After barely surviving the self-described ‘completely unenjoyable’ process of recording 2009’s Armistice and parting ways with original guitarist Greg Hill, the indie rocking four-piece from New Orleans known as MUTEMATH retreated into frontman Paul Meany’s home studio, where the remaining members could work on a new record free from outside interference. The result was 2011’s self-produced Odd Soul, an energetic and at times frantic record that tuned in a wider audience and revitalized the band.
Speaking with vocalist Paul Meany it appears there will be no turning back from this prosperous method of isolated creativity.
PM: “I don’t think anyone’s going to contest us on that. We certainly have to go away for awhile as far as getting the peripherals out of sight. Just focus on the band and what we think is good first and identify that for ourselves. Put it together so it makes sense and then let people hear it. So I’m sure we’ll continue in that template.”
The enjoyment MUTEMATH experienced in creating Odd Soul is self evident in the music. Playing as less calculated than previous efforts, there’s a reckless abandon that runs through the majority of the record. More than any other MUTEMATH album, Odd Soul has embraced the band’s surroundings and tapped into the gritty and impulsive New Orleans jazz and blues scene.
PM: “There’s certainly a lot of connectivity between the things that run in New Orleans and Odd Soul. There’s always been a part of us that’s heavily influenced by all of that; we just allowed ourselves to go there more this record and we had a lot of fun with it.”
“The spirit of the New Orleans music scene is very spontaneous and it’s very being in the moment, anything goes. You chase things, not afraid to get off script. I think following that type of methodology on Odd Soul certainly was liberating for us.”
Odd Soul is not only a sonic return to home but also a lyrical one. Meany and band co-founder Darren King sought to capture the atmosphere in which they were raised; an environment which MUTEMATH has precariously labelled as ‘eccentric Christianity’.
PM: “It’s really hard to describe, that’s what we’ve learnt. It’s just what inherently happens when you grow up in the Bible belt of America…especially in the 90s. Me and Darren (King) especially grew up in the thick of it and it does something to your psyche. For better or worse, whether you like it or not, it’s just a part of how we think. I think we’ve always had this sort of love-hate relationship with how exactly does it fit into music because we love music so much.”
“And in this record, this was the first record where Darren and myself sat down together to kind of put together lyrical ideas and develop them. We just wanna’ be drawn to it. We had a lot of fun setting some of these stories that we’ve told over the years and setting them into the environment of an album. It’s just telling the stories of the quirks and the oddities of growing up how we did.”
One of these stories exists within the lyrics of the blistering lead single Blood Pressure. Here Meany references his religious upbringing as he asks the seemingly rhetorical question ‘Why can’t you; do a little more for Jesus?’
PM: “Well, it’s just this false expectation…to be like this model human being that we read about called Jesus. I think that creates a domino reaction of weird things that happen and some of it good. It’s just one of those things that’s been very relevant for us since we can remember.”
Drawing on past experiences has certainly created a bright looking future for MUTEMATH; a future that will soon see them touring Australia for the very first time as part of the Groovin the Moo Festival in addition to their own headlining gigs. Considering Australian fans have seen the New Orleanians perform in the flesh, what should they expect from a MUTEMATH show?
PM: “I hope happiness, that’s really it. We want people to just be able to leave extremely happy. You know, face hurting happy. It’s a thrill, it’s a rush and it’s a lot of sweat to be shed; and hopefully loud.”
Loud shouldn’t be a problem considering the velocity of Odd Soul, which was written with live performances in mind.
PM: “We wanted to make something that was going to be stage ready. We learned a lot about ourselves as a band from playing shows and a lot of the song ideas that we recorded that did work and the ones that didn’t work as well… And I think the experiment worked because we’re having a great time on tour right now, playing all of the new music. It’s the first time we’ve made a record where we can play all the songs on the record and it feels right.”
MUTEMATH ODD SOUL AUSTRALIAN TOUR 2012
May 10 – The Zoo – Brisbane
May 16 – The Hi-Fi – Sydney
May 17 – Corner Hotel – Melbourne
May 20 – Amplifier – Perth
Groovin The Moo 2012 Dates
Saturday 5 May 2012 – Bendigo VIC – SOLD OUT
Bendigo’s Prince of Wales Showground
42 – 72 Holmes Rd, Bendigo VIC 3550
Sunday 6 May 20112 – Townsville QLD
Murray Sports Complex – Townsville Cricket Grounds
Mervyn Crossman Dr & Murray Lyons Cres Idalia QLD 4811
Saturday 12 May 2012 – Maitland NSW – SOLD OUT
Blomfield St, Maitland NSW 2320
Sunday 13 May 2012 – Canberra ACT
The Meadows, University of Canberra
Kirinari St Bruce ACT 2617
Saturday 19 May 2012 – Bunbury WA
Hay Park (off) Parade Rd Bunbury WA 6230