Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chicago band Mutts winning fans through unique, energetic sound


Take the growl of Tom Waits and the dirty guitar sound of Nirvana, and you have some idea of the excitement that the Chicago band creates both on record and on stage.

The band is receiving heaps of praise for its energetic sound. Haven't heard of Mutts? Well, that's no excuse, especially since the band is allowing listeners to download its three EPs at its website,

Mutts is comprised of Mike Maimone on keys and vocals, Bob Buckstaff on bass and Chris Faller on drums.

The band will perform Friday, March 11, at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago,

Also in the bill are the Suns, Bailiff and The Field Auxiliary. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at

I had the chance to talk to Maimone about the band and its current projects, which include a new album.

Q - How did you guys get together? Did you guys seem to click right away?

We clicked before we actually started the band, so it just kind of fell together. Chris and I met when I was living at the I.V. Lab studio recording my first album. He was playing drums for a Jon Alvin recording session, and we just started jamming. About a year later I met Bob, when both of us were hired to play for Company of Thieves.

After about six months on the road I had accumulated a lot of ideas from late-night phone recordings on hotel lobby pianos. So one night after a gig, Bob and I were having a few beers, listening to Tom Waits on the coolest jukebox in Florida, and he suggested we hit the studio with Chris and Jon on our next tour break. 

It was his call to record it the way we did – unrehearsed, just putting the ideas into songs as the tape rolled. Take 1 would be a disaster, takes 2 – 5 would start to sound like a song, and by take 6 Jon would have it sounding good and we’d nail it down. 

After three days we had put together three songs, and then I tracked “Uncivilized” before mixing the EP on our next tour break. Eventually we started playing shows, and that’s when we realized we were a band, deciding on just “Mutts” as the name.

Q - Who are your main influences and how do you think they mesh with the rest of the band?

At least 2/3 of us typically love the same music. For example, Bob and I dig Tom Waits, Chris and Bob love King Crimson, and Chris and I are into the Meters. It seems to keep our tunes from sounding entirely like one thing or another – a simple majority locks into an idea, and then the third guy obliterates it.

Q - It seems that technology has made it easier for bands to get their music out there. One way your band is using technology is allowing people to watch all the behind the scenes action into the making of your new album. How did you come up with the idea?

We’ve never been into documenting our band; we’re just not good with cameras and interviews and the like. But I got a free flip-cam thing from playing Lollapalooza with Company of Thieves, and figured it was time to get with the video age. We’re still no good with it, but at least now anyone who’s interested can get the idea of what our recording sessions are like.

Q - What should people expect from the new album? What goals do you have for the album?

It’ll reach a much broader range of moods than the three EPs. We had just three days to track the EPs, and the sessions were mainly a cathartic break from touring. 

So our un-tempered excitement manifested itself in somewhat chaotic-sounding tunes. But a goal with this album is to take our time and reflect a little more. None of our favorite albums are barn-burners for 45 minutes straight, and we know we can write and perform down-tempo as well.

Q - How has the band's decision to give away its first three EPs paid off?

It seems like we’ve gotten a pretty good group of fans in our home town relatively quickly – I’ll never stop feeling incredible when I see people at our shows singing (or shouting!) along with our songs. Now we’re starting to book shows outside of Chicago, and many bands are starting to give away music, so I think a true test will be how many people come to the first few shows as we tour regionally.

Q - How would you describe the band's sound?

This is the single toughest question to answer! Everyone I talk to seems to have a different opinion than I do, so I can only say what it feels like to make the sound. It’s honest, spontaneous, and fun. Have you ever eaten at Kuma’s Corner on Belmont? It’s the heavy metal burger joint… my favorite part is the chalkboard that says “die emo die.”

Q - The band has been getting a lot of good buzz. What other Chicago bands have caught your attention?

Big Science, This is Cinema, Bailiff, Lying Delilah, and even though I just left the band I am still proud of the 
new Company of Thieves album about to come out. It’s gonna be a great one.

Q - What are the band's short term and long term goals?

Short-term: finish typing these answers, have a beer, go play piano at the Uncommon Ground open mic on Devon, have more beer, go to sleep. Long-term: finish our album, try to get on some local festivals this summer, and enjoy the hell out of Chicago once it finally warms up again.

Q - Did you make the right decision in quitting your job as an accountant?

Yes. Quick semi-related story: I went to school for business, and got a job as an auditor at KPMG in Cleveland

It was fine; I was making good money, had some close friends in the office, and wrote songs on the side, thinking I could send out press kits and magically get signed. 

Then on the way home after a 14-hour work day in a blizzard, I skidded out on the freeway, came to a complete stop facing the wrong way in the center lane, and my car stalled. 

While all this was going on, an 18-wheeler nearly took me out, and as I started the engine another truck swerved to miss me. I called up my college band the next day and asked if they wanted to move to Chicago and give it a go the following summer. 

It took about four years, two band break-ups, moving to Portland, back to Cleveland, and then back to Chicago, but I’ve ended up in an amazingly benevolent and talented group of musicians, and I finally can afford to eat sandwiches by playing music