Mutts is not your ordinary Chicago band. Keyboardist and lead singer Mike Maimone has an eerily familiar growl reminiscent of Tom Waits. Couple that with aggressive rythyms, highlighted by a B3 organ, and the result is sheer abandon. Mutts' live show has become legendary on the local Chicago music scene. A new album "Separation Anxiety" has just been released and the band will visit the Dragonfly Lounge in Madison for a record release show. Also on the bill; Suns, Hewn and Savage Boys.
We caught up with Mike Maimone for a couple of questions:
How did Mutts start?
Bassist Bob Buckstaff and I met while playing in a band called Company of Thieves. One night in Florida while opening for Plain White T’s, we packed up our gear and wandered into a nearby bar that happened to have a jukebox full of Tom Waits and Van Morrison… many of the organic-sounding records we loved. Inspired by the soundtrack and several rounds of whatever was cheap, we decided that when we got off tour we’d book a few studio days with a couple mutual friends, write and record live, and whatever we got would be our first release. We had no band name, just a plan to jam some tunes live to tape. It was such a catharsis that every time we were home we’d do another one. Three EPs later and we realized we had something and decided to play in Mutts full-time.
What led to the kickstarter campaign for Separation Anxiety? How was it from a band perspective?
When Chris Pagnani joined the band last December we planned to release a split LP on vinyl, with one side unplugged and one side amplified. After the sessions – two days of live recording each – we had 6 songs of each dynamic, and a lot more ideas had come out in the process. So we excitedly revised our plan to make two full LPs. At that point we realized that there was no way we could afford to complete this project ourselves. Some of our friends’ bands had great things to say about Kickstarter. So we put a lot into it, updating daily and making sure that our backers stayed a true part of the process. We just released the first album. I have to say that mailing over 100 copies of it was an amazing and fulfilling project; it was a real-life reminder of the support we’re so lucky to have.
What did you want to say with Separation Anxiety that differed from previous recordings?
I wanted to combine the Robert Frost poem “Mending Wall,” with the Bill Hicks quote, “We are all one and there’s no such thing as death.”
How do you react when people say you sound like Tom Waits fronting a garage rock band?
I like it for it’s brevity, but I just hope that anyone who hears that would be intrigued and dig a little deeper. Tom Waits has consistently taken chances and reinvented his sound for 40 years, and ideally having his name in a description of our music will illuminate that spirit in our music as well.
You worked as an accountant for KPMG in Cleveland at one time. Was it like the movie "Office Space?"
Mostly. Except my devious plan to get rich was music, not embezzlement. Still working on that.
What is the secret of the B3 organ that draws people in?
It’s different, and it’s elusive because it’s a pain in the ass to haul around. 100% of musicians have access to either a guitar or a MicroKorg, but the sound of a real B3 – whether it’s soothing like a ghost petting a horse, or roaring like a less-wasteful/more-interesting NASCAR race – is unmistakable and exceedingly difficult to fake. Speaking of which, have you ever heard the band Attila? It was Billy Joel’s rock duo before he became the Piano Man. Pure B3 magic.
What's in store for the Dragonfly Lounge gig in Madison?
Ghosts petting horses and the spirit of the Plain White T’s.