Mutemath's own Darren King is quite the connoisseur of obscure records. The temptation to pry into his purchases proves simply irresistible, the drummer only too happy to rattle off a list of recent acquisitions. “I've got a new one called Thai Funk. It's great, it's off of Bangkok ZudRangMa Records. I have another one called The Sounds Of Siam and one called Beautiful Rivers And Mountains: The Psychedelic Rock Sound Of South Korea's Shin Joong Hyun,” he laughs. “I've been looking for specific stuff lately.”
Indeed. One could only imagine what wild and wonderful inspirations laid the groundwork for the band's exceptional third LP, Odd Soul. “This story of this album probably starts with us returning from Indonesia,” King recalls of the album's origin. “As soon as we arrived in the States, our guitar player quit. He just kind of reached his boiling point finally, had all he could take of being on the road, travel... our idiosyncrasies. I had known him since I was about twelve years old and he was one of the reasons I got started playing the drums to begin with, so it was really a sad thing.”
“We sat down and we talked about a few things: we decided that, for one, we didn't feel like we were done being this band. We arrived at that conclusion very easily. Secondly – and most importantly – we realised that we needed to make this album without a producer. We needed to do a little 'sound searching' on our own and we needed to make sure that whatever we happened upon we liked and didn't get pressured into,” King explains.
“All of the people who would usually get to hear a song early on – either our management, family or friends, even our record label – weren't allowed to hear anything until we had ten complete songs that we felt were a great record. We didn't get a record budget, we didn't borrow money from anybody. It was this lonesome, slow-moving time. I remember feeling forgotten and kind of stuck in a cave and then things got really exciting again.”
In creating Odd Soul, King soon stumbled upon a crucial epiphany. “I believe now more than ever – and actually started to believe it half way through the record – that the whole point of making a record is to make a record that you would love and be really proud of what you're doing... and not to worry about losing fans and, this is the scary one: losing your record label. Or losing money. Now we're older and we have kids and what-not, all that stuff can weigh down on you... but if you can still just stop and follow your bliss, as they say, you're better off and you'll be happy.”
“We got to the place where we said, 'Let's make a record that will be really fun to play together as a band, live.' We did that for sure,” King affirms. “That's why this last tour's been a blast for me. I love playing these songs. I feel spoiled! I feel guilty to get to be the drummer on these tracks and play with these guys live.”
Thematically, Odd Soul occasionally concerns stories of 'awkward adolescence'. King's own wild teenages aspirations, for example, colour the record's second single. “The song Blood Pressure I wrote out of feeling this ambition to be a perfect Christian, to raise the dead and heal the sick at the high school and make it into the extended edition of the Bible or something like that. That's what I thought my calling was in life: to be perfect. It wore me out, it drove me crazy. I kind of went mad in my attempts to do that for a small time,” he recalls. “I was just a strange kid, I was kind of eccentric and did some weird stuff!”
These days, King's aspires to conquer the music world with Mutemath, one town at a time. Fortuitously, life on the road suits the drummer to a tee. “My story is that I was raised in a small town in Missouri. When given the opportunity to go to a new place, I try to do and see as much as I can and soak it in. I'm still thirsty for new experiences and new sights and to get to travel and play shows is my favourite part.”
Mutemath have touched down in Australia and, according to King, one hell of a show awaits. “It's got passion, it's not shy. It's social music, it's exciting and it's supposed to be a spectacle. Everybody plays the drums, but I play them the most. It's a good shot of adrenaline!”
BY NICK MASON
MUTEMATH play The Corner Hotel on Tuesday May 15 (tickets available now) and Thursday May 17 (soldout) with support from The Cairos. Odd Soul is out on Warner Music Australia.