Billy Matheny and the Frustrations
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Billy Matheny and the Frustrations

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May
10
Billy Matheny and the Frustrations @ 123 Pleasant Street

Morgantown, West Virginia, USA

Morgantown, West Virginia, USA

May
09
Billy Matheny and the Frustrations @ The Blue Moose Cafe

Morgantown, West Virginia, USA

Morgantown, West Virginia, USA

Apr
26
Billy Matheny and the Frustrations @ McClafferty's

Morgantown, West Virginia, USA

Morgantown, West Virginia, USA

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Friday we made the trip to Charleston’s historic East end to see Morgantown’s Billy Matheny (w/The Frustrations) and Jonestown at the Glass. We drank some Kool-aid, and Matheny ended up blowing our minds. Jonestown got things started with catchy rock tunage.

I honestly hadn’t paid much attention to this band but after they busted out the acordian it will be hard to forget them. Towards the end of their set they rocked out “Ball and Chain” by Social Distortion, giving people like me who didn’t know any of their songs a chance to sing along with a song we’ve rocked a million times before.

In between watching UConn-Louisville on the small screen TV near the grey machines, I got introduced to Matheny. Sharply dressed, well-spoken and downright disarming, Matheny joked he was glad that he didn’t have to compete against Billy Ray Cyrus, who played Saturday in Charleston. Matheny asked what could explain the resurgence of the Achy-Breaky croonster, and I could only say it involved Satan and a contract.

Matheny and the Frustrations took the stage at the Glass for the first time in a year and totally met and/or exceeded my expectations. I mean, I have his latest CD “Born of Frustration,” but rare it is that a band will be even more impressive live. And one cool thing is that this has got to go down as one of the quickest transitions between bands ever, as Jonestown is pretty much A.S.S., which is the Frustrations.

For someone so young Matheny seems truly blessed when it comes to musicianship, songwriting and stage presence. Just like Dr. Mindbender (of G.I. Joe fame) created Serpentor out of all the greatest dictators of all time, so too was Matheny created out of all the great ghosts of rock and roll’s past. His appearance (think Buddy Holly meets Hugh Jackman as Wolverine with those sideburns!) belies the power of his rock music.

Matheny opened with some anti-bar scene numbers, including “One Story Town” and “If You See Him Tonight” — and, ladies, think your dream guy HAS to be in some bar somewhere? Reference these tunes. Sandwiched in between was “Christless Streets” and as Matheny started going off I was about to pull my hair out!

It was comparable to seeing Marty McFly at the prom back in 1955, only the 1.21 jigawatts were surging through Matheny. He then switched things up with acoustic versions of the deeply personal “Don’t Feel Guilty” and later dedicated “Reckless” to Haley Slagle, who sings with Matheny but couldn’t make the trip due to a broken foot.

After running into the Dead Guy Ale skeleton, we ended up buying a Matheny shirt and a super-cool split single ON VINYL of Matheny’s “I Won’t Be Around (To Say I Told You So)” and “Pictures on the Wall” by The Emergency. We rolled out a little before 1 a.m. as Matheny was rocking the Cramps-like “I Came In.” I couldn’t help feel sorry for Charleston-area rockers who missed this show. - TheGazz.com


I first heard Billy Matheny a couple of months ago at a singer/songwriter benefit concert in Marietta. Like the other artists on the bill, Matheny did only two songs, but he managed to stand out even in a lineup of mostly fine performers. I bought a CD from him after the show, and popped it in the deck on the drive home; by the time I got to Athens, I was a hardcore fan.

Matheny, who comes from Morgantown, W.Va., brings his band the Frustrations to the Casa Cantina tonight. Sharing the venue will be Erin Condo and the Talls. I would strongly recommend catching this show.

