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Chicago, IL


Mike Maimone - Keys, Vocals | Bob Buckstaff - Bass | Chris Pagnani - Drums

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My name is Mike. Bob and I started this band over some beers in Gainesville, Florida, after playing a gig with Company of Thieves in 2009. It was on a tour opening for Plain White T's, and so we escaped after our set to a bar across the street, whose jukebox fortunately featured several Tom Waits records. The bartender was a huge fan.

Bob and I didn't really know each other well yet, having been hired hands in a band together for just a few months at that point. So we talked music. We loved a lot of the same music. Honest songs, raw recordings, no studio bullshit. Tom Waits, Elliot Smith, Nirvana... more. We decided to record music together.

Soon after that decision, we called Chris Faller to see if he wanted to play drums. Bob and Chris knew each other from playing in Chicago bands for years - Hush Sound, Wax on Radio, and others. I knew Chris because when I moved to Chicago after quitting my job as an auditor in Cleveland, I lived on a couch at the I.V. Lab.

I can't remember how Bob and Jon knew each other, except that around that same time they would always do their laundry at I.V., and I probably met Bob several times before actually playing in a band with him.

Anyway, we all knew each other circuitously, and after several beers while not listening to the PWT's, who for the record are all nice guys, the foundation for Mutts was set. Chris would play drums, Jon would record it, and we would make an EP, recording live to tape as the ideas came to us over the course of a few days.

Tangential ramble #2 - I didn't know it at that point, but staying on a couch at the I.V. Lab for about a year and meeting Jon Alvin, Chris Faller, and then playing in CoT, put me in the middle of an amazing group of Chicago artists. I'm eternally grateful for the friends I've made and the bands I've been lucky enough to play in and see perform. Some of them are listed in the "Artists We Also Like" and you should listen to them, too. And to my friends and family in Cleveland: move here! Or, I'll see you at home soon. It's a short drive.

So, recording. It was as planned; pure and organic. No producer, no manager, no label. No songs, for that matter. I had some sketches, some ideas, some lyrics, but it all came together in those 4 days while a 1960's Skully 8-track tape machine took notes. It was July in an old warehouse; no A/C, but lots of smoke breaks, plus some successful (and some failed) trips to Hot Doug's (get there before 4pm; they're serious). So yeah, it was a blast, and it's called Pretty Pictures EP.

It was so great of a release, mentally and creatively, that we ended up repeating the process two more times. The 2nd EP featured our friend Cory Healey on drums. Why not Chris? Hm, that's a story for the Mutts and/or CoT Behind the Music, or a soap opera. My lips are sealed. For now I'll just say that Cory is a bad ass and I always wanted to make a record with the guy, and that it had nothing to do with Chris' sex addiction or Bob's ejection from CoT for throwing their old manager off a roof.

The last EP we did is called The Tells of Parallels. Chris was back on drums, and we hammered it out in 2 days. And that includes recording 'Masquerade' twice, because sommmmeeeeboddyyyyy lost the files. That would explain the end of that track. Total fuck up, but it was the middle of the night and it sounded cool so it stuck.

3 EPs. Yeah, but what about playing out?
We did - mainly Chicago shows, at first just in between tours for the other bands we were in. Bob was playing in Empires, Horned Crow (his band with Mikey from Wax and Suns and Clint from Suns) and This is Cinema, and taking other gigs here and there. Chris and I were playing in Company of Thieves, I also was sitting in with Lying Delilah, Hollus, started playing with Bailiff, and Chris played bass in Family Order, as well. There wasn't much time for Mutts.

But we took whatever gigs we could get, and they were gloriously drunken celebrations when they did occur - at The Mutiny, Empty Bottle, Double Door, Beat Kitchen, Schuba's with Bob on drums because Chris was in LA mixing with CoT (and featuring with Yoo Soo Kim from Hemmingbirds on viola), out-of-town gigs with 1, 2 or 3 of us, a Lincoln Hall show with Chris AND Corey, a Beat Kitchen gig with Josh from Bailiff on guitar... keeping it so nobody actually knows what's going on provides entertainment for both performer and audience alike.

We also recorded a full-length album sometime in the midst of all of this. We started in February 2011 and wrapped tracking in June. It'll be out late 2011, and like our live shows, nobody actually knows how this album got finished. But we're stoked to play it for you, because somehow it turned out real good.

About the time we wrapped tracking on our album, our good friend Joe Mullen's band Endless Hallway broke up. We all knew Joe and were big fans of his drumming and his band, which was a label-mate of CoT. So he drove his motorcycle from LA to Chicago, and we played our first show together days later. It felt like a band immediately.

I'm officially out of drink. If you've read this whole thing you are a dear friend. I hope that one day we can meet and enjoy some tasty beverages and camaraderie. And I won't say one more word about my band. Promise.

As the days of 2011 grew shorter, and the infamous Midwest winter approached, Joey headed back West to the warmth of his family and home state. In his tenure we played out of town more than Mutts had ever before - from Ames, IA to Wilmington, NC, from Wausau, WI to Nashville, TN, and a whole bunch of cities in between.

