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Mutemath Get Ready For India

The New Orleans alternative rock band plays at the Delhi edition of Bacardi NH7 Weekender between November 30th and December 1st.


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Mutemath. Photo: Colin Gray

Mutemath. Photo: Colin Gray

It’s only fitting that Darren King, drummer of alt rock band Mutemath, comes up with all the cheesy jokes. Instead of the rimshot drumroll, King is barely ashamed when he livens up the Twitter feed of New Orleans band’s 63,000 followers with his weekly hashtag, #badjokemondays. “Did you hear about the two guys who stole a calendar? They each got six months,” says one tweet from King. Over the phone from his home in Tyler, Texas, King laughs, “I suppose that’s me being myself. I love bad jokes, I love cheesy jokes. I can’t help it. I’m pretty a silly guy, that’s just a way to be myself. My band is patient, though. I’m the kid, I’m 31 but I’m the kid in the band.”

King, calling himself the kid in Mutemath, is also excited about the band’s upcoming India debut, at the Delhi edition of Bacardi NH7 Weekender on November 30th and December 1st this year. Expressing surprise that Mutemath has fans in India, King says, “Traveling to other countries [and] places I’ve never been before is the favorite part about being in a band.” The band also plans to stay on after the festivals to explore the country, when they will be on break from working on their fourth album, the follow-up to 2011’s Odd Soul

There was a rumor going around in India that you were supposed to perform here last year itself. Did you know you had fans in India big enough to play a headline set?

I can’t wait to be there. It came completely as a surprise to me. Traveling to other countries, places I’ve never been before is the favorite part about being in a band. I was raised in a really small town in a state of Missouri and it was like a farmland. We traveled a whole lot till I left at the age of 17.

We can plan to stay a couple of days after we finish and be a tourist for a few days.

I’m just very excited, that’s all.

 

Are you also road testing any of the tunes from the upcoming album live? Any chance your India set is going to include new songs like “Where We Once Were”?

To be honest, often times, we don’t even decide the setlist until the day of the show. We’ve got three albums and we get together before the show and talk about what we want to do, and what we’re feeling. I assume we’re get to play for a good 90 minutes since it’s a headline set. We plan a broad spectrum of songs from the three albums.

 

Are you bringing the inflatable couch with you, for Paul to go surfing into the crowd on?

I’ll have to ask Paul, but I’m pretty sure we’ll bring that. That’s always a fun part of the show. We’ve had that for about a 100 shows now and they’ve only dropped Paul twice. We did a show in Nashville, Tennessee the other day and some guy was able to get up on the mattress with Paul. That’s the first time we ever had a surprise guest on there. Paul will probably bring his keytar and the Atari. We’ll bring all our energy as well.

 

The one in Nashville, was that a club show?

No, that was actually at an outdoor festival, not at a club. We try to be the same band whether we’re playing in a club or a stadium or a festival. That’s a compliment I’ve always appreciated about us.

 

Are there limitations in different clubs about what you guys can do, compared to outdoor festivals?

I love outdoor festivals, because there’s a cool breeze often and you can be all by yourself.

 

You said in an interview before that you guys are still looking out for that one big hit. What kind of scale are you looking at for huge success?

I do want to be careful – what we’re looking for is not a hit or some desperate attempt to make some money. We want a great song. There are different kinds of hit. When you’re ten years older, you’ll joke, ‘I can’t believe I listened to that!’. And then there are hits that are still great songs, years down the road and that’s what we dream for. Making a song that we’re really known for and a great, signature song. Not a desperate hit. It’s all a way of saying, “we want to better.” I do think at times it’s easier to make instrumental music, which is more my job and I can do that all the time. I can sit down and make a beat add some cool sounds. But to sit down and write lyrics that have caring, feeling and emotion. And a song that speaks to those lyrics, and then for those lyrics to suit for that person and fit for that person, that’s the toughest job and the highest calling.

We don’t try to write ‘cool’ tracks, we’ve been trying to write songs in the old classic-songwriting approach. Paul’s been doing a lot of that. We’ve written a lot of stuff that we’re excited about but I still think we’re reaching for that one song. But hopefully, it’ll come out right.

 

I read about Armistice being one of those albums that really pushed the band, to the extent that you had almost decided to quit? Odd Soul came out pretty quickly after that. What changed when you went from the second to the third album?

On the second album [Armistice], I felt like we did a really bad job. I think we took ourselves too seriously and put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At the same time, there are parts on that I really like, as well. The third record is my favorite of the three. I know a lot of people believe our first record the best, and that’s doesn’t hurt my feelings, because there a lot of bands I listen to that I think I like their first record the best too.

