When it’s good enough
Local legend Jonah Matranga says lower the rent
Sacramento, CA 95816
Jonah Matranga—singer for bands Far, Onelinedrawing, New End Original, Gratitude, as well as countless collaborations—needs no introduction in Sacramento. Although he moved to the city by the Bay more than a decade ago, his spirit remains among the solid group of friends and fans he maintains in this fair city. And now, coming off the experience of reuniting with a once bitterly disbanded band, Far, who’ve toured and recorded a new album, Matranga took a moment to discuss where his life is at, his thoughts on getting older and his future.
What do you think about Sacramento’s music scene right now?
It appears to me that it kind of blows.
Any perspective on why that may be?
I think the simplest answer is a lack of cheap rent. I think back in the day, my rent was only like 150 bucks a month or something … and rent everywhere was super cheap. So, when you don’t really have to worry about money, you can focus on making cool stuff. You don’t have all that pressure of needing to hold shows that make a ton of money … or having a huge crowd or anything. I think that makes for a better scene: cheap real estate.
How do you feel about the Far reunion now that some time has passed?
It’s been crazy. It’s been fun. (Laughs.) I can’t even remember when it started for us. At this point, I’m really stunned that we have made a record. If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said absolutely no chance whatever that we would even play shows again.
Where does Far go from here?
We are all really proud of the record, that is what I know, and I know we are going to play a couple shows. We are almost certain that we will play in Sacto again. But I don’t see us doing any massive touring, and I don’t think it’s going to be some big crazy thing.
What was the worst Wikipedia mistake you have discovered about yourself?
There was a trend there for a while where people were writing that I was a snake handler and stuff. Just random shit.
Have you been linked romantically to anyone that was way off base?
No. It’s weird. I don’t follow that stuff.
How do you feel about 40?
I think I went through most of my fear-of-mortality thing during my mid-to-late 30s, so I’m feeling pretty solid. I think 41 will be an especially interesting birthday for me, because of the song a lot of you know called “14 to 41,” and it’s all about how much of a mess that time of life is, and the last lyric is “You’re through all that, you’ve just begun,” so it’s sort of like once you’re through all that bullshit, you can start having fun. So I’m actually kind of excited for that.
Random question: You received an English degree. Have you ever used it in any way?
No. (Laughs.) Here are the things that have come in handy. I was sitting in English class once, there was this teacher who was reading us different kinds of poetry and someone asked, “What’s poetry?” you know, because if this one rhymes and this one doesn’t, how do you know what to call it? The teacher said, “It’s poetry when it’s good enough.” That moment really shaped how I do what I do. I don’t worry too much about anything except for do I really think it’s good enough. But no, for real, I have never used my degree.
Why did you release the song “I Believe Barack Obama.” Would you say you are political by nature?
That is the most directly political song I ever wrote. I usually write songs that are much more … social or something, in a sense that I’ll write a song about the economy or whatever. That said, I think that whole thing that people have with artists—“I don’t want to hear your politics, I just want to hear your songs”—that to me is silly, because if an artist is going to be expressing, it’s going to be coming out and talking about the things that they would talk about with their family or their friends. I don’t want to avoid writing a song just because I am scared of what someone might think.