Imagine an indie pop band consisting of a girl playing the organ and a boy playing the drums, both of them singing loudly in harmony. Now imagine that the aforementioned organ-playing girl and drumming boy are married and insanely in love with each other. What you’ve imagined is a band called Mates of State from San Francisco, a two-piece pop-rock band that is one part Rainer Maria and one part Wolfie, minus the guitars.
Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner met while at school in Lawrence, Kan. (home of The Get Up Kids, The Anniversary, and lots of other prairie rockers.) Both played guitar and sang in a band called Vosotros at the time, but while messing around with a “rickety, old organ” and eventually doing an open mic together, they found the unique sound that they call their own today. And after just a few shows in Lawrence, they decided to make the move to the West Coast.
Since then, the duo has recorded a couple of 7″ records and a full-length album, My Solo Project, on the Sacramento label Omnibus Records. This summer they began recording their sophomore album, which will be released in January 2002 on Polyvinyl Records. According to Kori, who recently chatted with The Badger Herald, “Between our debut album and the upcoming album, there are not too many big changes in sound. We had a little more time in the studio, but overall it’s the same band, the same sound.”
More importantly, however, the two were married this July and have extended their honeymoon to four months — it’s actually their current tour. Some might see disaster in the future for a married couple that spends every last moment with each other on the road, but these Mates have nothing but positive things to say about the experience thus far. In fact, Jason merely gives a big thumbs-up when the subject arises.
So do the former rock guitarists ever yearn for the sound that only the axe can bring? “We tried out a couple of guitar players three years ago, and they just seemed to be extraneous to what we were playing.” To be honest, when you first hear Mates of State, you might find yourself tempted to pull some serious air guitar moves, because these kids know how to rock. But then you realize there’s no guitar, and playing the air organ just doesn’t quite feel the same. No big deal.
Many describe a Mates of State live show as peeking in on an intimate conversation, and Jason seems to find this to be an apt description at times. “We’re in our own world sometimes. We’ll be playing with our eyes closed, or looking at each other.” Still, these two seem intent on providing their crowd with the raucous fun they’ve come to receive.
“I think [the crowd] will have a good time. We try to have fun and play some happy music.”