POSTED ON JANUARY 25, 2012:
MuteMath distills down to what it does best, while still pushing musical boundaries
When MuteMath released its latest CD, Odd Soul, in October of last year, it made an immediate impression on fans. This time out, the band was obviously more focused. It still incorporated all of the electronic elements that are a signature of MuteMath's sound, but with the latest release, everything is more streamlined and focused, funkier and even more dynamic.
When discussing MuteMath with keyboardist, singer and band leader Paul Meany, he was acutely aware of the band's progression and even more accurate in explaining its evolution.
"MuteMath started as a two-piece electronic experiment between myself and (drummer) Darren King" he explained. "We didn't know what it was going to be at the time, it was just a side project. Eventually, we tried adding a show, so we added a guitarist and the results, really, were the Reset EP. As we added more shows, we added a bass player."
"For me, our story has been about us finding what we do as we evolved into this hybrid rock band," he shared.
Over the course of an EP and two full length discs, MuteMath found its identity and a distinct sound, mixing electronic samples and drum loops with more traditional rock instrumentation to develop an incredibly layered and experimental sound. Although Reset was an introduction of sorts, it only scratched the surface of what was to come. The band's self-titled MuteMath disc, revealed a far more realized band and sound, while its follow-up, Armistice, continued in that direction, while exploring darker themes.
"Going into Odd Soul, it was imperative to assess what we've learned about ourselves," Meany said. "We really concentrated on creating something more organic, that identified more with what we do live."
"Armistice was necessary for us, I think, and we explored a darker side of our sound," he continued. "When we got ready to go out and play it live, though, we had to reinvent the music to make it work as a band, much like we did with our previous album. What we learned from it is that we're better at exploring the brighter side of our music and creating something with higher spirits that works better with our live show."
"It took us a while to figure out what really worked for us as a band and I think we finally did that," Meany explained. "One thing was not hiring a producer to talk us into or out of trying different things. We basically locked everyone out this time. We all had a very clear picture of what we wanted to sound like with this record, so we locked ourselves into my house for eight or nine months and got it done."
The results are an album that sounds much more organic and live than the band's previous two discs. Yes, the samples and experimentation are still there, but the songs also have a far more dynamic, live feel to them. As it turns out, that was all by design, as Meany explained.
"With each record we've done, we also did an equivalent live album, basically," he shared. "After MuteMath, it was the Flesh and Bones DVD and then Armistice Live. That really inspired us as we went into Odd Soul to follow our live sound and feel. We still were experimental with this record, but that made the decisions on what made the cut for this album a little more critical as we took into account the dynamics of our live show."
Although the albums have always been engaging and drawn praise from fans and critics alike (VH1 has even tabbed MuteMath as a "Band to watch" in 2012), the group always translated differently in a live setting with a more explosive sound and dynamic that really draws fans into the show. As a result, the band has developed a loyal following as it grew from club shows to theaters and even festival appearances.
"The live show, of all the things we do, is the only place where everything really makes sense to us," Meany shared. "We're able to completely check out, except for having to be in the moment. And although people like the records, I think our music makes more sense to the live audience as well."
After growing the band and stepping onto theater and festival stages over the past couple of years, MuteMath returned to small clubs to introduce the new CD as it was released late last year. Although the tour didn't hit Tulsa on that leg, it did stop at The Conservatory in Oklahoma City for an intimate and sold out show the week of the album's release.
When asked about the return to small venues, Meany explained that it was really a transitional move. "We started out in small clubs, so we did those shows all in small bars. It was great to be back in a packed atmosphere. We were tripping over each other and unplugging each other's cables at times, but it was really fun. It was great just to get back to the dynamics of the small shows like that."
When asked about how the live show translates between different sized venues, Meany shared that the band simply adjusts itself to the venue at hand. At times, however, it can be difficult.
"In the middle of that (club) tour, we did get thrown on a big festival," he shared. "We were back on a huge stage with the 'VIP moat', as we call it, separating us from the crowd, so it's kind of a disconnected atmosphere. It was jarring coming from the small clubs, but we go through it OK."
"There have been festival shows that we've enjoyed, though," he was quick to point out. "Every different show comes with its own challenges and advantages. The key is how you react to those. We've played a late night set at Bonnaroo to six or seven thousand people and we've played in a club to 50 people and they've each been amongst our best and favorite shows for different reasons."
If you've been privy to MuteMath's live show in the past, you already know that the group takes its music to a new and different level when it hits the stage. Whether playing at Cain's Ballroom or Brady Theater, it has always delivered an engaging show that makes the audience part of the live experience.
This Sunday night, Jan. 29, MuteMath returns to Cain's Ballroom to headline a show with Canon Blue opening. It's the first time the band has returned to Tulsa since its set at last September's Brady Block Party was cancelled as storms rolled in. Mutemath was setting up as the rain and wind came through, but according to Meany, the band didn't lose anything as a result of the storm.
When discussing the storm and my concerns for the band's equipment as tarps were blown off and King's drum set was exposed to the rain, Meany just chuckled. "We weren't completely set up anyway -- and our gear probably takes more abuse from our live show anyway..."
To see what Meany is referring to and experience one of the most energetic live shows on the road, don't miss this Sunday's concert at Cain's Ballroom. Tickets are still available for $25 in advance or $29 at the door and the show starts at 8pm.
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