Show: BioPicturesPress Reviews
- Mutts are:
- Mike Maimone – Keys & Vocals
- Bob Buckstaff – Bass & Guitar
- Ian Tsan – Drums
Chicago’s Mutts are a keys/bass/drums trio described as “like Tom Waits fronting a garage band” by Time Out Magazine.
Ten years – and over 1,000 shows – strong, Chicago, IL’s Mutts define perseverance. Hey, We Are All Mutts (out May 3, 2019 on 8eat8 Records) is more than a collection of favorites from their catalog. It’s a testament to maintaining unfettered creativity in the face of adversity. In their time myriad bands have exploded – and then just as quickly imploded. Over the course of these fifteen selects (and new single “Your Love”) Mike Maimone (keys/vocals), Bob Buckstaff (bass/guitar/backing vocals), and Ian Tsan (drums/backing vocals) remind us that a gritty determination to chase your dreams, damn the odds, is as American as it gets.
The saga of Mutts begins with the release of three EPs: Pretty Pictures, We Float and The Tells of Parallels. These records gave an early taste of Mutts iconic blend of rapturous melodic art-pop and muscular alt-rock. Their first LP Pray for Rain was released in late 2011 and spent over a month on the college radio Top 200 chart – starting a trend that would be followed by each of the band’s subsequent full-length releases.
Then to now (the short version): In 2012 and 2013 the band released a matched set of LPs titled Object Permanence and Separation Anxiety; and played 205 shows. In 2014 Mutts recorded and released their 4th LP – Fuel Yer Delusion vol. 4 while playing 152 shows and appearing at Riot Fest, Musikfest, SXSW, and WFPK Live Lunch. In 2016 they released a 7″ single and a covers EP called Ghoul Yer Delusion. 2017 is notable for (at least) three reasons: Ian Tsan formally joined Mutts, they released the Stick Together EP, and frontman Maimone became one of a few to play all five Mile of Music festivals, performing with his brass band at Mile 5.
That distinctly positive EP springs from some of the most trying times of Maimone’s life. Leading up to the release of Fuel Yer Delusion, vol. 4, he was kicked out of the house by his partner of nearly 6 years. After recording the record, drummer Chris Pagnani left the group. Soon after, the bar that Maimone played every week when home closed. And then the tour van died. Despite the adversity, Maimone and Buckstaff decided to go ahead with the release.
That ability to smile and charge head-long into difficulty is a common thread in the fabric of Mutts songwriting, and with good reason. As Maimone puts it, “my songs are born from a life of contradictions.” Growing up in rural Ohio, he didn’t come out to his Catholic parents until age 30. An all-state athlete in high school (he played against LeBron), he developed a profound love for the arts. Shortly after graduating Notre Dame business school he walked away from corporate life. Maimone explains, “Through my songwriting, I try to turn these disparate life experiences into music that helps us discover commonality.”
“Mike’s unyielding adoration of the craft that is record making and performing is a feat in itself” says Buckstaff. “I’m perpetually grateful for the ongoing experiment that is Mutts. I’ve learned to lay myself bare. I’m proud of the commitment I’ve made to something, to music, that matters. I take that sense of purpose everywhere.”
Immerse yourself in this sonic portrait of a decades’ hard work, and you’ll come away with a profound appreciation for this resilient, tenacious band of brothers. Built on a shared love of connecting with others through music, Mutts are doggedly determined to continue their musical evolution. “I’ve heard “no” a million times. I’ve sent a million emails never get returned” says Maimone. “You can’t let the business side pollute the creative side. We remain fully focused on our own artistic expression.” Ultimately, Mutts want to remind their listeners to “remember to just try to sit back and enjoy everything” as Tsan puts it. “Patience is crucial – but life is short.”
– bio written by Ever Kipp, Tiny Human
2018:10:11 : The Bad Copy
Picture someone who decided that Tom Waits was fine, but decided he needed to be way more positive, ten times louder, and write piano parts that, when played properly, result in significant damage to the instrument itself. Only then will you have a good idea of singer Mike Maimone’s approach to songwriting.
With songs that champion the resilience of the human spirit carried triumphantly on the shoulders of three of the most talented and enthusiastic rockers Chicago has to offer, Mutts were as electric as ever opening the night up… Everyone fortunate enough to show up early was rewarded with the biggest smile plastered on their face by the end.
