RACHEL MARTIN, host:
The married couple indie-rock duo, Mates of State, has just released their fifth album, "Re-Arrange Us." In addition to the five records they've made, we should mention, Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, they've also made some babies. They'll be taking the kids along on the tour this summer, along with brothers Lewis and Anton Patzner backing them up with strings, glockenspiel and trombone. Mates of State stopped by the BPP studios to talk and play some music. Kori's on keyboards. Jason's on drums. Let's start with their performance of "My Only Offer."
(Soundbite of song "My Only Offer")
MATES OF STATE: (Singing) Bought a home, we bartered right, So we kissed to, and caught a light, Those pictures on the wall, Small talk in a bedroom hall.
Can't make it home tonight. Go to sleep and leave the light. I pretend to make a call, Loose talk in a bedroom stall.
Oh, oh, oh, Is my only offer. Stifle copies of myself. Oh, oh, oh, Someone else.
My friends, they all agree, Give into our defeat. It's sick, when we believe We're nothing, nothing, nothing. Now we need...
No, oh, oh, Is my only offer. Stifle copies of myself. Oh, oh, oh, Someone else.
I always wanted to be The face in front of me, Beating a life Sipped out the energy.
Built up a wall Made out of finer things. Pile them high, So we could barely see it.
No, oh, oh, Is my only offer. Oh, oh, oh, Is my only offer.
Oh, oh, oh, Is my only offer. Stifle copies of myself. Oh, oh, oh, It's all I have to offer.
MARTIN: I want to ask you, Kori, you say on your blog, my reality is one that involves sound-checking, and then figuring out where to change a diaper.
Ms. KORI GARDNER (Band Member, Mates of State): Yeah.
MARTIN: Clearly, you have had some major adjustments in your life. You guys have two kids now both under the age of...
Ms. GARDNER: Five, four.
MARTIN: Four. Your oldest is four and your newest baby is, how old?
Ms. GARDNER: Four months.
MARTIN: Four months old. So, you clearly decided that these were lives that you could - that could coexist, that this wasn't going to be something you had to compartmentalize.
Ms. GARDNER: Right. Well, we sort of decided we didn't have a choice in the matter. We want it both, so it was, like, we'll make it happen and it just kind of keeps going that way.
MARTIN: Your oldest daughter, Magnolia, is she musical?
Ms. GARDNER: To say the least.
Mr. JASON HAMMEL (Band Member, Mates of State): She's just started to want to practice with us, to the point where we can't get her out of the room now. We're like, OK, now we really have to go, and she's like, no, I'm good. You know, I'm down here.
Ms. GARDNER: She thinks she's in the band.
MARTIN: She's like, I'm fine. I'm fine.
Ms. GARDNER: She says, I got my part.
MARTIN: What does - keyboard, drums, what's her preference?
Ms. GARDNER: A little bit of everything. Singing is her tops, though.
Mr. HAMMEL: She just wants to stand in front a mike with a shaker, and she takes it so seriously. Her face is like...
Ms. GARDNER: Can't see faces on the radio.
Mr. HAMMEL: Well, it's like - it's very serious.
Ms. GARDNER: It's pouty. It's serious. Yeah.
Mr. HAMMEL: It's very serious and we're like, hey, you can lighten up and stuff, and she's like, no.
Ms. GARDNER: She's like, no. This is an intense ordeal.
Mr. HAMMEL: Very serious.
MARTIN: This is your job. This is what mommy and daddy do for their work, so...
Ms. GARDNER: Yeah, yeah.
MARTIN: You know, serious stuff. So I want to ask you, there is an optimism to the music, and...
Ms. GARDNER: Yeah. I can deal with the word optimism. That's much better than, you know, "twee."
MARTIN: But there's a lot of songwriting right now that's not optimistic. I mean, clearly, if you think about world events, got a couple wars going on, bad economy, is that stuff that influences your music? Or is optimism just what you choose - that's the paradigm that you choose to view those events through?
Mr. HAMMEL: I think we just live our lives like that, you know, and then our songs - when we first started writing, I think we were all kind of down, and then we were just like, ah, who cares? Let's just make a record, you know?
Ms. GARDNER: I sort of feel like, you can't keep saying the same thing over and over, like things do have to improve at some point, you know? And I guess, you know, looking on the bright side, even for our family's sake, I feel like it's better than sitting around talking about how many problems there are in the world, you know?
MARTIN: Well, isn't that a product of having a family? I think when you have kids, you apparently have to look towards a future, and you need things to feel like they're going to get better.
Ms. GARDNER: Yeah. Maybe that's exactly how it influences us, having a family, actually. People have asked us, how does it influence? I think that's probably - you probably really nailed it. Just...
MARTIN: You can use that.
