Roy Mitchell-Cardenas, Darren King, Paul Meany


Slimming down, stepping up and throwing new paint at the canvas

Beset by strife both internal and external, New Orleans-based alt-rock band Mutemath nearly broke up while recording its 2009 album Armistice. So for its latest, Odd Soul, a few changes were due. Guitarist Greg Hill quit the band, leaving a trio of vocalist Paul Meany, drummer Darren King and bass player Roy Mitchell-Cardenas, the latter doing double duty on guitar. (New guitarist Todd Gummerman joined in time for Mutemath’s current tour.) The band members also elected to self-produce for the first time, creating a swirl of funky electronica and ambient rock. We spoke with Meany about the methods behind Mutemath’s madness.

What happened with Armistice?

We slid off the slippery slope of second-guessing ourselves. It was a nightmare, and we didn’t think we were ever going to get it done. The fact that we actually made a record I’m proud of is a miracle. We knew going into this record that we’d implode if we did the same thing. It was important to us to find a new means to an end. The big thing is that we kicked everyone else out of the studio. We knew we had learned a thing or two from past projects, so we decided to self-produce it.

Why did Greg leave?

After the Armistice tour was over and we were about to record again, Greg wanted out. It made sense to us, so we decided to record as a three-piece. Roy, our bass player, is a great guitar player, and it was nice to repaint the environment that we were working in. It was just the three of us doing whatever we felt. It was a much more enjoyable process this time. We started a new defining chapter for this band, which we needed to do.

What’s the writing process like?

It’s a lot of taking handfuls of paint and throwing it at a canvas. You don’t know upfront, you’re just looking for things. Usually a successful song for us starts with Darren creating an electronic instrumental track. Then one of two things happens: I get a vocal idea and throw something down; or I don’t hear anything and we strike it up as a band and play the gist of that idea. Sometimes it’s only to get us into a certain key or tempo, but other times it’s almost there. Usually we’ve got to be ready to stomach a long journey to take a song through a few nooks and crannies.

How did the title cut originate?

Darren made a little electronic track that sounded like an old Western song. It had a certain vibe, I started singing on it and then we got the hook going. It was probably the first song we’ve recorded that’s minimal about not just the instruments but the actual notes that are played. We had a lot of fun messing with that.

Any favorite live moments?

The first time we played Bonnaroo was pretty insane. We happened to squeak in at the last minute and played in the coffeehouse tent. It wasn’t even meant for bands to play in, just for singer-songwriters. We pulled up in our van, dragged our equipment in and cranked everything up. The tent was packed with people and the system blew two times during the set. It wound up being a really magical show.

Steven Rosen

‘We started a new, defining chapter for this band, which we needed to do.’

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