INTERVIEW by KATIE HEINS PHOTOGRAPhed by NAT LEONARD ILLUSTRATION by PETER HOPKINS
The first time I met Mute Cities was at their EP Release party in State College, PA. Pushed into a living room full of sweaty college students, the boys debuted their EP, “Strong Work.” The crowd went from inches from the band’s instruments, all the way out to the backyard with a keg of Natty Ice. Kids I had seen in lectures, art studio hallways, and football games kept begging for more, every time they thought the band would stop. Derek, lead singer, said at one point “that is literally all the music we know guys.” Derek, Jon, Ben, Rashmit, and Zach are leading an upcoming music scene on Penn State’s campus as friends and fans alike come together to see them play all over town. Watching them play, it’s surprising when they qualify themselves as “nerds.” Their humble approach to being musicians and students is endearing ... #humblebrag. They remind me of a time when I wanted to be Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, but quickly learned that I was most likely tone deaf. After winning Battle of the Bands at Penn State, they are this year’s opening act at the music festival on campus, Movin’ On. On May 1st, Mute Cities will be opening for acts including Passion Pit, Big Sean, Big Gigantic, New Politics, and Atmosphere; hitting almost every type of audience possible.
We met up for the interview at their house and practice space, affectionately called the Beachhouse. We talked about their first concerts as kids, their EP, college, and School of Rock. Check out their interview and EP below.
POND: What’s it like playing in a college town like State College?
JON:With over 40k kids 18-22 there is no shortage of spots to play. Over the past two years the DIY scene has really increased and there has been an influx of bands from all over coming in which keeps it fresh.
POND: What will you miss most about State College and Penn State when you graduate?
JON: Having all of your friends in walking distances from you and engaging in cool college people things with them.
POND: What are you listening to right now?
JON:Actually, Brand New came out with a single like, yesterday.
DEREK:Jonny’s our sad boi.
BEN: I use Spotify so much. I am always listening to The 1975. We saw them a few months ago...
RASHMIT: Their lyrics are just weird though.
DEREK:He’s just really upset about some girl.
RASHMIT:I listen to a lot of folk. When it comes to bands, Half Moon Run, Damien Rice, Bombay Bicycle Club...
DEREK:You said you saw them in Bombay.
ZACH:My iTunes is wide and weird. Matt Zoe is my favorite producer right now. He made this really cool indie pop kind of song.
POND: What was your reaction to finding out that you guys will be playing at Movin’ On?
JON:I jumped on Ben and jumped around like a school girl playin’ double dutch.
POND: Who are you the most excited to potentially meet that’s also playing Movin’ On?
JON:Big Sean so we can talk about our mutual hard knock upbringings in the city of Detroit. And by that I mean his hard knock, Detroit upbringing and my weeny, suburban Detroit upbringing.
POND: Where did you get the name Mute Cities?
DEREK: Well, when we were all children, my dad worked next to a blockbuster and one day he was walking out back and he saw them throwing out this giant box of nintendo 64 games. Nerd stuff. But he asked them if he could have it and that was our Christmas present that year. We got this huge box, which of course was awesome at that age.
DEREK: For him it was free but for us it was awesome. As a band, when it was just me Jonny, Kramer, Jake, and I were trying to think of a name.
JON: After much frustration, we were going through these n-64 games, and one of the games is called f0x, and it’s this hokey racing games and one of the maps is Mute City. To avoid copyright laws, we decided to pluralize it. Drop the -y, add the -ies. And wham bam.
RASHMIT: What were some other ideas, I actually never heard this?
ZACH: I proposed like Groove Pool. My jazz phase.
DEREK: I think I wanted Cardboard Fort.
JON: I wanted Index or Miscellaneous.
POND: You came in second at the battle of the bands last year, what do you think made this year different?
JON:Having more time to develop as a band and not being as rushed going into battle as we were last time. Also, building bonds with our bandmates.
POND: Plans for the summer? Maybe a tour?
JON:Well a couple of us will be exploring Iceland finding ourselves, having transcendental experiences, and having a grand old time. But yes, tour in July!!!
POND: If you could have anyone broken up/together, dead or alive, open up for you, who would it be?
JON: Maybe like a hobo would open up for us at this point. No, because given the dead or alive, I would say the Talking Heads. Also, if I wasn’t born in this time, I feel like I would be in the eighties.
DEREK: I would have to say the Hives because they were my favorite band in like ninth grade.
POND: What is your favorite drink at the pregame?
DEREK: The Cranpa. It’s cranberry, ginger ale, and vodka. I don’t even know if it’s that original but we kept drinking that terrible drink just because of the name.
ZACH: At the pregame, I like drinking me a couple cups of red wine.
DEREK: We have a room in our basement where we like to shotgun beers. There’s a shopping cart down there, and over the course of the past year we have filled it. So that’s probably our number one.