Behind the Scenes with MuteMath

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An exclusive interview with drummer Darren King In August I tried to secure an interview with MuteMath. Every bit elusive and extraordinarily busy, the band could not talk. I published an “about MuteMath” story in another publication in an August 17th issue, but it just wasn’t enough substance. A week after I published “MuteMath: New Orleans’ Elusive Artists Next Door” the band emailed me to schedule time with their drummer Darren King.

The interview with Darren reveals the band’s Pentecostal roots, what they’re listening to on the tour bus, and Darren’s spiritual beliefs. He was unexpectedly personal during the interview. If you check Youtube, you will find many interviews with a less-than-happy band. But that has a lot to do with the fake cheeriness of morning DJs (case in point – follow the link to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMqAmlyGjX8).

MuteMath’s new album “OddSoul” released on October 4th.

Empire State Tribune: What bands are you listening to?

Darren King: Little Dragon, “Soul Power” by James Brown.

EST: How did you come up with the sound for “Odd Soul”?

King: “Odd Soul” happened naturally. Roy (Mitchell-Cardenas) played a few songs, and he took the lead. We got excited about his big, mean riffs. The whole album is guitar, bass and drums. It’s our tribute to Black Sabbath and the 1970s heavy rocky bands. We call our version “joyful aggression.” But we didn’t go and intentionally reference these bands. We played what we think they sound like. It was funny ... we lost our guitarist, and now we have our most guitar heavy album to date.

EST: What’s your normal drum kit for live shows?

King: A small drum set. I get my drumming philosophy from Gene Krupa, who used a small set because he “hadn’t mastered a big one yet.” I’m using two toms and a high hat. On this tour we enter the stage using marching drums behind us. We walk through the crowd and start a New Orleans party.

EST: Why do you think people enjoy your performances so much?

King: We were raised in intense charismatic churches, where music went for two or three hours. Spontaneous music with sweaty dancing. Those churches taught us how to do that. We try to go back to that place no matter how planned the set is - we leave room for the Spirit to move us so to speak. It’s just about having fun. The shows we do now are the craziest we’ve ever had. We’re able to let go.

EST: What is it like to play in your hometown of New Orleans?

King: We love the hometown support. We often play Voodoo Fest or end our tours in the French Quarter. I love seeing the musical talent in New Orleans, like Quintron & Miss Pussycat.

EST: As a band, what’s your show/venue preference?

King: Variety is the spice of life. Acoustic shows, big clubs or small, as long as we’re always reinventing. My favorite thing about our recent show in Japan is I couldn’t hold conversations with people, but when we play shows we just connect and come together.

EST: What drives the narrative in your lyrics?

King: An honest autobiography of our contemporary Charismatic Christian community. It’s a strange background of trying to be perfect and fix the world. “Odd Soul” comes from the internal root of our abnormalities. It showcases both the good and bad in our culture. The song “Blood Pressure” shows the balance of trying to be perfect and the pressure of how heavy it gets, yet realizing there is a benefit of being raised in a community that values expression.

EST: Where would you say you are spiritually?

King: I call myself Charismatic, but I don’t pray in tongues anymore. I’m busy and happy. I’m worn out with church. I used to be fulfilled there. Now I get fed up when I go. My search is more private.

For more on Mutemath, check out their latest music video, released Sept. 22nd:

MiscJosh Encinias