Mutts co-founder Mike Maimone was raised in rural Ohio on Church, football and classical piano. After failing to make the football team at Notre Dame, he joined his first band. Like many alter boys/athletes/classical musicians, Maimone found freedom like never before in rock music. But his rebellious urges were tempered by conservative Catholic expectations. Upon graduating in 2004, Maimone went to work at a Big 4 accounting firm, and all was right with his family.
When Mike quit this job in 2005 to play music full-time, the reception was mixed. Four turbulent years later the keyboardist met Bob Buckstaff when both were hired to tour in Company of Thieves on Wind-Up Records. They instantly clicked over records by Tom Waits, Elliott Smith and Nirvana. And their first gig together – an appearance on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly – finally helped Maimone convince his family that music might be a viable option for him.
As session players, the pair quietly endured many injustices to the ways of their favorite artists. It seemed that the headlining bands who augmented their sound with backing tracks and auto-tune were rewarded more than honest ones.
One June evening in Jacksonville, FL while escaping headliners The Plain White T’s in a nearby bar, Buckstaff and Maimone planned to make an honest, spontaneous recording together the next time they were home. They booked 3 days that July in a dark, humid, dirty warehouse on the North side of Chicago – recently outfitted with a 1960’s 7-track tape machine (one channel was broken). Jon Alvin engineered, Chris Faller drummed, and the trio recorded live to tape. It was such a catharsis that they repeated the process twice more between 2009 and 2010. Giving the results of these whirlwind sessions away for free, Mutts quickly attracted an audience for their unique sound.
The band’s reputation for rambunctious live performances grew, and they soon headlined renowned venues such as The Empty Bottle, Subterranean and Double Door. Loud Loop Press called them “poised to become one of Chicago’s top acts.” However, its former-athlete-and-recovered-auditor frontman still had something to personally own up to.
Many Mutts songs condemn the duplicity of corporate greed, divisive politics, fear mongering media and closeted public figures who supress the LGBT community. But Maimone felt hypocritical in his socially conscious songwriting, having recently come out to himself and his band mates. So with Buckstaff’s encouragement, he started opening up to his friends and family – news that was also met with mixed reception. But, the songwriter was finally able to write and speak openly about an important part of his life.
Mutts released their first full length album – Pray for Rain – in December 2011. It charted on CMJ in its first week and made many year-end “best” lists. An amalgam of rock, metal, soul and blues music, this album reminds us that we are all Mutts. By making truthful art, we can encourage people to live honest lives and celebrate the diversity among us and within us.
With six consecutive weeks on the CMJ Top 200 and named The Deli’s Chicago Band of 2011, Mutts are not stopping to rest. Along with new drummer Chris Pagnani, they have begun tracking a double LP for Summer and Winter releases, and are currently touring throughout the Midwest and East Coast.
RESPONSIBLE AGENT: TYLER REHM