A couple of weeks back, we covered the return of underrated 90s alt-metal / ’emocore’ band Far, under cover of pseudonym Hot Little Pony. We had fired some emails into the band’s general direction, trying to get an interview. When we didn’t hear back, we gave up, winged it, sneaking a camera into their sold-out Troubadour show and rocking it guerilla style, ’cause that’s how we roll.
But after the show, those emails managed to find their way to their marks, and we got ourselves an interview with frontman Jonah Matranga and guitarist Shaun Lopez. While it was being set up, I found myself cruising the message boards, as a fan, on the lookout for recordings, video, photos, whatever. In my travels, I stumbled upon a vast wealth of hilarious shit-talking being done amongst the internet’s ruling class. One kid compared Jonah’s writing to “bad junior high school girl poetry.” Then another guy called the first guy out for loving the new Coldplay album, effectively discrediting his opinion. It went back and forth, and I couldn’t help but laugh and wonder how the band would respond if “professional” interviewers were anything like the real fans. I gathered up the best of these completely ignorant, baseless accusations, I emailed them to Jonah and Shaun, and I prayed. I prayed that they wouldn’t think I was a complete fucking asshole for doing so.
Antiquiet: I was surprised to see your comment on our write-up from the Troubadour show, but it seems like you’ve got a long history of engaging the fans like that.
Jonah: I’m still surprised that more artists, actors, whatevers don’t do that more. So simple these days. I think audiences and audiencees take the ‘public figure’ thing a bit too seriously.
Antiquiet: In response to the reunion rumors, a poster named Weirdoradio says, “I guess Shaun got fed up of dealing with Chino.” Any truth to that? Is Chino a pain in the ass?
Jonah: Absolutely, Chino is a pain in the ass. Shaun is too. We all are, we’re musicians (laughs). Seriously, those guys are really tight, we’re all fucked-up family. Anyway, even if there was any weirdness, that had nothing to do with any of the [new] Far stuff. Not really sure how it could. People make some odd connections and assumptions, don’t they?
Shaun: Kids (especially on MBs) always think they have the inside track, it’s just a fact of life. With that said, I never got fed up dealing with Mr. Moreno. We are really close and good friends. I am still involved with Deftones and probably always will be. I think once you work with them, it’s like the mexican mafia, you’re in for life. For anyone to think that I’m doing this for any other reason than I want to is tripping. I enjoy playing / recording / making music with Jonah, Chris, and John. If that’s not a good enough reason, then I don’t know what is… Jonah is right though, we musicians are all a pain in ass holes.
Antiquiet: A guy named ‘Dropping The Oppressor’ fondly recalls the Far tour with Incubus:
“There were seriously only 62 people (we counted) in the whole place. (Bogart’s in Cincinnati). Far was wonderful. Jonah was unbelievably gracious when speaking with him briefly between sets. Really pleasant guy. It was an awesome show.”
Hard to imagine Far and Incubus playing for 62 people. Remember that show? Got any good stories from that tour?
Shaun: That is hard to imagine, but it’s the truth. Both bands were following each other in vans and trying to stay sane… It was depressing and hard at times, but fun most of the time.
Jonah: It’s all a haze of coke and hookers, man (laughs). Honestly, it really does all sort of blur into one big tour after a while, but I remember many very empty rooms with Incubus and a bunch of other bands. Clubs smelling of failure and ambition and who-knows-what, old vans blowing up in all sorts of awful places, sleeping anywhere people will have us.
I remember some tour where we pulled into South Dakota or something and while we were sound-checking, there was the late-afternoon stripper shift in the other room, just all these old, tired, beat-down people. Unbelievably depressing. Then again, on many nights like that in so many tiny places, we had some of the best shows of our lives. If I recall correctly, the beat-down stripper day turned out to be a really great show.
I remember another time the headliner didn’t strike their shit, so there was literally no room on the stage. We set up on the floor in front of the stage and, in front of a whole 50 people or something, tore that place apart, and thoroughly shamed the other band into submission. They moved their shit after that.
Antiquiet: Responding to the full-on reunion rumors, Kirkstowe says: “This is good news. Maybe living in Sac will suck less now.” Does living in Sacramento suck? If so, will it in fact suck less now that you guys are hanging out again?”
