“Even I have a hard time describing this album,” Matthew Stubbs admits. “People hear it and ask, ‘What kind of music is this?’ No idea! And I’m happy about that.”
As he should be. The self-titled debut from Matthew Stubbs & The Antiguas is a diverse and propulsive affair, combining psych rock with garage rock, acid blues and Afrobeat. As a whole, the album also feels cinematic, like a great soundtrack to an underground film (witness the album finale “Tarantino”).
You can also hear more modern production influences from the likes of Beck and Tom Waits. Amazingly, this melange of styles is all accomplished without vocals — the Antiguas are an instrumental affair. “The other question people ask is, ‘Why don’t you have a singer?’” says Stubbs. “Well, back in the day, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, you had guys like Booker T and Link Wray who had bona fide hits as instrumentalists. And now, you have great instrumental groups like The Budos Band and El Michels Affair. I’d like to bring back that spirit to popular music.”
While this is his first record with the Antiguas, Stubbs is already well regarded as a producer (including this Antiguas album) and a solo performer, releasing two albums under his own name in the Memphis soul/blues tradition, Soulbender (2008) and Medford and Main (2010). The Boston musician, a guitarist since the age of 13, has also served as the guitarist for Charlie Musselwhite since 2007 — that’s him on the legendary bluesman’s 2013 Grammy-nominated album Juke Joint Chapel.
For the Antiguas record, Stubbs tapped into previously unexplored influences. You’ll hear a seemingly perfect 60s movie homage (“Fistful”) mixed with British Invasion/garage rock nods (“Unwinder”), organ-fueled dub (“Dub Stubbs”) and psych-fueled epics (“Bastille Day”). Then there’s that lively finale “Tarantino,” which Stubbs sees as an album outlier. “The title came afterwards, but it does seem like a song you’d hear at the end of a Tarantino film, where people getting murdered but there’s upbeat music.”
So think of the Antiguas as a timeless musical statement that nods to the past but lives in the here and now. “It’s meshing vintage sounds with modern tweaks,” says Stubbs. “It's lo-fi inspiration with hi-fi sonics and production.”
The Antiguas only started performing in 2016, but in the band’s brief time together they’ve been nominated for three Boston Music Awards and developed quite a live show reputation. Any given night could see the group engaging in double organ throwdowns or backlit by trippy visual projections. The live version of the Antiguas consists of Stubbs, Chris Rivelli (drums), Marc Hickox (bass) and Justin Lopes (organ).
In the end, it really doesn’t matter if you can “define” Stubbs and his new music. He’s making fans who transcend labels.
“Our crowd is diverse — it’s twentysomethings, indie kids, the jam band crowd, even an older crowd relating to seeing something at the Fillmore,” he says. “The good news is that everyone seems to like it.”