It feels amazing to take Mutts on the road. Whether for three people or thirty, we give it our all and have a blast.

In December we released Pray for Rain into the wild. It seems like some people enjoyed listening to it, I think. Some nice folks even played that thing on the radio... Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

Now, if you were to ask me why I write music, my first answer would be for therapy. It's way cheaper than professional help.
Although, recording is probably just marginally cheaper than professional help.
And it's effectiveness is debatable.
Anyway. That said, getting nice reviews and making lists and charts feels pretty good, like maybe the scrambled eggs of my subconscious can provide a tasty breakfast for other folks, too. As they say, cooking for strangers is better than drinking alone.

December. There Bob and I were: 3 EPs and an LP under our belts, no drummer. 2 shows on the books before year-end. Do we play 'em as a 2-pc again? No! In swoops Mike Ortiz, our partner in crime from Company of Thieves. It was 3/5 of a CoT reunion, and it was fun times for a quick weekend run to Indiana. Alas, Mikey was engaged and heading to Thailand for a year. Man I love those two. But you can't have a drummer in Thailand when you're a band in Chicago.

December. There Bob and I were: 3 EPs and an LP under our belts, no drummer. But, as if the internal combustion engine, Twitter and Nick at Nite haven't made the world small enough already, the Chicago music community gets more familial by the day. Chris Pagnani, who had previously drummed in Suns, was looking for a new band after his current project, 8-Bit Tiger, declared a hiatus. Before going our separate ways at the end of 2011, we met up and jammed through a few Mutts tunes. Most of The Tells of Parallels. A few from Pray for Rain. A couple older ones. At that point we had 20+ Mutts songs, and in his "audition" Chris already knew about half of 'em. On the way home I called Bob just to confirm that he heard what I heard. Hard-hitter, attention to detail... the dude could play.

Too bad he was a total ego-maniacal ass hole. We had to pass.

Still with us? Sweet. That was another embellishment to test you. Actually, it's another total lie. Just checking. Again, you are a real friend. Or a very good speed reader. Either way, I'm impressed.

When January came, we dove straight into the fire with Chris. We played our first show together at our Uncommon Ground residency - an unplugged show, for which we had never rehearsed. Despite our lack of practice time, Chris learned our songs so fast that by the fourth or fifth practice we were already writing new material together.

We initially had the idea of making our follow-up LP a "split EP," where one side would be unplugged and the other side would be our usual plugged-in sound. We wanted the plugged-in stuff to be a spontaneous jam, as the EPs were, so we booked a weekend with Jon Alvin at The Chrome Attic in Crystal Lake. They have a huge warehouse room wired for recording, which seemed like the closest we could get to the environment of the first Mutts recordings. Then we booked a weekend at The IV Lab with Manny Sanchez, who had recorded my solo LP. The fellow makes beautiful, honest sounds, and that's what our first unplugged album would need.

The recording plan was in place, and our weekends were full with 2- and 3-day runs. Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois. The distance we could travel between work weeks entailed almost the exact distribution radius of Leinenkugel's.

With work and weekend-warrior-ing, when was there time to write? Well, just like the EPs, we wanted the new recordings to be raw, spontaneous, and riddled with happy accidents. You can't plan happy accidents (or sad accidents, for that matter), so we hashed out some ideas here and there, I assembled rough demos, and then we finalized them in the studio. In that first 2-day session, we got six songs recorded. Jon and the three of us took home the rough bounces, and then had another "are you thinking what I'm thinking" moment a week later. Yes, we needed to write four more songs and make this a full LP.

Between those two sessions, I sat at a piano and assembled a list of my ideas for the piano-based, unplugged album. Over the past two years we had been playing monthly acoustic gigs at Reggie's and Uncommon Ground, composed of my old solo tunes, re-worked Mutts tunes, and new songs written specifically for this setting. I took the list to the guys. It was 16 songs long. We had another full LP.

Needless to say, we emptied our meager bank accounts, maxed out our frightening credit cards, and still came up short. Way short. I mean, we tracked each album in 4 days and mixed each in 4 days. It's not like we had Guns N' Roses budgets here. But we did want these two albums to stand up tall, and we went to the people and places where we knew without a doubt that after 16 days we would have 2 albums that we would be proud of forever. And so far, they're standing up. It's only been a couple months since we finished, but yeah, still freakin' proud as shit, man. Just can't wait to get 'em out there!

Now, we are releasing Separation Anxiety on August 2nd, 2012. We will then release Object Permanence, hopefully before the end of 2012, but we'll have to see how things are going with the first one. Because yeah, we're slightly crazy to have just recorded 21 new songs within a couple months, but it would be just dumb to release all of them at once in this mega-media-age of over-exposure and under-understanding.

That's one of the ideas behind Separation Anxiety / Object Permanence. As the world gets more dense and relationships become more fleeting, we can't treat a person/ a home/ another person's home/ our planet as if it's gone when it's out of sight. Things persist when we aren't here to observe them. We're all in this thing together.
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