Artists Interviews

Paul Meany (Mutemath) Interview on

(above photo by Todd Buller)’s Clay Lancaster sits down with Mutemath’s vocalist Paul Meany in San Francisco to discuss Odd Soul, their new sound, social media, and who would be eaten first if the band was stranded in the Himalayas. Stream the audio below, or continue reading.

Photo gallery from Mutemath’s show at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco

[Begin Interview]

theFIVE10: Ok, you’re listening to, this is Clay, and I’m sitting here with Paul from the incomparable Mutemath. How are you?

Paul Meany: I’m great. How are you today?

theFIVE10: I am a little cold, but other than that, wonderful… you guys have had quite a day today, huh?

PM: We did, it was a lot of flying in from our days off. We just had the last couple days off, so some of us went home.

theFIVE10: You go all the way home, just to come back?

PM: Yeah, well when we get like a 2-day stretch off… you know I’m a new dad; my little girl is 9 months old, so I try to make some time on the off days to get back home. Roy does the same thing, he’s got two young boys, so…

theFIVE10: It can get a little tough.

PM: It can be tough.

theFIVE10: and if you’re somebody like Dave Grohl… I’ve seen that he brings his family with him, and you have all the accommodations ready to go. But not everybody has that luxury.

PM: Right. You gotta be on a certain level. So we’re still on the “play it by ear/you just kinda scrounge for your time off and try to make the most of it.” So yeah, it was a nice break. But there was some question marks (if we were gonna make it in today) with weather issues and stuff, but we did.

theFIVE10: Let’s do ‘new record stuff’ a little bit (Odd Soul), because it’s been out obviously, and I… actually a lot of people have questions…

PM: I have questions…

theFIVE10: You have questions? (laughs). Well let’s start at number 1: Very very different sound and Roy played most of the guitar, correct?

PM: He did.

theFIVE10: Ok. Which I’m going to assume is probably why its very “riffy”…

PM: Yes… but we encourage that. You know, it’s not like we were fighting him on it; it was something that we were craving. I think the handful of songs that we have done in the past that seemed to have worked for us very well – “Typical” being one, “Spotlight” being another… “Break the Same”… – we wanted to write a record that built off of those. Which is a lot of riff-based parts. So we were all attracted to the opportunity of a riff, and following it.

theFIVE10: Ok. Yeah, because that’s not “Typical” for you guys…

PM: Yeah. That’s been a little more in the oddities of what we’ve done in the past, but it certainly has been an important part of the songs that have seemed to work best for us… just turn up the guitar and see what happens. But it wasn’t all guitars on this record. You know, if you begin to listen past the first couple songs, there’s a lot of the keyboards leading the charge on some of the riffs. Or synth-based stuff that’s kind of, um, leading the “meat”.

theFIVE10: I guess what I’m getting at is… compared to, say, your first record…

PM: Sure…

theFIVE10: …it’s a lot more linear. The first record was very spacey with a lot of ambiance to it, so this had an obviously different sound. So I didn’t know if that was a full band direction, like you all decided to do that, or if it was a big influence from Roy taking over guitar parts… or both…

PM: Part both, yeah. And I think all of us picked up the guitar to some degree. Roy plays guitar best. So even if we had an idea, we’re not playing it the best, so he got it. But I would disagree with you saying that this record is more linear… I think this record is actually more dynamic than everything we’ve done in the past. What makes a linear record to me is just, schlopp-loads of tracks and textures. This record has more space in it…

theFIVE10: You think it has more space in it?

PM: Yeah… more space, and it breathes more than any of our other records.

theFIVE10: …and then how are things going on the road? Obviously I don’t know much about Todd (Gummerman). I’m curious to find out about him…

PM: Todd’s good people.

theFIVE10: …and how that came to be. Was he already an acquaintance?

PM: He was. Darren had mutual friends with Todd. Todd’s from Springfield, MO… which is where Darren is from, which is where Greg (former guitarist) was from. A lot of people that we know, that we made music with, are from Springfield.

theFIVE10: So if you want a chance at Mutemath, you need to go to Missouri…

PM: Be in Missouri. Chances are good… So when Greg first left, there was only a handful of guys that immediately came to mind that we should probably give a phone call to, to see if they’d be interested. We didn’t want to do the arduous audition process, that’s a nightmare. So fortunately, we called Todd and he was up for it. He was just coming out of another gig and we was looking for something new, so he jumped on it.

theFIVE10: It just worked.

PM: He’s an extremely talented guy. He immediately went and bought our DVDs and stuff, and studied all the pedals that Greg had… I mean, the role of guitar player in this band goes beyond just playing guitar.

theFIVE10: Of course… there’s a lot of technical…

PM: Yeah… and he learned it all! The keyboard stuff… he’s just a great musician. He’s a great singer. So he was able to hit the ground running.

theFIVE10: And there’s a lot of back catalog to look into and figure out. Because you still have to play those songs too.

