The Mashtis included frontman Itai Faireman, Erica Putis on bass and vocals, and Neal Bociek on drums.
Faierman has an unusually low voice for leads: not Brad Roberts (Crash Test Dummies) dead baritone, but an arresting mix of gravel with urgency. Other observers keep comparing Faierman and bassist/back-up vox Erica Putis with the Pixies. The trio's occasionally more dissonant moments re-create the innovative, contemplative mood of Fraser/Debolt (a progressive folk-sourced Canadian duo whose groundbreaking 1971 album was finally rereleased in 2009).
Prior to forming the Mashtis, Faierman and Bociek experimented with a Sonic Youth–inspired art-noise band that ultimately went nowhere but that forged the connection that would be revisited when Faierman emerged earlier this year with fresh ideas and a couple of recordings. The turn to simplicity, he says, comes from being grounded.
“And, look at the Beatles,” Faierman says. “A song can have only three chords and still be a great song.” Indeed, it can. There are footnotes to the Beatles (and Elliot Smith) all over Faierman’s songs. The wild card in the new band is Erica Putis, who plays her electric bass guitar more like a lead instrument. But, why the Mashtis? Putis says they were in Hollywood and saw an ice-cream shop, Mashti Malone’s, after which the name became somewhat of an obsession. “When we saw that place, we started calling each other Mashti One, Mashti Two. Stuff like that.”
Itai Faierman was born on an army base in Israel but his South American parents raised him in New York City. In 2000, he moved to a Zen monastery housed in what had at one time been a roadside motel down in San Diego’s South Bay.
The latterday Mashtis sound is partly a product of Faierman’s sweet tooth for Gibson Les Pauls. When the group began he was playing both acoustic and a variety of solid body Fenders through a fifteen-watt practice amp that nevertheless delivered great tone. At gigs, Faierman powered the little amp through a PA in order to keep pace with Bociek’s drum kit.
But even though 2010’s eponymous full-length was at times a whispery collection of girl/boy songs, Bociek’s kick drum pushed Faierman’s guitar, and singing, into overdrive. In turn, Faierman began to write songs like “Better Than That” that work better with the whole band rather than at the all-acoustic showcases at venues like Hennessey’s or Brick By Brick that Faierman still plays on occasion.
Faierman later upgraded to a Fender Twin, the loudest of all mid-size amps. Erica Putis is a self-trained lyrical bassist who sings backup and in the beginning of the Mashtis told stream-of-consciousness jokes (spurring Pixies comparisons among some members of the home town rock press) at the mic while Faierman was still experimenting with alternate tunings and only had coin for one guitar. Now, he has an arsenal of them.
The Mashtis released their eponymous debut in 2010. “Our first album sounds so slow by comparison,” Faierman says. “The new collection is way faster and upbeat.” In the years pre-Mashtis there was a hiatus of close to four years for the Mission Hills based singer-songwriter which he broke with 2009’s solo CD Sunbed Tapes. There were issues of health and relationship to deal with and, he went back to school. Faierman is a Special Ed school teacher by trade.
In late 2011, they released a seven inch vinyl record A Canopy of Sundays, recorded with Mike Kamoo at Earthling Studios in San Diego. It came with four additional songs on downloadable cards, in a limited edition run of 250 copies with collectible art packaging. According to Faierman, “Canopy of Sundays describes that feeling of utter euphoria that happens when you know something’s about to end, but you want it to last. Kind of like a long, drawn-out Sunday afternoon hangover, before you have to let it end and put in a full week of work.”
“The concept idea for the cover art,” says Faierman, “comes from some of the artwork on hardcore singles I collected growing up on the east coast, from bands like Quicksand, Dinosaur Jr, and Fugazi: gritty, black and white.”
Faierman said at the time that he’s satisfied with the band’s new direction. “It’s music that I would listen to.” For one thing, he says there is less of the Elliot Smith and Pixies influence in the band that took its name from a Hollywood ice cream shop.
The newer songs sum up a feeling that Faierman calls uplifting loss. “Like regrettably getting rid of a negative, a lifelong habit, or a deep friendship that's dying that you know can never truly be let go of and, in a sense, don't want to see go.” Other themes include desire, guilt, consciousness, and the death of rock n' roll.
Through the late 2011 holidays, Faierman was in Berlin, playing a series of solo dates. In early 2012, the band split. According to Faierman, drummer Neal Bociek wants to devote more of his time working on his metal art sculptures and bassist/singer Erica Putis wants to spend more of her time working on her clothing line, Nuclear Clothing, and custom jewelry.
“One thing I very much appreciate about Erica and Neal is that they are both creative in their own ways,” Faierman said. He added that singing with Erica was “by far the most fun I have had singing with another musician.”
“Our best local gig was at the Casbah last September with Film School. It was the most amazing and craziest crowd we've played to yet. People stuffed into the Atari Lounge, great vibes, lots of stiff drinks, and it was so hot in there I nearly passed out. We played some good, stripped down rock and roll that night, for sure!”
Their worst gig was their very first time playing as the Mashtis. “It was in LA at the Knitting Factory. No soundcheck, blaring monitors, and a packed room with only our friends really listening. We had to pay for all of our drinks, including water, and the manager called us by a different band name all night.”
Faierman feels the band ran its course and went out at the right time. “We went on a little journey and popped out on the other side.” He and local singer/songwriter/guitarist Mike Flynn subsequently formed the band Mu. In early 2014, Faierman launched a new band, Speaker in Reverse, with its first single “Holy Girl.”