Matthew O'Neill is a musical artist based in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Born in Ontario, Matthew spent much of his youth joyously alongside his father in the Eastern woodlands. He went on to spend deep time in various locals within the folds of the US, falling in love with place. A mystic at heart, his music embodies a connection to Spirit, Nature, and Indigenous perspectives. At a very young age he began relating heavily to indigenous teachings, cosmology and technology. Learning to embrace the inherent contradictions of those ways and contemporary life has been a defining aspect of his work. While bridging the gap between time honored traditions and the modern world, his music offers up feelings that are fresh, wild, and celebratory. Music critics have compared him to the likes of David Byrne, Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, Nick Cave, Pink Floyd, and Wooden Wand.
At the age of 18, Matthew removed himself from society and sought out the education of experience in the wilderness of the American West. He lived out of a tent in National Forests and vast Wilderness areas. Everyday was an adventure of deepening connection to nature's infinities on the outskirts of civilization, of sheding domesticity, and of connecting to true primitive self. It was clear to him, having been in college for a spell, that nothing could compare to what the sophistication of natural design and dynamics had to offer. It was a time of immense spiritual and personal growth. In nature he thrived. During this time Matthew documented and channelled his experiences into music and writing and became actively involved in foraging, plant medicine, and primitive skills.
Following these baselining with the Earth, Matthew then began working seasonal jobs on remote ranches and performing solo. Shortly after leaving Occidental, California, he formed Maiden Creek Lodge in Northern Arizona. The band performed and recorded locally in the mile high town. During travels back East he felt himself newly at home in the Catskill Mountains of New York, and moved to a shack at an old ballet camp in Big Indian, NY. He was the caretaker there. During this time he founded and built Atlantic Sound Studios in Brooklyn, New York with friend Diko Shoturma. In high school Matthew had begun throwing house shows and recording with his band Milkweed, Diko was the bass player in that band. At this time in NYC his friends' art careers were taking off and the was a genuinely good vibe amongst them all. The studio is still going strong and Diko has 2 grammy's under his belt.
In 2009, Matt moved with his family to Los Angeles, and began performing in the area while working in the day doing permaculture, mostly in Highland and Echo Park. He rented an off-the-grid shack on the side of a mountain above Topanga and there finished an album he’d began in the Catskills the previous year. Fellow Topanga resident and qigong, herbalist, tai chi, and shakuhachi extraordinaire, Bill Fiorella heard him perform several times and asked him to sign to Lone Pine Records. With a classic Sun Ra / Pharaoh Sanders aesthetic they recorded 'Campfire Cook’ up high in the mountains two hours east of Los Angeles. O’Neill was living in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia at the time, and he flew out the session in Wrightwood, CA. The album was recorded completely analog over the course of 3 days of sonic conjuring with some incredibly sympatico players, including Toby Williams on drums (Curtis Mayfield), using Daniel Lanois' hand me down gear.
He toured nationally in support of Campfire Cook, performing solo and with a band. The tour was capped off with a record release performance in Topanga at Carla And Matt's featuring all the players from the record. Returning to Woodstock, he began working on a new album at Atlantic Sound Studios. Co-produced with Diko Shoturma (Bjork, St. Vincent, David Crosby), they began recording in early 2016 and finished at the end of the year. The record is called Trophic Cascade and in May 2017, 500 copies of the double lp were made available via O'Neill's Underwater Panther Project.
The album kicks off with “Bridge Builder”, a fierce folk/rock call-to-action full of stomp and swagger (“I’m a bridge builder/I’m a lonely star / I’m a wildcat criminal / Kicking down your stall”). Matthew says, “’Bridge Builder’ exists at a confluence of Native American ways, failing political systems, concepts of personal freedom and alternative positive futures. The rest of the record follows suit, exploring juxtapositions and relationships from my own perspective, which are deeply informed by Native American ways.” O’Neill sets the tone early—but this is no one-note outing. The album embodies an infusion of many genre sources.
Matthew lives and breathes the kind of spiritually expansive music that allows the listener to bring their own trip to the trip. O’Neill offsets an edgy malevolence on “Poisoning the Well” (“And you got that blood stained white T-shirt from when they took her from you / And I got those guilt- ridden old sneakers, hanging on the line”) with the shimmering soulful “Louisiana”, the delirious psychedelia and tribal drumming of “1000 Years”, and the wisened beauty of “Relaunching” (Just relaunching/Just launching again/Just being born now/Just being born again/So I can see you/So you can see me again).
All songs on Trophic Cascade were written and performed by Matthew O'Neill (guitar, lead vocals), backed by a luscious layering of baritone sax and contrabass clarinet by Stuart Bogie, (Arcade Fire, David Byrne & St. Vincent); synth/keys by Frank Locrasto (Cass McCombs); vocals by Broadway’s Shayna Steele; cello by Dave Eggar, (Patti Smith, Paul Simon, Sia); bass by Jacob Silver (Lucinda Williams, Charles Bradley). The album sees Matthew using the studio in a Bowie-esque way, as an instrument for sound, arrangement, and collaboration.