Jonah: When I was there, I always equated Midtown Sac to a bomb shelter or someplace where people were hiding together after a disaster. All around was a wasteland, but there was an amazing little bunch of people helping each other out. Sacramento will always have a special place in all of our hearts. I sort of grew up there, and all the other guys literally grew up there, so I know they love it too. We all wish there were better all-ages places and that same vibrancy it had back in the day, but living life wishing for back in the day is a sorry-ass way to live. Here we are.
Shaun: The Sacramento music scene from 1992-1998 was insane. You had us, Deftones, and Will Haven all coming up at the same time. The best part about it, was that all three bands were great friends and completely supportive of each other. Eventually, we all did a tour together that was EPIC.
Sacramento has changed a lot since then, but so has music. People can form bands so much easier now and unfortunately it has kind of diluted everything. It’s like this in every town though, not just Sacramento.
John is the only one that lives in Sacramento, so I don’t know how much less it will suck for Mr. Kirkstowe. We all hope to play a show there soon regardless.
Antiquiet: A poster named Saltoncity gripes, “Jesus Christ, Jonah will do just about anything for a buck these days.” Now I’m not sure if the comment was a direct response, but it appeared right after someone posted a link to this video of you playing in someone’s living room. Something tells me you made less than a buck at that one…
Jonah: This has always been funny to me, glad it came up. It’s as if people forgot how fun it is to play music without all the regular bullshit in the way. Whether in the audience or onstage, being in someone’s house playing and listening is where it all started and where it still rules. Most any artist that does it will love it and learn from it. Anyone that wouldn’t want to see an artist they love in their living room is full of shit or weird.
Another thing that’s funny to me is that some seem to think I’m doing it out of desperation and that’s the best idea I can come up with to make money, that I sat around and thought, ‘yea, I can go play houses and really rip people off and make some bank!’ (laughs). I remember when I started running around with a toy R2D2 after Far split up, and then when onelinedrawing started getting popular-ish, a few dumb-ass scenesters thought I was doing it as some sort of business plan, as opposed to just fucking around. If I’d wanted to cash in, I would have gotten all sleeved up and white-studded-belted and followed fashion and put on horn-rims when that became cool and on and on. I’m smart, I get it. But if I did all that, THEN I’d be ‘doing just about anything to make a buck’. I’ve made enough money to support myself and my kid in a modest way, and I’ve done it with my head and heart intact. I feel lucky for that and proud of it, too.
Same with Far, of course; we could have dressed and acted and sounded so many ways that would have made us more ‘accessible’ or ‘credible’ or whatever and probably made us a whole lot of cash. We could have stayed together until we weren’t happy or passionate about what we were doing and cashed in, like I’ve seen so many bands do. It’s not pretty. We actually cared about keeping the music and our presentation of it special and unique. The people we’ve always loved, be it Sinéad [O’Connor] or Prince or Pearl Jam or Neil Young or Zeppelin or Bad Brains, they all did what they wanted and took what came from that. People always wonder what ‘punk rock’ is. One of the many things it is is not giving a fuck if anyone thinks you’re ‘punk’.
Best way to sum it up is Plant on [the live versions of] Stairway: “Does anybody remember laughter?” The aim has always been to have some serious fun, make the ideas that come into your head real, and see what comes from that. It’s so simple that some idiots have always missed the point.
Antiquiet: After attending every single show on the Hot Little Pony 2008 World Tour, a poster named Gtrplyr7 seemed to favor the Los Angeles above all others: “All members looked like they were genuinely having fun. They all sounded great… Smaller, sold out, crowd was going NUTS. A couple more older songs than the first show and I think the rearranged setlist was better. I would bet money they stay together for at least a full tour. If they can get along, which they seem to be.”
Does the band agree that the Troubadour show was the best? And would you say a full tour is on the horizon? How safe is Mr. Gtrplyr7’s wager?
Jonah: He’s right, we were all having a huge amount of fun. We really didn’t know what it would feel like when we actually played in front of people again, and I think it was much better than any of us could have dreamed. I think the band consensus is that the Glass House show was more intense for us in some ways, just because it was the first one, and everyone there seemed to be just as blown away and loving it as we were. It’s really something to play music that was never very popular ten years later and feel like we’re kicking ass and people are loving that and kicking ass right along with us. The Troubadour was definitely like that too, and it was a little more focused because we had our first-show freak-out out of the way, and people were packed in tighter, which is always fun. Pretty much a perfect couple of nights.
