SONG PREMIERE: On “Treason” Mutts Slice Up Cryptically Punk Political Fury

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We’re all stuck together on this burning rock, and it sucks a lot of the time,” says Mutts drummer Ian Tsan, “but we still have to work together to put out the fire.” Muscular, confident, and imbued with the easy swagger that can only be earned in the crucible of a long, never-easy career, Stuck Together is more than the capstone in the Mutts catalog. It’s a statement of intent, and the culmination of five years of cross-country songwriting. 

Over the last decade, Chicago’s Mutts have played over 1,000 shows and released ten records. Together, Mike Maimone (keys, vocals), Bob Buckstaff (guitar, bass), and Ian Tsan (drums) remind us that a gritty determination to chase your dreams, damn the odds, is as American as it gets.    

The Mutts saga begins with the release of three Eps: Pretty Pictures, We Float and The Tells of Parallels. These records gave an early taste of Mutts iconic blend of rapturous melodic art-pop and muscular alt-rock. Their first LP Pray for Rain was released in late 2011 and spent over a month on the college radio Top 200 chart – starting a trend that would be followed by each of the band’s subsequent full-length releases. 

Then to now (the short version): In 2012 and 2013 the band released a matched set of LPs titled Object Permanence and Separation Anxiety; and played 205 shows. In 2014 Mutts recorded and released their 4th LP – Fuel Yer Delusion vol. 4 while playing 152 shows and appearing at Riot Fest, Musikfest, SXSW, and WFPK Live Lunch. In 2016 they released a 7″ single and a covers EP called Ghoul Yer Delusion. 2017 is notable for (at least) two reasons: Ian Tsan formally joined Mutts, and they released the precursor to Stuck Together, the Stick Together EP.

That distinctly positive EP springs from some of the most trying times of Maimone’s life. Leading up to the release of Fuel Yer Delusion, vol. 4, he was kicked out of the house by his partner of nearly 6 years. After recording the record, drummer Chris Pagnani left the group. Soon after, the bar that Maimone played every week when home closed. And then the tour van died. Despite the adversity, Maimone and Buckstaff decided to go ahead with the release. 

In the spring of 2019, in celebration of being able to keep their noses to the indie rock grindstone for a decade the band released an anthology featuring fifteen selects from their catalog (along with new single “Your Love”) titled Hey, We Are All Mutts. The band also collaborated with All Rise Brewing to craft a signature brew, aptly named “Mutts’ Hazy Recollection IPA.”  

While the bones of Stuck Together initially were crafted in fits and starts, it came to fruition in classic Mutts style; live, in one complete take of the band as a whole, before adding overdubs and vocals. “This album came together over such a long time,” explains Maimone, “it’s hard to say where the individual songs were written.” Many of the lyrics and melodies first reared their heads while the band was (as is often the case) driving between gigs. In one very real sense, Stuck Together was written across the whole of the U.S. Tracked at Audiotree Studios in Chicago and mixed by Rick Fritz (Brian Wilson, Jamila Woods), Stuck Together features appearances by vocalist Jennifer Hall and Chicago’s beloved Archie Powell.

While each song was developed on its own, they were written during such a turbulent span of Maimone’s life that they ended up sitting thematically as a matched set. During the five years span in which this record was written things were constantly falling apart (or coming together.) Looking at this collection of songs, the band realized that the common thread was the beautiful combination of vulnerability and strength that emerges through the chaos. Ultimately, it’s this incredibly human dichotomy at the center of the Mutts art that most defines their unique creativity. Things can be rough out there, and you have to be up for the fight; but Mutts know how it feels, and they want you to remind you there’s no need to go it alone. Arm and arm, we’re going to make it through – stuck together. 

 Glide is thrilled to premiere “Treason” from Mutts, a soulfully explosive song that contains a big middle finger to all those with twisted authority. Mutts slice up a righteous political fury that mixes up part Rage Against the Machine, MC5 and Dead Boys into a modern punk stew

“Republicans use the word “freedom” to cover up their true intentions while selling policies to their voter base. Most of the time these voters are tricked into voting against their best interest, and sometimes even the sort of governmental control that the Constitution was set up to guard against. So this new “freedom” and treason go hand in hand, “explains Maimone.

“For example, “Freedom of the Internet” was a bill that would’ve given large corporations the right to govern bandwidth and search engines. We are STILL fighting against this, with the Net Neutrality movement, and if we ever let our guard down, we will start seeing only content from big companies with big budgets.”

“And of course, “Religious Freedom” is just a manipulative branding technique for Republicans to pass legislation that discriminates against LGBTQ people – by convincing their voter base that its they who are the victims,” adds Maimone. “With this song we’re trying to shine a light on all of the ACTUAL freedoms the right wants. These are the things that the old rich white men get as a result of voters blindly supporting for something that just sounds American – “hey, I’m American, I’m all about Freedom, of course, I want Freedom of the Internet!” It’s not good for the country, and it’s treasonous the way they’re using the word freedom to manipulate voters and the voting system.”

Top photo by Kate Paris

Links:

 https://www.muttsmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/wearemutts/

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