Jonah Matranga and Shaun Lopez on the hows, whys and whens behind 2008's most exciting reunion...
Far are one of those bands that make Rockmidgets.com what it is today. Without the seminal Sacramento-based outfit's four full-length albums, it's fair to say that this place, and the countless acts we champion on these very pages, would look and sound drastically different. Hailed by the likes of Biffy Clyro, Finch and Funeral For A Friend, Far still cast a huge shadow on the "alternative" rock landscape, with their swansong 1998 release Water & Solutions regarded as a pivotal moment in emo's subsequent rise to prominence. Splitting in 1999 when many believed the band were on the cusp of the big time, after months of rumours the band announced earlier this year that they would be reforming for a handful of US dates and a UK tour. As soon as the news was confirmed, Dan Jones grabbed some time with vocalist Jonah Matranga and guitarist Shaun Lopez to find out all the hows, whys and whens behind 2008's most exciting reunion...
Hi, how's it going? Are you all prepared and ready to hit the UK?
Jonah: "Life's good, thanks. I pretty much begged the guys from the start to play in the UK, so it better be awesome" [laughs].
Shaun: "Hi, it's going great. I feel like we are very ready for the UK. A few logistical things are being worked out, but other than that the band is ready to rock."
Last month you played a couple of shows in California, how did they go?
Shaun: "They went very well. The crowds were amazing. Insane amounts of energy on both nights. Never in any way violent, just intense."
Jonah: "Yeah, perfect balance; lots of energy with minimal dumbass factor. Couple of silly crowd-surfers, but felt sincere. I slapped a guy on the ass when he ran onstage."
Getting straight to the point at hand, why have you decided to reform Far?
Shaun: "We've all talked about it on and off for the past five years, but until now it never felt natural and the only other time we came close to doing it, I think it would have been for the wrong reasons. Now it feels good and in many ways liberating and fun. It's pretty amazing to be gone for ten years and come back to people that still care about the band."
Jonah: "Just felt like the time, we all agreed, let's see if we can still do this and still have fun doing it. It's been amazing."
Was there anything in particular that made you think, ok now this is the time to do it?
Jonah: "I think it's dumb when old dudes play angsty, crazy music. For me, this sort of rock is about unbridled energy that sort of only comes with being young and dumb. Seems we all pretty much thought, 'now or never, while we're in decent shape and can still do this right'. Then, when we hung out and rocked, it just felt natural, not forced."
Shaun: "I would say other than November of 2008, it will be ten years since the band played our last show. Seems pretty cool and fitting. Other than that, nothing. We all have our own lives and there really isn't any reason to do this, other than it feeling "right"."
Jonah: "The ten-year thing is interesting, almost to the day."
You're now hailed as one of the most influential rock bands of the 90's - perhaps receiving more acclaim now then you did back then - did that factor in your decision at all?
Shaun: "For me, no - I do appreciate that people do recognize that, but it's not something we ever strived for. We were just four people making music that felt good to us. We were all influenced by many bands and artists and the music we created was a result from all those influences coming together."
Jonah: "Yup, nice to be recognized, but not necessary, and definitely not a reason to make music."
Looking back are there any regrets splitting when you did?
Shaun: "Not at all. I do regret us all not having a clearer line of communication before the split, but other than that, no regrets."
Jonah: "Well said."
What were the first few rehearsals like back together again? Did they feel weird?
Shaun: "The rehearsals were actually the easy part. I think we are all better and more mature players than we were ten years ago. I think the being around each other and communicating was the tough part, but I feel like we have made that a lot easier in the past couple months. In the first month of doing this, I was beginning to think we were filming Some Kind Of Monster Part.2. I think we all just had to slap each other in the face and just say "it's only rock and roll" and get on with it."
Jonah: "That movie was so awesomely embarrassing and amazing and familiar."
So you're about to tour the UK and we're very grateful for that, but why did you choose to come over here rather than the US or anywhere else?
Jonah: "Seems nice to have a little adventure together. Also, I've been coming solo and stuff for the last ten years, loving it, always thinking it'd be so cool if Far could ever come and play there again."
Shaun: "Not really sure, but we always enjoyed the crowds over there. The energy always seemed more intense, but after the last couple of shows that we played in California, the UK has a lot to live up to."
After some cryptic online activity, you first emerged under the Hot Little Pony guise. Why was that? Legal reasons have been rumoured…
Shaun: "Not at all. I think people read into that a bit much. We wanted to do a couple secret/no pressure shows before we headed over to the UK, and Hot Little Pony was born."
Jonah: "Just having a laugh, keeping it loose, not overthinking it. Worked out perfectly, even though the Pony is bigger than Far now" [laughs].
So Hot Little Pony have been getting a fair bit of airplay with the Ginuwine cover 'Pony', why did you chose that song?
Shaun: "We all thought it would be fun to record a version of 'Pony'. You see, we all used to love this song ten years ago and even used to have it on our changeover mix (the music that would play when we were setting up our gear onstage)."
Jonah: "It was always fun to have atypical music on, loosen people up."
Shaun: "None of us ever thought that it would have turned out as cool as it did, and now radio is starting to pick up on it. The cool thing about it is, we never tried to make any of it happen. It just happened on its own. The pony can't be stopped."
Jonah: "Straight up. Good fun."
Have you been working on any new material?
Shaun: "Nothing yet. If we do, like everything else lately, it will have to come natural."
Jonah: "Yeah, I just feel lucky that the old stuff holds up so well, don't want to go ruining it just for the sake of having something 'new'. For me, newer doesn't necessarily mean better."
And can we expect anything new for the UK tour?
Shaun: "Nothing planned yet, but you never know. I feel like a lot of the crowds might be built on people seeing us for the first time, so I guess it will all be new to them."
Jonah: "What you can expect is us giving it all, wanting anyone there to do the same. That's always new. There's nothing like that."
I imagine it's a case of seeing if the shows are fun, but what's the status of Far right now? Is this a one-off thing, or are you thinking about the long-term right now?
Shaun: "We are thinking of the short term with an open mind to keep going as long as it makes sense."
Jonah: "Yeah, no big plans, that seems to get real stressful real fast. I just feel lucky to get to play with these guys again and sort of finish this conversation we started fifteen years ago in Sacto."
Shaun, you have your producing career, Jonah, you have your solo stuff, how do you intend to balance it all?
Shaun: "Very carefully I suppose. We are all very busy in our own lives and lately it has been a bit crazy trying to balance it all, but I tell you, the minute we hit the stage at the last two shows, it all seemed worth it. Very surreal."
Jonah: "It's f**king nuts, really. We've all got careers or wives or kids or all of the above... That's the best way to tell that it's really fun for us, because if it wasn't, all the sh*t we're having to figure out to do it wouldn't be worth it."
Ok, final question then, what have you guys got planned off the back of the UK tour and over the next few months?
Shaun: "Time will tell."
Jonah: "Shaun, you're so mysterious! Love it. To quote Plant: "All will be revealed". F**k, imagine writing something like Kashmir!"