Interview with Paul Meany: Lead Singer of MUTEMATH. [11.12.09]

Mutemath, known for their colorfully creative, hypnotic music and brilliantly energetic live shows is a grammy award nominated rock band from New Orleans, and have been described as as everything from electro-alternative-rock to psychedelic-gospel to experimental-pop. They are best known for their single and innovative music video, "Typical", where the band performed their whole song backwards from end to beginning. The band's version of the "Transformer's Theme" was on the Transformer's movie soundtrack. Their new album, Armistice was released in August with their first single, "Spotlight", featured on the Twilight motion picture soundtrack.

I had the opportunity to interview Paul Meany, Mutemath's lead singer, after their show at the Norva in November. Paul was an absolute gem, answering my questions thoroughly & cheerfully chatting about anything & everything in between my inquiries for almost an hour on the telephone!

You can read the full story here: Reinventing Mutemath: Behind the scenes with Paul Meany

Interview with Paul Meany: 11.12.09.

Cherylyn Ebertz: Your show at the Norva was phenomenal. Your music is brilliantly creative and magical.

Paul Meany: "I think the show went great the other night! I love the Norva. We've played there quite a few times now and I think out of all them, that one was my favorite. The crowd was amazing and we had so much fun."

CE: You inspire people with your music. What inspires you?


"This is probably the most boring answer, but I'm inspired by anything new. It sounds cliché, but I get musically charged up to get things happening when new things happen. We find avenues to express experiences, visions, new ideas, an

d sounds. I am inspired and compelled to create after listening back through the speakers. We keep arranging music and ideas until we have a Mutemath song."

CE: It sounds like the writing and recording process for Armistice was difficult, but you turned the chaos into something beautiful. Do you feel like you made the record you were dreaming of?


"No. Absolutely not. I had an idea in my head of exactly what this record was going to be and it's not that. That's a good thing, I should specify. It's a good thing we didn't make the record I dreamed of. I had a specific idea of what it was going to say, what it was going to sound like, but it wasn't working. We had to redefine what the record was going to be. I can listen to it now, and I love it, but it's not the one that I dreamed of. The only thing I didn't want, was for it to sound like first record B-sides. That's the only thing I knew I didn't want.

There were some uncomfortable moments, but the record is a snapshot of the band and the music is a picture of what we felt like during the process."

CE: What is your favorite song on the new album?


"At the moment? My favorite song right now is Burden, the last song on the record. It's very sentimental."

CE: My favorite song is Backfire right now.


"Really?! We JUST finished the music video for Backfire today, so keep your eyes peeled for that! It's very different than our other videos. The idea is pretty simple. We filmed in August, but it's an animated video. It takes forever to put together. I mean, just to render it takes forever.

Animation is serious! It's a process. All of our other videos were one take videos, filmed with a single camera."

CE: How do you come up with new ideas for your music videos?


"There's a lot of daydreaming, throwing ideas against the wall, and waiting for things to stick. We have to sift through a lot of data to come up with ideas, which takes a degree of patience!

We like working with up and coming directors that don't have preconceived ideas of the way something should be done and throw all templates out the window. It's a more time consuming process, but definitely more rewarding in the end."

CE: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard your music before? I've heard it described in so many different ways!


"You know what? I have too! What do we sound like? Mutemath. As far as genres and categories, I guess we're an offshoot of a rock band. We write pop songs, with a few liberties, in interesting ways that work for us. It's the music, the sounds that we make, our brain power. We are what we are... just come see it! I have a new found appreciation for our fans that want to bring their friends to our shows, and try to describe what we sound like when they ask, "Well, who is Mutemath? How do I know I'm going to like it?" I just want to fall in the category of "Good music". That's as far as I can go with categories and limitations without getting a headache. The whole genre label thing kind of freaks me out!"

CE: What is the dynamic force that holds Mutemath together? What defining element do you think makes you special and sets you apart from other bands?


"It would be kind of presumptuous for me to answer this about about ourselves, but I don't think there can be a preconceived way to set yourself apart from other bands. I think just being yourself, or at least searching for yourself, is how it starts and you continue in that direction. We all start off imitating someone or something, but as time goes on, bits of you start to shine through."

CE: Define success. What is your ultimate life goal?


"Oh, you're getting all motivational speaker on me now, huh? Define success. If you find something about yourself and what you've done that you can find happiness in, then I think you're flirting with success. Whatever success even means. There is not one hallmark or one defining thing. That was my diplomatic, roundabout way of answering that question, so you can thank me for that!"

CE: How do you balance life on the road and life at home?


"It balances itself in a way. I always enjoy going home after a tour, but after awhile I get stir crazy and ready to get back on the road. They both balance each other. It's how I'm programmed to function, to live. It's an acquired lifestyle. We've had people come out on the road and they think it's going to be so much fun, but they have to get used to it. You have to get used to sharing and tight quarters with other people. I couldn't think of a better life for me."

