Sunday, March 23, 2014

EXCLUSIVE! Jonah Matranga INTV!

Like many singer / songwriters, the life and times of Jonah Matranga are reflected in his music. If he is fronting a band or working on his solo material, the indie icon has put his heart and mind on his sleeve for decades and has made no apologies of it, in fact, he has made a career of it. Matranga, who will release his latest record, Me And You Are Two, under his famous moniker onelinedrawing on Tuesday. Instead of getting funding from a label (major or indie) he went and did it on his own and went to his loyal fan base for help by launching a Kickstarter campaign. It is something he has tried before and it works. After listening to the album, Me And You Are Two, I felt it was his most intimate to date. Even with a string of intimate and personal recordings, this is Matranga exposing himself even more in his music. Songs like "You're What Went Right" are about his daughter, which comes to be one of the biggest motifs of the album. It is an LP about parenting, being a single parent, being a parent that has to travel but being there for the person in your life that means the most. The record even takes a turn and looks at religion, songs like "Yr Will" is what he told me was his most agnostic prayerful song to date, and it is indeed just that. With so much to explore on this record, from how it was made to how it was funded, even after all these years, Matranga is still teaching and guiding his listeners.

With his campaign being a success and as he gears up to celebrate the fruits of his labor and hard work, I spoke with him about his latest creation, his upcoming tour, and what still makes him tick. Take a look at our interview below.

You went back to using the Onelinedrawing moniker, but it comes with a twist, you now go by Jonah’s Onelinedrawing. Why the switch?

JONAH: Actually, Jonah's onelinedrawing was the very first name for the project, then it just got shortened to onelinedrawing. Then I put out some albums under my full name. Then I got really tired of people somehow misspelling Matranga consistently. Mostly, I just kinda missed the onelinedrawing thing. There's something about it. Also, this just felt like a onelinedrawing record, whatever that means. Have I told you lately that I'm a weirdo?

Your latest record, Me and You Are Two also plays on your old Onelinedrawing stage prop, R2D2, whatever happened to R2?

JONAH: The Are Too thing started out in 1999, just as a goofy little joke to have my beat presented in a different way. For whatever reason, people really took to it. We've had some good times. That said, I think I have some sorta reflex where if I sense that something is overshadowing the actual music, I'll ditch it. Are Too was kind of like that. We did some counseling, though, and we're giving it another try.

What inspired the title of the record?

JONAH: Well, aside from my insatiable love of puns, it is in many ways an album about me attempting to remember the obvious yet somehow difficult-to-grasp truth that I'm my own creature, and so is everyone else. As simple as that sounds, it can be tricky for me, especially when it's a person I love deeply, on whatever level. I've got some very codependent tendencies that can lead to me taking care of other people before I take care of myself, which might sound sweet, but it really hardly ever works out well for anyone. It's the whole oxygen mask on the plane thing. Of course the instinct is to give it to your kid or someone else, but if you pass out before you've given them the mask, then no one gets the mask.

This record was totally fan funded via Kickstarter. Were you afraid to do it fan funded? The dilemma many face today is not getting the fund goal, was that a factor for you at any time?
JONAH: I've made my last bunch of records that way. I love the personal, interactive nature of it. I've kind of always done stuff that way, way before Kickstarter. As for any sort of fear around that, it's my intention never to lose those nerves about no one showing up. I think that's a healthy humility. I've always set my Kickstarter goals much lower than most of the goals I see. Partly that's because I like doing things in a much less expensive, much more DIY way than most musicians seem to, partly that's because I'm grateful anyone wants to support me in that way, partly that's because it'd suck to have all those people help out and then not reach some silly goal.

You always have had the “Pay Whatever You Want” Yard Sale style of concert tickets, merchandise and now the funding of this record. Was this a natural progression for you?

JONAH: Yea, exactly. Even when I was a kid and I'd have a an actual yard sale, I wouldn't put prices on stuff. I really enjoy the conversation about value, fair exchange, trust, all of that.

The very cool thing you did to promo this album was the cool stuff you were bundling with the album orders. Do you feel now that the Jonah shop is bigger and better than before?

