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Mates of State are one quirky husband-and-wife band

Mates of StateBy Josh Herwitt //

Mates of State with Babes, Fictionist //
Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles
January 26th, 2015 //

It’s not every day that you see a husband and wife start a band and make it work for 17 years.

But after seven LPs, three EPs and a number of other releases on their résumé, Mates of State’s Kori Gardner (vocals, organ, synthesizer, piano, electric piano, guitar) and Jason Hammel (vocals, drums, percussion, synthesizer) are still going strong, with a new album on the horizon more than three years since dropping 2011’s well-received Mountaintops.

At the warehouse-styled Bootleg Hifi in LA’s Historic Filipinotown neighborhood, the indie-pop duo introduced some of those new tunes that we can expect to be released this May, but it was older cuts like “My Only Offer,” “The Re-Arranger,” “Goods (All in Your Head)” and “Now We’re Gonna Get It” that had the small, but loyal audience singing along on a cold, rainy Monday evening.

Mates of State

Though it was clear that Mates of State’s sound still remains confined largely to keyboards and drums, the couple’s ability to harmonize and play off each other with their vocal parts has always been one of the group’s greatest attributes since its early beginnings, which date back to the late 90’s in Lawrence, Kan. Because from the way Gardner and Hammel create polyphonies with their voices alone, it sounds as if they are playing another instrument altogether — both in and out of the studio.

Back at the half-filled Bootleg, Gardner and Hammel crack a few jokes in between songs, going back and forth at one point about whether the next song was about kidney stones (as Hammel claimed) or Hurricane Katrina (as Gardner countered). While the subject matters being debated aren’t normally meant to be funny, their banter was hard not to chuckle at, offering fans a lighthearted moment to remember during the hour-long set. They even traded places (sort of) for a song, as Gardner took a seat behind the drum kit and Hammel manned the mic at the front of the stage.

To close things out, Gardner and Hammel didn’t leave their promise — or maybe it was supposed to be more of a tease — unkept, leaving us with their new cover of Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” before exiting stage left. It felt like a rather strange and anti-climactic way to end the show, which started with LA-based band Babes and continued with Utah alt-rockers Fictionist before the main event.

But as Cyrus sings to open her song, “It’s our party we can do what we want,” and on this late January night, the so-called party, if you will, belonged to the husband and wife on stage.

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