Hometown: New Orleans, La.
Members [l-r]: Darren King (drums, samples), Greg Hill (guitar), Paul Meany (vocals, keyboards), Roy Mitchell-Cardenas (bass)
Fun fact: Meany, Mitchell-Cardenas and King previously played together in Earthsuit, a band that combined rock, reggae, funk, hip-hop and jazz.
Why they’re worth watching: Mute Math is a grassroots, Internet-fueled sensation, selling more than 30,000 albums from their van, without a label. And their live show has tongues wagging.
For fans of: Radiohead, The Police, U2
Mute Math’s story already has the narrative arc of a TV melodrama.
The quartet was confronted with the destruction of its hometown of New Orleans, then turned around to face label woes, with Warner Brothers sitting on the band’s completed full-length in a struggle for creative control.
“A lot of us had lost our day jobs, and our wives were out of work, and they were holding down the bills while we were off playing rock band,” says keyboardist Paul Meany of Mute Math’s Fall 2005 tour. “When the whole Katrina thing happened, it felt like a sink-or-swim time in our lives. We had finished the record and we were forced to dive into it full-time because we had no other choice.”
Fortunately the band has built a staggering cult fanbase with its swirling anthems and pristine atmospherics—full of fractured shards of guitar distortion, complex tempo changes and sparkling keyboards. Live shows, which begin with Meany’s classically pop, soaring vocals, often take an experimental direction, with extended codas, homemade instruments and occasional crowd surfing.
Meany is at a loss to explain the band’s rabid following. “People try to poke and prod, like, ‘What exactly are you doing?’”
While waiting for the lawyers to resolve its label issues, (“Hopefully this thing will end pretty soon,” Meany says.) Mute Math is hitting the summer-festival circuit, with scheduled slots at Lollapolooza, the Warped Tour and Bonnaroo. “We’d play in an open field if that was our only option,” Meany laughs. “As long as people are still interested, we’ll keep going.”