With his third solo release, Elliot Matsu has gone back to roots to move forwards. The record, 'Late August Moon,' is a study in the craft of indie rock and a demonstration of honest art. The songs were all written and ready to go when the record started and the process took less than a month from start to finish. “I was already a little tired of playing the songs by the time I started laying them down. I wanted to make something really simple, straightforward and honest. No computer editing, no feats of recording prowess. I was getting into some cool lo-fi stuff like Daniel Johnston and these kids out of Austin called ‘Arm of Roger.’ I set out to do something lo-fi, with all heart but it ended up sounding pretty full and commercial – even cheap stuff sounds great these days.”
You can’t get much simpler than a Tascam Portastudio, so Elliot got a Tascam 2488, a drum machine and a couple of cheap synths and set out to make a record. His guitars went through pedals and a little Epiphone Valve Junior amplifier, cranked. “I wanted to use just my ears for this record. The songs needed to stand on their own, no putting lipstick on a pig. If it sounded good, I kept it. If it didn’t, it went.” The resulting record has its own musical mood, it’s own sonic fingerprint and an unforced arrangement which features the music and the message.
And what exactly is that message? A hodge-podge of unreserved mental landscapes that might seem a bit out of place anywhere but the alternative rock format. The title track, "Late August Moon," is a love song infested with lust and possessiveness. "Find What You’re Looking For" takes a look at the driving, relentless force of karma. "Wild Animals" describes a journey of awakening characterized by ghosts and fish with fangs. “Daddy Open Your Eyes" tells the tale of death in a hospital bed and "Killing With Swords" is a song about exacting street justice with a sword. "Angels" is a fifteen year old song that was previously released on a CMJ compilation CD and hasn’t seen the light of day for awhile.
The cover art was done by Chicago artist Jason Fairchild. Fairchild’s pieces have an integrity and originality that seemed a perfect fit with the project.
Elliot Matsu grew up in Chicago. His musical career began at five years old when he was enrolled in the Suzuki School of Music to study piano. Suzuki stresses that students learn music first by ear rather than by sight reading.
At the age of 10, Elliot decided that rock 'n roll was his calling. His interests evolved from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys to Guns 'n Roses, Metallica and Motley Crue. His style changed from JC Penny's catalog offerings to stone washed jean jackets, boots with chains on them and t-shirts with the arms cut off. His first guitar was an Olympic White Fender Squire Stratocaster, kinda like Yngwie Malmsteen’s. Under careful cultivation, his hair mushroomed into a thick, puffy mullet.
It was at this time that Elliot hooked up with guitar hero George Bellas to learn how to play the guitar like all of his new idols. George was signed on Shrapnel Records, and played with many big shred/metal names and gave lessons on the side. Although Elliot's shredding abilities stopped far short of his teacher's, his guitar playing and solo composition remains heavily influenced by his teacher's neo-classical style to this day.
With his new licks, kicks, denim and mullet, Elliot set out to destroy the world in his first band, 'Hyperten-shun' (yes, it was spelled wrong "for effect"). The band played a few school dances before it's members graduated from junior high school. Elliot's next band was formed in high school and was called 'Obduracy.' Obduracy played thrash metal at local clubs and released a few home made ep's on cassette tapes. Aside from playing in bands, Elliot held jobs as a bus boy, a telemarketer for a carpet cleaning company, a mattress delivery helper, a UPS delivery helper, an ice-cream scooper at Baskin Robins and a Nordic Track sales person.
After Elliot graduated from high school it was off to college and goodbye to mullets and metal. While at college he self-released a few albums and ep's attempting a more pop rock sound. These were recorded on Alesis ADAT machines (which were very new and cool at the time) with Elliot performing all of the vocal and instrument parts. One such release, titled "Autonomy," was financed by his college roommate and released at retail.
Upon graduation from college, Elliot headed to New York City. He studied to get his masters degree in entertainment business at NYU while recording bands and artists in his apartment at night. He spent time working at Billboard, Sony Music, TVT Records and Roadrunner Records. He hooked up with producer Jonathan Appell (engineer/producer for Bette Middler, Carol King) and worked with many big studio musicians on his initial demos including Shawn Pelton (Saturday Night Live, Sheryl Crowe, David Byrne), Steve Wolf (Annie Lennox, Avril Lavigne) Mark Slutsky (Gavin DeGraw, PINK), Vinnie Zummo (Shawn Colvin, Joe Jackson), Rick Skatore (24-7 Spyz), Mark Shulman (Jewel) and Gregg Gerson (Billy Idol).
Aside from his solo work, Elliot also played bass in a band called 'On The Lam' with childhood friend Matt Friscia, who worked at BMG in New York and would go on to play drums in the Poster Children and Team Rockit. Matt eventually started Firetone Records and released Elliot's debut album, "2nd Avenue." The record continues to spin on radio stations and podcasts throughout the indie music world. One of the singles, "Cry," hit #30 on the small market adult contemporary charts here in the states. His other single, "Something Wrong," has gotten much attention in the independent music scene and was played on the runway at the 2008 Fall Fashion shows in New York.
Elliot also played lead guitar in underground NYC punk band 'Odd Zero,' and produced their last LP, 'Another Odd Zero To Dread.' The band was together and playing frequently in rock clubs during Matsu’s second solo release, The Value of Power, which was received well on the indie rock and internet radio scene and included singles “Ellie,” “Down on Bowery,” “Hot Pink Limousine,” “Stars,” (featuring Shawn Pelton from SNL on drums) and “Who Am I?”