As one of the founding members of the New York orchestral-pop outfit Ra Ra Riot, bassist Mathieu Santos has been content to remain in the background. But the Brooklyn-based musician is stepping out with a side-project and will release his debut album Massachusetts 2010 on Barsuk Records August 2. SPIN has a taste of the record with the lead track "I Can Hear the Trains Coming," which you can hear here.
Mathieu Santos, "I Can Hear The Trains Coming" (DOWNLOAD)
The project began during sessions for Ra Ra Riot's last album,The Orchard,which was cut on a peach farm in rural Massachusetts and featured Santos' first solely written tune, "Massachusetts." Once the album wrapped, Santos began writing more tracks on his own. "When I started working these songs I got really into the whole process and ended up writing the ten songs that ended up on the album," he tells SPIN. "It was sort of a surprise for me because I didn't expect to do it. It just sort of happened."
Ra Ra Riot fans won't be disappointed by Santos' side-gig. Songs like "I Can Hear the Trains Coming" are bright, swinging numbers, reminiscent of the kinetic, hard-charging tunes from their debut The Rhumb Line. But Santos also experiments with new sounds; in fact, Ra Ra singer Wesley Miles contributes saxophone melodies on a couple of tracks. "That was fun, because he's a great sax player, but he doesn't get to do it too often."
Santos, a classically trained painter who designed all the art for the album, says he approached his music in the same fashion as his minimalist art, and his lyrics were inspired by his own text-based images. He also looked to artists who had success breaking out from their full-time bands, specifically solo releases by Paul McCartney (McCartney and McCartney II) and the Police's Stewart Copeland (who recorded under the alias Klark Kent in the '80s).
"With Ra Ra Riot, all six of us have very different sensibilities and influences, and because the nature of our band, there's a lot of different layers," Santos says. "I was interested in making something that was a bit more sparse; something that was different and I could make all the decisions on my own and follow whatever instincts I was having at the moment."
But Santos says he'll continue on with Ra Ra Riot: "We just started working on our next batch of songs that will become our third album. There's no real timeframe for the album yet, but we hope to start recording by the end of the year. We're all really excited about the new material so far."
Massachusetts 2010 Tracklisting:
1. "I Can Hear the Trains Coming"
3. "I'd Go"
4. "(I Just) Need to Know"
5. "Good Return Theme"
6. "Northern Mentality"
7. "I Said So"
8. "Silly Thoughts"
9. "Wait to Get Up"
10. "The Bay/Where to Find Her"