MUTEMATH | Souls in Focus

 

prof mutemath_smI have this sort of picture what’s going on in the show. I want the sound, the look to be what’s in our imagination at the time.

 

As I said in my review last year, MUTEMATH’s Odd Soul found the New Orleans trio stretching its legs, pushing boundaries as it explored the classic sounds of soul and funk and incorporated them into an indie rock oeuvre. The band also went through a lineup change, bidding adieu to guitarist Greg Hill before they sat down to write Odd Soul. For the album, they drew once again upon their Christian roots, which lent additional depth to their lyrics.

I had a chance to talk with charismatic singer/keyboardist Paul Meany—the band also includes bassist Roy Mitchell-Cárden and drummer Darren King—to discuss their roots, their inspiration, and their upcoming U.S. tour.

prof mutemath_500-2

How was writing as a full band on Odd Soul different from previous processes?

It was our first project that we did as a three-piece. Actually, let me correct that. The first project we ever did as a three-piece was the EP before Armistice. The last record certainly beat us up so we had to change something. I loved Armistice; I think it’s a great record. But it was the making of that record that really took a toll on us. [With Odd Soul], the three of us were trying to gel, and it worked: all the songs, lyrics, players—we’d finish each other’s sentences. Just create a record of friends, musicians, artists that you respect.

Why was Armistice so painful?

Because there were too many cooks in the kitchen. It’s a process that was so complicated, we never thought we could do that again. We were divided on a lot of things, which way to go. And then the label gets involved; the process just got so convoluted, took so many turns, we never thought we’d get it finished. As soon as we’d take 2 steps forward, we’d take like 20 steps backward, starting over again. It made making music not very fun. I don’t think any of us wanted to do that again.

We just took a very different approach to this record, which was we don’t let just anyone weigh in. When you start playing it for people, they tell you what they think, when you don’t even know what you think yet. It’s just not a very healthy way to create. We just did not work that way.

The new album certainly shows more influences.

We don’t feel like we reinvented anything as far as what we do. We really wanted to make a record that incorporated the things we had learned in five years of touring. No matter how we record a song, it becomes a certain thing on stage, which is fine. We’ve just recorded songs in the past, on the prior two records, that did not lend themselves very smoothly to playing on stage. As we went into this record, we thought it was an opportunity to just cut to the chase, make a record that’s stage-ready. In the process of that, we found ourselves drawing from different influences, which are more original kind of influences. In past records, we didn’t really go there. We wanted the music to be louder on this record.

prof mutemath-live_300How much of a role does Christianity play on this album?

It plays a huge role; it’s one thing that I bonded with Darren over. We were raised in very similar situations, a very specific time in the ’90s, a huge Christian culture; it certainly had an influence. It does something to your psyche. You come from a process, a life process. Odd Soul is a more honest record where we talk about the constraints of Christianity; it’s interesting to us. Whatever we may call it, it’s just a part of our psyches, a part of our music. It’s always going to be a part of it.

Your bio talks about eccentric Christianity. What does that mean?

I’m sure you’ve seen it or heard of it: charismatic preachers, speaking in tongues, Shangri-la, Jesus camps are going to take over the world. This particular culture is a very, very certain state; it was about becoming something. This whole big media thing that was becoming a big deal, sort of an evangelical attempt to go after teenagers. We were to be rule changers, march down in Washington, change all the wicked policies of the government. There won’t be any more instability in the country; it’s the kids’ responsibility to purge the country of demons. There are a lot of things that happened that we probably did in the name of God that are embarrassing. No one got hurt or anything like that, but you wound up blushing.

MUTEMATH brings a lot of energy to the stage, and the Armistice Live DVD captures that. You must be proud.

When I watch the DVD, it’s important to me that I get to see what I experience when I’m on stage. It’s playing out in my imagination during the show; I have this sort of picture what’s going on. When I watch the show, I want the sound, the look to be what’s in our imagination at the time.

Has there been a point in your career where you felt like you’ve “made it”?

No. [Laughs] But I had a few points in my career where I felt very appreciative of what we have, very fortunate. But to be quite honest, you’re just trying to push hard, keep it going. You’ve “made it” at the point where you can go on cruise control; we don’t do that, although the older I get, the more I’d like to relax a bit. Music’s a young man’s game, especially the technology. Still, we truly enjoy what we do; we’re very fortunate.

This tour is probably the most ambitious that we’ve done. Very visual, playing the music, pushing the songs even further. Every audience member that comes to our show and pays their hard earned money to hear us play our songs…that never gets old. We always push for more, put on a great show, play as hard as we can.

So you’re constantly challenging yourself.

We’ll die happy. | Laura Hamlett

MUTEMATH plays The Pageant in St. Louis on Tuesday, February 28. Tickets are $22 adv/$25 dos, with a $2 minor surcharge. Doors are at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. 

 

MUTEMATH 2012 U.S. Tour

02.17 | House of Blues, Chicago
02.18 | First Avenue, Minneapolis
02.28 | The Pageant, St. Louis
03.01 | The Intersection, Grand Rapids
03.02 | St. Andrew’s Hall, Detroit
03.03 | Newport Music Hall, Columbus, Ohio
03.04 | House of Blues, Cleveland
03.07 | House of Blues, Boston
03.08 | Best Buy Theater, New York
03.09 | Trocadero, Philadelphia
03.10 | 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.
03.11 | The Orange Peel, Asheville, N.C.
03.14 | Amos’ Southend | Charlotte, N.C.
03.16 | Revolution, Ft. Lauderdale
03.17 | House of Blues, Orlando
03.18 | The Tabernacle, Atlanta

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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