Elliot Matsu
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Elliot Matsu


Band Alternative Adult Contemporary


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"Elliot Matsu - 2nd Avenue"

Chicago native and Suzuki School of Music graduate, Elliot Matsu played all the instruments and produced 2nd Avenue, a promising mix of sounds and moods. In New York City, Matsu has worked with producers with ties to such luminaries as Carol King, Sheryl Crow, Jewel and David Byrne, so he appears to be in it for the long haul, and with an eye on commercial radio. On this lively, electronic pastiche, he switches gears seamlessly within tightly crafted love songs. On "Something Wrong," the first line of the first verse is distorted, then it clears up -- going from Pet Shop Boys style electronica to slightly dirty rock and then back, then mixing the two at once. Sure it's calculated, but it works, and it's the strongest track. His clear voice, just rough enough, sincere but not cloying, is expressive but not too mannered, lending his compositions certain realism. Matsu has a talent for finding and then juxtaposing the right ratio of organic and synthetic sounds, crowding them together and then stripping them down to create interesting textures. Throughout 2nd Avenue, he struggles with identity and homesickness as he searches for love. With his heart on his sleeve, on "Amanda," he pleads, "I want to meet your family... take you out to dinner and make you laugh." Such sincerity and melodic good sense might make one think of him as a shiny, streamlined (and more maudlin) Elliott Smith for the VH1 set. And though it shouldn't matter, unlike Smith, Matsu's looks won't hurt him. This kid could be an American Idol for the slightly more discriminating listener.
-Antonia B. Johnston - Chicago Gigs

"Elliot Matsu"

When talking about his latest album, Elliot Matsu brings up his feelings a lot. He says songwriting, for him, begins with an urge to amplify those emotions.

"You begin thinking about what [song] you want to hear at that moment [of emotion], and usually you can't find it. So, you have to create it," the singer-songwriter said.

That's just what the Roselle native did with the 11 songs on his latest album, "The Value of Power." Though the album is riddled with pop-rock songs centering on themes of love, inspiration and even religion, don't be too quick to write Matsu off as a guy who takes himself too seriously. He grew up loving heavy metal--and the mullet.

"My mullet was quite puffy," he said. "My hair was curly so it was quite the poof."

Add his hairstyle to a wardrobe full of acid-washed denim and you have a kid who looked a lot like his idols from Guns 'n' Roses and Poison. Matsu and his metal-obsessed friends spent 5th grade through early high school dedicated to shredding. He even took lessons with legendary guitarist George Bellas.

Although Matsu cut off his party-in-the-back a long time ago, he has dedicated an entire section of his Web site bio to it. His songs, too, contain traces of heavy metal because they remain guitar-driven, but with a softer edge.

"I still love Iron Maiden," he said. "It's still in heavy rotation in my iPod."
-Erin Osmon - Chicago Tribune


2nd Avenue - LP
The Value of Power - LP
Late August Moon - LP



With his third solo release, Elliot Matsu has gone back to roots to move forwards. The record, Late August Moon, is a study in the craft of indie rock and a demonstration of honest art. The songs were all written and ready to go when the record started and the process took less than a month from start to finish. “I was already a little tired of playing the songs by the time I started laying them down. I wanted to make something really simple, straightforward and honest. No computer editing, no feats of recording prowess. I was getting into some cool lo-fi stuff like Daniel Johnston and these kids out of Austin called ‘Arm of Roger.’ I set out to do something lo-fi, with all heart but it ended up sounding pretty full and commercial – even cheap stuff sounds great these days.”

You can’t get much simpler than a Tascam Portastudio, so Elliot got a Tascam 2488, a drum machine and a couple of cheap synths and set out to make a record. His guitars went through pedals and a little Epiphone Valve Junior amplifier, cranked. “I wanted to use my ears exclusively for this record. The songs needed to stand on their own, no putting lipstick on a pig. If it sounded good, I kept it. If it didn’t, it went.” The resulting record has its own musical mood, it’s own sonic fingerprint and an unforced arrangement which features the music and the message.

And what exactly is that message? A hodge-podge of unreserved mental landscapes that might’ve seen the light of day only within the indie-rock format. The title track, ‘Late August Moon,’ is a love song infested with lust and possessiveness. ‘Find What You’re Looking For’ takes a look at the driving, relentless force of karma. ‘Wild Animals’ describes a journey of awakening characterized by ghosts and fish with fangs. “Daddy Open Your Eyes’ tells the tale of death in a hospital bed and ‘Killing With Swords’ is a song about exacting street justice with a sword. “Angels” is a fifteen year old song that was previously released on a CMJ compilation CD and hasn’t seen the light of day for awhile.

The cover art was done by Chicago artist Jason Fairchild. Fairchild’s pieces have an integrity and originality that seemed a perfect fit with the project.


Elliot Matsu was grew up in Chicago. His musical career began at five years old when he was enrolled in the Suzuki School of Music to study piano. Suzuki stresses that students learn music first by ear rather than by sight reading.

At the age of 10, Elliot decided that rock 'n roll was his calling. His interests evolved from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys to Guns 'n Roses, Metallica and Motley Crue. His style changed from JC Penny's catalog offerings to stone washed jean jackets, boots with chains on them and t-shirts with the arms cut off. His first guitar was an Olympic White Fender Squire Stratocaster, kinda like Yngwie Malmsteen’s. Under careful cultivation, his hair mushroomed into a thick, puffy mullet.

It was at this time that Elliot hooked up with guitar hero George Bellas to learn how to play the guitar like all of his new idols. George was signed on Shrapnel Records, and played with many big shred/metal names and gave lessons on the side. Although Elliot's shredding abilities stopped far short of his teacher's, his guitar playing and solo composition remains heavily influenced by his teacher's neo-classical style to this day.

With his new licks, kicks, denim and mullet, Elliot set out to destroy the world in his first band, 'Hyperten-shun' (yes, it was spelled wrong "for effect"). The band played a few school dances before it's members graduated from junior high school. Elliot's next band was formed in high school and was called 'Obduracy.' Obduracy played thrash metal at local clubs and released a few home made ep's on cassette tapes. Aside from playing in bands, Elliot held jobs as a bus boy, a telemarketer for a carpet cleaning company, a mattress delivery helper, a UPS delivery helper, an ice-cream scooper at Baskin Robins and a Nordic Track sales person.

After Elliot graduated from high school it was off to college and goodbye to mullets and metal. While at college he self-released a few albums and ep's attempting a more pop rock sound. These were recorded on Alesis ADAT machines (which were very new and cool at the time) with Elliot performing all of the vocal and instrument parts. One such release, titled "Autonomy," was financed by his college roommate and released at retail.

Upon graduation from college, Elliot headed to New York City. Hestudied to get his masters degree in entertainment business at NYU while recording bands and artists in his apartment at night. He spent time working at Billboard, Sony Music, TVT Records and Roadrunner Records. He hooked up with producer Jonathan Appell (engineer/producer for Bette Middler, Carol King) and worked with many big studio musicians on his initial demos