Trans Van Santos ventures into Western Futurism with Dead Meadow’s Jason Simon and former Patti Smith guitarist Oliver Ray in tow on Tropicalia infused sophomore effort, TVS2.
Nomadic West Coast psych-folkie Mark Matos has a knack for bringing people together. In recent years he has collaborated with members of Dead Meadow, Patti Smith band, Calexico, Iggy & The Stooges, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Grandaddy, The Friends of Dean Martinez, Howe Gelb, best selling author David Shields, and Hollywood eccentric James Franco. For almost two decades, with ten official albums and a slew of home recordings under a variety of monikers, Matos has quietly established himself on the West Coast’s psychedelic and art rock music scene. He is a fiercely independent American outsider with a small cult following that would be easy to mistake for an actual cult.
On TVS2, his second album under the Trans Van Santos moniker, Matos again gathers his tribe of musicians in Joshua Tree, California. The strange, open landscape of the Mojave Desert seems to have provided the perfect setting for the album’s post-apocalyptic narrative, which tells the story of a world in transition and a small band of American misfits attempting to navigate the changes, both exterior and interior, while articulating a vision of the future. Musically, the album draws inspiration from Caetano Veloso’s 1969-1972 period, with several songs containing Portuguese lyrics (“Forca Cosmica”), Leonard Cohen (”Birds of Revision”), Quicksilver Messenger Service (“The New Spin”), the films of David Lynch, and Mutations era Beck. Matos again co-produces with his longtime colleague Matt Adams of The Blank Tapes, who contributes wandering piano, fuzz guitar, percussion and keyboard arrangements. Former Patti Smith guitarist Oliver Ray delivers some of his finest guitar work since leaving Patti’s band a decade ago and Dead Meadow guitarist Jason Simon is in top form throughout, lending his deeply psychedelic and singular playing to the project. Vocally, Matos is supported by two of the most distinctive and compelling voices in west coast music: Annie Girl (Annie Girl & The Flight) and Seattle’s Gabriel Mintz, both of whom put forth out of this world performances that serve to root the album around Matos’ own dark tenor and propel the entire enterprise into a kind of otherworldly dream state. Harvey Brooks protege and original Campo Bravo bassist Brian Green rejoins Matos for the first time in over a decade and Dr. Dog producer Nathan Sabatino comes back into the fold for the first time since 2012’s Coyote & The Crosser, mixing the album at his new high desert hideout, Hi-Dez Recording in Joshua Tree, CA. The Palace Brothers’ Paul Oldham was responsible for the final sequencing and mastering.
After years of moving in the shadows, operating in relative obscurity under an ever shifting umbrella of pseudonyms, alter egos, stage names, and personas, Matos’ star, in the guise of Trans Van Santos, has risen. With four albums in the last four years, an upcoming tour in support of Dead Meadow and his rumored involvement in several film and music projects in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Matos seems willing to emerge from his personal secret garden and share his vision with a larger audience. He has certainly given no indication of slowing down anytime soon, and people, from James Franco to members of Ariel Pink and Brian Jonestown Massacre, are starting to pay attention. We hope you dig TVS2 as much as we do.
• Dead Meadow guitarist and Tekeli-Li Records founder Jason Simon was introduced to the work of Mark Matos through legendary Brian Jonestown Massacre guitarist Jeffrey Davies in 2012. After hearing Mark Matos & Os Beaches’ Coyote & The Crosser, Davies tracked down Matos, who was crashing couches in Oakland, California and took him into his Echo Park home for a period of months, introducing him around town and helping him get back on his feet.
• In 2005 KEEP Recordings, a boutique CD label out of Tucson, Arizona, signed two promising songwriters to the label: Mark Matos (TVS) and Josh Tillman (Father John Misty)
• The soundtrack to the 2015 James Franco film, “I Think You Are Totally Wrong: A Quarrel” consists entirely of songs written and performed by Matos. Both Franco and Matos are natives of the San Francisco Bay Area and both are of Portuguese heritage, with Matos being the first American born member of his family.
