Eclectic pop duo Mates Of State will return May 20 with “Re-Arrange Us,” the group’s fifth album since 2000 and second for Barsuk.
Fans will notice that the 10-song set drifts away from the organ-heavy arrangements of the band’s past in favor of piano, a decision that vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jason Hammel describes as making the group nervous, but a needed change.
“One of the biggest concerns [was] that there’s no abrasiveness,” Hammel tells Billboard.com. “We didn’t want to be construed as going soft.”
To avoid that, the duo hired three different producers: Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla, Spoon drummer Jim Eno and Peter Katis.
“It was great to get everyone’s personalities into that record — and for us, to flesh out the non-organ stuff. We wanted to achieve this with different production qualities,” Hammel says.
One of the defining features of Mates Of State is that Hammel and creative partner Kori Gardner also happen to be married; but as musicians, they’re just recently becoming comfortable working together in the studio.
“The nature of being an artist is a personal thing,” Hammel explains. “You have to have that comfort zone before being critiqued. Those first two records, we fought the whole way through. Thankfully, we reached the common ground with [2006’s] “Bring It Back”; we didn’t fight at all. We both started to feel like we could express our ideas without judgment.”
The CD version of “Re-Arrange Us” will feature a unique packaging design that will allow fans to create their own cover art, involving different photographs the band will include.
The duo is currently rehearsing for a lengthy summer tour, including festival appearances at Lollapalooza, All Points West and Austin City Limits.
“It’s a bigger sounding show than what we’ve done,” Hammel says. The tour will include two cellists and a violinist, who will also fill in on percussion and sampling duties.
Here are Mates Of States tour dates:
May 16: New Haven, Conn. (Toad’s Place)
May 22: San Francisco (Slim’s)
May 24: Bend, Ore. (Les Schwab Amphitheatre)
May 25: George, Wash. (Sasquatch Music Festival)
May 28: Los Angeles (Henry Fonda Theater)
June 6: Lawrence, Kans. (Wakarusa Music Festival)
June 7: Omaha, Neb. (The Slowdown)
June 8: St. Louis (The Bluebird Theatre)
June 10: Oklahoma City, Ok. (Bricktown Ballroom)
June 11: Dallas (Granada Theatre)
June 13: Austin, Texas (Emo’s)
June 14: Little Rock, Ark. (Rev Room)
June 15: Memphis (Hi-Tone)
June 17: Newport, Ky. (Southgate House)
June 18: Pittsburgh, Pa. (Mr. Smalls Theatre)
June 21: Philadelphia (Popped! Music Festival)
July 25: Pemberton, Bc. (Pemberton Festival)
Aug. 1: Chicago (Lollapalooza)
Aug. 8: Jersey City, N.J. (All Points West)
Sept. 26: Austin, Texas (Austin City Limits)