2018:10:09 : Third Coast Review
Chicago’s own Mutts opened the show [for Murder By Death], a 3-piece blues rock and with a genre bridging sound which initially struck me as Tom Waits meets Imagine Dragons. Singer/songwriter and keyboardist Mike Maimone has the growl and grit of Waits but with a more blues rock appeal (think The Black Keys, Queens of the Stone Age), but with lyrics that delve deep into Maimone’s past, discussing everything from his conservative upbringing to when he came out to his parents at 30.
2017.10.04 : Brendan Bayliss
“I can’t get this tune out of my head. It’s really well done.” – Brendan Bayliss, Umphrey’s McGee (on “I’ll Be Around”)
2017.09.07 : Earbuddy
Maimone delivers a solid vocal performance in a song [Don’t Touch It] that feels like the New Pornographers meeting up with Afghan Whigs.
2017.08.31 : Ground Sounds
[I’ll Be Around] grabs you immediately with distinct vocal power. Such an intriguing voice is hard to come by, and when you pair it with a positive message and an unforgettable hook…you’ve got a track that is truly going to leave an impression. We think this song, EP, and band are going to be turning some heads this Fall.
2017.07.17 : WXRT 93.1FM
This new track from Mutts is outrageously good.
– Richard Milne (re: I’ll Be Around from Stick Together)
2017.01.18 : Windy City Times
Mutts happily delivered what could be expected and then some. As a send up of an old time honky-tonk band with a frat house sloppiness and a straight up punk attitude, the trio of Mike Maimone ( vocals/keyboards ), Bob Buckstaff ( bass ), and Chris Pangnani ( drums ) has created an aura that is entirely affable, blunt, and charming in a roustabout way. Where it seemed that Maimone came across as an out, buff Tom Waits without the brutal wear and tear, Mutts has evolved into a cohesive blunt instrument around him.
Opening with “Everyone Is Everyone”—with its in-your-face chorus ( “Let’s shut the fuck up and go for yourself!!!” )—Mutts challenged Powell for the crown of class cut-up. “Shake It Up” and “If It’s Hot” came surprisingly early and hard ( and, yes, Maimone ranted the song while atop his electric piano and no he did not hurl himself into the audience ), but there were more surprises. “Terranant” got a grim, goth treatment that planted the song in three feet of sludge while the new “Neighbor” with an assist from vocalist Jennifer Hall was served with a roof rattling gospel intensity despite songs coiled structure. Then came the finish, a melee with Hall, Powell and some of his Exports and various friends crowding the stage for a sloppy rip through “Let’s Go.” – by Vern Hester
2015.07.19 South Bend Tribune
Mike Maimone has been to the South Bend area several times over the years, first as a student at the University of Notre Dame and more recently as a solo performer… Finally, Maimone is bringing Mutts, the rock trio he formed in Chicago in 2009, to the region.
Mutts dropped three EPs in the band’s first year together, and have since released four full-length albums, each successive album better than the previous one, with the masterful concept record “Fuel Yer Delusion vol. 4” coming out last December.
Trying to describe Mutts’ sound is difficult. A recent attempt was “grunge + lounge = grounge.”
“That is my favorite one at the moment,” Maimone says.
Mutts can be loud and in-your-face, but can also tone it down as they did on their 2013 acoustic album, “Object Permanence.”
– by Tom Conway
2015.03.18 : Windy City Times
“As if fronting local scruffy hard-rock trio Mutts was not enough, out vocalist and piano man Mike Maimone kicked off his monthly residency at the High Hat Club on March 5, with tongue firmly out of cheek. The show was billed as “Mike Maimone and ‘Friends,'” but the title barely hinted at what this gig encompassed.
