Deli Magazine

Interview with Mutts

- by Jason Behrends

Mutts is gearing up for a big year that includes the release of a double LP this summer. Their year began by being named The Deli's emerging artist of the 2011, and this Thursday, April 12th, they will be headlining our showcase at The Beat Kitchen. Recently Mike Maimome, Bob Buckstaff, & Chris Pagnani were kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Deli: How did the band start?

Mike Maimome: Bob and I met in January 2009, while playing in Company of Thieves. Touring and making music with that band was great, but we found ourselves opening for some established acts that played to live backing tracks, used studio tricks all over their recordings, and generally made slick, marketable, and neatly packaged music.

One June night in Gainesville, FL, the two of us escaped the headliner’s set by ducking into a nautically-themed bar across the street, whose jukebox happened to have just about every Tom Waits album. We talked about how these and the other records we love sound so honest. They may not be immediately accessible, but we keep listening to them because they are unique, challenging, and genuine.

Over a few rounds of drinks we planned to record something raw and spontaneous together on our next break from tour. We just wanted to set up our gear, press record, arrange some songs and give away whatever came out as a free EP. The next month we met up with engineer Jon Alvin and drummer Chris Faller. With no rehearsal or pre-production and just basic ideas, we hashed out some songs with tape rolling over 3 days in an old warehouse space on the North side of Chicago. We’d throw ideas around, go out for a smoke, drink a few beers, listen back, make some changes, and repeat that a few times. A few hours later we’d have a take of the song. The process was such a catharsis that we did it twice more over the next year, and gave away all three EPs online, at our gigs and outside other shows around Chicago.

Deli: Where did the band name come from?

MM: Musically, we are Mutts in the sense that we primarily record songs as we write them, so each of our individual contributions are added in an immediate and unfiltered process. Most of our songs were written during improvised recording sessions, whether in our practice space or on the fly in the studio. Outside of the music, I believe that if everyone were Mutts, all conflict would logically end. And we could still enjoy all types of food. Delicious world peace; all it’ll take is a whole lotta fuckin’.

Deli: What are your biggest musical influences?

MM: Ray Charles, Dave Grohl, Muzio Clementi

Bob: Van Morrison, Thelonious Monk, Richard Brautigan

Chris: Cursive, Nirvana, Mike Kinsella

Deli: What artists (local, national and/or international) are you currently listening to?

MM: Hemmingbirds (Chicago), Good Grief (Stevens Point, WI), Will Phalen (Chicago)

Bob: White Denim, Nils Frahm

Chris: Phantom Planet, Brendan Kelly & the Wandering Birds, Big Science (Chicago)

Deli: What's the first concert that you ever attended and first album that you ever bought?

MM: AC/DC sometime in the 90s, Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy

Bob: Willie Nelson at Summerfest in the 80s, Pain of Addiction by Rash

Chris: Bush’s Razorblade Suitcase Tour, Dookie by Green Day & Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins

Deli: What do you love about Chicago?

MM: The food

Bob: The lake

Chris: All of the musical talent and innumerable opportunities to perform and hear live music.

Deli: What do you hate about it?

Mike: The segregation

Bob: Black snow

Chris: The traffic

Deli: What are your plans for 2012?

Mike: We have a double LP coming out on vinyl and free download, called Separation Anxiety/Object Permanence.

The first half is 10 songs recorded live over 3.5 days, and is in various ways the heaviest record we’ve made to date (personally, I’ve never screamed and/or cried so much in a recording session). It’ll be released in July or August.

The second half will be our first Unplugged album, which will feature several of our friends from other Chicago bands including Yoo Soo Kim of Hemmingbirds and Jodi Rosenthal from Lying Delilah. We recorded the first six songs over a couple days last month, and will finish it this Summer for a Winter release.

Other than that we’ll continue to tour as much as possible, while working our temp jobs to pay for all of this.

Deli: What was your most memorable live show?

Mike: In Cincinnati last fall we were the only band of three that showed up to a gig at MOTR Pub. There were a bunch of people there expecting live music, and so the manager offered an extra hundred bucks to play the whole show ourselves. I had been sick all week, but we are broke so we did it. During the last set I had to puke, but choked it back until the end, at which point I sprinted to the bathroom and projectile vomited into the shitter.

Bob: He didn’t answer this one so I’ll say at Kryptonite in Rockford, IL, when his hand exploded.

Chris: At Kryptonite in Rockford, IL – all of our gear was on the fritz, and yet our playing was the most spontaneous and intuitive of any of our sets up until that point.

Deli: Can you name a few other local bands you feel particularly close to on an artistic level?

Mike: Dan Smart of Field Auxiliary, who recorded and produced Pray for Rain, inspired me with his saying, “when in doubt, put records out.” I’m also very into the new Big Science and Will Phalen albums, looking forward to playing keys with Lying Delilah and Hemmingbirds on their new albums, and sitting in with Empires for some shows.

Bob: He didn’t answer this one so I’m going to say President Obama. Most likely.

Chris: Big Science, Felix Culpa, Kellen & Me… musicians who are interested in pushing themselves to create something unique and meaningful, recordings that will challenge the listener in some way.

Deli: What's your favorite thing to get at the deli?

Mike: Food.

Bob: I’ll have the Radical Ruben on rye (from Chicago Diner)

Chris: the salami, provolone & hot pepper sandwich from Brooklyn Larder (thanks Gizella for turning me on to this uber-tastiness!)

Mutts will be headlining The Deli's emerging artists showcase at Beat Kitchen this Thursday, April 12th with Driftless Pony Club, Hemmingbirds, & Sharpless.