ALL about… Mates of State

Jason Hall

Married couple ‘brings it back’ to basics with tour

Jason Hammel and wife Kori Gardner formed Mates of State in 2001. The couple performs in Cleveland Sunday. PHOTOS COURTESY OF NASTY LITTLE MAN

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

It’s a common belief that two heads are better than one. According to San Francisco’s Mates of State, however, two heads are also better than five.

The husband-and-wife pair that makes up Mates of State are Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel. The duo have combined to create a long string of critically-acclaimed indie-rock hits, from 2000’s My Solo Project to their newest venture, Bring It Back, released last month. Their refreshingly quaint vocal and musical style has won over fans and critics alike.

Mates of State’s one-of-a-kind style focuses around the belief that less is more when it comes to music, and musicians. Gardner plays the electric organ and Hammel plays the drums, and they both sing. Gardner and Hammel started off in a more traditional band called Vosotros. They both played guitar in the band, but began playing the organ and drums during their practice time. They spent more time together playing music and experimenting with the style that would later come to define Mates of State.

I had a chance to interview the band shortly after they attended the week-long South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, last month. The festival was “like nothing you’ve ever seen,” said Hammel, the band’s drummer, like “ten square blocks of rockers and industry people.

“You could play two to three times a day, four to five days a week.”

The band chose not to play that many shows because they wanted a chance to see some of the other bands at South By Southwest such as Of Montreal, The Elected and Nada Surf. The band also kept a relaxed schedule to spend time with their new baby, Magnolia.

Baby Magnolia has affected the band’s regular touring schedule as well, prompting the band to take a more relaxed approach to playing shows. Touring “used to be three months straight. Now it’s three weeks on, one week off,” said Hammel, “(We’re) slowing down for the baby’s schedule.”

But don’t let the man fool you, the Mates love touring, and are still planning to tour extensively to support the release of Bring It Back. In addition to a nationwide tour throughout this month, the band is also scheduled to appear at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival April 30 in Indio, Calif. The festival is a two-day music marathon featuring a laundry list of acts spanning many genres, from My Morning Jacket to Madonna to Matisyahu. Hammel said he is excited to be a part of it.

The band’s tour includes a stop in Cleveland to play at the Beachland Ballroom Sunday.

Aside from the challenges of having a child on tour, the band also changed record labels during the recording of Bring It Back. Previously, the duo was on Polyvinyl Records, but they decided to leave the label to explore their musical style.

They left Polyvinyl and recorded Bring It Back with their own money, which let them have a lot more control over how the album came together.

“It was a lot more fun, more open-minded,” said Hammel, “more mellow.” Bring It Back features a lot of overdubbing and musical styles not present in any of the band’s previous albums.

The couple has had a lot of changes since their last album, but all of them only seem to be helping the band further themselves, musically and otherwise.

Contact ALL correspondent Jason Hall at [email protected].