While the various members of Mute Math have been playing music for a while, they've only been on the public's radar for a relatively short time. Mute Math started as a long-distance collaboration in 2001 between lead vocalist Paul Meany and drummer Darren King: Meany from his home in New Orleans and King from the heartland in Springfield, Missouri. With the addition of bassist Roy Mitchell-Cardenas and guitarist Greg Hill, and almost 140,000-plus myspace.com friends, Mute Math's popularity is growing exponentially. Employing a variety of new, homemade and vintage instruments—Meany plays a Korg keytar—Mute Math's music is as eclectic as their gear. They combine essences of hip-hop, pop, techno and experimental sounds and the joyous, multi-layered tones of '80s music to create a kind of rock that feels familiar—hints of U2, the Police and the Postal Service drift through their tunes—but is completely unique.
Boise Weekly talked with Mute Math frontman, Meany, about the Internet, the band and the dreaded "Christian-rock label" albatross.
Boise Weekly: Tell me a little about the tour.
Paul Meany: The tour's been great so far. Right now, we're in the Middle America part of the tour on our way to Omaha. We have the video that just came out ("Typical") and the DVD, and little by little we're just working on another brick for our house. We're just trying to build this thing.
How was your reception in Europe?
It was good ... we're pretty much starting at the bottom of the barrel over there and trying to grow. We played small bars and the reception was wonderful. Germany was the biggest surprise. I had no idea what to expect out there, but people just came out of nowhere. People on the other side of the world actually knew who we were and it was all via Internet. The Internet's been good to us.
Why did you put out the DVD [Flesh and Bones Electric Fun: Mute Math Live] along with the new CD?
Being out on the road has been the lifeblood of the band. I think most bands usually put out a DVD once they're more established than we are, but we've been trying to do whatever we can to just get the word out. So we just figured we'd put out the DVD as another [way] for people to see what we've been up to and [want to] come check out the show.
Whose idea was the "Typical" video? Who said, "Let's run everything in reverse?"
Well, actually, it was the director's [Israel Anthem] first video. [He] is a guy who's been traveling with us for about seven months now, and he's been our videographer. So, we thought it would be fairly interesting to give him a shot. It was a true collaboration between the band and the director. Doing [a video] in reverse is not a new idea by any means. And all those videos that have done it have been pretty great. The one thing we did see that was missing was no one's really attempted a reverse video with a band performance, so we thought it would lend itself really well to how we perform and the kind of mayhem that happens with any given performance. The idea was for everyone to learn [his] part backwards, so we started [that] arduous process. It was a blast. We had the greatest time making that video!
Your CD is a gorgeous, cohesive, solid piece of work. Did you think about the flow of the album when you put it all together?
Yes and no. Of course, a lot of my favorite albums are ones that have an amazing fluidity to them from the beginning to the end, and before you know it, 50 minutes have passed by, and you've had this great experience. But we didn't really go into it with that goal. We just wanted to make the best music we knew how. You have a collection and you just need to figure out how to put it together. It's like hanging pictures in your house: You want to make sure everything has a nice flow.
Where did the name Mute Math come from?
It was our drummer's e-mail address. After three months of beating our heads against the wall trying to figure out a name, we decided he had a pretty nice little e-mail address and would he mind giving that up. He obliged.
It seems like the keytar is becoming cool again. Do you play it because you love playing it, or is it part of your image?
I'll tell you this: As with most things in a Mute Math show, we usually start incorporating [things] out of a practical necessity. Somehow, that's becoming a fashionable aspect of our show, a la the duct tape headphones (Ed. Note: drummer King duct tapes his headphones to his head at the start of each show), some of the homemade instruments and some of the way we set up on stage. It all started out of practical solutions to problems trying to pull our music off live and then became important visuals after that. I'll admit, the first time we employed the keytar, I was a bit nervous, a bit skeptical. The public might not have been quite ready for it [both laugh] but it turned out pretty good. People seem to receive it well and appreciate that it goes with our music. And I really enjoy the hell out of playing it.
How did you and Darren [King] meet?I was receiving demo CDs in the mail from this kid in Springfield, Missouri, and I was impressed. I called him up to see if he wanted to get together and try to write some songs. At the time, I was just looking for a side project. I was playing in a band [Earthsuit] and looking for something to do on the side. Darren came down to New Orleans, and we played a few songs and it seemed to really click. There was something really special happening. As fate would have it, a couple months after that, the band I was in wound up breaking up. What we started as some kind of side project became Mute Math.
OK, I have to ask you about what I believe is an important part of the band's history. Is the "Christian-rock" element of the band something you embrace or is it something you reject?
Well, honestly, that whole idea is a bit confusing to me. I know we've been tagged that but ... the bottom line for me is I don't really care. The biggest decision we made as a band was to not subject ourselves to that system to make music. There's sort of a Christian music system, which I've worked in, in the past with other bands. I found it to be extremely paralyzing to make music in that environment and always thought of Mute Math with the intention to try and steer clear of that. Yeah, I mean, there's this whole ... it becomes this very complicated, whole idea of Christianity in music and how it all comes together. I think everyone's got their own interpretation of what it is. A lot of that's a [difficult] subject for us. We can save that conversation for another day.
Of course, but I'd be remiss if I didn't ask.
For us, we just try to keep it simple. We're obviously a band; that's really all we ever wanted to be from the very beginning without catering to any particular genre or political or religious agenda or anything. We just want to make music with no barriers.
April 18, with The Cinematics and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, 6 p.m., $10 advance, $12 door. The Venue, 521 Broad St., 208-919-0011, www.boisevenue.com.