PM: Absolutely. When we first all got together for rehearsal, he knew all that stuff a lot better than we did. Like, “Wait, what do we do again here?” and he’s like, “Ok, you’re supposed to be doing this”… he was the most refreshed with all that.

theFIVE10: Well that’s cool. And how is Odd Soul treating you? Is it going over how you thought it would go over?

PM: I thought our fans were gonna like it a lot more than they wound up liking it. There are certainly people who like it/love it… I mean yeah, “Blood Pressure”, if you put it up against what a radio song normally does for us – which is not much – “Blood Pressure” has at least lived up to that. VH1 gave it a plug… and one of the great things that has happened on this record is that we got an opportunity to go to Australia for the first time.

theFIVE10: Nice.

PM: We’ve never been on the radar for past records in Australia, but the radio station down there picked up this record, got behind it, and we get a chance to expand there and see what’s going on.

theFIVE10: And Australia is a good place to be… from eyeing other bands, they seem to be more into rock music there than they are here.

PM: Yeah!

theFIVE10: I’m actually kind of surprised nobody picked up on that (Mutemath) earlier in Australia.

PM: Yeah… maybe they love the “riff” (smiles). Maybe that helped. So yeah, we’re really looking forward to that. We’ll go there in May for the first time.

theFIVE10: That’ll be fun.

PM: Yeah.

theFIVE10: Cool. Well I put out a message last night to our readers saying that I’d be talking to you guys, and I asked if they had any questions for you at all. So there were just a couple that I thought were kinda funny, and the first one was “Wait, that show is tomorrow? I need tickets.”

PM: (laughs)

theFIVE10: …So i guess he kinda answered his own…

PM: There ya go… It never ceases to amaze me that we’ll announce a tour well in advance… blitzing the internet, blitzing our Twitter and Facebook… and we go play our show, and a week later – it never fails – like after tonight we’ll get a bunch of emails going, “When are you coming to San Francisco?” …and you look at their profile or whatever and they’re friends with us! They follow us! It’s like, how are they missing it!? …I, I don’t know. Is it a lot of casual people, just (picked up his phone and pretends to type) “dadada” …and then it’s over, I guess.

theFIVE10: Social media is interesting. Yeah it’s like “Oh, what did Kat Von D say today?” and then…

PM: Exactly. It’s not as reliable as one would hope.

theFIVE10: Next question. Another artist that somebody, in your opinion, must listen to right now. That you think is great.

PM: …of anything?

theFIVE10: Of anything. Something that you’re really getting into that right now, if you recommended it, someone would have to pick it up and listen to it.

PM: Yeah, well I mean one of the great records that comes to mind is James Brown Live in Dallas. One of the most inspired live recordings ever. Whenever we need a pick-me-up or a nice jolt of creativity, we usually throw that on. And I have a bunch of favorites that i’d certainly recommend… of course most people have probably heard them. But a lot of my go-to’s, um, Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi …love that record. That was pivotal for me. Radiohead’s Kid A was another life-changing moment…

theFIVE10: …Oh, you were Kid A? OK Computer is my pinnacle for them, but…

PM: Yeah I was one of those other Radiohead fans, where OK Computer was like “oh, ok, yeah, yeah.” But then when I heard Kid A, all of a sudden I got it. You know, I’m gonna go back to OK Computer and like it as much, but Kid A is the one that holds a special place in my heart.

theFIVE10: Gotcha.

PM: Aaaand, DJ Shadow Endtroducing is an important record for me. That’s one of the first records that me and Darren bonded over when I first met him, and he was asking me, “what should I listen to?” and “what should I try?” …you know, he loved Beck, he loved Bjork, he loved a lot of the electronic, Beastie Boys-Dust Brothers stuff that was happening in the mid-90’s. And when DJ Shadow came out with Endtroducing, that was a MUST for anyone that was into that kind of stuff. So that was a pivotal record.

theFIVE10: Then that answers that… and the final question was – and this one is I think just purely entertainment – “If Mutemath were stranded in the Himalayas, who would be eaten first?”

PM: (silence)

theFIVE10: …and this is obviously strictly your opinion…

PM: Um… you know, I think we’re the kind of band that would equally offer up limbs. Alright?

theFIVE10: …what a great way to respond to that.

PM:  So, “Tonight, guys we’re eatin’ legs… off with everyone’s legs. Are we in?” …and that’s the kind of band I like to think we are.

theFIVE10: Live, breathe, and die together type of thing.

PM: Yeah…

theFIVE10: …Ok, you turned a silly question in to an actual… I had to think about that answer…

PM: Sorry about that (laughing). Made it all serious, and warm and fuzzy.

theFIVE10: (laughing) …so what are your thoughts on “Schindler’s List”?

PM: Hahaha!

theFIVE10: Well anyway, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I really appreciate you taking the time.

PM: It’s gonna be a great show tonight, so have fun. Enjoy it guys.

[End Interview]