The clouds menaced Tulsa’s Brady Street Block Party in August, eventually spawning fat droplets of rain spread around by Oklahoma’s signature winds. Suddenly, Mutemath drummer Darren King feared the worst.
“We were about two minutes away from playing, 111 degrees, sunny. And then all of a sudden, God’s wrath comes through,” King said. “It was crazy.”
Although Flaming Lips roadie Matt Duckworth estimated $800,000 of damage to the Lips’ gear, Mutemath got away relatively clean, experiencing only minor equipment bruising and anxiety amid the chaos.
“Wayne, I think we’re gonna die,’” King told Wayne Coyne, the Lips’ ever-optimistic front man, who assured him, “Oh, no, no, no. We’ll just get paralyzed.”
It was an unfortunate cancellation for band and audience, as both were excited for the public debut of songs from “Odd Soul,” Mutemath’s third studio album, released Oct. 4. All early signs — including the “Blood Pressure” single, preview clips on YouTube and King’s acknowledgment of an increased presence of heavy guitar playing — indicated the Grammy-nominated group finally had recorded a disc that earnestly conveyed the happy ferocity of its live performances.
“I’ve done this long enough to tell when a song’s gonna be fun to play for a long time, or whenever it’s just fun because it’s a new song,” King said. “A lot of the songs we have on this new record are fun to play, and will be fun to play for a long time, no matter what.”
After “choking” their second album, 2009’s “Armistice,” to death, King said the band walled its studio off from the outside world, even mastering and mixing most of “Odd Soul”’s 13 songs before management or Warner Bros. Records got to hear them.
“He laughed,” King said of the label honcho. “He’d never had anybody bring a mastered record in before. He was expecting demos.”
After the childish naïveté of Mutemath’s eponymous debut and the reactionary pessimism of “Armistice,” “Odd Soul” is the sort of bizarre, intimate expression that seasoned musicians come up with once in a rare while. More childlike than childish, it’s brave, exploratory and, well … odd.
“It’s freakier ’cause it’s more personal,” King said. “We’re weirdos, and we want to let that show.”
Freak flag now flying high, the band members feel more comfortable, solid and natural in the recording process than they’ve been in a long time.
“I have a feeling that the older we get, the braver were gonna get,” he said, “sorta like when your grandpa realizes he gets to the place where he can get away with anything, say whatever he wants.”
Photo by Claire Vogel