Shaun: I think everyone had a lot of fun, I know I did. It didn’t feel weird other than pretty much everyone in the crowd knowing every word. You have to realize that when we were around 10 years ago, it wasn’t exactly like that. Opening for Monster Magnet / Sepultura / etc. didn’t really get that sort of response. I think we all feel pretty grateful that this music we made 10+ years ago, people still care about. Not too many bands that sold less than 50,000 records get that sort of opportunity.
Jonah: For lots of reasons, we all doubt very much that there will be any sort of big tour. We talk about playing some festivals, so that as many interested people as possible, from all around, could come. I guess whatever shows come along that feel right to do, we’ll try to do them. That’s about as much as we know. We don’t want to ruin what has been a really fun time so far.
Shaun: It would have to make a lot of sense. Not just [a] tour for the sake of touring. Although, I’m sure if Refused, Hum, and Quicksand all got back together for one big tour, we’d think about it…
In all seriousness though, if it makes sense and everyone thought it was going to be more fun than stressful, we’d at least look at our options.
Antiquiet: How about a tour of Canada? Seems like you guys are in high demand up there.
Jonah: Sounds good to us. We have no idea who wants us to play where, we’re just focusing on what feels right to us. If you know anyone that has ideas to make something fun happen, get in touch.
Antiquiet: The Ginuwine cover seems to be a pretty big hit. An e-citizen going by the name of Sex Change says, “They should release Pony as a single, make a video for it and shit. I have it as one of my profile songs on MySpace and everyone always says they love it, Far would be mainstream beasts. imagine that.” What do you think?
Jonah: We’re talking about that right now. We had a lot of fun making it. We loved that song when it came out, and given our weird pseudonym, it seemed like the perfect song to mess with. We all laugh so hard when we hear the recording, we really enjoy it. A few people have been playing it on the radio and all, they just did it. We all want as many people to hear it as possible, but we’re talking to each other about whether it’s best to just keep that as the joke it started as, or actually call it a Far song. We’ll see.
Shaun: Pony started as a joke, but ended up pretty cool. When we first decided to record it, we were approaching in a way that Helmet would. Funny thing is, if you listen to the original, it’s pretty much a Helmet style riff. It was definitely fun tracking all of those guitars and making it sound as ridiculous and huge as we could. The on purpose T-Pain auto tune effects on Jonah were fun to make as well.
Antiquiet: Some asshole named Tom says, “Why on Earth would anyone want a new album from these guys? What could they possibly do that they havent done already and better 10+ years ago?”
Well, first, are you guys even considering recording a new album? And if so, how would you respond to these rumors (started by Tom) that suggest all the good Far songs have already been written?
Jonah: We all pretty much agree with Tom, I think- even though he does sound like an asshole (laughs). There are no plans for a new album or a big tour or anything like that. We’ve talked about maybe re-recording some stuff, or doing some covers or something. If, somehow, new songs started coming that lit us all up, I guess we’d see about that, but no one really sees that happening. It’s hard enough to even practice and keep in touch. We all lead really full lives.
Shaun: Tom sounds like a typical fat kid sitting on a message board, mad because his ex-girlfriend wanted to bang Jonah more than him… With that said, I 76% agree with him, he sounds like a smart kid.
However, if we do decide to make any new music together, I know it [would have to] be great… Too many bands get back together and put out shit, just for the sake of making new music and “selling.” No thank you.
Jonah: We’re taking this one little step at a time, just trying to remember the fun parts. This is much more about finishing a conversation between us four, rather than any glory-days reunion bullshit, or trying to improve on anything we ever were. We all think that our stuff, Tin Cans and Water & Solutions at least, stands up pretty well, which we’re pretty proud of, given that a lot of things made back then can sound pretty dated. We think that we’re playing the songs well, we’re having fun hanging out, and anyone who’s played music long enough, for money or not, if they’ve got a brain and a heart, they’ll tell you that’s all that matters in the end.