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“The Mashtis are doing SXSW this year. I just booked a date,” Itai Faierman says of the annual music industry showcase in Austin. “I’m hoping to book five more dates if I can.” With a new song collection in the can ready for release, it’s a new day for the trio he co-founded a couple of years ago with bassist Erica Putis and long-time collaborator Neil Bociek on drums. Sitting on one of the old padded wing chairs at Twiggs on Park Blvd., Faierman says 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.

“We’ve really moved away from all that and finally arrived at our own thing. It’s a sound I can finally call Mashtis. It’s different. It’s really in your face.” For them, it is. A quick preview demonstrates a new comfort with volume. These songs are meant to be played loud, which hasn’t always been the Mashtis brand. Indeed, Faierman is still the primary songwriter, but this time around he says the other Mashtis also had input into the arrangements.

“I’ve written a lot of music in the past,” he laughs, “that I wouldn’t listen to.”

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. He was still living there when we first met on a night he was performing in an acoustic duo in Normal Heights. I’d been out for an evening walk; Faierman’s immediate and jarring guitar work and his sweet Jeff Buckley vocals literally pulled me in off the street. I stared at his music in the way one might rubberneck a house fire or some other such spectacle. He was, I thought, a garage rocker disguised as a folkster.

As it turns out, I wasn’t too far off the mark. Before coming to San Diego Faierman had played in hard rock bands around NYC. And prior to the Mashtis, he and Bociek goofed off in a loud-ass Sonic Youth-inspired noise band that went nowhere career wise but that laid the ground work for future collaborations. They didn’t have a clue about where it was going, but there was surety in one thing: the addition of a full drum kit was having an effect on Faierman’s writing.

Today, the new 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 The Mashtis 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 has since upgraded to a Fender Twin, the loudest of all mid-size amps, and now it is Bocieck who must keep up. Otherwise, Erica Putis has always been suitably amped. She 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.

It has been two years since the Mashtis released their eponymous debut in 2010. “Our first album sounds so slow by comparison,” Faierman says. “The new collection (A Canopy of Sundays) 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.

The new 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. The Mashtis recorded all six tracks with Mike Kamoo at Earthling Studios in El Cajon, chosen both for his grasp of their intentions and for his array of vintage analog studio equipment.

Kamoo later remixed two of the digitized tracks for vinyl. Along with digital downloads, the Mashtis plan is to release a limited run of 7” discs as collectible art. “They’re all numbered and with a design that we’re not gonna do again.” The record was mixed to feature more drums and the bass than in the past. “And, we mixed the music to the vocals. We never used to do that,” Faierman says. “We’re maturing.” Image

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