Jared Mattson :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview
With his forthcoming solo debut, Mattson 2 guitarist Jared Mattson embraces a sound rarely heard on the jazz rock albums he’s crafted with his twin brother Jonathan: his voice. “Deeper existential things were at play for me,” Mattson says regarding the forthcoming Peanut, his first outing under his own name. “As any artist does, I questioned things about career and life choices and my biggest one was, ‘Do I want to play instrumental jazz music for the rest of my life?’ And the answer was no.”
Thankfully the record, which sees release March 31st on Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi’s Company Records label, doesn’t feel like a detour away from his main gig’s progressive sound so much as a thoughtful extension of it. While decidedly more pop-focused—see the first single, “Please Come Here,” which bounces along a mile-wide groove under Mattson’s hovering Japanese lyrics—Peanut retains Jared’s muso appeal, re-contextualizing it amidst ’80s art rock, R&B, AOR, and reggae trappings. Best of all, it reveals him as a topnotch songwriter.
One of Peanut‘s finest cuts, however, isn’t a Mattson original, but a cover of Ween’s “She Wanted To Leave.” Drawn from 1997’s burst of nautical psychedelia The Mollusk, it’s rendered with tender and quixotic beauty by Mattson, who joined us to discuss the power of Ween in ballad form, the influence of Andy Summers of The Police, paying homage to John Coltrane, and the recently launched Jared Mattson hotline. | j woodbury
Aquarium Drunkard: How did you first hear Ween? What was your first Ween record?
Jared Mattson: I first heard Ween during spring break to Big Sur, CA. Sophomore year in high school. First record was the Mollusk.
AD: Ween is often considered a funny band–there’s a sense of irreverence and sideways sensibility, but “She Wanted to Leave” is really beautiful and poignant. Are there other Ween ballads that scratch that same itch for you?
Jared Mattson: I agree about the humorous irreverence feelings they evoke. “I Don’t Want It” scratches that pretty Ween itch, hands down. “Among His Tribe” is so Nick Drake and lush. So many pretty ones…”Joppa Road,” “Baby Bitch,” “Mutilated Lips,” “Ice Castles,” and “The Mollusk.”
AD: A note included with your cover of “She Wanted To Leave” says it was inspired by a friend who passed away from cancer in 2021. If it’s not too personal, could you tell me a little bit more about that relationship and how Ween played into it?
Jared Mattson: Yeah, I don’t have a best friend. I have best friends…Rick was one of those. We’d grab forties and sunglasses from a gas station near his apartment in Anaheim, walk to a questionable park and just talk about music, video games, movies, and life for hours—sounds like a pretty good day to me. He enlightened me as to the balladic side of Ween. I always loved them but this hit deeper. When I hear those songs play with beauty and humor, it kinda embodies the vibe of our hangs.
AD: Like Mattson 2, Ween is at its core a two-person band. What has the experience of making a record without your brother Jonathan revealed to you about your music making process?
Jared Mattson: I still need a drum beat to write! My solo process is super centered around producing beats before any other music is made. I grew up always having an amazing drummer. It also taught me freedom. Recording and composing on my own, with the knowledge that this would not be a Mattson 2 record, rocked my world because of the sheer possibility of self sufficiency, basically touring and working whenever I want.
AD: There is one co-write with your brother on the album, “Dry.” Beyond that, did you consult Jonathan while you were making the record—text him Dropbox links, etc? Did he provide any valuable feedback that influenced the finished record?
Jared Mattson: I wanted there to be a clear boundary between the two. So I didn’t really solicit song advice. His valuable contribution was his blessing for me to basically “flap my wings” and do my thing. He understands we have very different lives and he knows I need to play to live my best life. Now he is my booking agent and has booked me over 50 shows with no record out. We still work together heavily in that regard and have more Mattson 2 on the way.
AD: How about Chaz Bundick? In addition to your work together on Star Stuff—a favorite of mine—you contributed to the Toro y Moi record Mahal. Did he provide any guidance to you or impart sage wisdom that helped you as you shaped this album?
Jared Mattson: He did subconsciously. I showed him the record after it was done, and I was stoked he wanted to release it. He thought it was sophisticated yet slimy and he encouraged me just go run with that semi-friendly-yet-braggadocios vibe. With Star Stuff and Millennium sessions, I learned restraint and space in the arrangements. Every instrument should feel like a secret weapon.