Looking dapper and disturbingly unscruffy, Maimone plopped onto his piano stool and promptly jumped into a set that spoke more to 1920s barrelhouse and honky-tonk music than post-’60s rock ‘n’ roll. The man has the keyboard style of Fats Waller and Jerry Lee Lewis combined ( he punches the keys with violence which make the notes sting, but his speed and ease give those notes a smooth velocity and irresistible swing ), and a vocal style that clearly recalls Tom Waits and Warren Zevon before the heartache, regret and hooch were significant in their lives. With him bouncing up and down, smacking the keys and growling like a jolly puppet who just lost its strings, it was pretty hard not to get engulfed in all the fun he was having.” – by Vern Hester
2015:02:15 : South Bend Tribune
Mutts release all of their albums in all formats — digital, CD and vinyl — and “Fuel Yer Delusion” embraces one of the most clichéd concepts of the vinyl age; a concept record.
“It is about how in the YouTube/‘American Idol’ generation, it seems that you see young people more and more saying, ‘I’ve got what it takes’ and ‘I can make it,’” Maimone says. “ ‘I’ve been practicing for a couple days and I’m ready.’ It is this instant gratification era, where people think they can put up a video, get famous and that’s it, and not put in the effort to actually make the substance behind the career happen.”
With their prodigious musical output and reliance on live shows, the members of Mutts believe in putting in the time and work to earn their success.
“Last year, was the second straight year of about 150 shows,” Maimone says. “I realized that we ‘made it,’ in some ways. We’re playing better shows. I am not having to work my side jobs as much. But I also realized that I distanced myself somewhat from a lot of people that were close to me. That is a bit of a warning with the plot of the record: If you put your nose to the grindstone for too long, you might look up and realize that you made it, but you are there by yourself.”
Mutts broaden the self-delusion theme with the packaging of the CD and vinyl. The album cover was made with reflective foil-coated cardboard.
“It turned out that it was the right kind of haziness,” Maimone says. “You can see yourself, but it is a little distorted. I thought that was perfect for the concept of ‘What do you see when you look in the mirror?’ ‘What’s your future going to be?’ “
With explicit lyrics, Maimone, an openly gay man, decries name-calling and bullying in “Everyone Is Everyone.” He sings, “Tags are just words and words are a drag.”
Although Maimone will perform solo at his opening set at The Pool today, the audience can expect the same in-your-face experience of a Mutts show. Chances are, at some point Maimone will jump on top of his keyboard.
“That started pretty spontaneously,” Maimone says. “In my old bands, when I was just playing keyboards, I would jump over the keyboards. Now that I am singing, that is not an option. I like to be animated and energetic. Hopefully, that gets the audience moving a little bit, too.”
2015:01:24 : Dancing About Architecture
These 13 tracks explore the themes of contentment, chasing an alternate American Dream, moments of clarity, moments of failure and wanders between sly social commentary and heartfelt and earnest lyrical waxing’s. Musically it is a wonderful hybrid of sounds, as if they have taken the last 40 years of western music and conducted a hideous operation, dissected the patient and then reassembled it again into a wonderful musical chimera, one that you are simultaneously slightly repulsed and confused by but at the same time you find mesmerizing and beautiful.
This is high octane rhythm and blues meets garage rock meets funk meets…well anything they feel like from boogie-woogie to an occasional strange late night jazz vibe, psych, pop and grunge, all the time being led into battle by squalling keyboards, acid laced organ and punk-blues piano.
2014:11:18 : Heartbreaking Bravery
[Fuel Yer Delusion vol. 4] is a record that’s layered, sequenced, and mastered to perfection… Mutts aren’t done experimenting, moving forward, challenging themselves, or progressing… Don’t be too surprised to see their name starting to fight its way into regular conversation.
2014:09:14 : The Chicago Tribune
“Keyboard, bass, drums, vocalist like Tom Waits auditioning for GWAR.” – Kevin Williams
2014:07:23 : Do312
“Tom Waits this, Tom Waits that… It’s simple, this band is fucking awesome.” – Top 5 Acts to See at Wicker Park Fest 2014
2013:12:22 : Big Takeover Magazine
Object is front-loaded with the band’s bread and butter: four rollicking New Orleans barrelhouse blues/R&B and ragtime numbers. Early-going ditties like the jaunty, drunken sing-along “No One Left” and the carnival-like romp “If It’s Hot It’ll Sell” – a poke at mindless consumerism – showcase Maimone’s phlegm-expelling, larynx-shredding, propane-gargling howl and sprightly, deep-toned piano/organ playing (he’s joined on “If It’s Hot” by Lying Delilah‘s soulful vocalist Jodi Rosenthal).
