For their third record, New Orleans alt-rockers Mutemath decided to revisit some of their earliest musical influences. The result is Odd Soul, a genre-bouncing, chops-showcasing record that debuted in Billboard's Top 25 and set up a major U.S. tour, which finds the band playing every song from the album live. The tour stops in Seattle at the Showbox Sodo on Feb. 10th, and we chatted with Mutemath singer Paul Meany to find out more about the record, the tour's ambitious setlist and his favorite TV shows.
Were there records you were listening to a lot when you wrote the album? There were certain things that we got reacquainted with. For this record, we really enjoyed diving deeper into our initial influences, like our first memories of playing music. For Roy, it was conjuring images of him learning how to play guitar, jamming with his dad in the garage and learning Jimi Hendrix and Zeppelin songs. Re-listening to records from Black Sabbath and The Meters. For me, growing up in New Orleans, there were a lot of old-school New Orleans records that I'd kind of written off but that were an important part of my DNA and that I wanted to explore more on this record. I think throwing that all on the table and putting it back in our conscious minds as we were writing songs was really fun and married well with what we do -- which is somewhat opposite to all those influences, but that's what made it Mutemath in the end. We're not doing an impression of it, we're letting it kind of steer us here and there.
Why the decision to collaborate on lyrics with your drummer Darren after so many years? Because it was fun! Darren and I would spend a lot of time talking about what was interesting to us or about things we thought were important. He was coming up with good lyrical concepts and having that sounding board to bounce ideas off of made that part of the process a lot more enjoyable. Lyrics can be really laborious sometimes. You're just beating your head up against the wall to try and get the right words to come together so it's nice to have another perspective to muck things up when you need them to be.
Do you have a favorite lyric on the album? It's probably "In No Time," and one of the reasons is that it came together the fastest. I always love lyrics that kind of write themselves. It was just a shoot-from-the-hip sort of lyric and I thought it became a very important closing track for this record.
What about on the other end of the spectrum -- are there any lyrics you wish you'd had more time to complete or that didn't come together how you hoped? I turn that off. Once we complete a record, I don't let myself think that because it would torment me for the rest of my life. [Laughs.] I just let it go.
How did the album cover come together and what was the concept? Darren is more the visual creator in the band so we just let him go for it. He cuts and pastes images together, that's kind of his style, and he created a bunch of album covers, but that one in particular, when we all saw it, jumped out to us.
You are playing Odd Soul in its entirety on this tour. That seems ambitious, particularly since fans will likely be less familiar with that material than your older stuff. How did you arrive at that decision? We realized that now that we've got three records, this is probably the last tour that we can play the majority of our songs. We're playing a 26-song set list. Once we get into the next record and the one after that, we've really got to start picking carefully. And we love this record so much and we knew that this tour was our only opportunity for our fans to hear every song off of it. It's definitely the longest set we've ever played but we wanted to give our fans the most music they could take without wearing them out.
As a musician from New Orleans, I was curious if you watched HBO's Treme? I do, I love that show. Of everything I've seen filmed in New Orleans, that one's certainly the most accurate. And when we're on the road and I'm feeling homesick, I love that show. The thing that I'm not sure about is if people who don't know New Orleans, or who have never been to New Orleans, find it interesting because it's very inside information.
I feel that way when I watch Portlandia. I LOVE Portlandia!