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BOD Rewind: Mates of State

This is the first in a regular series that revisits Band of the Day alumni.

While touring has certainly kept the husband and wife duo of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel busy over the past 12 months, they’re probably most busy tending to the newest addition to their State — baby Magnolia, a kid who’s lucky to have such doting parents. To see Mates of State on stage is to experience the look of love, a consistent gaze held between organist Kori and drummer Jason while they serenade each other. It’s so silver screen pure and ecstatic that at first glance it seems false, like a performative version of what love is. But when you hear the beaming sound of Kori and Jason’s harmonies coupled with their beaming faces, it’s clear that the gaze is not only honest, but it’s also multifaceted. Gardner and Hammel are partners, or Mates, as it were, in every sense of the word: professionally, privately, spiritually, and legally. caught up with Kori from the couple’s home in New England to talk about the business of babies, being Band of the Day, and splitting everything fifty-fifty. So what’s been going on for you in the past year, since you were featured as Band of the Day?
Kori Gardner: We made a new album, we went on tour with a couple of big bands, and also by ourselves.

For your new release. Bring It Back (listen), you made the move to Barsuk Records [one time home of Rilo Kiley and Death Cab for Cutie]. What prompted that?
All the big changes in our life, we sort of make out of the blue. Our contract was up at Polyvinyl and we’ve known the guys at Barsuk for a long time. We kind of choose everything that way, like deciding to move from Kansas to San Francisco, and then deciding to move from San Francisco to a small town on the East Coast. Even deciding to get pregnant! We were on tour and we just decided we wanted to have a baby. We do all our albums that way too. We usually choose producers that we hadn’t heard that much about.

What’s the new album like? Is it different from your other material?
Well, with everything going on in the world right now — I know it sounds kind of trite — we just wanted to put some positivity back in. It seems like people have been so cynical lately, whether it’s because of the current state of the government, or it’s because of global warming, or whatever, so we wanted to try and help that.

From your previous EP, I know you had a contest to make a video for “Good.” How did that turn out?
It was so amazing. We ended up watching [the submissions] over Christmas. My whole family watched them. There were so many great submissions it was hard to choose. We decided to do it in the first place because we didn’t want to be in a video, we didn’t want to have to worry about how we looked or coming up with a concept. We more wanted to see how our fans would interpret the song.

It sounds like having fan interactivity was a great experience. What were some other great experiences of the past year?
Touring in general. We just had the greatest group of people on tour with us. A good friend of ours was Magnolia’s nanny, and we had a friend come with us from Sweden. So all around that was great. Also, we had some crazy times opening for Jimmy Eat World.

How is it touring with Magnolia?
Well it’s changed things a lot. Now we arrange our travel around her naps. But we would get to be with her all the time, except for when we performed at night. It was great. She gets to have two parents around all the time. The way we recorded changed, too. Before we used to just go into the studio together and record. This time around, sometimes just one of us would go in and record something, and then the other would record something else. We spent a month on this, and there was definitely more editing, but we still write everything fifty-fifty.

Mates of State’s new album, Bring it Back, arrives March 21 on Barsuk.

Mates of State tour dates:

2/7, Syracuse, NY (Schine Students Center)
2/10, New York, NY (Webster Hall)
3/9, Houston, TX (The Engine Room)
3/10, Dallas, TX (The Gypsy Ballroom)
3/11, Austin, TX (Emo’s)
3/16, Austin, TX (TBA)
3/23, Cambridge, MA (The Middle East Downstairs)
3/24, Philadelphia, PA (First Unitarian Church)
3/25, Falls Church, VA (State Theater)
3/26, Carrboro, NC (Cat’s Cradle)
3/27, Athens, GA (40 Watt)
3/28, Tallahassee, FL (Club Downunder)
3/29, Orlando, FL (The Social)
3/31, Atlanta, GA (Variety Playhouse)
4/1, Asheville, NC (Grey Eagle Music Hall)
4/2, Nashville, TN (The End)
4/3, Urbana, IL (Canopy Club)
4/4, Des Moines, IA (Vaudeville News)
4/5, Minneapolis, MN (Varsity Theater)
4/6, Chicago, IL (Metro)
4/7, Detroit, MI (Magic Stick)
4/8, Notre Dame, IN (Legends of Notre Dame)
4/9, Cleveland, OH (Beachland Ballroom)
4/28, San Francisco, CA (Great American Music Hall)

Mates of State official site Band of the Day: Mates of State