How does a band keep evolving and moving forward after 15 years? First up, embrace the modern age and the way that people are consuming music these days. “I don’t like it, but the long play album format is probably dead,” says Mates of State singer/drummer Jason Hammel. “Now we just want the hits. Don’t bother me with filler; get me your best songs straightaway.” Rather than lamenting this shift in listening preferences, Hammel and his bandmate Kori Gardner are taking a very KISS-like approach with their new music: you wanted the best, you got the best.
The pair’s new self-produced EP You’re Going To Make It, then, is nothing but choice cuts; five anthemic and emotionally-rich songs that will quickly take up residence in your mental jukebox is nothing but the cream of that songwriting crop; five anthemic songs that wriggle into your every waking hour like the earworms they are. This new batch of tunes is Mates of State in its purest form. The razor sharp harmonies, shimmering new wave synth melodies, an internal warmth that can only come from a couple that has been musically and romantically involved for nearly two decades, and lyrics that speak to both personal and universal concerns.
On “Beautiful Kids,” the band speaks to how, even though we are connected to one another 24/7 thanks to modern technology, a sense of loneliness still pervades. Or as Hammel puts it: “We all just want to be seen, but we won’t look up from our screens so that we can be seen.” “Gonna Get It” and “I Want To Run” build off the same inspiring notion of the EP’s title, encouraging both themselves and their fans to keep striving no matter what the odds. And fist-pumping opener “Staring Contest” speaks to that delicious ache of schoolyard crushes and youthful love.
It’s not just the manner in which Mates of State is planning to release music from here on out that is evolving, but also how the band will be presenting them on their upcoming tours of U.S. and Europe. “We’re focusing more on performance as a whole and not being stuck behind our instruments,” says Hammel. “We’re coming to the front of the stage for some songs. Kori plays drums, Jason does some keys. Mixing up the performances in new and exciting ways.”
The band is also exploring some new creative avenues this year with the release of The Rumperbutts, a feature film that Hammel and Gardner acted in and composed the score for. Written and directed by Marc Brener, the film will hit theaters on May 22. After a decade and an half of acclaimed albums and live performances, and songs that have become near pop standards for a generation of music fans, it’s good to know that Mates of State isn’t content on coasting. Hammel and Gardner are working as hard as ever and looking excitedly toward what the future has to offer.