Ms. GARDNER: Yeah. I'll steal that from you, thank you.
Mr. HAMMEL: Yeah, I think it's just instinct to put on a brave face in front of your kids. I think you're right, you know, so maybe that's, you know, we're like, oh, we got two kids now, so now we really have to be tough, you know, or strong.
Ms. GARDNER: Yeah. We really have to make believe that the world is at peace everywhere.
Mr. HAMMEL: Not that, but just that, you know, despite that, you can still go on and be happy.
Ms. GARDNER: Life's good. Yeah.
MARTIN: I want to get to some music. I want to listen to you all do this song. It's called "These Days." It's a cover. The version most people are familiar with is the Nico version of the song. What made you guys want to take that on?
Ms. GARDNER: We loved the song basically and...
Mr. HAMMEL: That version.
Ms. GARDNER: Yeah. The Nico version.
MARTIN: Uh-huh. OK. Let's take a listen. This is "These Days."
(Soundbite of song "These Days")
MATES OF STATE: (Singing) I've been out walking, I don't do too much talking These days, these days. These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do, And all the times I had the chance to. I've stopped my rambling, I don't do too much gambling,
These days, these days. These days I seem to think about How all the changes came about my ways, And I wonder if I'll see another highway.
I had a lover, I don't think I'll risk another, These days, these days. And if I seem to be afraid
To live the life that I have made in song, It's just that I've been losing so long. La, la, la, la, la, la, la. When I'd stopped my dreaming,
I don't do too much scheming These days, these days. These days I sit on corner stones, And count the time their quarter tones to ten.
Please don't confront me with my failures, Because I have not forgotten them. Ooh. Ooh. Ooh. Ooh. Ooh. Ooh.
MARTIN: I want to ask you to do something for me, if you would. Your singing is so distinctive and the way the two of you make music together, it's such an integral part of who you are as a band. Is that harmony and the way your voices play off one another? Could I ask you, Kori, to describe Jason's voice?
Ms. GARDNER: Loud and pure, I guess.
MARTIN: Loud and pure?
Ms. GARDNER: Yeah. He's confident in his, you know, in the way he plays and sings, I think, and so, I think that's made my confidence better, too.
MARTIN: Jason, what - how do you describe...
Mr. HAMMEL: I think we sort of have, like, yeah - I mean, the first time I saw her sing, obviously, I was just like, oh, I love that girl, you know? And I was literally like...
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: And she's not bad looking, when you were listening to her.
Ms. GARDNER: That's right!
Mr. HAMMEL: I mean, I literally went up to her and I was like, I think I love you, you know, and she was...
MARTIN: Did he really say that?
Ms. GARDNER: He said I'm in love with your voice, and I was like, cool, you want to spend your life with me?
Mr. HAMMEL: Yeah.
Ms. GARDNER: All right, let's go.
MARTIN: You did not say that.
Ms. GARDNER: I didn't say that.
MARTIN: That'd be really romantic.
Ms. GARDNER: But he did say, you know, I'm in love with your voice...
MARTIN: I'm in love with your voice.
Ms. GARDNER: And we really were pretty much inseparable from that point on.
Ms. GARDNER: But you know, I have to say something back to the whole voice - you know, your voice thing is - I remember seeing his band and, like, he was in this, like, pretty energetic, like, verging on punk band. I don't even know what you'd call it, but - and then he'd like thrash all over the stage and like scream and stuff, and to me that was, like, I could never do that, you know?
Ms. GARDNER: And so, that was definitely, you know, something that drew me to him, too.
Mr. HAMMEL: Well, I think that's the balance. Whereas you were like a lot more sort of controlled singing and I was, like, attracted to that, you know, and so I think we kind of meet somewhere in the middle, you know, we still have sort of this confidence and this sort of like beauty, you know, that - of her singing, and we kind of like teach each other to sort of meet in the middle.
Ms. GARDNER: I remember, it used to take a lot longer to figure out...
Mr. HAMMEL: Harmonies.
Ms. GARDNER: Yeah, and you would take, you know, you would be like, we need to sing louder, and I would be like, we need to sing more on key.
Mr. HAMMEL: Yeah. Exactly.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: Well, the album is called "Re-Arrange Us." Mates of State in the BPP studios. You guys, thank you so much for coming in, Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel of Mates of State.
Ms. GARDNER: Thank you. Thank you.
MARTIN: We'll have video of the Mates of State performing in our studios up later today. Be sure to go check that.
(Soundbite of music)
MIKE PESCA, host:
Let us now pause and remember that last hour of the BPP, a fine hour which served its purpose well. We are always online at npr.org/bryantpark. I'm Mike Pesca.
MARTIN: And I'm Rachel Martin and this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.
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