“Life’s too short to play it safe,” declare The Mutineers in unison on their new song “Ace.” Frontman and songwriter Brian Mathusek is not waiting around for things to get better. “Let’s hit the road before it gets too late.” Like many members of the Santa Barbara-based quartet, he has roamed from East to West and most places in-between. Along the way, he has gathered stories of hope and fear, love and loss. Songs like “California” recall his younger years, struggling to make ends meet in a new town. In other early tunes, like “End of the World,” he questions faith: “I want to know whose religion wins, and what counts as sin.” Throughout Mathusek’s writing there has always been an openness and honesty that seems to come straight from the heart—there are no gimmicks. Such is the case in the latest eight-song release from The Mutineers, entitled, From the Dirge to the Dance.
The entire album displays more texture and virtuosity than any of the band’s previous EP’s. Along with longtime friends Michael Astudillo on acoustic guitar, Merry Young on drums and recent addition Terry Luna on stand-up bass, Mathusek and his fellow Mutineers have been stirring up a fierce blend of folksy “pub rock” marked by sweet-and-sour storytelling, mug-swinging melodies and foot-stomping beats. As a trio, their first EP, Tidal Wave (2008), was well received with radio play on several stations in California. It wasn’t long before they began to share stages with such artists as Langhorne Slim, The Devil Makes Three, The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band and The Tallest Man on Earth. Their second EP, titled Nihilisteria (2009), was a more dynamic exploration of their evolving sound, reminiscent of bands like X, The B-52s, The Pogues, and The Velvet Underground.
Working with Tucker Bodine at Playback Recording Studio in Santa Barbara, the band set out to record a new album that would reflect the energy and emotion of their live performances. Instrumentally, each song was recorded live and in one complete take. Then the lead vocal tracks were laid down by Mathusek with all back-up harmonies performed together as a group. The result shows a new side of The Mutineers. Mathusek belts out anthems with punk-rock intensity, then slips smoothly into a sad melody. With the addition of Luna’s stand-up bass, both the electric and acoustic guitars have found space to be more elaborate, intricate, and interwoven. The melodic bass riffs maintain a powerful heartbeat with the kick drum throughout the album while Young lays down beats that are both aggressive and sensitive. Lyrically, songs like “Hell No” and “Give It a Rest” stir passion and optimism, diverting from some of the cynicism of earlier recordings. Twin ballads “The Dirge” and “The Waltz” frame the aptly-titled album nicely with a sense of nostalgia and a longing for permanence during our short, but sweet, moments on Earth. Overall, From the Dirge to the Dance explores a full spectrum of life’s peaks and pitfalls, inspiring the pursuit of dreams while reveling in the spirit of rebellion that defines The Mutineers.
The band is currently playing shows in support of the new album release.