Interesting fact about David Matysiak: He works as a producer at KETV Channel 7, which requires that he get up at 3 a.m. every morning. It just so happens that I watch Channel 7 for about five minutes every morning when I’m fetching my coffee — if only to see what Doppler Storm Team Member Andrea Bredow is wearing. It amazes me that Matysiak is able to pull off Telephono, Coyote Bones and maintain a serious, career-style full-time job with demanding hours. You’ll never hear me complain about getting up at 5 a.m. again…
Column 182: One Ringy Dingy
David Matysiak goes from Bones to phones.
I know that The Reader just ran a story last week on David Matysiak’s Telephono project (in the Arts section), but I still didn’t quite understand how the whole thing worked.
Matysiak, the frontman for local indie band Coyote Bones, created Telephono as part of his residency at The Bemis. It’s described as being based on the ol’ telephone game, where one person whispers a secret into another person’s ear, who in turn, tells another person, and so on. What comes out the other end is totally different than what went in.
Telephono worked off that same principle. Matysiak created an audio track, then sent it off to someone who could either add to it, edit it, or record over it entirely. For me, that’s where the confusion came in.
To archive the effort, Matysiak is releasing a limited-edition (of 200) 5-record box set of 10 Telephono tracks on 7-inch vinyl. One track, “Ferret Escapes the Wheel,” is credited on the test pressing to Darin Coelho of Placerville California band Loomfixer. But in fact, musicians in the song chain included Matysiak, Alessi Laurent-Marke and Adrienne Beatty of band Coal Beautiere. So why just Coelho in the record’s credits? Because, Matysiak said, Coelho scrapped everything that came before him and did his own thing. If you go online to telephono.org, you can hear the Alessi version, titled “Little Ferret’s Fork” as well as everyone else’s. (Matysiak wrote me after the interview to say that the final version of the record will, in fact, credit everyone even though you won’t hear much of Alessi and Beatty).
Losing a musician’s contribution along the way is part of how Telephono works — collaborative art can be a brutal game. But even if the tracks are wiped, just having heard the previous version influenced the final product. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.
The best results came when musicians truly built on each other’s contributions. The track “No Souls,” for example, started with Matysiak and includes contributions by Dayve Hawk of Philadelphia band Hail Social and Cursive’s Tim Kasher. The final version is a trippy rock song with Kasher singing breathlessly into a distorted microphone. “Banning Gold in Suits” is Matysiak, The Faint’s Clark Baechle, UUVVWWZ’s Teal Gardner and Anderson Reinkordt of Lincoln band Man’s Last Great Invention. The record sounds like an urban industrial dance track that evolves into static-noise space sounds.
For every melody-friendly song on Telephono, there’s a weird noise-art experiment. And as interesting as the vinyl sounds, it’s even more interesting to go to telephono.org and hear how each track evolved, paying close attention to every nuisance along the way.
Telephono truly is a “labor of love.” Matysiak not only coordinated the project, but it was his idea to put out the box set, which he paid for out of his own pocket. “I haven’t been out to a show in months because I’ve put every dollar into it,” he said. “It’s expensive when you do all the hand-screened stuff and then print a limited run of seven inches. In 10 years, I won’t remember that money, but I’ll remember the box set.”
He’s celebrating the box’s release Thursday night, July 17, at a free special listening party at The Bemis Underground (Studio C) starting at 8 p.m. Artist Jadon Ulrich (of Saddle Creek Records) will provide visual interpretations of each song. The box will be available for $29, and also can be purchased at The Antiquarium Record Store.
One by-product of Telephono, Matysiak said, was the way it changed how some collaborators approach song writing. “The people who benefited the most are the ones who told me that it broke them out of a writer’s block or made them think differently about their own song writing,” he said. That includes Matysiak, who said that he and the rest of his band had become “burned out” playing Coyote Bones songs from their album Gentleman on the Rocks.
“I feel disconnected from that album now,” Matysiak said, adding that playing the album over and over “took a toll on us. And personally, I feel like if you’re not 100 percent feeling it (on stage), you shouldn’t be up there. Times are tough. People who are shelling out $8 to $10 to see a show expect it to be great. We had to take a step back and analyze what we were doing as a band.”
New Coyote Bones material, which he hopes to record later this year and release early next year, is a reflection of Telephono, Matysiak said, though it builds on the success of Gentleman on the Rocks, which sold close to 500 copies — not bad for a self-released CD with no distribution. “It was all touring and Internet,” Matysiak said. It also was a lot of press. Few Omaha artists have received the amount of attention from publications like Pitchfork, indie music’s online authority, as Coyote Bones, which has left a few local musicians burning with envy.
“I spent 10 years not getting press,” Matysiak said. “I shoveled every dollar I had into (former band) Jet by Day and touring all the time and nothing happened for us. We worked with (record labels) Kindercore and Future Farmers and it all got f***ed up. People can say what they want, but press is a game. I guess the hang-up for a lot of people is in how you approach it: Do you seek it or do you let them come to you? I sat for 10 years waiting for it to come to me and it never did.”
They’re coming now. In the past few weeks, Telephono has been featured in USA Today, Paste, The Atlanta Journal Constitution and National Public Radio. And now twice in The Reader.
After all of that, I’m going to miss the Telephono listening show because, as you read this, I’m driving across Nebraska, headed to the Rocky Mountains for some R & R.
That means I’m also going to miss Black Diamond Heavies and Bazooka Shootout at O’Leaver’s tonight ($5, 9:30 p.m.), as well as Talkin’ Mountain and the rest of the I’m Drinkin’ This Records roster performing at Slowdown Jr. ($5, 9 p.m.).
It’ll mean I’ll miss the OEA Summer Showcase Friday night at music venues throughout Benson. Details and a schedule are at the OEA website. This was a lot of fun last winter and well worth the $10 wristband.
It also means I’ll miss two great shows Saturday night: Ladyfinger and Fromanhole at The Barley St. Tavern ($4, 9 p.m.) and Back When, Art in Manila, Paria and Orphan Choir at Slowdown ($8, 9 p.m.).
And let’s not forget Ween at the Stir Cove ($25, 8 p.m.), though I’ve never been a Ween fan.
There may be updates in my absence, though I highly doubt it.
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