Mates of State’s Jason Hammel (left) and Kori Gardner are a family affair.
MATES OF STATE with JUDGEMENT DAY at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), Monday (August 4), 9 pm. $15. 416-870-8000.
Mates of State might be a husband-and-wife power pop duo, but that doesn't mean every tour feels like a second honeymoon. If anything, it resembles a daycare.
"We have two vans," says drummer Jason Hammel, explaining how their two children join them on the road. "One's the party van and one's the family van."
Travelling with a child is nothing new for Hammel and his spouse/keyboardist, Kori Gardner, whose four-year-old daughter has toured with them since she was 10 weeks old, but now they have a new addition to the family, a seven-month-old girl.
"We have her along with us right now, but the older one's at home," says Hammel, en route to the Vancouver airport after finishing up a Pemberton Festival gig. "Kori's still nursing."
The couple also gave birth last year to their high-energy album Re-arrange Us (Barsuk). Like their previous efforts, it's loud and energetic, and the boy-girl harmonies are as polished as ever. But Gardner did ditch her trademark organ for a piano, which refined some of the band's usual roughness.
"The organ has a pretty abrasive tone - you can't get away from it," says Hammel. "When you take it away it's like when a car alarm turns off."
Moving from an organ to a piano doesn't seem like a big deal, but the twosome worried that the experiment would backfire.
"The organ was the main ingredient in our band in a lot of ways," he says, "so we were nervous about getting rid of it."
Piano or not, instrument choice doesn't affect their songwriting process, which, not surprisingly, is a bit unusual. Unlike most acts, Mates of State have to work when their daughter goes to school.
"We have to set aside time to write," says Hammel. "Magnolia goes to school for two hours, and we're like, ‘Okay, now we really have to get to work.'"
The pressure to produce in such a short time frame has its advantages. "Before we had kids we were lazy," Hammel admits. "Now we're more focused. We only have two hours every day, so it gives us discipline."
While on tour with the tots, they're giving their kids a musical education most adults can only dream of.
"We saw My Morning Jacket, Black Mountain and the Flaming Lips," says Hammel, revealing which bands the family took in at Pemberton. "Tomorrow we're driving to Lollapalooza."