"Born of Frustration," the newest CD by Billy Matheny and the Frustrations, is a bracing gust of hard-charging, melodic pop-rock, with just a dash of country and a wee bit of acoustic folk. In terms of musical innovation, there's nothing on the record that hasn't been done a zillion times before - but Matheny and his band-mates play it all like it's some wondrous new toy, fresh out of the box.

On his Web site, Matheny lists The Replacements and Big Star among his influences, and you can hear those bands in the way his tunes drive pop hooks and soaring harmonies through a jangly, punky guitar storm.

The first band that came to mind when I heard the album, though, was Dramarama. The Frustrations give off a very different vibe, but with the same sense of a group that finds basic, tuneful rock music the most natural vehicle for the unique thing it's doing.

Though only 22, Matheny has been kicking around in various bands since his teens (including Cheap Truckers' Speed, The V-Necks and The Bookhouse Boys), and his songwriting is smart, confident, and alive with insight and feeling.

In "One Story Town," the most striking number on "Born of Frustration," he tells about a woman, not so young any more, who's had some lousy men in her life, and is now hunting for a new one. She finds a babysitter for the kids, gets dolled up, and hits the local music club, where she can feel the stares and derision from bartenders and half-dressed girls half her age.

"But she swears to God she's not gonna let it bring her down/the way the people talk, in this one-story town," Matheny sings, in a voice that seems to quiver with equal parts sarcasm and sympathy. "And she swears to God she's not gonna let it change her mind/but the search keeps getting harder, time after time." The drummer slams away ecstatically behind him, the harmonies lock in, the guitars snarl and chime, and the tune breaks your heart while it makes you dance.

The standouts on the record are mainly in this mode of hard-edged-pop-tune-with killer-chorus. "I Won't Be Around to Say I Told You So," for example, could be some undiscovered gem by the Grass Roots or the Hollies, fired up with a torrent of twangy guitar.

Other tunes pack more garage-band punch, like "Christless Streets," which spits out a refreshingly bad attitude right from the drumstick count-off: "None of my radio stations are tuning in/So it looks like I'm gonna have to settle for cassettes again," Matheny sneers. "There's faded writing on my five-dollar bill/It says 'In God We Trust and we always will'/But you know I think I'll spend it anyway/'Cause I never really thought my money had much to say."

On "Friday Night Alienation," Matheny takes his inner folksinger out for some air, in a world-weary finger-picked number that mockingly complains: "It seems like every sign can only say/I'll be an old man before my time one of these days/But I don't want to talk about it/The band's just starting to play."

Guitarist Haley Slagle adds strong second vocals to many of Matheny's tunes, and ends the album on a slightly bluesier note with her lead vocal on "Reckless," a torchy guitar ballad.

While still a relatively well-kept secret, when Matheny does come to a critic's attention, he tends to earn reviews even more enthusiastic than this one. A February 2004 notice in Graffiti magazine is typical, raving, "This kid is off the hook. He's a rockabilly folk hero who's one part Dylan, one part Alex Chilton and five parts gin and tonic. In the over crowded field of faceless, sound-alike James Taylor wanna-bes, Matheny stands out as an unbreakable wall of sincerity and spunk." Yeah, what they said. - The Athens News, Athens, OH


It can't be a real college town without at least one great alt-country band, and Billy Matheny and the Frustrations certainly fit that bill. (And is it sheer coincidence that this band shares the exact same number of syllables as Elvis Costello and the Attractions?) Matheny is only in his early twenties, but he's been playing music with important Mo-town artists-Brian Porterfield and Todd Burge among them-since he was in his teens. His excellent songwriting shows his experience more than his age, and his recently released debut solo full-length, "Born of Frustration", features many of his best efforts. - Racer X Illustrated


Area music fans should be thankful for Billy Matheny’s apparent lack of coping skills. Matheny’s new 12-song CD “Born of Frustration” is a rock & roll blueprint of high-powered garage rock and bluesy-country acoustic charmers, with lyrics mainly about being on the outs when it comes to living and loving.

