The making of Indigenous found the band between record contracts and thus in complete creative control: Indigenous were liberated from any expectations beyond their own desire to record themselves the way they wanted to be heard.
Recorded and mixed at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, Indigenous was co-produced with British brothers Jesse and Robin Davey. (Singer/guitarist Mato Nanji was a fan of the Daveys’ former band, The Hoax.) This collaboration created the songs and sonic template that have brought forth one of the most inspired, urgent, and exciting albums of blues-infused rock in memory. The debut single and lead track from Indigenous is “C'mon Suzie.” This hook-laden song captures Mato Nanji's remarkable, raw guitar virtuosity and infectious, soulful vocals in a performance that encapsulates the distinctive sound of Indigenous.
“The sound of this album is really the result of feedback from the fans,” says Mato. “A lot of them have told us they liked our live show more than our records.
“On the earlier albums, we’d record live just to get a drum track, then go back and overdub the other parts. This time we pretty much cut all the songs live in the studio, with the whole band on the floor, and only overdubbed the vocals and the solos.”
"We went straight from the writing sessions to the studio," Mato notes, "sometimes the day before we cut the song. The material is a mixture of everybody's ideas."
The result of this process is a defining album for Indigenous. It bears the stamp of their previous recordings but unleashes the band's most primal, elemental instincts. Indigenous might just be the most garage-rockin' blues album ever recorded. Just imagine the ghost of Stevie Ray Vaughan sitting in with The White Stripes and go from there.
Indigenous have often cited the musical influence of such artists as Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, and Led Zeppelin. But Mato adds some additional names to the list: “I think people would be surprised that we listen to Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave—a lot of different influences that you may not hear right away in our songs.”
The Story So Far
Members of the Nakota Sioux Nation, the musicians of Indigenous grew up on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota and still reside in the area. As adolescents, their primary influence was Greg Zephier—father of Mato, Pte, and Wanbdi, and a Native American rights activist who played music throughout the Sixties and Seventies.
“My father showed me how to tune the guitar,” Mato recalls, “and then he gave me all these records”—classic blues and rock albums by such legends as Santana, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Freddy King, and Jimi Hendrix. “He said, 'If you listen to it and learn it yourself, you'll never forget it.' For me, the blues was the most in-your-face type of music, the one that hit me the most.”
Indigenous released their first recording in 1997 when Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray asked the band to contribute a track to the Honor The Earth benefit CD. Indigenous’ first nationally distributed album, Things We Do (Pachyderm Records), appeared in 1998. “Now That You're Gone” reached the Top Ten on the Radio & Records Rock chart, while the title track and “Got To Tell You” both breached the Top 25. “Things We Do” was also made into a video directed by Chris Eyre, director of the award-winning Native American film Smoke Signals.
In 1999, Indigenous joined the B.B. King Blues Festival tour. “That was one of the fun times,” Mato recalls. “Just to be there every night, watching B.B., Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan, Taj Mahal, Robert Cray. I remember that B.B. came on the bus and told us to ‘stay high on the music’—not on anything else!” Indigenous has performed in concert with Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, Indigo Girls, Bonnie Raitt, and Santana. The band also has appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “CBS Saturday Morning,” and “Austin City Limits.”
Subsequent releases like the Blues This Morning EP and the full-length Live At Pachyderm Studio (both 1999) expanded the band’s following and burnished Mato’s reputation as an electric guitarist of extraordinary power and inspiration. When their next album Circle was released in May 2000, The New York Times proclaimed that "Indigenous offers blues-rock elevated to spectacular heights." Circle was co-produced by Doyle Bramhall, a friend and song collaborator of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Circle spawned two more Top 20 Rock radio hits with “Little Time” and “Rest of My Days.” The latter song introduced the band to major-market stations in Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Diego. To date, Indigenous’ previous releases (on the independent Pachyderm label) have achieved aggregate sales in excess of 300,000 units.
What does the future hold for Indigenous? “We’d just like to get our music to more people,” says Mato Nanji. “I think there are people around the world who could get into this kind of music. Working in the studio, creating songs, making records—I’m totally happy doing all of it.”