By Daniel Kohn
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New End Original's introspective front man Jonah Matranga claims ignorance regarding the pun. He claims that when he named his post-emo rock foursome he was unaware of the fact that it seems like an obvious play on New And Original. "I'd only seen it written!" he protests. The name is a play on words, he says, just not that one. It's an anagram ("Me and my ex were super-into anagrams," he says) for Onelinedrawing, the name under which Matranga has played solo for several years.
Matranga always wanted to add musicians to Onelinedrawing. In fact, when guitarist Norman Arenas (ex-Texas Is the Reason), bass player Scott Winegard (ex-Texas Is the Reason) and drummer Charles Walker (ex-Chamberlain) came onboard, they were supposed to be Onelinedrawing. Instead, at their first practice, something different happened.
"We started playing "14 to 41," and within two bars, it was clear that this was something different, it wasn't Onelinedrawing," Matranga says. "We decided we needed a new band name."
The linguistic tomfoolery doesn't end there. "Believe it or not, for the first year, I didn't realize the acronym for Onelinedrawing would be OLD. The second horror was that some kid logged on to my website and asked a question about Onelinedrawing and New End Original and wrote it like OLD/NEO. That was completely unintentional."
Before Onelinedrawing, the Sacramento-born Matranga fronted the influential band Far, whose two major-label albums, Tin Cans With Strings to You and Water and Solutions(Immortal/Epic), were heavy and emotional at the same time. They were "emo," really, but because of the thick, driving guitar blasts and heavy drums (one of the albums was produced by Dave Sardy, known for his work with Helmet and Slayer, after all) they were lumped into the Korn/Deftones hard rock scene and put on bills with bands like Monster Magnet. It was a bad fit, to say the least.
"It was hilarious," Matranga says. "We were this indie band on a major label. We never did any of the things we were supposed to do—not because we were rebels. We were just confused. We were confused kids." Matranga figures Far would have signed with an independent label but none was interested at the time. "We weren't accepted, and that was fine. I'm not bitter about it, but I think I'm insecure about it."
After Far's breakup, Matranga began doing everything himself, releasing Onelinedrawing CDs himself and selling them at shows and through his website. The whole time, though, he was flirting with the idea of going back to a major label, wanting the validity and success that being signed to a major label implies but knowing he didn't want everything else that came with it. Now New End Original are releasing their first album, Thriller, on respected indie label Jade Tree.
From afar, it looks like the trajectory of someone who wanted control of his own career, who experienced being on a major label, decided it wasn't for him, and sought a way to make music and tour the country on his own terms. For Matranga, though, it's been more difficult. The years after Far were fraught with conflict and insecurity. Matranga seems uncomfortable with his decision to avoid major labels, and he seems uncomfortable with the idea of being on a major label. And then he feels compromised for flirting with the idea of being on a major label. And then he feels the need to constantly reassert to himself that he's doing what he wants to be doing and making valid music and growing as an artist. He's working toward peace of mind, but you get the sense that he's always thinking about things too much to allow himself any.
"The whole thing with being in rock is either 'Where's your limo?' or 'What's your real job?' and my whole time has been in between," he says. "I don't want a limo, but I don't want a day job."New End Original play with Cio Cio San and Melee at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (714) 647-7704. Fri., 7:30 p.m. $8. All ages.