The 22-year old Morgantown native has used negatives to provide an uplifting narrative in art. On “If You See Him Tonight,” a bluesy ballad with power-chord sing-along choruses, he sings I don’t like this phase I’m going through, but, fans will have to admit, he’s put out a great CD. “When you put out any piece of music like this, it’s a relief to have it finished, but you’re pretty excited about it, too,” Matheny admitted over the phone. “I’m happy with it. It captures enough different styles: it has rock, country, and some punk songs,” he said.

After playing piano and guitar for over 15 years, his diverse musical talents are on display: he plays guitar, piano, bass, organ, drums, and even some bells on the CD. He also did it D.I.Y style: the CD is put out on his own record label, Gyroscope Records.

Joining Matheny on “Frustration” are…The Frustrations! The band (aka American Sound Syndicate) of the same name includes Adrian Larry on bass, Haley Slagle on guitar and vocals, Kim Monday on bass and piano, and Rick Ravenscroft and Woody O’Hara on drums. Mark Poole, who recorded and produced the CD at Zone 8 Studios in Granville, adds some guitar feedback on “Don’t Feel Guilty,” and did an outstanding job on the production…the songs come through clearly and with power.

Of course, the credit goes to Matheny, raised on a musical diet of the Beatles, the Boss, and more recently Wilco. The CD blasts off with “Christless Streets,” an uptempo punk-tinged roots-rock stunner. Matheny sings in manic fasion: Never mind radio stations tuning in/so it looks like I’ll have to settle for cassettes again…Somewhere in this Christless town, there’s gotta be some kind of savior hanging around.

“I Won’t Be Around (To Say I Told You So)” and “If You See Him Tonight” keep the rock coming, the latter song a mixture of bluesy intro riffage and pedal-stomped sing along choruses. It really feels like Matheny is comfortable working with others on the CD. The backing vocals on the songs provide enough “ooohs” and “ahhs” to let you sing with those if you can’t sing.

On the bluesy, piano-soaked bar ballad “I Hope I Don’t See You Today” Matheny does a duet with Slagle. This song would quite likely get lighters up and patrons swaying if deployed in a venue. Slagle lets out some sultry vocals on her own. On the closer, the sullen, lovelorn acoustic number “Reckless,” Slagle sings it alone. Matheny may be frustrated, but giving others space on the CD proves he’s not insecure.

He’s also not limited in his musical repertoire. “About halfway through the recording, I had some doubts about recording an album with so many different genres, but eventually I realized that no matter how unique I think a song is, it’s all going to sound like me.”

Matheny’s style of rock truly spans genres and decades. Most of these songs would be good from the 50’s to now. How his music spans the genres of classic rock and blues/country to indie punk is on display between the songs “Hang On, Maureen” and “I Came In,” a Cramps-flavored old-time, punk rock ditty. The diverse musical influences and styles are a good thing, says Matheny. “Unless you’re AC/DC, no musician should stick to the same sound or else they’ll just become redundant.”

Two of the best songs are saved for last. “Friday Night Alienation” is a folksy acoustic number that has Matheny singing warily about a new sensation, happening across the nation, and on the chorus, some great lyrics: and it seems like every sign, can only say/I’ll be an old man before my time one of these days/but…I don’t wanna talk about it/the band’s just starting to play. The song has some cool guitar distortion, or atmospherics at the end, more would’ve been even more experimental, maybe a nod to Wilco, an admitted influence — a great song. “One Story Town” is really about a woman with kids, who gets a babysitter and goes out to the bars Friday nights, trying to find a good guy. An example of some great lyrics about barflys: and the young girls in their half-shirts, even though it’s only 20 degrees.

