Interview: Catching Up with Mateo Vosganian
Photos/Words: Frankie Cavone
Mateo Vosganian has become a man of many hats in the Capital Region music scene since his time in Wild Adriatic and on top of all of that is now a rockin’ dad. From playing a big role behind the scenes at the beloved Caffe Lena to filling the airwaves at 102.7 WEQX, he still has found time to continue beating the drums with his role in Precious Metals, a rising alternative rock act featuring the lovely James White.
It has been great to watch the incredible journey Vosganian is on. I first got to meet Mateo blowing up soccer balls in his dad’s factory and realized very quickly how special he was. After diving in to local live music, it was amazing to see who he was behind the drum set and having the opportunity to photograph him in Wild Adriatic, one of the greatest rock acts to come of the Upstate, NY region(there I said it). I have always looked at Mateo as someone who always takes care of others before taking care of himself all while knowing how to have fun and be outgoing. Check out our interview catching up Mateo below:
Since your time with Wild Adriatic, you have kept yourself busy with various projects and from outside looking in looks like you are killing it! Congratulations on becoming a father. How’s life been adjusting to the next phase in life?
What a trip! I thought I survived on no sleep when the band was touring, playing shows late and driving all day to hit the next venue but having a baby is a whole other ballgame. I’m staying as present as possible in every moment because I know she’s only going to be an infant for such a short time. My partner Lauren and I are adjusting pretty normally I think – overwhelmed, overjoyed, loving every moment, freaking out about a new thing every day, and constantly googling while also trying to stay off the stupid internet. Basic new parent stuff. I like that you say “from the outside looking in” it seems like we’re killing it- that’s the internet for ya. I don’t post on Instagram when I’m crying in therapy or struggling with my troubles with anxiety, overstimulation, anxiety, imposter syndrome, crippling self doubt or otherwise. But overall I am happy, completely sober, and so excited about what lies ahead for our family. It was truly a gift to have those first six weeks of her life just to be parents with my best friend Lauren and spend so much time watching our daughter grow. We’re surrounded by love and so our daughter will grow up surrounded by love. It’s a beautiful thing.
Even though you have your hands full, do you still make time to lay down?
Haha that was a fun photo project that sort of fell off in recent years! I’m still laying down a lot, just not in weird/cool places or dirty stages. Mostly on the floor next to our daughter during tummy time or in bed trying to catch a few minutes of sleep.
You have performed for years with numerous live acts and decided to make a transition to working behind the scenes and helping other young artists. How has it been working at Caffe Lena and what do you like most about what you are doing today?
Caffe Lena had an opening that is perfect for my ability to wear many hats and keeps me happily in the music world which I’ve spent so much of my life working in. What I did not expect when joining the team here at the Caffe was that I’d be so involved in a nonprofit arts organization that not only puts on hundreds of events a year but also serves an important, forward-thinking role in the creative community in our area. I had worked a bit with Executive Director Sarah Craig in the past on Wild A shows and it’s an honor to be working alongside someone I deeply respect and have so much to learn from. Sarah has a unique vision for how a live music venue can serve its community beyond showtime hours. There are so many programs here that do a tremendous amount of good in the local area and the Caffe’s place in history means that other venues around the country look to us as a vision of what is possible in their own communities. My favorite part about the job is how much there is to learn and how precious of a place it is. I feel lovingly beholden to the community of supporters, volunteers, board members and staff that have put their heart & soul into this place. It feels important to be here, to be doing the work we do, and it fills my heart with joy to be a small part of an organization that has done so much for so many.
If I can take some space to talk about just (4) of the many programs I’m excited about here… I think more people in our community need to know about stuff like this.
1) Caffe Lena On The Road – this program sends musicians into nursing homes, soup kitchens, schools, recovery centers, and beyond to deliver music & connection to community-members who don’t have much direct access to that level of musicianship. Our Community Outreach Coordinator Reese Fulmer does a fantastic job linking artists with a growing number of community organizations across several counties that bring these OTR performances to their buildings. Sarah has a great eye for the right artists who can truly connect with people of any age and from any walk of life.
2) Caffe Lena School of Music – a project that started in 2020, the school has grown to serve hundreds of children and adults. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the school’s director Vivian Nesbitt, the team of teachers and staff; it’s constantly expanding, trying new things, and inspiring a growing community of people hungry to learn music in the folk tradition. There are classes for everyone, free concerts for families, and no real barrier of access. Come in with a desire to learn and no matter your skill set, you’ll find a place to call home.
3) The Creative Community Health & Wellness Clinic – we had our first annual free health clinic last year and this year we’re opening the doors to all members of the creative community. On stages and behind the scenes in all mediums of art there are many folks who are underinsured or uninsured and this clinic is a powerful partnership with the Saratoga Community Health Center, Hudson Headwaters, and a handful of sponsors who have come together to provide health screenings, vision care, and beyond. Last year we provided working musicians with free custom molded earplugs and this year we’re happy to be linking the creative community with free vision assessments and eyeglasses among the many other services offered. This year’s version will happen on a Sunday in October.
