Mateo Barnett is a Louisville musician who has delved heavily into the local music scene. If you’ve been around Louisville long enough you may have seen him play keyboards and “sing and emote all naughty like” (words from Barnett himself) on stage with the band Vampire Squid  (of which I was their third violinist in the band). Vampire Squid broke up in August 2010. Read a farewell to the band in the LEO . He is also active in booking shows at small venues for local bands and out of town touring bands. So what has Barnett been up to since Vampire Squid’s break up? Well it sounds like he has been staying pretty busy.
Since Vampire Squid, Barnett has taken up playing the accordion, mandolin, and any other cool instrument he can get his hands on. He has been practicing accordion and occasionally vocals with Stephanie Gary’s (Venus Trap , Julie of the Wolves ) currently unnamed band. Other band members include Jamie Lynn Smith (Venus Trap) and Matthew Whitaker (Hal Dolls ) playing drums and bass respectively. Byron Gary (Vampire Squid, Stephanie’s husband) is also collaborating by writing some trumpet parts for a few songs as well. This is a really exciting endeavor for Barnett because he is joining as an addition and also as an instrumental musician, not a singer or front man. This gives him a chance to experiment with instrumental playing and forces him to practice on those instruments. Singing came so easily for him that he never really felt he had to work hard on it. (Barnett comes from a musical background. His mother was an opera singer.)
The project Mateo is most psyched about is a project he started with Michael Autin (Vampire Squid) and Lee Faith. Over the past few months they have been writing skeletons of songs. Barnett describes the band’s sound, “They are catchy but off kilter, so kind of Vampire Squidy. We are going to go back, flesh them out, and ask our friends to play parts on them- so a different drummer here, a cellist here, maybe two violins here, vibes and hand percussion over here. Probably a lot of it will overlap, but it will be big, epic, rowdy and fun.”
When Barnett isn’t playing in shows he is proactive in booking them, especially experimental groups. He has had the privilege to bring every member of Prehistoric Horse  in town on solo tours. David Grollman (percussion w/ Prehistoric Horse) was on tour in his 2-piece group called Swirm with Brad Henkel. Swirm was on tour with another 2-piece group called Premoticon. Mateo had the pleasure of playing 2 shows with them, one with our nameless and disbanded project (Mateo and myself were in a short lived mandolin, saxophone, violin, guitar, keyboard band after Vampire Squid broke up), and the other with Sonic Sword, an experimental improv group. He brought Lucio Menegon (guitarist w/ Prehistoric Horse) to town, and Menegon played with Touch AC , Field of Kings , and Jack Holiday and the Westerners  at Solidarity . Valerie Kuehne (cellist w/ Prehistoric Horse) came to town and played with Greg Mckillop, Sandpaper Dolls , and Dane Waters. He got to bring Hellblinki to town as well as The Ford Theatre Reunion  on the same night. That was a very epic evening. He brought in the operatic, electronic duo Phantom Arms Akimbo followed by one of the greatest Louisville bands, Madame Machine . Some other interesting groups Barnett has booked include Joey Molinaro  (solo grindcore violin), The Mimics , Daikaiju  (surf rock band you must check out), and noise duo, Brain . One of the most fun events Barnett helps organize is a big Steampunk Birthday Party every September at the Rudyard Kipling . This is just a small portion of the bookings Barnett has done. If you are an out of town band looking for a venue to play on tour hit up Mateo Barnett. He can hook you up for sure.
Photos: courtesy of Mateo Barnett