Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws isn’t big on organized religion, but when the spirit does move him, it always has a soundtrack. And that soundtrack has come a long way over the last 16 years. You’d be hard-pressed to discern so much as a whiff of snarky 1996 hit “Popular” amid the bracing, impeccably crafted power pop the trio hammers out with breathless efficiency on its new release, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy (Barsuk). The transportive power of music is something Caws touches on quite frequently on Astronomy—that is, when he can tear himself away from more pressing concerns for our fucked-up planet. Caws will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Q&A with him, and check out our cover story on Nada Surf in last month’s issue of MAGNET.
Caws: At some point in the late ’80s I answered an ad in the Village Voice for a red Vox XII semi-hollow teardrop-shaped 12-string with a tremelo arm. I was an enormous fan of Echo and the Bunnymen, and their guitarist Will Sergeant had this particular model and it was a central part of their sound. I went to the seller’s apartment and he turned out to be Richard Barone of the Bongos, a great New Jersey band whose “Zebra Club” seven-inch I had just been playing on repeat at my Record Runner job. The guitar was very impractical to play sitting down (I wonder if Flying-V wielders like Bob Mould wrote songs standing up), but it had an incredible sound. I paid $400. A couple of years later, I was going broke and made the great mistake of selling it for $50 less than what I paid. I should have held on to it and figured something else out.