Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chicago band Mathien bringing unique sound to Summer Camp Music Festival


Chicago band Mathien has been carving out its own niche on the music scene through its energetic blend of pop, rock, funk and soul.

Mathien,, will perform May 25 alongside other bands like Primus, Jane's Addiction, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Michael Franti and Spearhead at the Summer Camp Music Festival at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, IL.

More information about the festival is available by going to

I had the chance to talk to Mathien frontman Chris Mathien about the upcoming festival.

Q - A lot of the bands set to play at the Summer Camp Music Festival might be called jam bands. Do you consider Mathien to be a jam band?

The short answer is “no.” Of course there are aspects of the "jam" style as well as many other genres that we incorporate into our sound, but we're definitely more of a song-based group.

Q - There are a lot of great bands set to play at the festival. Anybody you are looking to hear? Will you have the chance to perform on stage with any of the other acts?

Personally, I'm most excited for Primus, Pretty Lights and Common. I know some awesome bands like Zmick and a few others are hosting some jams; we plan on being part of at least one of those jams.

Some of your songs are vastly different from each other and there doesn't seem to be one song that sums up the band's sound. Can that be both a good and bad thing?

To me, variety is the spice of life. Each song takes on its own character and it's great on one hand because no matter what we do, no one can ever say "that doesn't sound like Mathien!"

In addition to that, some of my favorite records have some very wild genre shifting going on ("My Aim is True" by Elvis Costello, for example).

I understand that certain music lovers like things wrapped up in a little box, but that's just never been the way I've created my art.


Q - What are the band's main musical influences?

70’s soul music and 90’s alternative rock and hip hop.

Q - What goals did you have in forming the band at Southern Illinois University Carbondale? What made the band want to relocate to Chicago?

I didn't have any specific goals in mind when I formed the band, everything we accomplished down there was a result of our natural progression as a group. We relocated to Chicago simply because I signed to Midwest Music Group. 

If that never had happened, I'd quite probably still be living and making music down there.

The band is recording three new songs. How is the process going and what should people expect? Will you be building on the band's last album?

Actually, we are putting out a full length record. This wasn't our initial plan, but once we got back in the studio, I think everyone was feeling so good that we all agreed doing an EP would be half steppin’ in a way. 

The vibe has been great: adding Omar on drums has taken our energy to a new place; I've hit a stride as a writer and the morale of the band is high. People should expect some high energy rock n' soul! 

It’s going to be a progression away from "Alpha Male" just as that album was a progression away from "Hello Again," our first release.

Q - I understand your studio is next door to McCormick Place. Are you worried about the upcoming NATO conference? If you guys could perform for a world leader, who would it be?

I'm gonna stay away from that area during the conference. I watched some YouTube videos of the NATO protests and it was just bunch of fire and smoke. 

World leaders? I've always kinda had a thing for Margrethe II who is the queen of Denmark. Plus I think she’d dig our sound.

Q - Explain the story behind the title of your last album, "The Night I was an Alpha Male." What are the major themes on the album?

The title is kind of playing off of the fact that I'm a mostly non-confrontational and peaceful dude. Every once in a while I have these spells of authoritativeness. 

This is why I called the album "the night..." thus giving it a temporary feel. The major themes of that record are masculinity, partying, girls and also the social state of things. 

When I wrote that record my goal, concept-wise, was to create a sound that rocked and was funky, but not to the point where it becomes a novelty. 

I wanted to make sure my lyrics came from an honest and heartfelt place.

Q - You changed drummers this year. How is Omar Jahwar fitting into the lineup and what do you think he brings to the lineup?

I kind of touched on it earlier, but he is just so full of energy and has a positive attitude. I love having him in the group. He's always happy and willing to do whatever it takes to make these songs the best they can be.

Q - You guys are in a contest to play at Summerfest this summer. Is that another goal of the band, to play at Summerfest?

I really hope we get in. What kind of band wouldn't want to play the world's largest music festival?

Q - What are the band's short term and long term goals? How do you think the band fits into the Chicago music scene?

Right now our goal is to get this record out to the world and to tour extensively. I have a great feeling about this record and I think the quality of the album is ultimately going to take our band to bigger, better places. 

I think we fit into the Chicago scene in a unique way. Sure, we're a little poppy, but no one sounds like us and when it's all said and done, that's how the world will remember us.