Mates of State offers even more to love with kids, 'Re-Arrange'

By George Lang Published: June 6, 2008
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Until recently, knowing and loving the Mates of State meant taking their raw energy and unsettled sound for all that it was, fully knowing it required searching for jewels of real beauty in the chaos.

Keyboardist Kori Gardner and drummer Jason Hammel, bandmates since 1997 and married since 2001, spent years writing extremely accessible melodies, then filling them with busy vocal arrangements and the fuzzy, carnival-like chords from Gardner's '70s vintage Yamaha Electone organ. Their music through 2006's "Bring It Back” was charming and dissonant, effervescent and cacophonous, all at once.

But with their new disc, "Re-Arrange Us,” the Mates of State, who play at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Bricktown Ballroom, 103 E California, left the organ at home and brought the kids along. And they have never sounded as confident as they do on the new songs.

"We went about this record a little differently. We didn't even bring the organ to the studio,” Gardner said in a phone interview. "We just sort of wrote around the piano. And we even added trumpets and guitars in there, too.”

The difference is felt on the opening song, "Get Better.” No longer are listeners left to find the gorgeousness within. This time, Gardner and Hammel aren't making music that could be pop hits for other, more polished performers. They are doing it themselves. Gardner said she isn't sure whether they found their newly acquired sense of dynamics and pop sensibility before or after she switched to the piano.

"I'm not sure if it affected the way we wrote melodies, except for the fact that we didn't feel the need to make a million crazy parts. We somehow stuck to a more traditional pop structure, and I don't know if that was a conscious decision before we got to the piano. I don't know which came first, the chicken or the egg,” she said. "Every time we kept trying to get back to the organ ... we'd play it, and something wasn't working. The sounds were just shrill — it can be pretty abrasive in the studio. It's a better live instrument.”

Technical difficulties often can result in a memorable or unique sound.

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