The album unexpectedly shifts gears from there, adopting a relaxed, late-night smoke-filled jazz/lounge ambience for most of its final two-thirds. The stunning, sentimental standout “Prizefighter” is indeed a prize, finding the hardened Maimone reluctantly absolving a straying girlfriend. On it, his still-hoarse, yet suddenly heartbreaking voice and gorgeous piano melody is accentuated by Hemmingbirds leader Yoo Soo Kim’s sad, swelling viola.
Mark Suppanz | Read Full Article
2013:10:03 : Magnet Magazine
Not many groups get compared to the legendary Tom Waits, but Mutts do, and justifiably so… the band decided to ditch the grit and amplification for third LP Object Permanence and go for a clean sound. The album, recorded live, makes Mutts sound like veteran artists with a fresh set of tools. | View Post
2013:09:13 : Large Hearted Boy
Prizefighter included in Daily Download for blog with 30k+ subscribers | View Post
2013:09:16 : AltSounds
We’re excited to premiere Mutts’ new video, ‘Prizefighter’. The song which is in the vein of artists like Tom Waits and Damien Jurado, features Mutts lead singer/pianist/protagonist, Mike Maimone, who trained for six months with amateur fighters to prepare for his role as an illicit underground fighter.
The video was shot over four days, and even edited it in four days, so not only did they have the fighting spirit within the video, they had the fighting mentality to get the video nailed in such a short amount of time. The dedication from Mike going into the video is something you rarely hear about for a band, and it’s refreshing to hear about. | View Post
2013:07:18 : Chicago Pride
On the Mutts latest disc Object Permanence, the band shifts gears, becoming a piano/upright bass/drums combo, a fitting transition for a band with a lead singer who sounds like the long lost son of Tom Waits. More innovative than imitative, the songs on Object Permanence leave a permanent mark, an aural tattoo, if you will, on the listener. – Gregg Shapiro | Read Interview
2013:05:21 : Nashville Scene Magazine
Chicago trio Mutts’ nimble, funky rhythm section, with Bob Buckstaff on the low notes and Chris Pagnani behind the kit, would be entertaining to watch on its own, but throw in growling, keyboard-wielding frontman Mike Maimone, and you’ve got a monster on your hands. Their fall 2012 album Separation Anxiety focused on Maimone working through the process of coming out, fueling a stormy blast of garage-revival blues with touches of prog and swampy metal. Scant months later, the group is touring behind a new album that represents a nearly 180-degree shift in style: Object Permanence sees them unplugging their amps and digging into their jazz and blues roots, with Buckstaff scaling back to an upright bass and Maimone focusing on grand piano and organ. Comparisons to Tom Waits are inevitable, but more than just approximating one of Waits’ styles or inhabiting one of his many characters, the band members use their own skills and world-weariness to develop an original take starting from Maimone’s perspective, from the bouncing “If It’s Hot It’ll Sell” to the pointed New Orleans R&B number “Pray Like a Vigilante” to the smoke-wafting closer “Uncivilized.” – Stephen Traseger
2013:04:21 : WXRT Local Anesthetic
The new Mutts release has some of the bands best songwriting… Maimone is the keyboardist, vocalist and principal songwriter in Mutts but bassist Bob Buckstaff and drummer Chris Pagnani make the music swing. And sway. I describe the Mutts sound on Object Permanence as late-night cabaret meets Tom Waits meets Kurt Weill in a Wiemar Republic speakeasy. It’s already perched itself as one of the Anesthetic Best of ’13. Enjoy. – Richard Milne
2013:04:03 : Daytrotter View Session Page
Kindly Provoking The Flames | Mutts lead singer Mike Maimone seems like a man who can go from resting, from sitting on the couch experiencing little to nothing, to suddenly having his brain and everything connected to it light up like the Las Vegas Strip, like all of the pull machines and marquees hitting jackpots… He goes from zero to a hundred quicker than most… He’ll just throw that barroom piano over into the corner of the room and rowdily bang on it as the flames climb the walls and get into the ceiling, where they can really begin their engulfment.
