Some indie-rock bands do nothing but party while on tour. Mates of State? At times, it seems like the married duo does nothing but parent.
Life on the road has become a decidedly family affair for drummer/vocalist Jason Hammel and keyboardist/vocalist Kori Gardner, who tote daughters Magnolia, 4, and June, 1, wherever they may roam. Gardner blogs about parenting on tour, chronicling a side trip to Disneyland on a day off here and a bath for baby in a backstage sink there.
While Mates' young fans are more interested in their squawking keyboard-driven indie-pop, Hammel says others are intrigued by the couple's willingness to make their lifestyle work.
“We get (fans) who read Kori's (‘Band on the Diaper Run') blogs and say it's inspiring people to do things (with their kids),” says Hammel, who performs with his mate at Neighborhood Theatre on Thursday. “Often, people think kids are a trap. I think people use it as an excuse. It's an effort when you have kids. It's easier to stay home and not find a baby-sitter, but then you miss a lot.”
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Meanwhile, the band's unique organ and dual vocals have garnered rave reviews and given them opportunities to tour with Santogold and Death Cab for Cutie, and a spot on NPR's “This American Life.” It's an unconventional sound that wasn't so much calculated as it was called for.
“We played in this rock band (in college, at the University of Kansas) where we played guitars. Kori and I wanted to practice every night, but the other members had other things going on. We got frustrated,” Hammel explains. “Kori had this organ. We started messing around (with organ and drums), and before we realized it we had four or five songs.”
Their former bandmates now practice law and medicine, while Hammel and Gardner balance music and kids. Their latest critically acclaimed album, “Re-arrange Us,” speaks of the couple's cross-country move from San Francisco to suburban Connecticut.
“We were pining for the city,” says Hammel, who grew up in Minnesota. “San Francisco is where we want to live ultimately. We wanted to buy a house, which you couldn't do unless you have a million dollars. So we decided to try the East Coast.”
The move places them closer to Gardner's family. But while family may be a running theme for the pair, Mates of State's success in the indie world wasn't always apparent to the couple's relatives. That is, until they appeared playing on stage in an AT&T Wireless commercial earlier this year.
“My dad would be sitting in Minnesota watching ESPN football and see it,” Hammel says. “The commercial validated what we did to people outside of our friends. My grandma was watching ‘(Everybody Loves) Raymond' and saw it. She said ‘You guys must have made a million dollars off of that.' No, Grandma – but at least you're aware now.”