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 anyway – 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, a Roland Gaia synth (with gratitude to this piece of gear memorialized on
"Gaia is Cool") 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’ve seen the light of day only within the indie-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
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 was 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. Hestudied 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) and
“Who Am I?”