AD: The bass all throughout Peanut takes up a lot of sonic real estate. In “Please Come Here,” it functions as almost a lead instrument. Did specific records you were listening to inform that approach?
Jared Mattson: I am very stoked that you appreciate the up front bass. I don’t have a record in mind… Tony Cruise’ record Thought Crimes inspired some of the bass tones for sure. Honestly my bass tone was a reaction to the contemporary bass sounds I was hearing. That flat, deep, thud McCartney-esque bass sounds so cool and I feel like Chaz and Tame Impala resurrected/reinvented it but then it entered the zeitgeist and kids figured out it was cool. So I went back to my roots for more British trebly bass sounds from Andy Rourke (The Smiths) and Paul Simonon (The Clash).
AD: You also cite Andy Summers as an influence. I get the sense that his guitar playing, while extremely well known, is a little on the underrated side in the modern landscape. What are your favorite Police records?
Jared Mattson: I agree, his use of delay and chorus and triadic chords is exceptional. He plays reggae so good and his guitar arrangements work with Sting’s bass lines like classical counterpoint. He is the perfect example of how a guitar should sound in a band that is bass driven. Favorite Police record is Reggatta De Blanc.
AD: The video for “Please Come Here” is going to be hard to beat as “music video of the year” for me. Something about the pairing of Samantha Sartor’s shots of these immaculately drifting cars paired with the tune really works. What was the day of that shoot like for you personally?
Jared Mattson: I think the whole crew breathed in and swallowed millions of microscopic particles of burnt rubber. At one point my friend Pat was drinking a cup of coffee, he looked down and it was frothed with black rubber. I had a blast. It didn’t feel like work, yet we accomplished so much. Samantha is such an awesome director with so much behind the scenes detail. Her vibe made it cruise. When we wrapped I was like, “We’re done? Are you sure?” We blasted “Please Come Here” during the shooting and it was so cool to hear it in the context of the racing.
AD: The lyrics are in Japanese. When and how did you learn the language?
Jared Mattson: I learned only to speak a few phrases through osmosis. The Mattson 2 has toured there over 20 times since 2009. Friends would teach us random basic phrases to get by. Important things like, “I want a beer.”
AD: Did you have any trepidation about singing on the record?
Jared Mattson: If you would have asked me 8-10 years ago, I’d say yes. But by the time the recording process for Peanut began, I had already found my voice and I liked singing and stuff, so I had no reservations about it.
AD: You’re best known as an instrumentalist. When in the record process did it become clear that this would be a lyrical record? What necessitated that shift?
Jared Mattson: By the time I made Peanut, I was listening to more music with vocals than I ever have. Jazz was my first love, but I was falling more in love with indie and alternative forms of music. Especially the voice in them. Mac DeMarco’s Another One was a big album for me. It impressed upon me the importance of the human voice expediting the human connection. I wanted in.
AD: Mattson 2 covered John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme; both John and Alice Coltrane were rooted deeply in their spiritual practices. How about you? Is music a site of spiritual experience for you?
Jared Mattson: I do actually imagine John Coltrane coming out of his house holding the score of A Love Supreme similarly to Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. A big spiritual moment. Music is spiritual to me, but not in a religious sense where I feel the Divine is speaking through me or to me, like Coltrane believed for example. Music is air, and when air molecules bump around, tones, frequencies, and vibrations hit the snail-shaped cochlea and we get to hear music that can make us feel crazy emotions. A truly awesome miracle.
AD: What’s the deal with this Jared Mattson hotline?
Jared Mattson: I thought it would be a fun way to connect with and build a relationship with fans.
AD: I’ve always thought that They Might Be Giants’ Dial a Song hotline was a great idea—what inspired you to create your own?
Jared Mattson: That’s cool I didn’t realize they did that. The hotline is basically a social experiment…It isn’t geared towards music. I saw rappers and techno artists leave a cell number on their IG for text messages, but I wanted to get a burner and just have an actual chat. A few close friends who I actually still talk on the phone with —insert sarcasm—commented how enjoyable our chats are. I totally agree and enjoy it too. It was in two of these talks on separate occasions that two different friends said, “You gotta start a hotline.”
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