A Conversation With Matrisha Armitage of Bajuana Tea
Nate Gartrell, EDN
Bajuana Tea is a local duo, formed by Matrisha and Austin Armitage. The couple, now married, met in high school, and recently celebrated the 15th Anniversary of both their band and relationship. They’ve been playing gigs for about eight years, and have recorded three albums since their beginning. They’re also scheduled to play at the Nima’s Wish Foundation Spring Forward event on May 3, at the McDonald Theater.
Recently, Eugene Daily News got a chance to speak with Matrisha Armitage, the drummer for Bajuana Tea. Matrisha is also the head of Grrrlz Rock, a local promotional company dedicated to increasing female participation in music and the arts. In this interview, Armitage discusses Bajuana Tea’s background, as well as the ins and outs of being married to your musical collaborator.
Eugene Daily News: So, how did you two meet?
Matrisha Armitage: A girlfriend of mine had a crush on Austin, but they were just friends. She started seeing that we might like each other, and she was a really good friend–instead of getting jealous, she started having us go to places with her, and set us up. Within a few months, we were high school sweethearts. He’s been my one and only since I was 15.
EDN: How does being in a relationship/marriage affect the band, and how does being in a band affect your relationship?
MA: The fact that both of our creative energies are in the same house really helps the band; we can jam anytime we want, and with scheduling and marketing, we don’t have anyone we need to check things with.
On the relationship side, it’s been different over the years, because we’ve been together so long. At first, it was really exciting, and then when you get into original creativity, you have to be sensitive to each others needs. If there is ever creative tension, as soon as we hit the stage, it doesn’t matter. We focus on being in the band, in that moment.
Emotionally, we’ve changed over the years, and we’ve had different dynamics, and we have to be sensitive with each other about those things. But we really work well together in music, run our own business together and have a special kind of relationship that enables all these many facets of our lives to come together and tackle them all as a team both professionally and emotionally. We are an awesome, unique couple.
EDN: Why have you decided to keep it a duo?
MA: Austin would probably give a different answer than me. I’ve always thought that you stand out more as a duo. When we first started playing, a lot of people would come up and say, “Wow, we turned the corner expecting to see five people on stage from the amount of music you’re creating.”
But, we also have had bass players who’ve played with us for a year or two, and did gigs with us for a while. We’ll have one do a cameo onstage for the McDonald Theater show, for the very last song.
EDN: What can people expect to see at your live performances?
MA: We do original rock music, but you really don’t always know what to expect–we can do a blues gig, we can do an acoustic mellow gigs, we can do heavy rock. Austin has really developed this skill to keep the rhythm and still play guitar leads. He’ll have this killer lead, and then go right back to rhythm guitar. I’m a busy drummer–I keep my feet going a lot, and that kind of fills in the bass.
EDN: It’s been reported that you were the first band to sign onto the Nima’s Wish event. How did that come about?
MA: We used to play at World Flavors Cafe regularly, and so we got a pretty good relationship with its owners [and Nima’s Wish founders]
Eliman and Alex. Then, when they quit running the cafe, I told them, “Let me know if you ever need anything from us.”
So, then I got the call from him [Eliman] to years later, and it was a real honor that they thought of us right away. We jumped right on.
EDN: What are some of your musical influences?
MA: Electrically, Hendrix and Clapton, Allman Brothers. Acoustically, our idol is Neil Young. Austin could probably play 150 Neil Yong songs without even trying. Also, Pearl Jam, Nirvana–stuff like that.
We do original rock, but more recently, we’ve been doing a lot of jazz and trying to mix in the genres. Usually, we can format it to the gig–I’ll usually ask someone, “What do you like?” and present it like a menu. We can usually then put together a set on the spot.
EDN: Have you got any CD’s out, and do you have any upcoming shows?
MA: We’ve made three CD’s. Our first is, “100% Natural.” Our second one is called, “Something’s Gotta Change,” and that one’s more political. Our third, an acoustic CD, is called “Take a Sip.” We got really good feedback on that one.
We’ll be playing an acoustic set at the Eugene Marathon on Sunday (April 29), playing for the runners. We’ve done it before, and it’s really fun. But lately, we’ve been working to get some of our original music recorded, and we’re not doing as many live shows as we used to.