Sometimes my job is easy. I get connected with a musician and we hit it off right away. They give me lots of interesting material to use. I don’t have to beg for details. I’m not adding filler like some kind of hot dog manufacturer.
Talking to Jason Wetherholt was easy. He wanted to talk about his band, and that’s harder to come by than you might think.
Todd Zastrow (keyboard), Jamie Mauck (drums), Jason Wetherholt (guitar), Conner Buenting (bass)
Smile Politely: Hey! Let’s get started!
Jason Wetherholt: The band is Matter of Days. I started writing music for it in April 2012. We started jamming that May; our first gig was September 28th, 2012 at Bentley’s Pub. Our August 15th show at Cowboy Monkey will be our 54th show as a band in the two years we’ve been gigging. When we first started out, we played mostly originals with a few covers tossed in. Then we found that many of the bars who wanted us to play were looking for four hour sets. That meant learning more covers and, eventually, the scaled tipped the other direction.
That being said, we released our first (and self-titled) album in April. The whole album was recorded and mixed locally at SCP Studio in Danville with Jordan Cundiff. Jordan was a dream to work with, and I’d highly recommend him for anyone else who is looking to work with a studio. We worked our tails off, and the whole thing was recorded in two days.
The band still has two original members. I sing and play guitar; and Todd Zastrow plays keys and sings harmony. Jason Barham has been playing drums with us since May. Conner Buenting has been playing bass with us since January.
SP: You may be my favorite interview right off the bat! I have never, in the 18 months I’ve been doing this, gotten this much to work with after asking for so little.
Wetherholt: We’ll see if you continue to feel the same way the longer we know each other. I have a gift of OVER-communication.
SP: Oh, Jason… you have no idea…
Where did you grow up? How has that shaped you as a musician?
Wetherholt: My alcoholic father left when I was a kid, so we moved around a bunch. But my major formation of music came in high school in Lincoln, IL (the town that inspired…a song I wrote after years of being annoyed by all the online posts from…people who would complain about our town of origin) and I was actually proud of what small town life instilled in me.
My step-dad taught me three chords on the guitar and it all exploded from there. I led worship at church as much as I could in high school and college and into adult life. Then a friend asked me to play in his band for his CD release show at the Canopy in 2010, and with just a taste of what gigging could be like…I was hooked. I thought about it all the time for the next year and a half, until grad school was ending and I was looking for another creative outlet.
So in April of 2012, I had Mondays off. I finished all my grad school papers on the first Monday of the month. I took the next Monday off to watch movies, and on the following one I started writing music. I wrote six songs in six weeks, asked some of the most talented friends I know to come and jam with me, and the rest is the history.
And once again, I’ve answered 5 things you weren’t asking.
SP: It’s better this way. How did church and/or your faith shape your music choices? Or did it?
Wetherholt: For me, faith isn’t a part of who I am, it is who I am. It shapes everything. It’s a lens that helps everything else around me make sense.
Currently, all four guys in the band go to church, and three of us actually work at churches. That hasn’t always been the case. Our longest standing drummer, and the one who played on our album, wasn’t a believer, and that was totally cool. We’re not a Christian band, and he had a great time hanging with us without any weirdness or assumptions.
If you’re looking carefully, you can see a couple of spiritual references in the songs I’ve written, but really it’s just a rock album. The same goes for our shows. We want to be known as good guys who play awesome shows. We don’t talk about faith stuff unless someone asks. We all go to churches that intentionally send artists out into the community to help create great art. No bait and switch. Just be a good person, share what you’ve created, and maybe people will ask about it later.
We all feel like we’ve struck a great balance, and that’s been fun.
SP: Who are your band mates to you? Friends, collaborators…
Wetherholt: Yep, the band is about far more than just playing gigs. We do 2-3 shows per month. Those gigs last for four hours. We get there two hours early to set up, after of course there’s tear down and commute. And the three of us who have kids will have them jumping on us in the morning, even if we got home at 3am. So the band becomes a community for us; a way to enjoy our hobby together; a really fun expression of who we are.
Todd (keyboard) has been my best bud since I was seventeen, so getting to play together has been a dream come true for us. People ask when the band will be done. My answer is always when the first of two things happens: either we’re not still giddy to take pics of our names on signs anymore (because we’ve become so arrogant), or when Todd calls it quits. I can’t imagine Matter of Days without him.
Conner (bass) is one of my favorite people around. He and I work together, and I’ve been watching his musical career since he graduated high school. He’s super talented and adds a ton to what we do. I’m going to Great America with Conner next week to check out their new wooden coaster, and that has nothing to do with the band.
Jason Barham (drums) is new to us. He’s only played three gigs. But he’s a fun guy whose been playing in the town forever, and we can’t wait to see where that leads.
I love the community of our group. I love the shared experience, and I love the stories we get to tell from all the crazy things we’ve seen at venues.
Conner Buenting, Todd Zastrow, Jason Barham, Jason Wetherholt
SP: What’s a crazy story from “the road”?
Wetherholt: Oh. man, I wish we had cooler “road” stories, but since we haven’t been able to tour yet, I don’t think we have any truly blush-worthy ones.
On the day of our first show, a good friend went into labor and couldn’t make it to the gig because she was birthing life. Another friend who did attend went into a bathroom only to discover another couple creating life. Our second gig had a total of eight attendees who were not in the band. We were married to three of them.
We once had a sizable fight break out two minutes after we finished playing. It was between us and the door. One girl came back to the bathroom holding her nose and crying. Once she got patched up, she headed back the fight. She returned to the bathroom no more than 30 seconds later. And we were all thinking, “Stop fighting; you’re clearly not very good at it.”
A rap-style venue once booked us, and I told the guy we [weren’t] anything like what he normally had. He assured me that he wanted us anyway. Then halfway through the second set, while people were dancing and having a great time, he asked us to stop playing and pack up. He went on to blast these absolutely awful Miami-bikini-girly-rap-dance videos. We were slightly offended but also glad to leave.
We opened for Kansas at the 2013 Sweetcorn festival. That was crazy awesome.
And then there was the gig where we killed a guy for requesting “Freebird.” Okay, that didn’t happen, but the thought has crossed my mind.
SP: Those are all great! Can’t wait to hear what happens when you actually start touring!
Where do you like to play?
Wetherholt: Along the way, we’ve always enjoyed the small town bars quite a bit. We’re all small town guys. People are real and out to have a good time, and our style and ability to laugh at ourselves seems to play well in the small towns. Next small town gig is Sidney Saloon on September 5th.
In town, we love Memphis On Main. They’ve been great to us, and the crowds always like a mix of rock and country, which suits us well. We’re also really excited about Cowboy Monkey this Friday. I’ve heard it said that Cowboy Monkey is “the place musicians hang out.” The one fun thing about this Cowboy Monkey show is that, due to a tonsillectomy for Conner, our original bass player in the band (Jay Creek) will be back with us for the weekend. So it’s a rare chance to hear three of the original players back together!
Take this rare chance to see three-fourths of the original Matter of Days at Cowboy Monkey on Friday the 15th. The show is at 9:30 p.m. and it’ll cost you five bucks.