First rate Mates

Indie duo Mates of State continue to spread good, synth pop vibes on their new album “Mountaintops.”

by Sally Hedberg


WHAT: Mates of State

WHEN: 8 p.m., tomorrow

WHERE: Fine Line Music Café, 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis

COST: $18/$20


In a musical industry where success is often measured by buzz bands and immediate hype, enduring the test of time as an indie artist is an accomplishment in and of itself, even more so when you take the hyper-critical weirdness of modern music blog journalism into account. Husband and wife duo Mates of State are a sure example of such a group and this Saturday, with two kids in tow, they will stop in Minneapolis on tour for their seventh studio album, âÄúMountaintops.âÄù

âÄúOn this tour weâÄôve finally reached a level of peacefulness,âÄù singer and keyboardist Kori Gardner said. âÄúWe made exactly the album we wanted to make. We had more control, and we donâÄôt care what everyone thinks. It feels good to put what we wanted out exactly. It hit at the right time.âÄù

Actively making music since the late âÄô90s, the bandâÄôs attitude is undoubtedly a function of the perceived highs and lows that their career has weathered. ItâÄôs not that they suffered any one significant incident. Rather, their career has been an enduring battle of categorization, something that, despite their numerous and loyal fans, inevitably got under their skin.

Their music has always been sunny, punk-influenced pop, incorporating layers of synths, keyboards and organ âÄî all glued together with the fragmented harmonies of Gardner and her husband Jason Hammel. This, combined with their public relationship status, has led them to be consistently written off as âÄúsweetâÄù and âÄúcute.âÄù

âÄúI think that people do love to hate us in a weird sort of way,âÄù Gardner said. âÄúI donâÄôt read the music magazines anymore because it stresses me out. Social media has way more of an impact now, and IâÄôd rather read a tweet about someone who really enjoyed our live performance than a music critic pigeonhole us because of our relationship and aesthetic. I wish people talked about the music part.âÄù

The music of âÄúMountaintops,âÄù one of their strongest releases yet, is worth conversation. Their newfound liberation is wholly evident in sprawling synth tracks like âÄúPalominoâÄù and âÄúTotal Serendipity.âÄù ThereâÄôs an element of ironic intrigue too, because theyâÄôve taken the very components of musicianship that critics panned and magnified them. Stripped to its core, âÄúMountaintopsâÄù is very much a sweet and âÄúfeel-goodâÄù record. But, executed with such conviction and self-awareness, it radiates strength that wasnâÄôt as pronounced in earlier releases such as âÄúRe-Arrange UsâÄù or âÄúBring It Back.âÄú

The confidence is also a function of their hands-on approach to crafting the record. Not only did they directly involve themselves in the production end of things, but they allowed themselves ample time (nearly a year) to write, record and hone in on the precise elements that they wanted to exemplify in their final product.

âÄúHaving two babies has always made being a musician a balancing act,âÄù Gardner said. âÄúWe had to figure out how to make touring happen. We hadnâÄôt had time to be writing songs for six hours a day until recently because they werenâÄôt old enough. IâÄôve finally started to feel like myself again.âÄù

Slated to play shows for most of the year and likely some of the summer festival circuit, Mates of State has reached an admirable point of maturity in their career, and thatâÄôs something that no buzz band can ever take away.

âÄúWeâÄôve been a band for a long time,âÄù Gardner said. âÄúWeâÄôre going to be a band forever. Even if no one is watching us, weâÄôll be making music.âÄù