If you like undressing, please let me find out/ If you like large intestines . . . please let me find out.

Onelinedrawing's Jonah Matranga,

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Emo Not Emo

Onelinedrawing declares death to false misfits.

If you like undressing, please let me find out/ If you like large intestines . . . please let me find out.

Onelinedrawing's Jonah Matranga, "Crush on Everyone"

THERE ARE ONLY two feasible reflexive responses to what you just read: (a) "Hey, that's endearing," or (b) "Hey, Andrew, I'm going to consult a book of black magic and curse your genitals to implode for spotlighting such a cloying, infantile hunk of grade-emo turdburger."

Despite my vested interest in facilitating future adventures in sex and/or waste discharge, I'm backing that lyric. Jonah Matranga is a man whose only backing musician is an R2-D2 drum machine, and that's not even his seventh-best talking point. After the 1998 dissolution of his Deftones-with-a-brain quartet Far, he reinvented himself as Onelinedrawing and went 110 percent D.I.Y., recording sweetly self-aware solo acoustic EPs in his bedroom, touring houses almost exclusively, and selling merch on a "sliding scale" to appease the cash-strapped curious.

Oh yeah, along the way Matranga redefined rock-show intimacy, simultaneously eviscerating and deifying himself onstage via outrageously personal between-and-mid-song tangents scrutinizing everything from fundamentalism to fellatio.

"There are people who absolutely hate me," Matranga acknowledges. "Ironically, the same thing that one person is so excited about, [others are] just utterly derisive of, mostly because they think it's fake and a put-on. Hey, I totally get it. If you want to deconstruct me in a certain light, I'm the easiest target ever, because I'm a hypocrite. I change my mind. I say these at least paradoxical, if not oxymoronic, things in the course of any given set. If there's one defining quality to me, it's that I'm trying to be comfortable with the mess that I am.

"I think there are people who just . . . they do not want that in their rock. They don't want ambiguity. They don't want conversation. They want to be entertained and to be distracted, and you know what? Beautiful. I only have a problem when people somehow think that because they paid the $5 or whatever, they get to disrupt the show for other people. If they want to come to me afterwards and tell me what an idiot they think I am, more power to 'em."

This is not to suggest that Matranga is a traveling pariah; he's braved bills sandwiched between hardcore-inspired buzz bands like Thursday and Coheed & Cambria and walked out unscathed, with converts. But he isn't not emo, either. Romance is a familiar scourge on Onelinedrawing's first proper LP, Visitor (Jade Tree), but Matranga juxtaposes sharing-and-caring time with not just one of the raddest cunnilingus metaphors ever ("Her hips are like seashells, and I can hear the ocean when I listen"), but one of the raddest doin'-it metaphors ever ("It's time for a bit of in-the-bed disco") as well, in "Bitte Ein Kuss."

Talkin' sex is easy; satire is not. In a cheeky homage to the "death to false metal" rallying cry, Matranga designed a "death to false emo" sticker for Onelinedrawing. It should not surprise you that this is not a throwaway joke. "It was one thing when hair metal was getting sold at the mall," Matranga sighs. "That Zeppelin-D&D stuff was almost meant to be big and blockbusterythe form and the content match. Now, when you're spending $10 million to make a band look like they spent $10, or when you're putting shit in bios about how personable and sincere and sensitive and troubled and how much of a misfit this person is, you're getting really Orwellian. When sincerity is a commodity, that's weird.

"It's a real bummer for me, because I'm the guy that has always been sincere to a fault. When you've got people running around putting on their glasses, looking goofy, and trying to be awkward because it makes the girls squeal, well, that's no problem for me because I've always been awkward, when girls were definitely not squealing. So it's a little bit like, you know what? Shut the fuck up and go play football. I don't like the shelling of the misfit."

Funny thing is, Matranga himself may soon be shelled. He claims his new band, Gratitude, is muscular, poppy, and likely to wind up on a major label. The lens could be pointing the other way, and he's looking forward to it.

"A lot of the time I'll say, 'Man, that band doesn't fucking mean it,' and people will get really mad at me," he laughs. "But I'll bet you anything I could ask them 10 questions, and we'd all have our answer. I could figure out 10 very simple questions about intention and whether one is or isn't backing that up, and we'd all have our answer.

"Don't think I don't ask myself those 10 questions every day. But even if I did want to be commercial, I think my weirdo muscle has been flexed way too much."

abonazelli@seattleweekly.com

 
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