According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a neanderthal is “one who suggests a caveman in appearance, mentality, or behavior; a person who has very old-fashioned ideas and who does not like change.” Then there’s Neonderthal, a four-piece ensemble of developed species from Long Beach that implement strains of ‘80s New Wave, disco, and rock in a most modern way. Their music hooks first with catchy rhythms and driving beats, then Steven Mathews’ unique vocal melodies, which is complemented by Tone Blair on bass, Anthony Bentancourt on keys and vocals, completed by Branden Murray’s mechanical beat on the drums. Mathews took a moment to give us at the Weekly the background of Neonderthal and details about their breakout year, and their upcoming show at The Wayfarer this Thursday.
OC Weekly (Kim Conlan): What’s your aesthetic?
Steven Mathews: It’s kind of a darker aesthetic, but we do use a little bit more of a brighter vibe and sound. It’s like dark electro.
How did you start?
This is actually my first project as a front-man, I’ve just been a guitarist for a really long time, and been in bands since I was a teenager. Somehow it just randomly worked out where the singer left from the last band, and we were sitting on top of some production money that we had to utilize, and it just so happened that I had finished writing about ten songs; just enough for us to press an album. We went ahead and moved forward with this project, and voilà, there you have it—Neonderthal.
What inspirations are you drawing from?
That’s a pretty loaded question... Just to make it quick and obvious, I listen to a lot of Roxy Music, Brian Ferry, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, but then I also dabble in stuff like Joy Division, and the Bee Gees; all kinds of shit.
What has this last year been like for Neonderthal?
A lot of the shows have been piling up now, and we’re starting to get a lot more interest. Through word of mouth and gigging as much as we have been, a lot of venues are starting to reach out to us. We’ve been on the road with the chance to play some really cool stages and go to some pretty cool cities.
Can you tell me about your video for “The Ride”?
The video was with a guy we’ve been working with for years, his name is Jeremy Eichenbaum. He reached out to us about the opportunity to make a video because some other project he was working on fell through and it opened up the gates for us to work with some really cool industry people. It’s been really well received, and Noisey wrote some good words about us and shared the video.
How was working with Ikey Owens on the full-length release before his passing?
We were super blessed and honored to work with him. I think he was a driving factor in getting us all on the same page and helping us trim off the fat when coming up with these songs. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re in the studio. He’s a no-frills type of producer, and I really liked his old-school mentality, and for him to take a risk on a brand new band, it’s pretty cool.
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What are your feelings about breaking into the OC?
We wanted to dial in and chisel out a scene in the Los Angeles area, and not spread ourselves too thin or ask too much of our fan-base, but now I’m really excited to get down there. I used to play it when it was Detroit Bar, so I wanted to make sure the timing was right and we put together the right bill.
*The photo of Neonderthal that appeared in print was improperly credited to Tomii Lim. The actually photographer is Gaarey Lloyd Anderson. The Weekly regrets this error.
Neonderthal perform with The Vespertines, and Friendly Males thisThursday, September 1st at The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa. For tickets, click here.