By using homemade gadgets, vintage effects and a growling, wide-eyed well of artistic energy, MuteMath is separating itself from the pack of middling rock acts.
Vocalist-keytarist Paul Meany simultaneously evokes Jim Morrison's shamanistic stage antics and Sting's haunting vocals; drummer Darren King vacillates easily between ethereal jazz ostinatos and orgasmic crescendos; Greg Hill adds a zealous guitar; and Roy Mitchell-Cardenas contributes the pace-setting bass lines.
The sum of these parts adds up to a refreshing product, and MuteMath seems to embody the rare and lovely "it" factor. The four members feed off one another, they feed off the crowd, they jump around and, usually, they break things.
Formed in 2002 as a long-distance "creative jaunt" between King and Meany, MuteMath began when another of Meany's projects, the Christian rock outfit Earthsuit, started winding down. And King and Hill would occasionally sit in with Meany as he began messing around with a new sound.
"It was a very slow, evolutionary thing," Meany says. "I don't think we really knew what we wanted to do exactly, except make music that we were really proud of."
And MuteMath should be proud. In 2006, Warner Bros./Teleprompt re-released the band's independent 2004 debut. Since then, the guys have been featured on the covers of Billboard and Pollstar magazines. MuteMath's also earned recognition from busting out the lights on the stage of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and from having its song "Typical" covered by now-ousted "American Idol" contestant Chris Sligh in one of the show's earlier weeks.
The band's also packed houses in Amsterdam, Germany and England, and played major American festivals like Bonnaroo and South by Southwest. At the Voodoo Music Experience in October, it enchanted a main-stage audience by bringing Meany's 78-year-old grandfather on stage to play a ukulele-like instrument.
This upcoming year, in addition to releasing its sophomore release, MuteMath is slated to perform another gig at Bonnaroo. And it's quite the honor, really; Bonnaroo rarely allows bands to play two years in a row.
"We're so glad that they're making an exception this year," Meany says with a humbled excitement. "With The Police getting back together [and playing Bonnaroo], it's going to be wonderful."
Meany is well aware of frequent comparisons between his band, MuteMath, and Sting's lauded trio. And he isn't surprised.
"It's no secret that they're one of the huge influences on this band," he says. "The first time I put on a Police record was a life-changing epiphany."
Funny he should bring up the spiritual; MuteMath's Christian faith has provided plenty of debate fodder for the blogosphere. Warner Bros. initially wanted to pigeonhole the band under the religious Word label to market it as another Christian act. MuteMath responded by suing Warner Bros. for negligent representation. The four struggled for creative control, knowing they could hold their own in the mainstream market, and that their music wasn't overtly Christian. The dispute was amicably resolved in 2006, ending frustrating marketing delays.
Now, with the litigation behind them, MuteMath is focusing on what it does best: creating music that mesmerizes the soul, eliciting strange noises from odd gadgets and generally tearing up the stages.
"We're running up quite a tab in broken light bulbs," Meany says, laughing. "We're going to have to start paying that down at some point."
MuteMath with the Cinematics and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder
Monday, April 16, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $16 in advance, $18 day of show, all ages; visit foxtheatre.com.