Get ready. Mattson/Barraco & Friends, the side project of Dark Star Orchestra’s Jeff Mattson (lead guitar/vocals) and Rob Barraco (keys/vocals), is about to embark on a four day run of shows in the east coast. The current lineup consists of Mattson, Barraco, Tom Barraco (Rob Barraco’s son), and Rob Friedman. Jeff Mattson took some time to talk to Ear Nuggets about the Mattson/Barraco & Friends group, the upcoming shows, and playing in Chicago during the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well shows.
The Mattson/Barraco & Friends tour:
6/12 – The Admore Music Hall: Admore, PA
6/13 – Gypsy Sally’s: Washington D.C.
6/17 – Brooklyn Bowl: Brooklyn, NY
6/20 – Mexicali Live: Teaneck, NJ
Tickets can be found here
Recordings for Mattson/Barraco & Friends can be found on the Internet Music Archive
Ear Nuggets: I wanted to talk to you a bit about your project with Rob Barraco. I know that you and Rob have been playing together with Dark Star Orchestra, but how did this current project (Mattson/Barraco & Friends) come about?
Jeff Mattson: Well, actually Rob and I go way back. He was in a band I came from, the Zen Tricksters. This was long before we played for Dark Star, and we shared a house for about 10 years or something like that. We’re good friends, and we played music together for many years, so it was a reconnect actually when I started playing with Dark Star again cause he had already been there. So it just became a logical thing to say “hey lets do some other stuff outside of Dark Star where we can jam on some other stuff in addition to Dead/Garcia band”.
EN: I noticed that you guys have Rob’s son Tom on this current run of shows as well as Rob Friedman. What do you feel like these guys are going to bring to the table for these shows?
JM: I’ve actually known Tom since he was a young kid, and he’s turned into just a tremendous drummer. He’s got his Dad’s innate musical talent I think, but he just turned it towards drums. A lot of playing this kind of music is kind of new for him, so he’s bringing kind of a fresh approach to it. You know, he’s not overly steeped in this music. So it’s kind of working out in a good way. It’s bringing a fresh side to the band. And Rob Friedman, he and Rob Barraco have been close friends for many years, and I’ve worked with him too, and mostly what he does is being a producer, but he’s a tremendous guitar player and bass player. I think he’s really been hankering to get out and play some shows instead of being cooped up in the studio all the time. So I think that he’s bringing a fresh approach also with a different set of ears. A producer hears music in a particular way, and I think it will be really interesting to see what he comes up with. It already is pretty interesting with how we’ve been preparing for shows.
EN: Yeah, I’ve been listening to the show from Garcia’s you guys recently did, and it sounds like you and Rob are putting together a nice side project. There’s a lot of chemistry in the playing and it’s going to be cool to see how this goes going forward.
JM: Yeah, I mean the basic premise is that we love to jam. (Laughs) I mean that’s what we do, we play Grateful Dead music all the time. But, this enables us to play some of our own songs that we wrote. Rob has an album that he co-wrote with Robert Hunter, the lyricist for the Grateful Dead. He recorded it about ten years ago, and he did a short tour at that time but he hasn’t really got to play the songs out since then. And we’re doing a bunch of tunes of mine. And you know, we’re bringing in a lot of different songs; some familiar songs and some obscure songs that we really like and that we can see ways to stretch out a bit improvisationally.
EN: Are there any plans to take this project on the road more in the future?
JM: This is the first real run of consecutive shows we’ve done like this. Usually we just play in the New York area since Rob and I both live in the area, but this is our first dipping our toes into moving outside of that area. So I think it’s going to work out. But we can only do so much because we tour so much with Dark Star. You know, we do about 125-130 shows a year. So it kind of cuts down on how big a tour you can do. Plus, you want to spend a little time at home and all (laughs). So I think it will be more like these little short tours. I don’t know though, I’m open to anything as it comes up. So we’ll just kind of plan it by ear and see how people like it and take it from there.
EN: Speaking of Dark Star, it looks like you’ve got a good tour coming up this summer. You guys are playing a lot of festivals and shows, but I noticed you’re also playing in Chicago during part of the Dead’s Fare Thee Well shows. How does it feel to be a part of the big weekend in Chicago?
JM: It’s really neat! I’m thinking there might be a lot of people that go down there to try to see the Fare Thee Well shows that don’t have tickets, and they’re gonna need some place to go. I think what’s happened is that so many other bands are coming down to play Chicago that it’s almost like a music festival across the city. I think it’s gonna be really fun. I hope there’s enough people to go around for all of us (laughs).