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Mates of State: so happy together

photo courtesy MATES OF STATE
Mates of State - These two lovebirds have been making glorious pop music for quite some time now and don't expect a dark, "divorce" album anywhere soon. They'll be at Club Congress Wednesday. Will they totally make out on state?
By Michael Petitti
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 10, 2005
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Imagine for a minute that you're Jason Hammel. You are one-half of the indie-pop group Mates of State and are set to embark on a headlining 16-date club tour. Your musical partner is also your talented and beautiful wife, Kori Gardner. And you recently became the father of a healthy baby girl, Magnolia. Chances are that minute likely made it harder to go back to your life.

Mates of State is a married duo that makes witty and danceable pop music. Jason plays the drums and Kori the organ with both taking turns on vocals. Jason spoke at length from the couple's home in New Haven, Conn., about his exciting life, including the band's first tour with a baby on board.

"It makes things a little different," said Hammel. "I don't think it's that much harder because we spend all of our time with her and if we were working different jobs we wouldn't be able to hang out with her as much. It's also really nice to be able to hand her back and forth."

Magnolia, however, has done anything but hinder the band's musical output.

"We both always wanted to be parents and we planned it out so we could continue playing music, so it's worked out really well," said Hammel.

While Hammel says the new album is still in the embryonic stages of writing, fans recently had plenty to keep them occupied with the November releases of an EP and DVD. The DVD, "Two of Us," was a two-year collaborative effort that compiled everything from behind the scenes, home video, and live performance footage.

"A friend of ours started videotaping the shows and he just kept compiling more and more footage," said Hammel. "He took a bunch of home videos in the studio when we were recording and he started putting it together and pretty soon we had something we were proud of."

The EP, All Day, was recorded during Kori's pregnancy and found the band experimenting with their sound.

"We had four songs and we decided to record two of them completely analog and the other two completely digital with two different [producers] and not a whole lot of overdubs," said Hammel.

The final song on the EP is a cover of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust classic "Starman." The decision to cover the song was a fairly simple choice for the band to make.

"We were constantly picking songs we'd hear, saying 'Oh, we gotta cover that song, oh we gotta cover that song.' And one time we were leaving for a tour and decided to work on a cover and that was the one that was the top of the list at the time," said Hammel.

The band's songwriting process is equally effortless, stemming from both years of musical experience and their intimate sense of each other's strengths and weaknesses.

"We record something individually and then pass it to the other person," said Hammel. "Then we'd work out the different harmonies and melodies together and then work on it separately again. It's completely collaborative and it's kind of nice to actually take a little bit of the stress away when you're just stuck on an idea and you can just say, 'I don't know, what do you think of it' and let the other person run with it."

One thing Mates of State aim to make clear is that they are not the new Captain and Tennille. While the Captain and Tennille looked to cash in on their unique situation, Mates of State want their music to speak for them.

"It's the easy fact about us," said Hammel, "But overall it never overshadows the music. We do have a close relationship, but we're also completely honest when making music. So, if we like or dislike something we can openly express that to the other person."

Although the band is intent on making the most of their career in music, they're conscious of hanging around too long.

"This is a young man's game - when you're 50, you have to hang up the towel. I think you can go until you're 50 though," said Hammel.

Yes, Mates of State has it good, but when asked to imagine what their life would have been like without music, turns out it would look a little something like ours.

"I'd probably be in medical school, probably be working."

Mates of State plays at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16 at Club Congress (311 E. Congress St.). Aqueduct opens the show. Cover is $7 and the show is for all ages.

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