Right around the time those two goons at Northeastern were putting the final touches on Napster, a newly signed alt-rock band from Sacramento named Far was preparing to unveil its masterpiece. The album, titled Water & Solutions, was released on Epic’s imprint label, Immortal. The record sold a less-than-noteworthy 25,000 copies, picking up its fair share of critical praise along the way. Then, of course, Korn, Kid Rock, and Limp Bizkit hit the airwaves, and Far was no longer. Frontman Jonah Matranga went to on to pave the way for emo kids everywhere with his solo project, onelinedrawing, as well as his bands New End Original and the short-lived Gratitude. Guitarist Shaun Lopez opened his own recording studio. And bassist John Gutenberger hooked up with a young lass from San Fran and formed the indie duo Two Sheds.
Of course, as all good stories go, Water & Solutions went on to be a cult hit of sorts, even inspiring Alternative Press to name it one of the most influential records of 1998. Bands like Thursday and Jimmy Eat World now sing Far’s praises, and onetime fans still remain devoted to the album and its creators. Still, few diehards could have foreseen-or even hoped for-the turn Far’s story recently took.
Late last year, while tossing around the idea of a reunion tour, the foursome pieced together a cover that no one saw coming. The song in question: a remake of R&B singer Ginuwine’s overtly sexed-up hit “Pony.”
“We were having a joke [about this] band named Hot Little Pony,” explained Matranga recently via phone. “All we wanted was something for our MySpace page-our fake band MySpace page. And we were gonna put the Ginuwine song up there just to be goofs, but we decided, ‘No, let’s record it. That will be really funny.’ And that’s how it happened. We recorded it. It took a few hours, honestly. We put it up on the page, we got a huge laugh out of it, we gave it to some friends : and then out of nowhere it started getting played on the radio.”
Between October and December, rock stations across California added the track, Hot Little Pony’s (now defunct) MySpace page had garnered some 98,000 hits, and Matranga and his bandmates quickly realized that their little reunion had taken on a life of its own.
“It goes to show that you never fucking know,” he laughed, discussing the band’s current situation. “If someone had told me even a year or two ago that I’d be playing with Far, period, I wouldn’t have believed it. And if someone had told me that we’d have a bigger hit than we ever had before, and that it would be an R&B song-I mean, you couldn’t even write that shit.”
It also begs the question, “What comes next?” Prior to the success of “Pony,” the band had planned on playing a few L.A. dates, maybe touring around for a bit, and really just having some fun among old friends. Now they’re seriously discussing the follow-up to Water & Solutions, tooling around in the studio, and talking with record execs who would never have wanted anything to do with the old Far.
“All we know is that we’re writing new stuff. Whatever that turns into, it’s all a surprise to us,” ensured Matranga. “We saw this as a real quick and simple thing. Like, we’d go have some fun together, and that would be that. But it’s obvious to us now that it’s a different animal, and we’re just going to spend this time we have together and see what comes. But it feels nice even exploring it and writing new stuff.”
And for longtime fans of Matranga’s work, that new stuff also includes songs he’s since written as a solo artist. “[It’s] kind of a dream come true for me,” the singer gushed. “I’m the guy that wants to record all my songs a million times. I love writing new songs, but I love hearing them acoustic, electric, loud, soft, fast, slow, super hi-fi, super lo-fi. I love exploring them. : And what I’m understanding now is that outside of my tight little circle of people that like what I do, they will be completely brand new songs.”
It’s a rare turn of events for a little band that, in a weird way, went on to reach a big audience. It’s also an extraordinary story about second chances in an industry that rarely allows for them. But for Jonah Matranga, it’s just another chapter in his quirky life story-a story that has just gained a few more readers. “Whatever this ends up being, the ‘Pony’ thing has taught me that I have no idea what’s coming next,” Matranga confessed. “I’ve always believed that, but this has truly been one of the biggest surprises of my life, especially in the rock sense. Our new album could be the biggest thing since sliced bread, and it could also be a total flop, and it could also never even get made. I really don’t know. All I know is that it’s still fun. It’s still great to see the guys. I still love our old stuff as much. And I’m still just as excited for what comes next.”
Far will play an all-ages show at Velvet Jones (423 State St.) Thursday, February 19, at 8 p.m. For info, call 965-8676 or visit ticketweb.com.