New Orleans Alt-Rock Outfit Mutemath Talks Fatherhood and New Album, Vitals
Mark C. Austin
Red-and-white striped, solid blue, and rainbow-patterned beach umbrellas line the yard of Charles "LaLa" Evans' Starkville, Mississippi home. Decorative windmills and pastel-colored paper garlands hang from tree branches, and stenciled lettering spelling out "Lala and Louise's Place" welcomes guests. Inside, hundreds of photographs of the 82-year-old and his wife, Louise, fill the walls of the house the two shared for nearly 60 years.
But the Evans residence wasn't always as charming as it is now. After his wife died in 2011, Evans (affectionately LaLa) decided to transform their home into a memorial celebrating the love and memories he and Louise shared throughout their lifetime.
It was a real-life love story that made local headlines and eventually landed him on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and it became the basis of New Orleans alt-rock band Mutemath's latest music video, for "Monument."
"We had a friend, Jordan Mattison, who's from the same town as LaLa," explains Mutemath bassist Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas. "He was driving around town and saw this guy who was waving and looked happy and interesting. He said, 'I'm gonna stop by and say hi to this guy.'
"It turned out to be an amazing story, not only because he turned his house into a shrine to his wife but because he's given back to the community so much and is just an inspiration. Jordan [a music video producer] was like, 'We gotta do something with this guy.' We later approached LaLa about it, and he was game."
As the first single off their latest album, Vitals — their first full-length in four years — "Monument" hits fans right in the feels. But the song and overall album are a reflection of how the band has evolved over the years.
"I think it took us awhile to figure out what direction we wanted to take," Mitchell-Cárdenas admits of Vitals' production. "Once we got that underway, we went through issues with management and label changes."
After litigation between their now-defunct independent record label, Teleprompt Records, and their then-distributor, Warner Music Group, Mutemath decided to officially end that partnership in 2015. Vitals is the first album the band has released under its new independent record label, Wojtek Records.
"I think it just takes time too," Mitchell-Cárdenas adds. "We live in different cities. I live in Miami, Paul [Meany, lead singer and keyboardist] is in New Orleans, Darren [King, drummer] was in Texas at the time, and Todd [Gummerman, guitarist] was in Missouri. We were all working in different studios."
But distance soon became less of an obstacle thanks to a line of gigs in India.
"That was the turning point," Mitchell-Cárdenas recalls. "We spent a lot of time together and played new ideas live. 'Monument' was one of the songs that came together during that time."
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Whereas the band's 2011 album, Odd Soul, is more rock, Mitchell-Cárdenas says Vitals "is more synth and danceable. Odd Soul is just rocking out and reaching back to the roots of what we grew up listening to," he explains. "Thematically, [Vitals] is more about what LaLa's story reflects in that it's very uplifting and positive."
Another inspiration behind the album was fatherhood.
"Just like in life you grow and go through changes, the three of us, we're fathers," he shares. "That, and what comes with that as a human, all of it affects your music."
Mutemath has been touring the globe since late January, bringing with it that same inspiration and authenticity Mitchell-Cárdenas talks about to gigs in London, Berlin, and Paris. "It was awesome," the bassist says of the band's show at Les Étoiles in Paris. "We couldn't have been more excited to be there. It was one of the best shows on the tour. We felt a lot of love and excitement from the Parisian people. It was just a good vibe, especially in light of what had recently happened. There was no cowering down."
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