The first thing you notice upon entering The Columns Hotel in New Orleans—even before your feet make its historical wooden floor creak—is the buzz of conversation in the air.
The main floor of the dimly lit getaway, built in 1883 by a wealthy tobacco salesman, is alive with people sitting at tables, murmuring and laughing quietly. The clinking of cutlery and glassware mixes with the soft evening sun filtering through the windows—in short, it’s a place created to host a long talk. In a quieter, nearly empty room by the hotel’s entrance, the four members of MUTEMATH prepare to eat a late dinner and have a conversation of their own—one they’ve put off for too long.
It’s been a long day for the band. They’ve done photo shoots, given impromptu performances and have taken RELEVANT all over the Big Easy to visit the important sites: historical buildings, a cramped basement full of musical equipment and a childhood church, complete with cartoon murals of Samson in the Sunday School room. Now the band—including new guitarist Todd Gummerman—sits behind two tables with their backs to a large window, finally ready to talk about their past. Specifically their unique (and occasionally bizarre) Christian past.
Plenty of ink has been spilled trying to figure out the link between MUTEMATH and their Christian background. Most of it is spent analyzing the band’s ties to the short-lived experimental Christian band Earthsuit, which singer Paul Meany, drummer Darren King and bassist Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas each contributed to.
While MUTEMATH’s two previous albums presented clues to the band’s spiritual back roads, it’s a subject they’ve admittedly shied away from, worrying such conversations might pigeonhole their music and alienate some listeners. But it’s a new day for the band, and moving forward means embracing the past.
“On this record, it was certainly at the forefront of our mind that we wanted to go further into that,” says Meany, who is the band’s only true New Orleans native.
And so they have. The past is a subject largely explored on their dynamic third album, Odd Soul. Co-written by Meany and King, the album is filled with the peculiar Christian upbringing of the band’s two original members and captures sonically the raw charismatic musical environment each member thrived in as a young musician.