Pachyderm producer, Dan Richmond says of Indigenous, "There's is a story that was already written." And it's true that the story of Indigenous reads like a Hollywood script: Children of a native American former 60's musician grow up on a Dakota reservation listening to 60's rock and blues, and form a band by teaching themselves to play. Nonetheless, although young, the three brothers and sister who comprise Indigenous have paid their dues. Their rise in the music business has been as intense as their performances. Musicians like Indigenous, Jonny Lang, The Keller Brothers Band, and the rest of the recent crop from the Dakotas seem to show that the blues are no longer Chicago, Kansas City, or New Orleans based, but are finding new expression on the high plains. In conversation, Mato is not just a genuinely nice person. He might be the nicest person I've ever talked to. He started by apologizing for calling later than our appointed time. In performance, the band is completely focused on its performance, and holds to its Dylanesque stage reserve. In person, band members sign autographs with the air of those who still can't believe this is happening to them, but hold a shy and definite distance from fans.
MATO: Sorry I'm late calling you. We're on the road and I couldn't get access.
RW: Where are you?
MATO: Charlottesville, Virginia.
RW: One of my favorite places in the world. Have you been to Monticello?
MATO: No time. We play tonight and leave right away in the morning.
RW: I've just been listening to your music and reading your liner notes on your last CD, your thanks range from B.B.King to Jackson Browne to Wavy Gravy. That's quite a range to cover on the music spectrum.
MATO: We like alot of different music, and we just spent some time opening for B.B. King on the road. We didn't get to jam with him, but we grew up listening to his music and just getting to watch him offstage was great. And we've done a couple of shows recently with Buddy Guy.
RW: When did you first know that this was your path? How did all of your siblings come to know that too?
MATO: I always knew that this was what I wanted to do.
RW: How did the blues speak to you more than heavy metal, for example?
MATO: We grew up listening to the blues. Actually, what I always wanted to play was drums, but all we had was guitars. Our father taught us to play, and then we just practiced all those great songs. And because our parents were so supportive, it just made us want to do it more.
RW: So did you experience some sibling rivalry when your sister came along and got to play the drums?
MATO: No, she's great. I have alot of respect for her.
RW: What was the first song you wrote?
MATO: "Things We Do."
RW: That was your first hit. That's pretty amazing to have the first song you wrote be a hit. What is the process of writing like for you? Tab Benoit says it comes fast and hard. B.B. says it's there or it isn't. He can't force it. How about you?
MATO: It's like that, fast and hard. I don't try to force it. Sometimes I'll be going down the road and it just happens. I get lost and frustrated if I think about it. It feels better when it just happens.
RW: What comes first, music or lyrics?
MATO: Lyrics. We have alot of songs written, more than we can use on a CD, and then in the studio we record pretty quickly but it's a matter of choosing songs that complement each other. There's no pre-production, no rehearsal. It's more spontaneous, so that it flows.
RW: I saw you at Heart and Soul. You all seem to play with one mind. Is there much improvisation in your live performances?
MATO: Yeah, that's when it's really fun. We know each other so well, that it's easy for us to communicate while we're onstage. When you perform live, a song becomes something alot different. It evolves, so you can stretch it out.
RW: Your father was a member of the 60's band, the Vanishing Americans. I'm told that there remains some prejudice against Native Americans in the music business. How would you compare your experience in the music business to your father's?
MATO: Our experience was alot different. He taught us, but he never got to record. They just went out and played. I'm grateful that we've had the chance to record. As far as prejudice goes, I don't worry about what people think.
RW: Is life different now when you go back home?
MATO: No one treats us any differently, but it's nice to be back home. They're supportive. The last time we were there, 15,000 people came out to see us, and that was great.
RW: What is success for you?
MATO: To keep on learning. Success is learning. And just to keep making records and playing for new fans in new places.
RW: Have you been to Europe?
MATO: Not yet. None of our CD's have been released there yet, and we don't want to tour there until we can promote a CD. We'll probably be recording another CD at the end of the year. We have some of the material already.
RW: I'm sure you've heard the comparisons that are made to you and Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Do you hear that as a compliment or does it bother you?
MATO: Well, that's what we grew up listening to. They were so great, it would be wonderful to sound like them. It's nice to be compared to them, but I'm still learning. They were never fulfilled - all I can do is give it back.
RW: I guess you couldn't be in better company than that.
MATO: That's right.
Rex Daisy, frequently found at Lee's Liquor Bar, opened for Indigenous and were excited about a hopeful contract with Pachyderm Records. They thanked the audience for being 'kinder than we expected' and played well, but their lyrics are a reminder that there's a difference between whining and the blues.
Indigenous opened with 'Games We Play,' and moved through many of their current releases including, 'What's Goin' On?' and 'Rest of My Days.' This evening was a wonderful showcase of this band's writing and performing abilities, much more so than their performance at Heart and Soul. The quality of Mato's voice is reminiscent of Dave Matthews and Freddy Jones, which to me is part of the band's appeal to a younger audience than many blues performers might enjoy, and much easier to spend an evening with than Jonny Lang's voice. Wanbdi is the tiniest drummer in popular music, and the most focused and powerful. If I could be any performer today, it would be her. The only
disappointing part of the performance was the lack of consistency of percussionist, Horse. However, during a late solo, he showed that he has the potential to bring the band to the caliber of Santana's original band. As an encore, the band brought out a faster version of Santana than Santana can play, and yes, that is possible. But it sadly lost momentum when
attention paid to young family members on percussion brought the song to a stop. The
encore recovered with an amazing version of 'Red House' that kept the crowd on
its feet throughout.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Rebecca West, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.