The Mutineers
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The Mutineers

Santa Barbara, California, United States | INDIE

Santa Barbara, California, United States | INDIE
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"The Mutineers Talk New Record, Touring"

Santa Barbara’s pub rock pioneers, The Mutineers, recently completed From the Dirge to the Dance, a new album of eight tracks, recorded in live takes at Playback Recording Studio. The band has performed some tracks off The Dirge live in recent months, and it’s impressive to see how their sound has developed in such a short time span. The newly recorded versions contain the spirit and punch typical of a live Mutes set, yet sound noticeably tighter and more textural.

The Mutineers started as singer-songwriter Brian Mathusek’s solo project in 2007 and has since grown into a four-piece ensemble, featuring Mike Astudillo (guitar), Merry Young (drums), and Terry Luna (bass). Their country/folk/Americana/punk sound — a mix of scrappy, stein-swinging anthems peppered with a few ambient, slow tracks — is grounded by the band’s constant energy, string talent, melodic harmonies, and strong rhythm section. By way of visceral folky lyrics, the Mutes offer happy music about hard times and the people living through them; these characters, like those in Springsteen’s and countless other folk songs, represent those groups oft overlooked in today’s media landscape and viral marketplace.

The band will be hosting a CD release party this Friday, April 15, at the Creekside Inn. Big Jugs, a raucous dirty country band, and Chris Story Xxxperience, a one-man masterpiece, are also slated to perform. Surprise events are said to be in store as well, so you can trust me when I tell you, this is a night not to be missed.

I recently trekked over to Playback Studio to chat with the Mutes about From The Dirge to the Dance and their upcoming tour. Here is what they had to say.

You’ve been performing these songs at shows for the past few months. Did anything about the music change once you entered the studio?

Brian Mathusek: We had a four-song EP ready to record for over a year, and we had been playing most of the songs live as a three-piece. But initially, I was tied up with the recording of City of Blight with The Depths, so we put The Mutes on hold. Once that was completed, we were ready to move forward with The Mutineers, but we encountered another diversion. Terry, who also plays with The Depths, finally convinced us that it was time to shed the dinky stripped-down style and add some bass to the mix. He signed on and we spent the next four months reinventing our old catalogue to make room for his stand-up bass. As we developed the rest of the tracks for the CD, it was essential to play them live and understand each of our roles, since the relationship was somewhat new. The band has really changed since the last recording, so it was helpful to introduce the new lineup and songs live before the latest trip into the studio.

What was your favorite part of the recording process?

Mike Astudillo: My favorite part of the recording process was listening to our takes and looking at the music from a different perspective. You get to be the performer, but also the audience. You start to hear the things that work and think of what could work better. It’s always a blast to be in the studio creating music with people. I truly enjoy the isolated time where you are just focused on the project. It’s like any creative process or think tank. You and the people around you are totally focused on this piece of art that will be the album. That creative energy takes on a life of its own, and that’s when really amazing things can happen.

Terry Luna: I enjoyed performing together in the sound room — way more fun than mixing.

How did recording in live takes turn out?

BM: Challenging and satisfying. We wanted something brutally honest that would mirror our live sound, so we recorded all of our main instrument tracks together and in the same room. The vocals were done separately, but we tracked all the harmonies together to get the most cohesive sound. We did a couple of our guitar solos separately, but for 99% of the album, all of the instrument tracks are live and in one solid take. The room vibe is unmistakable.

Merry Young: I really liked working with the whole band in the same room. I think it helped us all work together better, and I felt a real sense of responsibility for getting a good take and playing the best I could because everyone’s performance was at stake.

TL: I think the live takes helped us focus on our performance as a group, as we tried to make every take perfect for one another, as if it were a live show. The performance aspect is what brought out the hard work and creativity in each of us.

I’ve noticed that you are able to paint vivid portraits of entire groups of people by just focusing on one person. On “The Dirge” you highlight issues surrounding war and the economy by telling the story of one old man. Why do that?

BM: I wanted to avoid the liberal bleeding-heart bullshit and just embrace the perspective of an older man. “The Dirge” is a song about death, and it’s easy to incorporate the reality of war into that. It’s not necessarily an anti-war song — it’s a song about someone whose life has been affected by war.

Merry, describe the work that you did in designing the album art? Why did you decide to design a band crest?

MY: We were brainstorming cover art ideas and decided we wanted a really strong graphic that would be good for screen printing. I think Mike first mentioned the idea of a family crest, so I looked into it and it took off from there. I researched the elements of a traditional coat of arms and created our own based on things that represent who we are and what the music is about. I did a lot of meticulous work in [Adobe] Illustrator, recreating Brian and Mike’s actual guitars, the ivy represents lasting friendships, the seraphim are the supports of the crest, and I like that they represent feminine strength too. All of the symbols mean something to us. We screen print our own shirts by hand and make each individual CD package by hand too, so this whole project is a real labor of love.

Tell me about the tour you’re planning in May.

BM: We are heading up to Ranch Fest, near Camas, ID on May 27. It is an annual party hosted by the awesome band Finn Riggins, who often tour through SB. We will stop in Salt Lake City, UT the night before at Bar Deluxe, then play at Rontom’s in Portland, OR on Sunday, May 29. These dates will be bookended with shows in SB, Ventura, Bakersfield, and the Bay Area, along with some other semi-local areas yet to be announced. But, the promo kicks off with three days in April, starting with Sans Souci in Ventura on Thursday April 14. Our CD release party will take place the following night, Friday, April 15, at The Creekside Inn in Santa Barbara. And we will head out to Bakersfield to play at Sports and Spirits on Saturday, April 16. All in all, we will play about 15 shows between April 14 and June 9.

