The Current's Guitar Collection: Matthew Caws

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    Nov 27, 2013 Listen to all 2 tracks:
    Minor Alps, "I Don't Know What To Do With My Hands"
    Minor Alps, "Maxon"

When Matthew Caws visited The Current's studio with The Minor Alps, we asked him about his guitar. Here's what he had to say.

What kind of guitar is this?

It's a Gibson J-200, which I guess is the Gibson Jumbo, and I got it in 1996 at Chelsea Guitars on 23rd Street in New York City.

I was able to afford it because the neck had already been broken, which is common on a lot of Gibsons because of the tilt of the headstock — they're kind of fragile. So it was half of what it should have cost, and if it had been full price, it would have been way out of my range. Gibsons that have been broken and repaired are a great bargain.

I've played it ever since. It's been dropped a few times; it's been repaired a lot. I like that it's got a really big, warm sound.

What else can you say about its sound?

Being the only guitar player in Nada Surf for a long time — now we also have Doug Gillard from Guided by Voices and many other bands playing with us — but if we were starting out now as a quartet, I might not be as focused on "fatness," but I had been. That's why I also play Les Pauls live because they have such a deep tone. And this guitar by extension is kind of the Les Paul of acoustic guitars because it's got a really deep, fat sound. It's not, apparently, the best for finger-picking because the midrange is a little soft, but the super bottoms are great.

Pete Townshend would play one, so it's very good for rhythm guitar. And Elvis Presley would play one — I don't know why! (laughs)

Do you write on this ?

I do, I do, absolutely. Pretty much all the time.

Did it inform The Minor Alps' album?

Yeah! Because it's forever been my "sit-around-the-house-and-play" guitar. It's got an encouraging tone.

That's a funny thing: If you pick up a guitar in a store and it feels like you're about to write a song on it, that's always a good moment to try and buy it.

Is that how you felt about it when you first tried it in Chelsea Guitars?

Yes, I did, absolutely. It sounded warm and very encouraging.

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3 Photos

  • Matthew Caws performs as part of Minor Alps.
    Matthew Caws performs as part of Minor Alps. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Minor Alps are Matthew Caws and Juliana Hatfield.
    Minor Alps are Matthew Caws and Juliana Hatfield. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • It's official! Minor Alps have performed in The Current's studio and Matthew Caws' guitar case has the decal to prove it.
    It's official! Minor Alps have performed in The Current's studio and Matthew Caws' guitar case has the decal to prove it. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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