Throughout the past few years, many new bands have been tabbed as the hot, new "it" band, but perhaps none have been tabbed so frequently as MuteMath as the latest "must-see" live act.
Publications ranging from Blender and Spin to Rolling Stone have heaped praise on the band for its recordings as well as its electric live show, which definitely puts a new spin on the group's work.
As much as I am enamored with the band's recordings, the live show is that much better.
Perhaps what is so amazing is that for all of the layering and electronic experimentalism that the band worked into its self-titled, 2006 full-length debut, the band was able to not only recreate but build upon that with its live show.
After an extended break, MuteMath has recently reemerged with a new disc, Armistice, which builds upon the strength of its predecessor, MuteMath, and pushes the band forward.
As such, the band is back on the road in support of the new album, with a headlining tour that stops at Cain's Ballroom Saturday, Oct. 24.
"This is the first time we've ever gone out with new songs and old songs," said lead vocalist and keyboardist Paul Meany. "Before, we just had 'songs' with a few new ideas, so this has been exhilarating for us and a good experience."
While the idea of going out with new material might not seem like a big deal to some, the idea of incorporating a new repertoire of material into the live show, proved to be more daunting for the band than initially expected.
"We toured for three years for the last record and our live show had evolved into this 'thing,' for lack of a better word," Meany said. "So to incorporate new songs into this 'thing' proved to be a real challenge."
Although the band took extensive time to rehearse before hitting the road, it eventually realized that it could only push itself so far in a sheltered setting. In order to make things work, it would have to go out and take a new risk while touring, in hope that the audience would connect with the new material.
Perhaps the hesitation within the band comes from the fact that none of the new songs had previously played for a live audience.
According to Meany: "We tried to do the responsible thing and be productive and write new songs while we were out on tour, so we were constantly working on new ideas. We had no reason to believe the ideas we had road tested couldn't turn into a new record."
Once MuteMath got off the road, however, Meany said the band went into a tailspin of sorts. The group rented a house for three months with intentions of recording the new album and being done with it.
It ran into a barrier, however, when it couldn't record anything that everyone liked. Eventually, the group sought an outside producer to help it overcome its barriers in the studio and ended up starting over.
"The producer we were talking to finally said we needed to scrap it all and that it was probably causing all this tension because the songs really weren't all that good," Meany said. "It took us a little while to wrap our heads around that, but he was right."
In the end, the band started from scratch and came up with new ideas and trusted that the band's chemistry would guide it in the right direction.
Although the fresh start meant that the band had passed all of its deadlines, in the end Meany is convinced that it turned out a much better record.
"Before, we had always gone back and forth between recording and touring, recording and touring," Meany said, "So we were kind of frustrated by the process this time.
We had never turned out any music that we hadn't already road tested."
In retrospect, the new disc isn't a huge departure in sound for the band; although it does definitely build on the foundation of the band's previous work, while expanding the layers and electronic experimentalism a bit.
Lyrically, however, the band has made great strides forward as Meany turned out some of his most internally reflective work to date. Perhaps the struggle of the creative process worked its way into the disc with its darker tone, but that doesn't make the sentiments of relationships falling apart on "Backfire" and "Armistice" any less powerful.
With the challenges of writing and recording now behind them, the band is now back out on the road and working through the challenge of incorporating the new songs.
Although the band might have been unsure from the outset, initial reviews and fan reaction have been overwhelmingly positive. If anything, the new material might be adding a fresh electricity to the live performances as the group works to make it all interweave appropriately.
After all, as well as the group's music has been received, the real accolades have come from its live show where the band only builds on the intricacies of its recordings. The group's live chemistry is even more amazing as the members feed off each other as well as the audience and incorporate a spontaneous, improvisational touch to each song, which in turn reenergizes the crowd.
Whether playing in small clubs or to large audiences, as the group just did at the Austin City Limits Festival and will coming up at New Orleans' VooDoo Fest, the band always seems to get the crowd involved in the exchange of creative electricity.
Saturday night's show at Cain's Ballroom will be no different. If anything, it should be further proof that MuteMath is definitely one of the few "must see" live acts currently touring.
As the group challenges itself with incorporating the new material from Armistice, Meany said, "Now is a good time to see the band in a state of transition."
Transition or not, MuteMath continues to evolve with every performance, and I have no doubt this show will be every bit as impressive as the last.
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