Watch Mutemath perform Armistice live in Japan

 

Your albums’ themes have panned out across three albums, starting with optimism, then disappointment/confusion and then with Odd Soul it was what you called “an attempt to have confidence.” Was it a conscious decision to write that way, or did it just reflect the band’s feelings at the time. 

With the new album, it has one thing that’s recurring in our writing. The stage where we’re at, is the one where our oldest relatives are passing away, and we have children of our own. We’re seeing both sides of the life cycle, the beginning and the end. You can’t help become philosophical. You stop, you pause, think about it. You look at your little kid. They’ll go on after you and hope to outlive you and outdo you. And you’re making things better for them than you had it. You’re scared what if they’re not going to be as happy as you.

One thing that’s really frustrating for me is about how much has changed since… when I was a child, I would ride my bicycle all around town and be home before sundown and my mom had no idea who I was with or where I went and she couldn’t contact me. There was no reason to get worried, because you just didn’t have to. I have a little girl and I’ve been asking people if I’ve been paranoid but they assure me I’m not. We live in a different country and a different world. That’s a bummer. I’m not sure where we’re headed, but that’s what we talk about. We’re kind of stuck on this grand thing whenever we have conversations, we’re pretty light-hearted and it went well.

 

Speaking of which, it’s going to be two years since Odd Soul released. You’ve spoken a bit about the next album in previous interviews. What stage is it at right now? 

We are still just writing songs. We have written so many ideas at this point, and I think if we were together in a studio and work them out, we’d have who knows how many songs. I’ve never made as many instrumental tracks in preparation for an album as I have in this process. I’ve made so many songs. We are trying to be tough on ourselves and wait till we’ve done something really special. I feel like we’re still in the first phase, that starting phase. But I think we’ve spent so much time in this phase that the next phase can often happen with a lot more fluidity and ease if we do a lot of preparation.

It’s been nice. We have had the luxury of festivals and shows that have been paying enough to buy us time to live, think and write and keep writing and you get more instruments and gear. I’m excited, because in two weeks, all of the guys are coming over to my house and we’re going to set up all the gear. We’re going to spend two weeks here recording ideas. We’ll try to make them as complete as we can, so that we can take them to a producer. So we’re at a stage right now where we’re talking about different producers and who to work with.

 

I know you do the #badjokemondays on Twitter. How did that idea start, and why are you the only one to come up with all the jokes?

I suppose that’s me being myself. I love bad jokes, I love cheesy jokes. I can’t help it (laughs). I’m pretty a silly guy, that’s just a way to be myself. My band is patient. I’m the kid, I’m 31 but I’m the kid in the band. I’m always getting hyperactive and excited and everyone else is more mature and more composed.

 

No one else does it?

Paul does some every now and then.

 

Have you got one on you right now?

I can tell you one that’s a bit PG-13, I don’t usually tell (those) on Twitter. Is that okay?

 

That’s all right. Go ahead.

Okay. Why is Santa Claus’s bag so big?

 

I don’t know.

Because he only comes once a year!

 

Have you tried that on anybody else?

Oh yeah, that’s one of my favorites.

 

You had mentioned in an interview that because you sold publishing rights to Warner, you no longer know where your songs get used and have to look it up. What’s the weirdest context in which you’ve found a Mutemath song playing?

(laughs) I want to clarify; there are instances when we are approached about whether or not we want our song used in something. Most of the time we’re given the option but yes, it’s happened that often our songs our used and I didn’t know about it. I’m usually pretty relaxed about it, if I hear it in a commercial or something.

There’s this movie called The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants 2 where they used one of our songs; that was funny. There’s another one in this MTV movie, I think it was about boxing and our song “You Are Mine” was used in an awkward make out scene. I can’t even remember the name of the movie, but that was one which was pretty funny to me.

 

Lastly, what else do you guys have planned while you’re in India? Are you just going to be around for the one day or staying and catching some Indian rock at the festival?

Absolutely. I love Indian food. I currently live in Texas, and it has almost no culture at all. There was one Indian restaurant that opened a couple of years ago and it was delicious and it only lasted for a few months. Whenever we’re on tour, I stock up on Indian food. Is there any experience you want to recommend that I don’t want to miss out on?

 

I’d recommend the street food.

Street food is good, right? All right.

 

Mutemath performs at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Delhi between November 30th and December 1st ,2013. The band also performs at Blue Frog, Mumbai on December 3rd, 2013. 

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