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BYT Interviews: Mates of State
December 6, 2012 | 9:00AM

Good news, guys! We have TWO opportunities to catch the ever-amazing husband-wife duo Mates of State tonight at Mercury Lounge, PLUS they’ll be in DC tomorrow night at RnR Hotel. I spoke to Kori over the phone last week, and we talked about all kinds of things, including the format for this little tour, what the band’s been up to these days, and also about how embarrassingly old both of us were when we learned the truth about Santa! So read all about that and more here, and in the meantime, make sure to pick up some tickets to the shows!


So where are you guys right now?

We are home, getting ready and practicing for some shows.

Exciting! And so where are you usually based when you’re not on tour?

We live in Connecticut now.

Oh, cool. So is that an easy commute to New York?

Yeah, it’s about an hour commute, so we’re in New York a lot.

Cool. Well, I was going to start talking to you about Mountaintops, which has obviously been really well-received by the audience and the critics, but do your kids have a favorite?

Umm…I’m trying to think which is their favorite on there. Every now and then I’ll hear them singing along, and it’s like, “Oh, you were listening?” But I don’t think they have a favorite right now. When it first came out I think they were telling us which ones were the best, and we would definitely actually listen to their opinions, but I don’t remember which songs they were.

Well those are the most important people’s opinions to listen to, because they will tell you straight up, one way or the other, what’s up.

Yeah, they have nothing to base it on except for it’s like, “Do I like it or not?”

Right, exactly. So how’s everybody doing? How much time have you had to kind of break from touring? Or have you, really?

We have, because the record was out over a year ago now, and we’re kind of in the part of the cycle where we’re writing a new record and doing things here and there, and then doing little shows. This tour we’re doing right now is just organ and drums, so back to the old school way we used to do things; one amp, one organ, one drum set, and nothing additional, just to change it up and, I don’t know, play some old songs that we don’t normally play. It’s been really fun; we’ve actually sort of dug into our back catalog that we haven’t heard in years and been like, “Oh, that wasn’t such a bad song! I like that one!” (Laughs) So now we’re going through our back stuff, and hopefully that’ll push us in a different direction than we were headed for the new stuff. We’ve already written about half the record for this upcoming thing, whatever that may be. I don’t know if people release records necessarily every day anymore, but I think we’re just on that next record thing all the time; we don’t really do things as, “Let’s write a single.” So we’re working on an album.

So it seems, then, that even if you feel it, you don’t necessarily concede to the pressure to finish things on the same timetable as what people have come to expect with this whole internet need for immediacy…I mean, do you just sort of let things happen organically and not really set deadlines for yourselves?

I’m definitely into the whole immediate culture; I feel like I want something to grab me right away and I want to be finished with something right away, but when it comes to our songs, we’re complete perfectionists in that we cannot put anything out unless we absolutely love it. We can’t put a song together unless we absolutely love every part, so in that regard we’re slow. (Laughs) But when I’m listening and observing and sucking up culture, I completely want the immediacy.

And so how do you write things? Do you carve out a space in the day that you sort of think these things out?

We do, we have to. We do have to schedule it because of the family. While we were listening to all the old songs last night, we were like, “Remember when we used to just play music around the clock whenever we felt like it? And if we felt like staying up until four in the morning because we were on something we would just sleep in the next morning? Remember that?” (Laughs) But yeah, we have to write on a schedule now, and our kids are in school almost full-day, so we have three days a week where we have a good six hours straight where we’re playing. It’s kind of nice; it sort of feels like the best job in the world in that regard, because you are scheduled but you’re doing really great, really fun work. And sometimes it’s also stifling, because it takes a good hour to even get into the whole mindset of being creative, and then by the time you’re there, sometimes you’ve got something else to do. So I mean, I like scheduling it, but I do miss the whole play-when-you-feel-it mentality.

Yeah, I guess that would be hard with kids and everything, but that’s cool that you guys make it work the way you do. So for Mountaintops, what was maybe the most difficult or even easiest aspect of making the record?

Probably the most difficult thing was that we had to find a studio that was within commuting distance of our house. We recorded it all at home, and that was the best part; that was the easiest and the most fun, because our end goal is to be totally self-sufficient, and we’re through the years slowly, slowly getting there as far as recording goes, and learning and having the right equipment and the right space. And so we mixed the record in New York for three weeks, and what that did for our life was sort of…it gave us one parent at home all the time and one person at the studio all the time. What was hard about that was that we do everything together, especially decisions about songs and sonics and the record itself. So there were times when we were on the phone going, “Can you hear this? I’m trying to figure out the level on this, can you hear it through the phone?” (Laughs) It was difficult, but it was also what we had to do to get it done. As I say, the best part is that we get to record everything in our basement right now, and that’s fun.

Right, that’s nice. And when did you start with music personally? Did you always know this was going to be your career path, or did you have moments where you said, you know, “I would like to be a dentist!” growing up as a kid?

I always had two things I imagined myself doing: one was teaching (and I did go to school for that, and I did teach for a few years) and then I guess I was always drawn to music, I always pictured myself playing it, always wrote songs. I was talking to someone the other day about how it’s in you or not in you, and I remember, no matter what I was doing, like if I was watching TV, even, I would find the show that had something to do with a person playing music. So there was always that in me, but I guess I never really looked at it as, “I’m going to do this as my job, or as my career,” it was more like, “I’m going to always do this because I’ve been born this way.” And then the teaching thing was more like, “Oh, I really like teaching, I like kids, and this could be a great job.” So I’m happy where I’m at, and I do miss teaching, but I think I have the job with the greater freedom now. (Laughs)

Oh, sure! And you’re kind of already a teacher to your kids every day, so…

Yeah, definitely.

