Mates of State are an indie rock duo originally from Lawrence, Kansas made up of husband and wife Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel. Formed in 1997, the band has been active since, releasing six albums since their 2000 debut My Solo Project. The couple have two children, Magnolia and June Elizabeth, who accompany their parents on tours. The band is known for their prominent use of organ and vocal interplay, creating a warmly energetic indie rock sound with an approachable pop structure. The band has worked with a number of notable indie labels over the years, beginning their career with Omnibus Records before switching to Polyvinyl and their current home, Barsuk Records. The band's most recent release is 2011's Mountaintops and they will shortly embark on a U.S. tour in support.
Going strong for 15 years now, Mates of State are rock and roll lifers. The band is made up of husband and wife duo Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, who have two children that come along for the ride on their parent's tours. Even beyond the family aspect, there's something heartwarming about Mates of State that's tough to put your finger on. Maybe it's the cozy warmth of the organs that appear throughout the music or their earnest female/male vocal interplay. In any case, Mates of State manage to create driving, energetic rock and roll even as it maintains a friendly, endearing core.
New listeners could hop into their back catalog just about anywhere, though 2006's Bring It Back and the just released Mountaintops are highlights. Bring It Back bounces excitedly from exuberant rockers sure to coax silly dance moves when played at high volume to more reflective tracks, often utilizing tinkling piano rather than the band's signature organ. The sentiment and melodies of the album often reminds of Paul McCartney's contributions as a Beatle: that heartwarming mix of nostalgia, yearning and optimism he bottles on classics like “Penny Lane,” “Hey Jude,” “Hello, Goodbye.” Lead off track “Think Long” features fabulous organ tones and Gardner and Hammel's slightly staggered vocal harmonies that devolve into a riotous half-singing half-shouting. “Like U Crazy” mixes ballad-style piano with a falsetto bird call of a refrain (“I I I I I like you crazy”) and a big singalong chorus.
Confident and charged throughout, the band's most recent effort Mountaintops sees them hitting some career high points. “Palomino” is essentially one big hook, beginning with euphoric wordless cries, then settling into a sweet verse using the kind of buoyant male/female vocal interplay perfected by another famed indie husband/wife duo, Yo La Tengo. “Maracas” is delirious fun, mixing squelching synths with organs and power pop drums that inject the track with energy.
Mates of State have been in the game for a while, but their utterly endearing, rapturous rock sounds as good as ever.