Story: Jack Foley
"WE'RE sort of an un-supergroup," laughs former Far
frontman, Jonah Matranga, who, along with ex-Crumb guitarist,
Mark Weinberg, is in charge of the new San Francisco-based group,
While it’s true that their résumés are filled
with influential sounds and cultlike followings, Matranga and
Weinberg are too excited about Gratitude’s self-titled debut
to think too much about the past.
And they should be. The 12-song album is filled with timeless
rock and a batch of delicious hooks and has helped them to be
named by the New York Times as one of the ten bands to look out
for in 2005.
The band has actually been together since early 2003, but their
story begins in 1992, when Far and Crumb played a college music
festival in Southern California. Matranga and Weinberg were introduced
backstage by mutual friend and singer/songwriter, Matt Nathanson.
The two musicians continued to run in the same circles over the
next several years, touring together with their respective bands,
as well as contributing to each other’s subsequent projects,
including Matranga’s onelinedrawing and Weinberg’s
Softer and The Collision.
In early 2003, on a whim, they began to write together. The songs
poured out of them, and they quickly realised that they had stumbled
onto something special. All they needed now was a name.
"One day I was just walking to the store and the word ‘gratitude’
popped into my head," says Matranga. "I really love
the simple meaning of the word.
"I’d never heard of it being used as a band name.
When I found out it wasn’t already taken, I thought, ‘This
could be real.’"
Things got really real for Matranga and Weinberg a few months
later when they were invited to New York to perform their first
four songs for Atlantic executives. Gratitude was verbally signed
on the spot.
"The songs were just big," says Matranga, who has spent
the years since Far putting out homemade records on his own and
with stalwart indie Jade Tree.
Major-label reservations aside, he knew he wanted something different
"Songs ask for what they want and they go where they want
to go, and these were just songs that wanted to be recorded in
a big, beautiful studio, with people that have made classic records."
The band eventually hooked up at Los Angeles’ historic
Cello Studios with Jim Scott (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty,
Wilco). His streamlined approach to recording proved to be exactly
what the band was looking for.
"Working with Jim, I really
felt like we became a band while making this record," says
"He just works so hard, with such obvious heart and honesty.
Also, he just has great taste.
"He approached these songs in just the right way, from the
drumming to the guitar tones to the vocal phrasing. He knew just
how much to push us."
"The reason why we chose Jim was because we wanted to make
a different-sounding record, one that came from a more organic
place," explains Weinberg.
From the soaring pop-driven rock of Drive Away and This
Is The Part to the deep grooves of All In A Row
and Feel Alright to the ballads Someone To Love
and If Ever, Gratitude deftly toes the line between classic
rock (think U2 and Zeppelin) and modern-rockers such as Radiohead
and Jimmy Eat World.
"I haven’t heard a record like ours," says Matranga.
"It’s such unselfconscious rock.
"Jim Scott is into simple production - you can hear every
instrument on every track. There’s not a lot of doubling.
There’s not a lot of toys on the record at all."
"I’m such a fan of music and bands," says Weinberg.
"I know every little detail about all my favorite records,
and this records sounds like a little bit of all my favorite records
rolled into one."
The lyrics on the record are the most direct Matranga has ever
"I’ve realized lately that there’s not political
songs, there’s not spiritual songs, there’s not love
songs - it’s all the same thing," he says.
"I really thought a lot about bands like U2 and The Cars
and Cheap Trick - bands that you don’t generally associate,
except for U2, with great lyrics.
"And even U2, when you read the lyrics on the page they
don’t seem nearly as great and perfect as they sound in
"That’s the magic of pop music. So many pop choruses,
you’re thinking, ‘That’s so stupid,’ but
when you’re in your car it just sounds so touching and brilliant.
"I wanted to make really big, beautiful rock that I’m
not ashamed of."
Powered by thick guitars, infectious rhythms and undeniably catchy
choruses and verses, it’s not hard to imagine Gratitude
blaring out of car stereos across the country.
Rounded out by bassist, Bob Lindsey, guitarist, Jeremy Tappero
and drummer, Dave Jarnstrom, the band is ready to take its music
to the masses.
"I truly think this is a band for everyone," says Matranga.
"At our shows, I want to see mullets and horn-rimmed glasses
and mohawks. We didn’t set out to make a band for everyone
- I just think it is."
Read the IndieLondon