• Matos spends much of his time living nomadically and practicing what he calls Slow Touring: spending a week or two in each city or region and playing a variety of concerts, house shows, roof tops, record stores, and taking part in the ancient art of counter-cultural exchange.
• Matos and Jason Simon are spearheading a side project called Old Mexico. The project brings together members of the Psych Rock, Psych-Folk and Spirit Jazz communities and includes SF Mime Troupe musical director Michael Bello, along with former Jolie Holland drummer Dave Mihaly, a San Francisco mainstay who also spent time backing Gong’s Daevid Allen and, on one occasion, jazz icon Don Cherry. Matos, Simon and Mihaly share writing responsibilities on the debut album, due out in 2018.
• Family Folk Explosion, a Last Waltz inspired roadshow conceived and founded by Matos in 2011, will return to the stage in 2018. During it’s initial run in San Francisco, the SF Weekly described the show this way, “Imagine the last 60 years of American music seen through the mushroom hazed eyes of a bunch of west coast misfits…. exhilarating.”
• Matos was held back in 1st grade for what his 1st grade teacher described as, “Daydreaming, Mark is a perpetual daydreamer. He seems to live in his imagination and completes none of the required homework…” Mr. Matos still spends a large portion of his time exploring his imagination, though these days, he does the homework.
Trans Van Santos – TVS2
This world’s been strained. Spinning strange. We are just getting used to it. Navigating by stars and satellite. Chaos and the Cosmos. Big Wave rider. Live a Cosmic life, a life of Consequence. Ritual Visualizer: Your leaves will fall like mirrors from your Tree. Be a Neon Tree, shape-shift the Apocalypse. If you want to be big someday, be big today. The (R)Evolution wants U. Be huge. Reboot. You are never gonna catch the last rainbow. Be in for the end. Be in for new beginnings. It’s a New Spin. Let it all out. –TVS
The New Spin
Birds of Re/Vision
Lion In The Moonlight
Lion In The Moonlight (Re/Vision)
TVS: Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Percussion, arrangements
Matt Adams: Guitars, Piano, Organ, Keyboards, Percussion, arrangements
Jason Simon: Guitars
Annie Girl: Vocals
Brian Green: Bass
Oliver Ray: Guitars
Gabriel Mintz: Vocals
Tony the Pot Dealer: Congas
Produced by: Mark Matos & Matt Adams at Arroyo Seco Studio in Yucca Valley, CA
Additional recordings in Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA
All songs by Mark Matos
Mixed by Nathan Sabatino at Hi Dez Recordings in Joshua Tree, CA
Mastered by Paul Oldham
Album art and design by Dameon Waggoner
A Very Special thank you to these fine freak believers without whose financial and spiritual support this album would not have been made:
Max Johnson, Eddie & Maddy & Emma Rose, Keith Dunn, Captain Crunk, Paulo & Isabel Matos, Keli Carpenter, Debbie & Helder Rocha, Tim Oh Daniels, Greg Rocha, Gil Da Gente, Basil Galloway, Joey Cabral, Willie Mandela & Tree Mello & Nigel Blu.
Love & Gratitude to: Matt Adams, Jason Simon & Nathan Sabatino for riding with me the whole way on this thing. Annie Girl and Gabe for the final ‘mystics in the wind’ vocal touches that tied the album together. Brian and Oliver for the desert drive and Tucson sky and dust. Tekeli-Li Records for the support and platform. Dameon Waggoner for the album design and friendship. Joshua Tree in all her Other Side of the Moon wonder. Bryan Darling. Everyone who put me on their couch, took me in over this last year plus, showed me love and kindness. Sonny & Fryday for the romance. Matthew Welde, Warrior to my Medicine Man. DJ Deakins for the spins. Jessica for crying to Lion in the Moonlight and sharing her space. Sarah Harris for the Save. Seaweed Sway. Amnesia Music Hall. All Cosmic peoples of the Earth. Fellow travelers on the Weird Road and electric humans of the Neon Temple of the Third Way.