Mutts music embraces the inner turmoil, the things that are striven for, the ways that we fall short, the ways we’re let down, as well as the few things that spark us back onto the right track, even if those are the rare moments, the briefest of comebacks. – Sean Moeller
Mutts performed 5 songs including two from the new LP, Object Permanence.
2013:04:02 : WBEZ Morning Shift
With dark lyrics and vocals that sound like unfiltered Camels soaked in whisky, it’s no wonder Time Out Chicago once described the Chicago band Mutts as “Tom Waits fronting a garage band.” Usually plugged in, Mutts will bust out the acoustics to perform songs from their new album, Object Permanence. We’ll talk to the band about the release, and hear some live music:
Mutts perform a medley of Summertime by Fresh Prince and George Gershwin especially for the Morning Shift Summer Mash-Up Series.
Mutts talk to Tony Sarabia and perform two cuts from the new LP Object Permanence on NPR’s Chicago affiliate, WBEZ 91.5 FM.
2013.04.02 : Vocalo.org
Chicago’s rock trio Mutts is known for gritty, grungy guitar distortions and loud in-your-face blues rock. But on their newest album, Object Permanence, you’ll hear none of that. Mike Maimone’s guttural vocals take the center of attention, delivering poignant social commentary over stripped down, unplugged arrangements. The band joined Jesse Menendez on The MusicVox to talk about the new songs and the change of sound.
2013.04.02 :Maximum Ink Magazine
An entirely unplugged affair, the Chicago trio’s third full-length flips the coin on last year’s amped-up companion, “Separation Anxiety,” stripping down to piano, upright bass and drums for a rowdy, rhythmically rich mix of skid row show-boating highlighting biting blues and hootchie-cootchie boogie. Fleshed-out by contributions from This Is Cinema, Hemmingbirds and Lying Deliah, “Permanence,” lurches from sloppy bullfrog bop to crooning juke-joint stomps, spewing nubile truths beneath ragged bar-room ballads while compiling street-wise asides inside scorching carny bargains. Toddling honky-tonk broncos riding grizzled social missiles over melodic boxer’s logic, Mutts’ gruff constructions creep, leap, and enliven, primed in ivory-tickling testifying dancing to rousing vagabond chronicles. Touring this spring throughout Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and Illinois, Mutts’ vibrant live shows are not to be missed.
2013:04:01 : Loud Loop Press
Chicago rockers Mutts are leaving the amps at home these days. Listeners can expect the same organ-heavy blues rock set to sparkling piano grooves, which is offset perfectly by frontman Mike Maimone’s own smoky, rough and tumble vocals.
2013:03:29 : WGN Music Lounge : Watch Video
2013:02:06 : Consequence of Sound’s Rock it Out:
Mutts perform No One Left, from the upcoming LP Object Permanence.
Previous full-length releases:
Mutts chart 2 albums on the CMJ Top 200 in 2012!
Mutts follow-up LP released August 2, 2012
Separation Anxiety is available for download at download.muttsmusic.com, as well as on iTunes, Spotify and most major online retailers. It is also available on CD and limited-edition split-color “Mending Wall” vinyl. Both physical formats come with a poster featuring cover art and lyrics, and are available at CD Baby, Amazon and a number of brick-and-mortar stores in the Midwest.
CMJ Top Adds #15 on Aug 21
CMJ Top 200 #72 on Sept 11
2013.01.02 : Illinois Entertainer Magazine
Separation Anxiety is a serious recording dealing with profound issues, but that doesn’t mean Mutts simply pump out droning shoegazer ditties. Their self-described grunge/blues sound is energetic (though a skosh schizophrenic), moving from gritty guitar workouts like “Tire Swing Blues” to screamfests such as “Now Now Now.” These 10 cuts (plus an untitled hidden track) are weighty yet worthwhile. (muttsmusic.com)
– Jeff Berkwits
What a 2012!
- Performed over 100 shows in 13 states
- Separation Anxiety charts on CMJ Top 200 for six weeks, peaking @ #72 – the second Mutts album to chart in 2012!
- “Half Mile” featured on August 2012 CMJ Mixtape.
