Many musicians will tell you that music comes first—but for Mattson 2, family reigns supreme.
The Mattson 2 is identical twin brothers Jonathan and Jared Mattson, and they’re able to create soundscapes that sound like they’re coming from a larger group than a duo. With only a drum set and a guitar in tow, the two have been masterfully producing jazzy jams for more than a decade—and each track is packed with aesthetically pleasing grooves. Take a listen to tracks “Naima’s Dream” and “Black Rain.”
The Mattson 2 are set to perform at Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, March 21. I recently spoke to them over the phone about the upcoming show, the art of improvisation and how they got their start.
“Our mom signed us up for after-school lessons in junior high, mainly to keep us out of trouble while she was at work,” Jared said. “We were the worst kids in the class, horrible at playing guitar, and the teacher really had no interest in us. His partner, however, was the sweetest and most soft-spoken guy, and a really good guitar player. We met him on the last day of class and ended up taking private lessons with him. Those guitar classes really got my dexterity and confidence up.”
Added Jonathan: “After two years of guitar, I wasn’t really vibing with it. One day, I was at my older brother’s house, and I messed around on his drum kit. I played a beat, and he said, ‘It took me a week to learn that; how’d you get that?’ That really boosted my confidence, so I began to save up money for a drum kit, and started making music almost immediately.”
Almost immediately is right: The brothers started up a band soon after getting their instruments.
“Right when I started playing drums is when we got into jazz music,” Jonathan said. “It was the first kind of music we played together, only after a year of me learning to play the drums. We had a few people join us, but they didn’t take it quite as seriously as we did, so we decided to make it work with just a duo.”
Take a gander at some of the Mattson 2’s live performances to see how Jared is able to create both guitar and bass sounds by using pedals.
“The transition is seamless once I saw what my friend Ray Barbee could do with a loop pedal,” Jared said. “It was mind-blowing to see how much music one person could make. I went and bought a loop pedal, and that was that. We were tired of people leaving the band, so it was kind of empowering to be able to do it on our own terms.”
A huge part of the duo’s live show includes improvisation. Every song sounds new when played live—and the brothers, not surprisingly, play well off each other.
“We’ve grown up our whole lives together, side by side,” Jonathan said. “There’s something very connected about that, and music is a part of that connection. We used to practice a lot, but after we got busier, we didn’t have time to rehearse anymore. Because we got so comfortable playing live shows, we got to a point where we didn’t need to rehearse that much, and added improvisation in. Because of our connection as twins and our shared musical dialogue, we don’t really need to rehearse.”
Added Jared: “Vini Reilly said there are three elements of music: physical, emotional and intellectual. Physical is what gets you moving; emotional is the sound that moves you; and the intellectual is the lyrics and theoretical things that are happening. I think the fourth layer is improvisation, and that kind of feeds into all three of those. What I love about improvisation is that it ties all those elements together.”
The group recently performed at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs as a part of Desert Daze Nights.
“Desert Daze Nights put on a great event, and there were some good people there to see us,” Jared said. “We’re super-tight will Phil (Pirrone, Desert Daze’s organizer), and we played one of the first years of the festival. It was a really cool way to kick off the tour.”
Speaking more on the desert, Jared added: “I don’t know anyone who’s not a fan of the desert scene, especially a place like Pappy and Harriet’s, with all its history. It’s such a magical place, and there are so many things interwoven there that make people love it. People from other countries don’t have a desert, so when they come here, they’re in total shock about how beautiful it is.”
One of the most notable releases by the Mattson 2 is the duo’s collaboration album with Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi, Star Stuff. Their groovy jazz jams get a psychedelic makeover, and the eight-song track list seems to end too soon on every listen.
“It was our first time working with a super-established producer and incredible musician,” Jonathan said. “We were friends before fans of each other. … We met, with neither one of us having heard each other’s music. I gave him our album, and he invited us to jam with him, and then I went out and bought one of his records.”
Added Jared: “Working with Chaz was like being in the kitchen, baking a cake with three people. Everyone has their own individual task, and we all work off each other and add stuff in. Pretty much everything we tried worked perfectly, and that had never happened before. … Our personalities worked well together, and everything was just super-easy. We actually had a recent jam with him and are still deciding what to do with some recordings we made.”
The Mattson 2 will perform at 8:30 p.m., Saturday, March 21, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.