Mark Matos & Os Beaches on Acid-Gospel, Drugs and Old Weird America

Mark Matos used to live in Tucson, where he played with a rising indie band called Campo Bravo. Then he had a road to Damascus moment while out on tour, experiencing an epiphany while tripping on LSD. His new band, Os Beaches, is located in San Francisco, where they attempt to revive ghosts of that town's psychedelic past with their new record, Words of the Knife.

Matos took some time out of his busy touring schedule to talk drug busts, his poetry, "acid-gospel" and the state of the nation.

Up on the Sun: You spent a great deal of time in Tucson, our neighbor to the South. What is it about Tucson that spoke to you, and how does Tucson factor into the songs on Words of the Knife? How has your move to San Francisco changed or augmented things?

MM: I started rambling when I was just a teenager. Had my guitar and thumb and wanted to discover what was out there for discovering. I liked the impermanence of it, seemed more honest then the settling down life, a more natural lifestyle with plenty of discomfort, which I think forces your hand a little bit, makes you come to terms with what you don't know and your relationship with the mystery. Tucson was my place to stay put a while and allow myself to build on my ideas, start a band, be part of a community that I believe in.

As far as Words Of The Knife is concerned, it's hard to pinpoint the factor that Tucson had in the album except that Tucson is part of my story and my albums are the way I tell that story. San Francisco has rebirthed me, reminded me to foster my relationship with the psychedelics that have shaped me and informed me since my teen aged years. SF is also home to an incredible group of musicians and freaks and poets and searchers, and they push me and I push them back.

UOTS: Talk to me about Acid Gospel. What exactly does Acid Gospel mean to you? You decided to quit Campo Bravo while on tour and experiencing an acid trip, does the concept of hallucination or altered states shape the way you approach music?

MM: Acid Gospel is a lot to get into here, but, at it's heart it is an aproach to your (the royal you) relationship with the mystery, because no matter how much knowledge you may gain, until you figure out that there is great mystery, that things are not cut into perfect squares, that life is a surreal trip, that it's good to cry and be scared sometimes but it's even better to get to the other side and feel the home feeling, well, until then, you are living a fantasy, filled with darkness and fear. Acid Gospel is a way towards cosmic conciousness with psychedelics as tool. All of this has everything to do with my music, there is no distinction to me, I want to bring myself together into a whole wild trip.

UOTS: I've noticed a lot of writing about national identity from you on your blog, discussing American citizenship versus Hawaiian solidarity, and I'm curious if being on the road has revealed anything like the "old weird America" you mentioned in your writings.

MM: The old weird America is out there! Absolutely. I am at a Love's truck-stop in Illinois and I just got busted in Wyoming. It's out there. I love many aspects of the America I have encountered, and I certainly have encountered beautiful and trippy and helpful hands all over these roads. When you break down as much as we do when we are on the road, it's important to open your hearts and communicate, reach out to some folks you may not run into at the rock n' roll show. 

UOTS: I talked with a friend on July 3rd about my thoughts on "American patriotism," and when I revealed to her that I am proud of the America that I've encountered while on the highway with my friends, the weird knick knack shops, the insane and humble humanity I've noticed and interacted with in truck stops and churches in the woods, she acted like I was crazy.

MM: There is room for love of America, you need to have a real relationship with her and communicate with her, work things out. Tell her what you love about her and the things that get you pissed off, talk it out, ask hard questions. As far as pride, I think it'll get you into trouble, there is something like pride but fundamentaly different that you can have though, and that thing is love. Stick to that I say.

UOTS: You're a published poet. What is the difference between your lyrics and your poetry? Do you approach them as separate things? When does a song become a poem or the other way around?

MM: I write poems, I write songs. More songs these days. I will take a poem and rip off the good lines for my songs. Sometimes a song can become a poem too, when that happens you have done something worth raising a glass to.

UOTS: Talk to me about the relationship you had with your father, specifically his status as one of California's premier Portuguese radio hosts, and how that impacted your exposure to music at a young age. What does your father think of your band?

MM: My dad is good people. We had our ups and downs but it worked itself out. It was great to be around someone who loved music so much and was so good with people in a social setting. I don't think he really gets my music the way he gets Amalia Rodrigues or Carlos Paredes, but I think he is impressed by what we do. Or maybe I just hope he is? It's hard, he and my mother are upset right now because I posted details of the band's drug bust on our Facebook page. they get embarrased easily. I don't, that's always been a sticky point with us...

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.