Each of the songs in the relatively small catalog of Jonathan Meek and the Mutes is a distinctly unique and meticulously crafted self-portrait of the songwriter and performer. And while the distorted organs and guitars, ambient spatial settings, and unconventional auxiliary instruments incite an immediate association with some of Meek’s best post-rock contemporaries, the rich tonal harmonies and literary symbolism of the lyrics reveal a depth of influence beyond any specific sub-category of pop music. Seemingly disparate artists and their works – from Nabokov to Nick Cave, The Bible to Elvis Costello’s Brutal Youth, John Donne to John Cage, and Paul Simon to Somerset Maugham – all play an important part in Meek’s musical makeup.
The Mutes’ newest release, the five-song EP In Her Yard, is the follow-up to their 2008 debut, Irony & Pity, both co-produced and recorded by the band’s performing lead-guitarist, Mike Mittelstedt. Jeremy Taylor is the newest Mute, taking on the role of drummer previously held by Meek’s brother and lifetime musical collaborator, Nathaniel. “Nathaniel’s down in LA now so it makes it tough to schedule sessions with him, unfortunately; but Jeremy’s great – he’s available, he’s got excellent equipment, and he’s always willing to play, so we’ve been able to develop a strong relationship and get some really exciting results with him on the drums." For the recordings Meek performs each of the other instrumental and vocal lines, so the “Mutes” for the most part are actually Meek’s digital alter-egos committing their various musical voicings to tape. The process is painstaking and time-consuming but the result is a near-perfect realization of Meek’s vision for the record. “Being your own band is kind of the ultimate in narcissism,” he says. “But it makes scheduling recording sessions really easy.”
The Bay Area-based band is setting their sights on San Francisco, following in the footsteps of local indie icons John Vanderslice, The Dodos, and The Morning Benders. “The recording process itself is incredibly rewarding creatively, but really it’s just the beginning. Bringing these songs to life onstage with friends in a club-setting is an ongoing challenge with its own kind of rewards.”
There’s a lot to discuss regarding Jonathan Meek and the Mutes, but the band’s ultimate goal is to leave their listeners, fans and strangers alike, speechless.