So on a totally different note, that cover that you guys did of “California” from The OC pops up on my shuffle from time to time; did you ever watch that show, or was it strictly a musical endeavor?

I didn’t really watch the show very much; we were touring nonstop at that point, and the funny thing was that was around the time when there weren’t bands in every show and in every commercial. It was sort of like if you happened upon that you were really lucky, or you couldn’t believe it when certain bands got on whatever show. And I remember when we were on the road and Jason was like, “Have you ever heard of The OC?” (Laughs) And a friend of ours was like, “Are you guys kidding me? It’s like the most popular show on TV right now, it’s like the new 90210!” So we were like, “Yeah, let’s do it!” And that particular song, they actually had a lot of bands cover other bands, and they gave us a list of choices. They were all great choices, but we were like, “We’ll go ahead and take the theme song.” (Laughs) I mean, that’s probably the best choice, right? Plus we were in love with California (as we always are) so it worked out, and I thought the song was great. So no, I didn’t know the show, but afterwards I was like, “That’s a great show!” (Laughs)

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No, it’s funny, I was in high school at the time and I watched it religiously. I actually looked the song up just now, and someone’s made a really weird, creepy fan video for it with clips from the show, which is kind of hilarious. ANYWAY, do you guys have any big holiday plans coming up? Do you celebrate that sort of thing?

We’re not doing anything with the band except for the short tour right before everybody’s on break, I guess the 16th of December. And personally, we travel to go see family every Christmas in Minnesota; Jason’s family is from there, and mine, most of them live around here. So we just do family stuff. We’re going to this indoor water slide park for four days, so it should be fun! (Laughs)

Oh my god, that’s hilarious. Maybe it will inspire some amazing aquatic-themed songs in the future. So what are the kids asking for this year from Santa? I don’t know, do you even do Santa?

Yeah, well, my oldest just found out there is no Santa, so it’s interesting.

Oh no!

Yeah, she was just staring at me one day, and she’s one of those kids that probably knew this when she was four, but she recently just looked at me and said, “Would you just tell me?” And I was like, “Tell you what?” And she was like, “C’mon. You really think I’m going to believe that some guy comes down my chimney every year?” I was like, “Alright, alright. It’s me.” She was like, “Okay, cool.” She wasn’t upset about it at all. So anyway, we do the Santa thing for the four year old, and they’ve asked for…I don’t know, the thing that sucks about anything on TV is between every show there’s some horrible toy, and they’re like, “THAT’S WHAT I WANT!” So I’ve managed to somehow only get one of those and steer them towards better things. One of my daughters wants all the Guinness Book of World Records, which I’m like, “Great! Wonderful.”

That’s hilarious. Yeah, when my sister was little she kind of fooled my mom into thinking that she’d learned the truth about Santa at school, and so my mom was relieved, and like, “Oh, thank god! Yeah, he’s not real.” But really my sister was just faking her out, so she was like, “It was like a dagger through my heart!”

That’s how I felt! Do you remember your story?

Oh yeah, totally! They kept it going so long for me because they didn’t want to eff it up again, but I remember saying, like, “Look, if there’s nothing real, please tell me. I don’t want to look like an idiot.” But they never told me, and one year they left like, a giant jingle bell on the front porch and said it was a reindeer bell, and it had snowed the night before so there were like, deer footprints in our yard, and I was like, completely convinced again. And that was in like, fourth grade. So I was like, older when they finally told me, like probably end of fifth grade or something. But after that I was just kind of like, “This sucks, the magic is gone! It’s not as exciting anymore!”

Yeah, that’s what I said to her! I was like, “Listen, I can tell you, but isn’t it fun just to believe?” The funny thing for me was like, I was completely one of those kids that believed until I was like fifteen. Like, someone’s older sister was like, “Can I tell her?” to my mom, and I was like, “Tell me what?” We were talking about the Easter Bunny or something. So I was really apprehensive to tell her, but she was full-on like, mad at me. Like, “Would you quit lying to me?!”

Well, it’s good she took it so well, though. And so as we wrap up with 2012, what have been maybe one or two of the biggest highlights for you this year?

I should put together these end-of-the-year lists, because everyone always puts them out there or asks these kinds of questions. Let’s see…what happened this year. Are there any highlights? (Laughs) Okay, okay, I’ve got one for you. We went to Japan this year, and Japan is always great, everybody knows that, but we had no idea what we were really playing, because it was a little bit of a lost in translation thing when they’re setting the shows up. So we get to Japan and play this arena for a little festival, and somehow we got put on the bill, and it was playing to like, 15,000 people or something. So we walked out of there and were like, “Alright!” The whole trip was definitely a highlight.

Amazing! I’ve never been to Japan but I really, really want to go. It seems like an incredible place.

It is! It’s definitely a place everyone should go at least once in their lifetime.

Well, to wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom for the universe and/or New York City?

Hmm…wow, these are good questions and I’m such a bad person to be asking them to!

It’s funny, I have to ask these things all the time, and then recently I was asked to respond to an on-the-spot questionnaire that was similar to the kinds of questions I usually ask, and at first I was really excited, because I was like, “My answers are going to be soooooo good!” But then when you have to think of them right there, and you want to come up with something cool to say, it’s really, really difficult!

Well yeah, because it’s one of those questions where you want to make your answer as poignant as possible! (Laughs) You know, I was just in my daughter’s classroom, and I was reading this quote about living life like it’s a song, and not waiting for the final note, just dancing and singing throughout the entire song. And I was like, you know, even though that’s meant for the class, that’s really beautiful. So that’s my advice.

Well MY advice is for you to catch at least one of the band’s two shows tonight at Mercury Lounge if you happen to be in NYC, and/or if you’re in DC, you can see them again tomorrow night at RnR Hotel.

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