This CD will probably cost a couple of dollars, but it’s definitely worth it. And, all that angst? Not so fast, says Matheny: “Everything has been coming up roses. I have a new CD out and all of the shows have been going extremely well,” he added “Maybe I’ll change the name of the group from the Frustrations to the Upbeats.” - The Charleston Gazette, Charleston, WV


Born of Frustration, the new release from Billy Matheny and the Frustrations, is forty rock solid minutes of good old American rock n’ roll. With each track Matheny moves from rock to folk to country to punk, leaving the listener with twelve tracks chock full of grit, twang and pop sensibility.

Backed by a contingent of musicians spread over nearly incarnation of the Frustrations, Matheny has at his disposal nearly every tool needed to bring his songs to fruition. The standout contributor is Haley Slagle whose soulful voice graces a number of the album’s strongest tracks such as the duet, “I Hope I Don’t See You Today”, and the Slagle-sung closer, “Reckless”. The latter evoking the feelings of a lonely broken hearted night spent driving around listening to Patsy Cline fade in and out on AM radio. Thematically, the soured relationship permeates the album, but the songs come off neither whiney nor overly melodramatic. More than anything, like so many other songs which hold a place our hearts, the listener is never left pondering where Matheny falls into the equation: the songs aren’t about him. They’re about you.

The two dueling Matheny alter egos, the punk rock kid and the folksinger, both appear prominently on Born of Frustration. Whether the breakneck thrashing of “I Came In” to the up close and personal quiet folksiness of “Friday Night Alienation” Matheny seems equally at ease. The album’s standout track, “If You See Him Tonight”, bridges the two, by alternating effortlessly between twangy tear in your beer sentimentality and crashing distorted guitars. It is as if the man wants you to lend him your ear so he can draw you in close and deliver a punch to the gut. The end result is twelve tracks that engage and entertain the listener.

The harshest criticism that can be leveled at this record is that it’s strongest three tracks are buried at the very end, but that seems to be a trivial matter at best. The truth is that this is a great piece of work that has the mark of a seasoned songwriter all over it. It could be very easy to view Born of Frustration as the end product of a period of growth and development for the man Matheny. But this ain’t the end folks. This is just the beginning. - Couchesonfire


Discography

"Born Of Frustration" CD, 2006
"I Won't Be Around (To Say I Told You So)" 7" single, 2004
"Billy Matheny" EP, 2003

Photos

Bio

Mix high-powered garage rock with soulful, 60s-era country and you’ll get the sound of Billy Matheny & The Frustrations. Since their formation in 2005, this well-seasoned four-piece has consistently wooed new followers with their energetic live performances. And after the release of their 2006 CD, “Born of Frustration”, they’ve garnered their fair share of critical acclaim, as well.

Hailing from the university community of Morgantown, WV, this formidable foursome brings years of collective experience and friendship together to help create an overall sound unlike any other in the region. There’s some rock, some country and some punk in both the live sets and the CD, with a good helping of male/female vocal harmonies.

Billy Matheny (vocals/lead guitar/songwriting) and Haley Slagle (vocals, guitar) share lead vocals duties to give the band more melodic depth a la Gram Parsons with Emmylou Harris or The Pixies. Steady rhythms from Adrian Larry (bass) and Adam Jones (drums) give The Frustrations a range that compares with bands like Big Star, The Replacements and Wilco as well as acts like Neil Young and Velvet Underground.

Recently sharing the stage with Dick Dale, The Mountain Goats, Lucero, Joseph Arthur and Travis Morrison (of Dismemberment Plan) allowed the band to gain further “big-gig” experience. A busy schedule of several shows each month (in different cities and towns) pushed them to play tight, focused sets from the beginning. “Born of Frustration” has been praised by publications such as Graffiti magazine, The Athens (OH) News and Racer X magazine. Add all of that with radio airplay (WWVU-FM) and positive reviews from websites like TheGazz.com and Couches on Fire and you have a group that’s ready for even bigger and better things.

In between hometown shows and frequent mini-tours, the band is working on the follow-up to their debut CD. Matheny and Slagle also perform as an acoustic/electric duo. Additionally, Matheny can be found showcasing his songwriting in a solo set.