JONAH: Haha, maybe. I'm always messing with the ways I sell stuff, playing with ways to have exchange be interesting. Mixing money and music can get so boring, which for me defeats the purpose of the whole thing.

What did you do differently musically on this record that you have not done before?

JONAH: This has been the most purely self-made record I've made since the Sketchy EPs, and before that, my very first cassette recordings back in the day. Even for my other solo records, friends would pop by to play something, or we'd write a song together, or who knows. I actually really wanted this record to be that way. The original title was 'I Really Love Yr Company', and the idea was gonna be very collaborative and interactive. Then, for so many reasons and none at all, I just came to believe that this was one to really make on my own, with the old-school Are Two beats, just bring it back home. Even though it never left home, really. The title really became a mirror image of the original title. Life's funny that way.

From major labels to indie labels to now doing it all DIY, does the business of music become as frustrating as it seems?

JONAH: I dunno, I think it's kind of like getting mad at the sun or something. I can't control circumstance, only my attitude. I've tried lots of different things over the years. They all have their points that could be thought of as more simple or difficult, better or worse. Really, while I can get in a bad mood as quickly and intensely as anyone, I just don't believe in obstacles or frustration or whatever. I think whatever this life is or isn't, it's just the most fun to think of it as nothing but a gift. It also makes the most sense to me, actually. So when it comes to stuff about career, technology, money, success, all these kind of abstract terms, I just think time spent worrying about stuff like that is no fun. It's actually pretty insulting to the billions of people that have much more primal, palpable problems, too, but that's a whole other conversation.

Over the years you have become friends with so many amazing musicians that always praise you and your work. From Chino of Deftones, to Geoff Rickley, Lupe Fiasco, and so on, have you ever tried to get everyone in a room together to make a noise as a collective?

JONAH: Oh, so many times. Just about every record, really. In between records, too. Once in a while it happens, and I always love it. I just made a couple of songs with J Robbins that will be coming out soon on a 7", which has been pretty much a lifelong dream. For better or worse, though, I have this belief that if too much effort is putting into something, with some expectation of a specific result, that isn't the kind of fun I want.

You are once again about to hit the road to support this record, your shows, for so many, including myself, are so emotionally involved in every way possible. Do you ever find it draining to do it night after night?

JONAH: It's a really interesting way of using energy, no doubt. While it's definitely draining in really mysterious ways, it's even energizing and nourishing, which is perfectly paradoxical. Whether it's 5 or 500 or 5000 or whatever, when everyone is in that room giving what they give, some pretty amazing stuff can happen. It's one of my favorite places to be in the world.

When hitting the road, what is the one thing you have to have with you at all times and why?

JONAH: A toothbrush and toothpaste. It's not that I brush my teeth obsessively or anything, it can just really help me feel clean and refreshed when I've been driving all day and not had a decent sleep or shower in a while. Also, bad breath bugs me, so I do what I can to avoid having it.

Speaking of being on the road, I imagine it allows you to listen to so much music. What are you enjoying these days?

JONAH: I'm always curious about new stuff. That said, I actually love listening to stuff that most people would't think of musical while driving a lot, whether it's spoken-word or the sound of the road or my weird imagination. Also, I spend a lot of time listening to ideas of mine or ideas made by friends, just seeing what might become of them.

When you sit back and look at your career, what do you see?

JONAH: Hmm. I see a really fun, weird adventure. Curiosity. Recklessness. Passion. Work. Play. A life being well-lived.

 From being in very influential bands to being a very influential solo artist, what still makes Jonah Matranga tick creatively?

JONAH: I definitely think that not thinking about what makes me tick too much is a good way to keep ticking, creatively or otherwise. I'm as self-analytical as anyone, and I'm always looking to lovingly let go of the more narcissistic parts of that. That said, I suppose just maintaining a childlike sense of curiosity is something I try to keep some attention on. Just check myself that I'm not getting complacent or habitual. A while back, I had this thought that there's really no reason to stop having new ideas. In fact, I think it's impossible. So I just keep letting them in and seeing what happens.