Returning after a couple of years away from music, Mutemath’s latest album Vitals is very much a return to the essentials for the four piece. Writing individually and then work shopping songs as a band rather than writing together, the resulting songs are some of the strongest and tightest compositions of the band’s career.
Touring here in late April and May, we caught up with frontman Paul Meany to discuss writing the album, the band’s hiatus and connecting with their fans.
Music Feeds: You’ve spoken a lot about Vitals being a return to the essentials of what the band is. What are they? Or do you just mean you’re stripping things back?
Paul Meany: We’ve always been some electro-y hybrid of a rock band. I think getting back to writing songs in a computer first was what we employed most on this record. It’s how we started. I think over time we wanted to try creating more as a “band” normally would, like writing off of jam sessions, which is how we did the majority of the 2nd and 3rd records.
But this time around, we seemed to be finding better songs when we were creating on our own and then sharing with each other once we had something basic materialised.
MF: There was quite a gap between Odd Soul and Vitals and you’ve said the band needed that time, what did you all get up to?
PM: We needed to just live some life and accumulate some basic experiences for ourselves. Darren and myself had become new fathers for one, and it just seemed important to really be present for a minute. So we didn’t rush the record making process at all. We just wrote as much as we could when we found the time and banked a bunch of song ideas. It took about 2 years of that before we felt that we had unearthed the substance of what this record should be about. It was once we wrote Used To and Remain, that we felt we had the foundation.
MF: Over ten years together as a band is a long time. Has making music become more like work over the years? Did it get to a point where it had to for you to keep doing it?
PM: If your question is “has it become more difficult over the years” the answer is “yes.” But that’s only because it’s harder to escape the shadows of previous work. You start noticing creative patterns that can feel more harmful than helpful and you start feeling locked in to the same old bag of tricks. Now it’s a complete mind game because the nature of creativity is opposed to what I just mentioned. But you just find ways to keep pushing yourself into uncharted waters and blindly hope that there’s gonna be something good there.
MF: This last tour saw you playing some smaller venues again, was it a good experience being able to connect with the fans a little more directly again?
PM: Those types of shows are always special I think. We really took our time on this last tour to enjoy being present with the audience. It wasn’t as much about introducing a new album as it was about playing a bunch of old songs that had meant a lot to some of the folks that had been there since the beginning and had just never heard that one particular song. Those shows were some of the longest sets we’ve ever played.
MF: Obviously all artists want their music to connect people but is catering to fans something you worry about at all?
PM: Well I wouldn’t say “cater” and I wouldn’t say “worry.” The reason we got fans in the first place was by creating something that we thought was honest and in the moment. It’s important to me that we continue on that path. I know we’ve probably frustrated some fans along the way, but I think for the folks who have given us the benefit of the doubt and taken the journey with us, the music has really connected us in a more timeless fashion which I’m really grateful to our fans for.
MF: When recording Vitals, was there an aim in mind for the direction you wanted it to take?
PM: We just wanted it to feel like something fresh for us. There’s a dynamic at play when you want anything to last, whether it be personal relationships, your band, creativity, youth, etc… This album was an experiment to uncover what those essential elements were.
MF: Is it important for you as artists to be reacting to your environment?
PM: Of course. But I think it’s also healthy for me to temper it with an imposition of what I want my environment to be as well and sing it into existence.
Check out all the dates and deets for Mutemath’s upcoming tour, presented by Music Feeds, below!
UPDATE 29/03/2016: Mutemath have cancelled all their Australian tour dates.
Mutemath Groovin The Moo Sideshows 2016
Presented by Chugg Entertainment and Music Feeds
Wednesday 27th April
Metro Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: Ticketek or 132 849
Thursday 28th April
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Tickets: Venue or 1300 724 867
Monday 2nd May
The Triffid, Brisbane
Tickets: Venue or 1300 762 545
Wednesday 4th May
Tickets: Venue or 1300 762 545