you about
it, and support it, regardless of where they are.
Has your success online and on your own prompted any friendly visits from major labels?
There was some a couple years ago, but none lately. I think I'm pretty done with them, and them with me.
Singer-songwriter. Is this a pejorative term, or is it simply misunderstood, and how do you feel about it being applied to onelinedrawing?
It's one of the few literal genre titles (i.e. not emo, grunge, etc.), so that's good. There are caricatures that go along with it, which I suppose is to be expected. I'm more interested in titles like artist, musician, or person. Person is especially good. Seems like the more we categorize, whether on musical terms or any other set of terms, the more we dehumanize.
What advice do you have for young musicians?
Make sure you love the music part, cos the rest is as annoying as I would imagine any other business is.
What's next for Jonah Matranga?
Continuing the slow move off the grid. An RV near a beach with a wireless high speed connection, and a network of houses to play. Or something completely different. I try not to have too many plans. I still love music, I still want to help, I still want to be around
friends and family. if I stick to those, I should be okay.
The new Star Wars. What's your opinion? Thumbs up? Thumbs down?
Up. With a big blockbuster grain of salt.