New Orleans-based singer Paul Meany and his band Mutemath have garnered comparisons to Radiohead and Muse, but the choppy rhythms and songwriting on “Backfire” indicate a touch of French band Phoenix. Here, Meany discusses the process of recording the song—from the band’s latest album, Armistice (Warner Bros.)—at Sweet Tea studios in Oxford, Mississippi and reveals fives pieces of gear he can’t live without.
“‘Backfire’ came into existence when [guitarist] Greg [Hill] stumbled upon some setting on an old analog delay pedal. He immediately started into that riff as he was reacting to this sound. I remember running to the control room to press record before he lost it. Greg kept looping that part while the rest of the band scrambled to their instruments and they jammed for about an hour on it. After we had recorded the initial "spark" tracks, I took some time to throw down some vocals, which luckily enough came fairly immediately. The song had a gripping nature to it that was inherently more quirky than anything we had written before, so building it was one of the more enjoyable songs on the record.
“I remember doing some basic percussion overdubs in the hallway at Sweet Tea. [Drummer] Darren [King] went in there with some of his customary jangly assortment, but everything he was recording didn't seem to work. The rest of us were in the control room waiting for Darren to find that "thing" the song still needed. After about five takes, we let him try again and started hearing what we all thought was a trumpet. It definitely got our attention because none of us knew Darren played the trumpet, and he was in there wailing. I ran in there to see what was going on to find Darren sliding his fingers up and down this tin corrugated wall, and it sounded incredible. We compressed the hell out of it, slammed it through Auto-Tune and wound up getting some a tonal-sounding trumpet for the song.
“Five pieces of gear I can't do without: Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler, Roland VS-2480 digital workstation, 2-track tape machine, Shure SM57 mics, Yamaha E1005 delay.”