Mutemath, a New Orleans four-piece, have been a mainstay on the indie rock scene since forming in 2003. So the writing, producing and touring cycle seems like it would be second nature for the group, but after releasing the widely celebrated — and at times, eccentric — album Odd Soul in 2011, the band took a hiatus to regroup and pull out what drives them to creating music in the first place.
Thus, the title Vitals seems more than appropriate for the band's latest release, which was released in November. The band's kicked touring into a different drive this year, too, as an opener for alt-rock golden boys Twenty One Pilots on their Emotional Roadshow tour, which includes performances from Dutch alternative pop outfit Chef'Special as well.
The Emotional Roadshow tour hits Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland on Friday, June 10, at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden on Saturday, June 11 and at Hersheypark Stadium on Sunday, June 19. Lead vocalist and keyboardist Paul Meany took a couple minutes from touring in Toronto to catch up with us ahead of their East Coast shows.
FlipSidePA: You guys broke from your label before releasing this album…can you talk a little bit about that?
Paul Meany: It was the natural fork in the road for us and Warner Brothers. A man will usually get a fair shake and we got three albums; the fourth one didn’t make much sense for us to be on a major label. We started writing for Vitals while we were still on Warner Brothers; at the time, we were kind of trying to feel them out and see what was going to happen, and they were trying to feel us out, too, see what we were going to do next.
There was a regime change while we were writing, and they decided they were done with us; we weren’t the shiny new toy anymore. It was scary, but it was also a weight lifted.
FSPA: It almost feels more organic that way, you know, to have that much control.
PM: Yeah, yeah, especially with the industry climate right now, being independent was the right move. We’ve always been pretty DIY and I think the decision making process was a lot more streamlined, which was nice, because it was just us and our manager. We were deciding how we want to sequence our album, how we want to handle things…It wasn't “the marketing thinks it should be different,” or “the radio guy thinks it should be different.” It was more like, “OK, let’s put out whatever we want as the single.”
FSPA: Your other albums all have very distinct vibes and have been totally different each time, you know. How did you guys kind of come up with the feel for this one after coming off Odd Soul?
PM: I remember in 2012, we came off Odd Soul, and Rob Cavallo (former president of Warner Brothers) sat down with us and we started talking about it. We were excited to get back into the studio, and we took a sheet and we wrote down all the things we wanted to accomplish with this next record, creatively. I thought it was really interesting that we wound up with what we set out to do: very groove-oriented, centered around the vocals, tried writing whatever a pop song for ourselves was...we just came into it, from a little more of an electronic synth-y angle.
FSPA: So are you anxious to get back into the studio?
PM: The studio is such a moving target for us, and always has been. I’m anxious to be creating new music, and we have kind of a studio gorilla with us to keep jotting down new ideas. We’re certainly feeling pretty creatively charged up right now. We’ll probably take time in the fall.
FSPA: Haha, should we look for an album in 2017?
PM: (Laughs) 2017, I’d like that, that’s positive. 2017. That’s a positive deadline.
FSPA: What’s the feel of this tour been like so far?
PM: We’re just meeting Twenty One Pilots fans, who are some of the most diehard fans out there. It’s pretty amazing to see — people camping up for days before the show; it’s unbelievable. People are going to multiple shows on the tour…Some of those fans coming to Twenty One Pilots shows are old Mutemath fans, and we’re getting to reconnect with them. It’s crazy.
FSPA: How’s that going, with Twenty One Pilots?
PM: It’s amazing, it really is. They have arguably the greatest show on earth right now and they’ve pushed it to a new level on this particular tour, so it’s really remarkable to watch every night and it’s been very inspiring for me, creatively. Everything they set out to do, just in the dynamics of a show is just a homerun for me. I’m…I’m with them. From the top to the bottom. A lot of it is from their shared aspirations with our band – how we approach shows, the journey that we hope to bring the audience on.
FSPA: Are you guys doing anything differently in a technical sense on this tour?
PM: There’s a new version of one of our songs that we’re playing on this tour, but we’re trying to condense what we do into forty minutes of what we do best. There’s a dynamic [on this tour] that’s special, with [Twenty One Pilots] and with Chef’Special. There’s certain pressures that come with being the headliner, and we don’t have that. It’s an amazing audience every night.
FSPA: What’s your favorite city to visit in terms of the fan interaction?
PM: We were actually just talking about this. Chef’Special played a world music festival in Africa for the first time, and they just had no idea an audience like that could exist, and they said it was total exhilaration.
The closest thing we came for that — it’s not a suppressed culture, but we went to India for the past two years and there’s a modern music scene that’s been developing there over the past ten years or so. So we played at NH7 Weekender, which is this big festival they have, and I remember the audience singing along to the parts we weren’t even singing, like the guitar riffs and the drum beats, and it was LOUD. It was so loud. We have these in ear monitors that don’t have audience microphones and we could hear everything coming back, times ten.
That was the most electrifying moment we’ve ever had as a band. I didn’t even know that kind of passion could exist with these songs we were writing in our own little bedrooms; the feeling was indescribable.
If you go— Twenty One Pilots, Mutemath and Chef'Special
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, June 19
Where: Hersheypark Stadium, 100 Hersheypark Drive, Hershey
Details: Find tickets at vividseats.com/concerts/twenty-one-pilots-tickets.html