- Played several festivals including:
- Opened for Imagine Dragons & Young the Giant at Milwaukee’s Summerfest
- Opened for Murder By Death at Chicago’s Do Division Fest
- Opened for Maps & Atlases on UW Madison’s Terrace
- Signed with booking agent TR Agency
- Funded $10,000 Kickstarter Campaign to record 2 LPs (2nd coming April 2, 2013)
- Debut LP Pray for Rain hit #107 on theCMJ Top 200 twice in 6 weeks on chart
- Pray for Rain named Huffington Post Top 30 Chicago Albums of 2011
- Named Deli Magazine’s Chicago Emerging Artist of 2011
2012.09.28 : Epitonic
Mutts cover a broad spectrum of blues, from light Southern shuffles to heavy, dirty rock, and singer Mike Maimone adjusts from a gravelly whisper to distorted screaming.
2012.08.01 : Vocalo 89.5FM : Live From Studio 10
Broadcast on Vocalo.org, 89.5FM and WBEZ 91.5. More here.
2012.08.01: Half Mile featured on the CMJ Mixtape
Mutts Debut LP on CMJ Top 200, Huff Post Best Chicago Albums
CMJ Top Adds #8 on Nov 28
CMJ Top 200 #107 for 2 weeks; 6 weeks on chart
2012.Spring : The Big Takeover Magazine
Though Mutts play hometown indie haunts such as Double Door and Empty Bottle, their ancestral lair lies south of The Loop, from days when New Orleans R&B stars plied black blues joints. When I think Waits, I think Screaming Jay Hawkins, and Maimone howls a lot like the “frenzied” late Jalacy. But his rollicking piano ‘n’ organ-smackin’ funky bayou romps, like the dirty 6/8 totter of “Done it Again,” ooze, crawfish-like, like a garage rock clatter inversion of the filé gumbo-brown swamp stomp of Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Huey Piano Smith, Eddie Bo, Jessie Hill, and later Ernie K. Doe. Wolfman Jack would have loved Mutts; he and Maimone could howl at the full moon together. – Jack Rabid
2012.04.01 : Alternative Press Magazine
View Online Version Here
2012.03.10 : The Deli Magazine SXSW Issue
2012.02.01 : The Deli Chicago Emerging Artist of 2011
2012.01.13 : Absolute Punk Featured Free Friday Download
2011.12.28 : Huffington Post
Best Chicago Music of 2011 #26 – See Full List
2011.03.24 : Chicago Red Eye / Metromix
2010.09.28 : Loud Loop Press
“Chicago’s Mutts aren’t playing around. The first aspect of their new EP, The Tells of Parallels, that truly jumps out from the speakers is its pure heaviness. Heaviness in the static-y production value and heaviness in general attitude. Every instrument on the record is mic’ed up to 11: the drums, the bass, the keys, the guitar. Actually, scratch that last one. The trio actually forgoes the guitar and instead relies on a dirty, mud-soaked key tone to drive the melodies. It’s saying something that a band can reach the big rock n’ roll moments of current major acts like Queens Of The Stone Age or the Dead Weather without an axe, but Mutts do and quite effortlessly at that.
Mutts pretty much let it all hang out. The Tells of Parallels is not only well produced… but it works because of it’s simplicity. Mutts never drag. They give it their all in five-minutes or less, and it really works. The band are poised to become one of Chicago’s top acts if they keep pumping out material that’s as good as what The Tells of Parallels has to offer. ”
2009.Fall : The Big Takeover Magazine, #65
“The Windy City barrel house piano man is back, a year after his kickin’ and snortin’ mix of Doctor John, Tom Waits, and Randy Newman: the bleary-eyed and gin-soaked Open Mic Nights, Empty Bottle Mornings. Maybe he awoke dry-mouthed and headache-y, because these four tunes are even more cantankerously impolite, with our boy hissing, seething and growling like Screaming Jay Hawkins in the graveyard, busting out bits of swamp blues and mean-dog voodoo R&B (see the bitterly titled “Trust”). Being a “recovered accountant,” he’s an informed source to decry tricks employed by them to cheat workers, and bassist Bob Buckstaff and drummer Chris Faller rumble behind his pumpin’ piano jive like men who suspect they’ll be similarly stiffed by the club owner. The “last call” barroom blues of “Uncivilized” is a good chaser, too.” – Jack Rabid, on Pretty Pictures EP