Session 169: Mutts // Christopher Gold & The New Old Things<- Back
August 30, 2017
Chicago’s Mutts are a keys/bass/drums trio described as “like Tom Waits fronting a garage band” by Time Out Magazine, and “what Queens Of The Stone Age would sound like if they ditched the guitars and started playing dirty sounding organs” by Loud Loop Press.
In 2017 the band is working on releasing a new EP. They were named one of WXRT Chicago’s “Best of 2016” by DJ Richard Milne, host of Local Anesthetic, for their two singles and videos, “Let’s Go” and “Neighbor.” Recent tour dates were highlighted by a sold-out hometown show at Schubas, headlining regional staple venues such as High Noon Saloon (Madison), 7th Street Entry (Minneapolis), and Zanzabar (Louisville), and playing direct support for JD McPherson and Local H. In 2015 the band played 132 shows across 25 states, including FEST in Gainesville, their 2nd appearances at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Donkey Creek Fest in Wyoming, and SXSW, and supporting Two Cow Garage for a month. They also found time to release a 7″ single (a split with Archie Powell & the exports on Midwest Action) and covers EP (Ghoul Yer Delusion) as well.
This busy year follows a 2014 in which they recorded and released their 4th LP – Fuel Yer Delusion vol. 4 while also playing 152 shows across 21 states – including, Riot Fest, Musikfest, SXSW, WFPK Live Lunch, JBTV and headlining the Metro. The album became their fourth straight album to chart on the CMJ Top 200.
The previous two years, Mutts released two LPs and played 250 shows. The Big Takeover Magazine described their new sound on the acoustic album Object Permanence as “rollicking New Orleans barrelhouse blues/R&B.” It reached #149 on the CMJ Top 200, was named one of WXRT’s Best of 2013, and the first vinyl pressing sold out in just 8 months. Mutts supported the LP with appearances on Daytrotter, National TV, WBEZ and Audio Tree Live. They also performed at several festivals and opened for national acts including Murder By Death, Maps & Atlases and Phox. Just eight months earlier, Mutts released the companion to Object Permanence – Separation Anxiety. Together, these two albums address singer/songwriter Mike Maimone’s coming out process, coming from conservative roots and graduating with a business degree from the University of Notre Dame. Separation Anxiety became the second Mutts release to chart on the CMJ Top 200 in 2012, peaking at #72 over its six week run. That year the band supported artists ranging from Flobots to Imagine Dragons to Company of Thieves. Their song, “God, Country, Grave,” was also prominently featured in the Seasons 2 premiere of Banshee on Cinemax and continues to bring more exposure to this hard-working unsigned band.
Mutts released their debut album, Pray for Rain, on December 13th, 2011. It charted for six consecutive weeks on the CMJ Top 200, peaking at #107. It was named one of the top Chicago albums of 2011 by The Huffington Post, received praise in Alternative Press and The Big Takeover, and Mutts were named Chicago’s Emerging Artist of 2011 by The Deli Magazine.
In their first year together Mutts independently put out 3 EPs: Pretty Pictures, We Float and The Tells of Parallels. Developing a unique, genre-bending sound, Mutts were “poised to become one of Chicago’s top acts,” according to Loud Loop Press. Outside of the studio, Mutts fulfilled the buzz garnered by their recordings and Chicago music scene pedigree (members have played in: Company of Thieves, Empires, Wax on Radio, The Hush Sound, Suns, Bailiff, Eight Bit Tiger and Big Science). By their second year together, the band was headlining at staple Chicago venues including The Empty Bottle, Double Door and Subterranean. Throughout 2011 they also hit the road often, playing nearly 100 tour dates between their other jobs and session work.
Christopher Gold: I hate bios. I’m told that they are important, but I hate them. It’s always some horrible piece of fluff written by the very person it is about, but written in third person to try to fool the reader into thinking that anyone other than the subject themselves thinks they are “taking the scene by storm” or some such nonsense. But my main problem with a bio, on a personal level, is that it doesn’t talk about what you’re doing; it talks about what you’ve done. And what I’ve done is never as interesting to me as what I’m doing or what I’m getting ready to do.
What I’m typically getting ready to do is play a show or make a record. And that sounds way more exciting to me than the fact that I’ve put out a bunch of other records and played a bunch of other shows. A lot of the things that I’ve done were exciting at the time, and they are memories that I cherish, but they’re not things that I hope define me. If I’m anything beyond a husband and a father, I’d like to think that I’m a songwriter. And I write a lot of them. I once heard somebody say that you can’t call yourself something unless you do it regularly and often, so I’m a songwriter.
These last few years I’ve been averaging a record about every 9 months. The last time somebody told me that was really something, I reminded them that my lovely wife made our beautiful boy in 9 months, so 10 songs shouldn’t really be all that impressive. But I hope people like them.
That said, if you must know a little history, I was born in Owensboro, Kentucky. I moved a lot as a kid, but spent a big chunk of time in Wyoming before settling in Wisconsin. It’s cold here in a way that I’ve never gotten used to, but I live in a town with good schools, great friends, and an excellent record store. I played in garage bands and punk bands and metal bands and I love all of those things still, but folk/country/bluegrass has always dominated the largest part of my musical heart. It's one of many things that I'm happy to share with my dad. I recorded my first solo record in my basement. In the spirit of progress I recorded the second one in my bedroom. The third one was done in the back room of a recording studio, and by the fourth I had moved to an actual studio. I do my stuff live over the course of a day or two the way Dylan and Petty did. Everybody did it that way. And I like it. I think we get something special when we all play together. And by “we” I mean whichever group of people is playing with me under the name The New Old Things.
I play a lot of shows and I feel very fortunate to have played some of those shows with some truly wonderful musicians and people. I’ve gotten to share stages with Rodney Crowell, Justin Townes Earle, Chuck Ragan, William Elliott Whitmore, Austin Lucas, Charlie Parr, Mandolin Orange, Jamestown Revival, and a whole bunch of others. I got to travel back home to Owensboro to play ROMP Fest with people like John Prine, Punch Brothers, Del McCoury, Sam Bush, and a long list of talented folks. I even won the Wisconsin Area Music Industry award for singer/songwriter of the year. Awards for art are weird, and sometimes even calling what I do “art” is weird, but it was flattering and nice.
But still, for me it is always going to be about songs. There are old ones, there are these ones, and there will be new ones. And I would love to come play them for you sometime.