The music of Mates of State has always been playfully innocent and unabashedly upbeat. Since forming a decade ago in Lawrence, Kan., the husband-and-wife duo of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel has released a string of sticky-sweet studio albums with hooky synth lines, two-part harmonies and bounding rhythms. But on their latest CD, Re-Arrange Us, Gardner and Hammel show that they've grown a little older and wiser, with their richest and most reflective collection of songs to date. Click the link above to hear Mates of State showcase the new album in a full concert, webcast live on NPR.org from the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. Also on the bill is the Florida band Black Kids.
When Hammel and Gardner first met in the mid-'90s, they were both involved with other people and other bands. But they eventually formed Mates of State in 1997, and married in 2001. They've since released five studio albums and had two children, now both under the age of 5. Re-Arrange Us, which many music critics picked among the best releases of 2008, celebrates the balancing act Hammel and Gardner have had to orchestrate among marriage, parenthood and music.
In an interview with NPR's Rachel Martin, Gardner says Mates of State's optimistic music is inspired largely by the pair's young children.
"I sort of feel like you can't keep saying the same thing over and over; like, things do have to improve at some point," Gardner says. "And I guess, looking on the bright side, even for our family's sake, I feel like it's better than sitting around talking about how many problems there are in the world."
"I think it's just instinct to put on a brave face in front of your kids," Hammel adds. "I think we're like, 'Oh, we got two kids now, so now we really have to be tough, or strong.' "
Co-headlining Saturday's concert is the Florida-based band Black Kids. The quintet's 2008 album Partie Traumatic featured the wildly addictive and hugely popular song "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You." The track was a massive hit on the blogosphere, giving the band tremendous buzz and heaps of praise from critics.
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