4) The Caffe’s Volunteer Program – in many ways, this place can’t do the great work it does without the legions of volunteers who give their time and expertise to various projects. From ushers to kitchen & food service, from data entry to marketing & beyond. Some folks still don’t realize we’re a nonprofit organization and that a lot of the great work done here is thanks to our volunteers.
Music has always been the thing that keeps me feeling connected to humanity the most – working at Caffe Lena is no exception and I’m quite lucky to be able to stay working in the industry that has given me so much love & joy in my lifetime. At some point in the pandemic, it became clear to me that I needed to get back to playing music for the fun and love of it, instead of trying to pay my bills with it. I had fallen out of love with the drums, which was pretty disheartening to me. Today I’m fully back in love with the playing and writing of music and I owe a lot of that to taking a step back from the pressure of music as full-time work. I love working here at the Caffe and it fills me with a renewed sense of energy around my own creative work and supporting others in their creative endeavors.
What has it been like working with James White on the Precious Metal project? It is really cool to hear some of James’ songs that he has written, now played in full band form!
I’ve always strived to work with people I love & admire and J Lee is no exception. His work ethic, creativity, and just general good vibes are exactly the kind of energy I love to be around. We’ve been best buds for years and I’ve booked every single band he’s been in. He toured with Wild A as our tour manager for a while as well. It’s an honor to finally be in a band with him. The rest of the band is rounded out by true sweethearts and monster talents in their own right – Chase Keener on guitar/keys/bkg vocals and Jesse Bolduc on the bass geetar. The band has established a great working vibe together and we’re very excited to write more and record together as unit this year. 2022 was a pretty awesome first year for a band just getting started. 2023 promises more of the same including our just announced mainstage slot at Tulip Fest in Albany on May 13th!
Aside from Caffe Lena, you were on-air at 102.7 EQX. What was the experience like and what makes Jeff Morad so darn cool?
Another dream that came true for me. That old house has so much great music history and is full of hard working music lovers. It was a trip to go on the radio and say silly things and receive a positive response from so many kind folks. Jeff is absolutely one of my favorite people, a kind hearted gent who has always had my back. We’ve made a lot of great memories together and working for him at EQX will no doubt go down as one of my all time favorites. I won’t be able to stay away from working at the station for long… It was so fulfilling and just became a tad bit hard to do with a newborn. I’ll be back.
As for what makes Jeff so cool? He is unapologetically himself in every way shape and form. He owns what it is to be comfortable in one’s skin, to be a caring individual that works to better oneself, and to be absolutely hilarious on and off air. I admire Jeff and owe him a great debt of gratitude for years of friendship and love. Hell, the guy once let me move into his house when I was without a place to live. To say he’d give you the shirt off his back isn’t much of a stretch at all. In fact I’m sure I have one of his shirts somewhere in my closet…
In your time with Wild Adriatic, not only did you guys provide memories to a lot of people, you also helped expose our area to a lot of bands such as Chestnut Grove and Andy Frasco through avenues like The Summit. You guys really took care of the others you played with and did things by the book. Where did these values come from and how important is it to welcome others who aren’t familiar with the scene in your area?
We learned it from the bands who took care of us. Sister Hazel taught us a lot about how to treat other bands no matter where they’re from or what stage of their career they’re in. The Mile of Music festival in Appleton, WI taught us how every band wished every new town on tour could be. We just tried to bring a small part of that into as many relationships as possible. I’m only sad we couldn’t do more of it. I spent the last few years of the band’s existence mired in alcoholism and couldn’t engage in as many of those kinds of relationships as I wished. The music world can come with a frightening amount of simultaneous ego tripping and crippling self doubt. Alcohol fueled both of those for me, making for a very confusing time where my true self wasn’t able to shine as often as I’d wish. I’m grateful for the connections we were able to make, the memories that will live on forever, and the friendships I’ll cherish until the day I shuffle loose this mortal coil.
Who are some artists/bands that you are hyped on currently from the Capital Region/North country?
I’m really excited about Reese Fulmer & the Carriage House Band, the Hold On Honeys, Blue Ranger, Flavour, Carolyn Shapiro, Whiz Bang, b.chaps, Girl Blue and grape juice! There’s so many more I could list but those are my current jams.
After all of your experience in the music industry, what have been some of the biggest things you have learned?
1) Don’t be so hard on yourself.
2) Treat others as you would like to be treated.
3) Love is the universal language and if you approach your work, peers, and world with love you can be happy.
4) Take care of yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.
5) If you’re struggling with addiction or mental health issues- there is help available. You are not alone.
What can we look forward to down the road from Mateo Vosgonian?
More music, more hard work, more self discovery. New recordings from Precious Metals this year, my sweet family dancing along at shows when possible and some pretty great things coming out of Caffe Lena. Check the venue out and come see a show – there’s not a bad seat in the house. http://www.caffelena.org