Normally, when a band or artist is on the campaign trail for their new studio album, there's a part of them that treats their run of press interviews with a travelling salesman's mindset. The end goal is to sell the product, to promote its existence and express a full vote of confidence in its excellence. However, as Mutemath's singer and keyboardist Paul Meany takes Mixdown's call, his voice is clearly shaken from nerves. Not for a lack of faith in the album in question – Play Dead, the band's fifth overall – but for the shifts that the band has taken throughout the course of 2017. “This has been a crazy year for us,” he says, explaining just what's happening with the New Orleans-based alt-rock outfit.
“Everyone who was on the last record is on this: myself, Roy [Mitchell-Cárdenas, guitar/bass/keys], Darren [King, drums] and Todd [Gummerman, guitar/keys]. However, Roy announced about three months ago that he wasn't going to be touring anymore. Then, just this week, we announced that Darren wouldn't be continuing with us. It's been a pretty massive change and a real shift for the band – especially considering we're about to go out on the road. It's been an emotional time, to say the very least. The one thing I keep coming back to, though, is being so appreciative of this record that we made while we were all still together.”
Play Dead arrives just under two after its predecessor, 2015's Vitals. The writing and creation of the album, however, dates back to 2012; shortly after the release of the band's third album, Odd Soul. As Meany explains, the music of Play Dead was so different to that of what Vitals would become that the two had to be separated in order to properly work.
“Each of our records really sees us push to different places,” he says. “I'm really proud of that. With Play Dead, I feel like we really wanted to push ourselves to make a Mutemath record – something that picks up on the dynamics of everything that we've made over the last 12 years. What it yielded was actually a lot of fun for us. It's a record where I feel like we really indulged – it's got every chord that we knew, every drum fill Darren knew, every melody and harmony we could muster. We really took the guardrail off for ourselves, and I feel like it's the most fun that we've ever had making a record.”
With the change in lineup for the band – and, more specifically, with King's departure – Meany now officially remains as the only original member. Having formed the project in 2002 with King, the group eventually spread its wings and worked towards the huge sounding indie-pop of their self-titled debut in 2006. Several members have come and gone in the intervening years, but losing half your lineup and having to recalibrate in such a short period of time has clearly left Meany disoriented.
“I honestly don't know what's in store for the future of our band,” he says with a sigh. “This could maybe even be the last Mutemath record – at this point, I'm really not sure. I think that's made me appreciate the record a whole lot more. When I hear this record now, it's coming to take on a whole new level of meaning and importance for me. Everyone brought their A-game while they were around to bring it. Everyone's firing on all cylinders; I'm really proud of their contribution.”
Play Dead Mutemath is out Friday September 8 through Caroline Australia.