In just over a year’s time, Matthew Stubbs & The Antiguas have become one of the hottest live acts in the greater-Boston area. In addition to guitarist Stubbs, the Antiguas are organist Ken Clark, bassist Mark Hickox, and drummer Chris Rivelli. The foursome play a mighty show with a powerful rocking sound augmented by psychedelic screen visuals. After a year long residency at the Plough & Star in Cambridge, Stubbs has had to move his show to that city’s Sinclair music venue due to its growing size.
“We were at the Plough & Star for a year,” Stubbs said. “It got really busy. They offered it, actually. One of the people who work there showed interest in having us and it just made sense to go to a bigger room and it enabled us to make the projections larger and having some other special guests.”
The initial residency began at the Plough & Stars through a bartender there who wanted to have a residency. The timing was perfect for Stubbs, as the Antiquas, the projections, and his whole concept for the night was something that had been formulating in his head for some time. Needing a name for the residency, Stubbs dubbed it Downbeat Mondays. The impetus for this band came after Stubbs had begun writing some material that was different from what he had written in the past.
“I wanted to have a new concept with a new ensemble just because it was sounding much different than what I was doing before,” Stubbs said.
The Sinclair, being a bigger room and because the residency has been around for over a year, has allowed the group to include more guests singers and guest musicians than at the previous room.
“I like to mix it up,” Stubbs said. “We don’t do guests every week but a lot of weeks we do have guests now. It’s more of a performance venue as far as there’s more viewpoints for the audience to watch it as an actual performance. The Plough was small and more of a hang. The band wasn’t quite the focal point like it is at The Sinclair.”
Many in the music scene have found it challenging to put a label on the kind of music that Stubbs and his Antiguas have been coming up with. Stubbs has been a blues guitarist for the better part of his career but he wouldn’t consider his Antiguas material as traditional blues.
“I think it’s a mix of a bunch of stuff I’ve been listening to for the past few years,” he said. “Some of its got a psychedelic rock influence, some Afro-beat is in there. I’ve been calling it ’Acid Blues.’ I don’t know if that’s a thing, but that’s what I’ve been calling it. It’s song based. All the stuff I write I try to have a melody and a hook. That’s really important to me. With these guys and this band that I have, everyone’s a great soloist. At live shows we really open it up.”
Stubbs, coming back to a question about the music’s genre, was still mentally searching for a label for his material. “I guess, ‘Psychedelic Soul Acid Blues, is what I would call it if I had to call it something. I’m not sure, either, exactly what the perfect title would be, unfortunately.”
Those who attend the Antiguas shows report that they feel transported back to the late 1960s. That could have as much to do with the larger than life screen visual projected onto the band and the screen behind them as they perform.
“I wanted to put visuals to the music,” Stubbs said. “We’re doing two 75 minute shows. That’s a long time for the audience, so I wanted to give a visual aspect to it. My girlfriend, Tracey Hansen, is the one who edits that, puts all that together. She knows the music better than anyone because she comes to all the shows. Every week they’re different. She does two new ones every week.”
Stubbs and his girlfriend had had time to plan out their visuals for the initial Plough shows because they had booked it far in advance. Neither of them had worked on video editing before that time. The pair had discussed what would be best for what kinds of visuals would match the music. “Ever since, she’s taken that on and does a really good job,” Stubbs said. “She spends a lot of time doing it.”
Stubbs is also working on a full length CD to showcase his Antiguas material, indicating that his band is not just a showpiece for live expression of advanced musicianship. “I want people to be able to hear it. I think you make records. After a year of doing this, I had written more than enough for a full length LP, so that’s what we’re doing. We have a pledge music going right now to raise money to finish it out. It should be out, I’m hoping, by September or the fall anyway.”
Stubbs has tapped David Brophy, who produced Ruby Rose Fox’s first full length CD, to co-produce it. Without Brophy, Stubbs just couldn’t get the sound he was hearing in his head. He tried different people but Brophy, who he hung out with at his Mortal Music Studio in Charlestown, Massachusetts, seemed the right cup of tea.
“I went over there with him and an engineer by the name of Pat DiCenzo,” Stubbs said. “The three of us just took an afternoon and worked on mixing one song, and we were able to get it in that afternoon much closer to what I wanted. From there, I’ve just been working with Dave and Pat. It’s basically the three of us. Pat’s an engineer. Dave is co-producing it, and I’m producing it. It’s a three man team from the production standpoint.”
Stubbs believes his Antiguas success, while sparked largely by his hard work at the music, the show, and his marketing, also owes a lot to curiosity. “I think that’s it’s really different,” he said, “the fact that I can’t really put a genre on it. In some ways it can be hard to sell but also people like it because it’s different. I don’t know any one else that’s really doing exactly what were doing. When people see it and they like it, they’re going to have to come back and see it again.”
Stubbs has been a recognized named in New England’s blues scene for at least the last 15 years. He gained a larger name recognition in greater-Boston/New England, as a 23 year old guitarist, when his old blues group, Matthew Stubbs Band featuring Kit Holliday, won the 2003 Boston Blues Challenge before taking third place in 2004 at the International Blues Competition in Memphis, Tennessee. From there, Stubbs’ networking skills landed him spots touring with national and international blues artists Janiva Magness, John Nemeth, and Charlie Musselwhite.
“It all stemmed from a bass player that I was friends with and he used to play with Janiva. He put Janiva in touch with me,” Stubbs said. “From that, I met John Nemeth. From John Nemeth I met Charlie.” Stubbs recently returned from a five week tour of Europe with Musslewhite.
Stubbs is looking forward to his CD coming out, doing more festivals, and more out of town road gigs. For now, Antiguas fans can find him and his ‘acid rock psychedelic soul” band at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Massachusetts every Monday night at 10:00 p.m.