Plenty of local musicians are also part-time teachers. Whether to earn extra money or to pass their lessons on to a newer, idealistic generation, Full Sail University and the University of Central Florida are both teeming with weathered veterans of the music scene. But there aren’t many artists who find themselves in a trailer surrounded by 13-year-olds who kindly leave graffiti on the last day of school proclaiming them a “fucking nerd.” Omar de la Rosa, a former Orlando Weekly intern and sometime contributor, has lived through that experience. He willingly signed up for it, and he took souvenir photos of the insulting tag.
“I’m kind of a short guy, and a lot of people associate me with a nerd,” says de la Rosa. His outsider personality is a big influence on his music. “I’m not a clubbing sort of guy and a lot of electronic music takes place in that culture. I don’t dance very well. `So` I approach electronic music from the outside.”
Like nearly every underground musician, de la Rosa has never been able to pin down a particular interest to which to devote his time. He’s dabbled in screenplay and stage writing, music criticism and filmmaking, but he keeps coming back to the music. It was at Austin’s Coffee, in fact, that he finally decided to form a real band.
“When I was a freshman at UCF, my only live performances were stand-up comedy,” he says. “I went to Austin’s Sunday stand-up night. When I started playing music, I `went` to their Tuesday open-mic night.”
De la Rosa eventually started playing with Sam Metro, a keyboardist he met at Austin’s. After recruiting a couple of other compatible musicians, they formed Magnet Club, an experimental pop group with a new wave influence and tongue-in-cheek conversational lyrics (“In a jar shaped like a pig/I saved a million pennies/Or maybe not so many, but enough for me to order/From a website that will mail your love a cooler/Full of snow”) and recorded an EP, last year’s Snow. Immediately following its release, de la Rosa embarked on his solo mission, assuming the alias Matisse and Carrots.
Although Matisse and Carrots retains de la Rosa’s McCartney-esque sensibility (on one track he bemoans the fact that the Beatles took all the “good metaphors”) his tone is lower, the drawl of his voice reaching into a darker place that transforms his Magnet Club jokiness into a confessional cloak.
“I was always a fan of bands like New Order, `but` I don’t try to be a revivalist,” says de la Rosa. “I try to make it my own. Also, when I was a little kid, my aunt was a big Beatles fan and I just always listened to the Beatles. They have a lot of songs that were dark `as well`.
“I can’t quite write a happy song. Maybe there is no happy music. I guess Mumpsy’s pretty happy.”
As for those kids in the trailer, de la Rosa claims he chose the Matisse and Carrots moniker for his solo project, at least in part, so they wouldn’t find him on MySpace. What a nerd.
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