For over a decade, Mat. McHugh has been at the forefront of the Australian independent music industry. His musical career first launched in 2002 with his band The Beautiful Girls. Over the next eight years, the group released four successful studio albums,journeyed on multiple world tours, and received nominations from award shows. After The Beautiful Girls' latest album Spooks was released in 2010, McHugh began striking out on his own to develop his repertoire as a solo musician. McHugh now tours and records as Mat. McHugh & The Seperitista Soundsystem.
Mat McHugh: The devolution of Mat McHugh. That’s what we’re talking about. Bands get bigger over time. Music gets louder. Everything evolves, there is nothing which doesn’t change over time. Some artists keep trying to find bigger mountains to climb, others make a conscious effort to crawl back into the sea.
In 2002 the frontman and creative force behind The Beautiful Girls began riding the wave as the band’s Morning Sun EP became the radio hit of the Australian Summer. In 2010, after 12 world tours, eight records and 285,000 album sales, the wave reached a musical highwater mark with the critically acclaimed Spooks – a dub tour de force which peaked at number 6 on the US Billboard Reggae Charts and debuted at number one on the Australian Independent charts. The album won over critics around the world and took McHugh to the US for two national tours in the one year. The first with his band to see the old fans, the second to the church of John Butler with nothing but an acoustic guitar between him and a new cast of thousands.
The latter was a watershed moment – and now the tide has receded to reveal a new world of inspiration for one of Australia’s best-loved songwriters.
“Spending a year of my life working on Spooks was an amazing journey and it’s a brilliant record, but The John Butler tour was as influential to me as anything in my musical career so far. It was such a grounding, emotionally-fulfilling experience. I’m used to playing in a band to a few thousand people who are having a party, but playing solo to two or three thousand people, I felt connected. Music, for me, has always been about communication. It was a turning point as far as working out what I was going to do next – and that’s what 2011 is about,” Mat muses.
The result is devolution. Mat McHugh’s first album as a naked, raw solo artist. After a decade of striving to get bigger, better, louder and more colourful, the focus is on being transparent. Simple. Honest. Intimate.
This is a roots record in every sense of the word. No computers. No auto-tune. Nothing but guitar, bass and drums. It’s back to where it all began, albeit through the eyes of a man who has spent three quarters of the last decade sampling beats from around the globe and melting them down in his own brand of earthenware.
Devolution isn’t about fashion. It isn’t about what everyone else is doing. It isn’t about trends. Devolution isn’t about a marketing plan and guest appearances. Devolution is about music at its purest.
“I want to contribute to the musical landscape in 2011 by making something more about feelings and emotions than it is about musical cleverness,” McHugh says.
“My favourite records, whether they’re Johnny Cash or Nick Drake sound like they could have been made in 2011 or 1960. There’s nothing added, it’s a simple formula. They’re just a little statement of what the people who created them believed to be inherent truths and that’s all I’m trying to do on this record.”
Ethan Tucker: Ethan Tucker may only be in his early 20s, but he has already made a big name for himself in musical circles throughout the U.S. and Canada. The Washington-born singer-songwriter has been performing since the age of 16 at venues and festivals throughout the Northwest, Canada and various other parts of the U.S. as well as Jamaica. Although primarily a solo artist Tucker also performs and tours with his band the Ethan Tucker Band, formed in 2011.
His last album “Lost Between,” was released in November of 2010, a solo acoustic project with an intimate flavor. “Lost Between” is his first official album release since his self released CD “Take Me to the Mountains” which he independently released at the age of seventeen. Ethan's trademark, eclectic, soulful mix of electric and acoustic material backing his continually stirring lyrics will be featured on his upcoming album. The upcoming album will include tracks produced by Michael Franti, including the crowd favorite “Cool Kids” .
SAND SECTION takes its name from the area of Manhattan Beach, California where the band's three members grew up. In recent years, "sand section" has become a term used by real estate agents to denote the primo lots that abut the town's vast sandy beaches, but in the case of this ambitious three-piece band, the sand section is the border -- Where the suburban sprawl of greater Los Angeles gets pounded every moment by the deep blue Pacific Ocean-- Where a relaxed sun-soaked lifestyle collides with the infinite power and possibilities of the sea. Hence, the band's eclectic and melodic mix of bright coastal music combined with the dark undercurrents of the storm-out-at-sea punk music they played when they first got together ten years ago in middle school.
Jeff Nisen (guitar, vocals, harmonica), Tony Gonella (bass, vocals, percussion) and Stefan Partelow (keys, percussion, guitar) came up playing in various bands, including MOSS which had successful gigs at venerable L.A. clubs like The Roxy and The Whiskey. Tony, Jeff, and Sam Mandelbaum (former drummer) formed Sand Section in 2008 and spent a year commuting between monthly shows at UC Santa Cruz (Tony’s alma mater) and UC Santa Barbara (Jeff and Stefan's alma mater). After graduation in 2009, they got down to focusing full time on music. Toward that end, they've been playing every show they can beg, borrow or steal in the South Bay cities of Manhattan, Redondo and Hermosa Beach, often sallying forth into L.A., including a March, 2010 show at the House of Blues in Hollywood and a sold out show at the Roxy in April. In August of 2010, Sam parted with the band and welcomed in Stefan as a utility player for the group. This change has led the group to a more vocal driven acoustic-rock tone. These gigs have enabled the band to hone in on their signature sound, and establish a solid local following. They have also been fortunate enough to share the stage with bands such as Pepper, The Dirty Heads, Ballyhoo, Slackstring, Tomorrows Bad Seeds, Iglu and Hartley, Common Sense, Sashamon, Tribal Seeds, and many more over their nascent career.
If you ask them their creative influences, it's best to have a full pint in front of you because you're going to be there a while. Although rooted in punk bands like Green Day, Pennywise, and Cigar, their music branches beyond punk to feature lush harmonies, blistering guitar solos, and melodic bass lines. Among their favorite lyricists are John Lennon and Paul McCartney as well as Greg Graffin of Bad Religion.
Although Sand Section tends to draw upon all genres of music instrumentally, their signature sound is attributed to Nisen and Gonella’s soaring vocal harmonies. Whether it be a piano ballad or a hard rock jam, Sand Section’s vocal harmonies are the backbone and major characteristic of just about every track.
These harmonies were ultimately influenced by artists such as Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Eagles, and Dispatch. Nisen’s guitar playing is attributed to a combination of Slash, Randy Rhoads, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, while Gonella draws upon the busy bass lines of Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones combined with both Cigar and the Deviates’ speed-driven punk rock.
Sand Section has often had trouble being classified within the vague taxonomy of genres, and has always focused on making good music for the sake of good music, rather than to fit any sort of idealistic standards. "If we feel like making an acoustic album with all sorts of weird experimental instruments, we want to be able to do it without pissing anyone off," Tony said recently. "Above all else, we want to remain a group of everyday guys making good original music." Beyond that, the band’s potential is as vast as the Pacific.
Sand Section’s debut album, Truth Over Harmony was released in May 2010, and they are currently working hard in the studio on their sophomore effort which will be an EP called The Gun. It aims to showcase their abilities as not only musicians but songwriters as well. After spending over 6 months in the studio, the band is confident and ready to hit the road and take this world by surprise.