Mike, you have emphasized that the Mutineers started with group of friends that became a band over time. How did that special bond impact the recording of the album?

MA: I think that bond that we all have helped the collaboration of ideas. We know each other so well as friends and would never judge or dismiss anyone’s input. We create better as a group of friends and musicians than as individuals. That kind of connection between people takes time, and I think that because we were already so close as friends before we became a band really helps our creative process. That kind of bond and unity I would hope shows itself in the album. I hope the listeners feel like they are part of that as well.

The Mutineers celebrate the release of From the Dirge to the Dance with a CD release party this Friday, April 15 at 9 p.m. at the Creekside Inn (4444 Hollister Ave.). Big Jugs and The Chris Story Xxxperience open the show. For info, call or visit reverbnation.com/themutineers. - The Santa Barbara Independent


"2010 Santa Barbara Band Guide"

Guy-girl vocals and classic Americana structures mark this earnest, indie-minded S.B. three-piece. - Santa Barbara Independent


"SoCal Tour Blog No. 1 by Matty Stone"

The Mutineers closed the show and combined the aforementioned rock (But at a noise level where the songs were discernible) with wit, charm and a sharp political bent. Lead Mutineer, Brian, a be-bearded guitarist, at times channeled Kurt Cobain with a voice that could shout in tune, but shone with versatility as he tunefully and gently illustrated a softer side in carving out some old-timey roots and country numbers. With Merry keeping the backbeat on drums and various other percussives, and the ridiculously likeable (think your wise-cracking, Belushi-esque beer-buddy in college) Michael on bass guitar, they provided a great end to a show. The Mutineers were having fun, rocking out, and the crowd bayed for more. - Tippy Canoe


Discography

The Mutineers EP 2007
1. Coffee Mug
2. End of the World (solo)
3. You Don't Have To
4. Drinking Alone

Tidal Wave EP 2008
1. Tidal Wave
2. Roadkill
3. California (radio airplay)
4. Heartland USA

Nihilisteria EP 2009
1. Sayonara Senorita (radio airplay)
2. End of the World (full band)
3. Nihilisteria (radio airplay)
4. Tri-Infancy

From the Dirge to the Dance LP 2011
1. Give It a Rest (radio airplay)
2. Hell No
3. The Waltz
4. A Summer's Minotaur
5. Can't Quit
6. Going Home
7. Ace
8. The Dirge

Photos

Bio

“Life’s too short to play it safe,” declare The Mutineers in unison on their new song “Ace.” Frontman and songwriter Brian Mathusek is not waiting around for things to get better. “Let’s hit the road before it gets too late.” Like many members of the Santa Barbara-based quartet, he has roamed from East to West and most places in-between. Along the way, he has gathered stories of hope and fear, love and loss. Songs like “California” recall his younger years, struggling to make ends meet in a new town. In other early tunes, like “End of the World,” he questions faith: “I want to know whose religion wins, and what counts as sin.” Throughout Mathusek’s writing there has always been an openness and honesty that seems to come straight from the heart—there are no gimmicks. Such is the case in the latest eight-song release from The Mutineers, entitled, From the Dirge to the Dance.

The entire album displays more texture and virtuosity than any of the band’s previous EP’s. Along with longtime friends Michael Astudillo on acoustic guitar, Merry Young on drums and recent addition Terry Luna on stand-up bass, Mathusek and his fellow Mutineers have been stirring up a fierce blend of folksy “pub rock” marked by sweet-and-sour storytelling, mug-swinging melodies and foot-stomping beats. As a trio, their first EP, Tidal Wave (2008), was well received with radio play on several stations in California. It wasn’t long before they began to share stages with such artists as Langhorne Slim, The Devil Makes Three, The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band and The Tallest Man on Earth. Their second EP, titled Nihilisteria (2009), was a more dynamic exploration of their evolving sound, reminiscent of bands like X, The B-52s, The Pogues, and The Velvet Underground.

Working with Tucker Bodine at Playback Recording Studio in Santa Barbara, the band set out to record a new album that would reflect the energy and emotion of their live performances. Instrumentally, each song was recorded live and in one complete take. Then the lead vocal tracks were laid down by Mathusek with all back-up harmonies performed together as a group. The result shows a new side of The Mutineers. Mathusek belts out anthems with punk-rock intensity, then slips smoothly into a sad melody. With the addition of Luna’s stand-up bass, both the electric and acoustic guitars have found space to be more elaborate, intricate, and interwoven. The melodic bass riffs maintain a powerful heartbeat with the kick drum throughout the album while Young lays down beats that are both aggressive and sensitive. Lyrically, songs like “Hell No” and “Give It a Rest” stir passion and optimism, diverting from some of the cynicism of earlier recordings. Twin ballads “The Dirge” and “The Waltz” frame the aptly-titled album nicely with a sense of nostalgia and a longing for permanence during our short, but sweet, moments on Earth. Overall, From the Dirge to the Dance explores a full spectrum of life’s peaks and pitfalls, inspiring the pursuit of dreams while reveling in the spirit of rebellion that defines The Mutineers.

The band is currently playing shows in support of the new album release.