CE: Do you enjoy the songwriting/recording process or traveling/playing live shows more than the other? Or do you love both equally?


"It's all about balance, I'm realizing as we're talking. It's about both sides, and writing songs about the yin and the yang of the musical experience."

CE: What has been the biggest adventure for the band so far? What has surprised you the most about life since you have started Mutemath?


"The biggest adventure? Oh, you're getting deep now! Doing the second record. I learned a lot about myself, learned a lot about life, like you said, and about how things work. Finishing this record just seemed like an impossibility. I thought we weren't going to get to the end. We had to start over from the beginning and we blew about five deadlines. It was like a carrot dangling in front of a horse, aimless, but we just kept working.

Getting over that hump and finishing it, was the greatest accomplishment we've had as a band. We'd already learned a lot about ourselves as a touring band. The first record was still coming together when we started touring as Mutemath. This time we learned about ourselves as a recording band. Two completely different experiences. How do songs come together when we're all interjecting ideas? The songs worked when all four of us were contributing universal ideas. We were in a very experimental mindset, searching for songs in a new way and finding the things that moved us."

CE: What do you like the best about traveling the world and sharing your music? What is your least favorite thing about your job?


"Easily the two hours on stage that we get to spend playing music for the crowd. My least favorite part is all the waiting around, by far. Waiting to play a show, waiting backstage, there's a lot of waiting."

CE: If you could collaborate or tour with anyone in the world who would it be? Who have been your favorite people to collaborate with so far?


"Anyone? I would collaborate with Wayne Coyne. (The Flaming Lips.) Do they have to be alive? Okay, I'm going for the most mismatched tour of the year! James Brown. I just think about what could be learned from being around him and seeing how music was made back then.

As far as collaboration, we don't really do any of that. It's just us four dysfunctional guys. We don't need to bring anyone else into this mess! I'd love to do it more often. We're just a baby band. The more records we make, the more we will collaborate and have the chance to work with other people."

CE: I know your song Spotlight is on the Twilight soundtrack and you did the Transformers Theme for the Transformers movie.


"Spotlight is on the Twilight movie soundtrack. Warner Brothers got the license and were pulling themes out of some of the songs from bands on their roster. Spotlight worked for them and it was just kind of convenient. We were working on the record and we weren't sure when it was going to be done. We finished Spotlight really quickly and wanted to get some new music out. It was kind of a win win for us. We put out our EP, and they put the song on the soundtrack. Typically we get a phone call and put stuff together if we're asked or they use something that we have laying around."

CE: What is something that most people don't know about you? Do any of you have interesting hobbies or quirks, hidden talents, or passions besides music?


"No. We're single track guys, born musicians. We eat, sleep, drink music. It's what we do. We kind of obsess over the things we're working on. Maybe I need to find a hobby. We'd probably get our music done faster if we had other things to think about and pull ideas from. Okay. I'm going to find a hobby. I'm announcing my new hobby right here in this interview: My hobby is going to be finding a hobby."

CE: Your stage antics are wildly beautiful, but have any of you gotten hurt while playing a show?


"Absolutely. Nothing bad enough to ever stop a tour or cancel a show, but there have been moments. You can't always win the bets. You take a risk and every once awhile, something is bound to go wrong! Darren cut his head once. Have you seen the video on youtube called "Darren King Nearly Dies?"

We have a blast on stage and I think it shows. It's all just a sweaty blur, enjoying the music.

CE: How do you get ideas for your homemade instruments and crazy contraptions?


"I'm sure for someone seeing the show for the first time, it's lots of little things like that, to take in! It's a visual, musical show.

It's not really something we just sit down and think about. We've been touring for four years now, and things get added in over time. We just say, "What if we added this, or that?" It's a product of the evolution of one idea. It's just part of playing show after show. We just want to let this Mutemath thing become something more. We think about the different ways things can be arranged to make the show more enjoyable and interesting. I'm sure we'll have lots of crazy ideas in the future, if we can stay out of the hospital long enough!"

CE: What's next for Mutemath?


"The tour ends tomorrow. Then we go to Japan for a week. After that, we'll go home and take it easy. We are going to start writing, no pressure this time, and just enjoy the writing process for a few months. We're just going to go and reinvent songs. That's how the cycle goes!"

CE: Any last words that you want the world to know?

"Not really! I just want to say thank you for giving our music a chance. I hope to come see you guys again soon. We had a blast at the Norva and all the shows we've played in the Virginia Beach area. Thank you so much for giving us coverage. It was so nice to meet you! Take care of yourself! Bye!"


rachey said...

These photos and the interview are so professional and polished. I adore them to the maxx ! you are so epic!

Anonymous said...

good points and the details are more precise than elsewhere, thanks.

- Thomas

RxMusic_Foundation said...

This is by far, one of the BEST MUTEMATH interviews I've read in a while. Your questions were awesome!

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