The Mascot Theory
We are sitting at Erik Kjelland’s kitchen table in Madison, and it is pretty obvious; there is an album release show just around the corner. Boxes of re-branded merchandise for his band, The Mascot Theory (TMT), along with specially roasted coffee, cups, and posters featuring the band’s new, official line-up are piled in any used-to-be empty spots around the house. But most important, so are copies of the band’s new, freshly pressed CD.
As Erik and I talk, we are also listening to some songs off the disc he just-picked-up. It’s such new music, few others have had a chance to hear it. “It’s the first time we’ve done it that way,” Erik says. “We used to play the song out live, and eventually record it, but this time added strings and horns in the studio so many of the songs have never been performed live yet. We went in to the studio, worked through the songs by adding some great drum parts here, guitar parts there. We went in without any plans for what the songs needed to sound like, and where we started with three songs, in the end we have 11 just filled with great emotion and sound.” Erik isn’t kidding. The sound is big. In fact the first track, “Awakened,” you could describe as having an almost epic feel when you listen to it. It’s also a bit of a rocker. Corey’s voice adds to the beauty of the horns in “Every Chamber,” while “Black T-Shirts” is a big surprise. It’s a full, happy-sounding song about a dark subject. My personal favorite is “The Monster.” It delivers on some of the things you’d expect from The Mascot Theory, but then adds in a surprise from a guest artist who only helps solidify the strength of the song.
So what is leading to some of this change, especially for a long-time band?
Erik attributes a part of the new sound to the new line-up, and new enthusiasm for playing together again. Erik, who is the founder, singer, acoustic guitar and harmonica player; Nick Fry, sings and plays upright bass; and drummer, percussionist, and singer Paul Metz have been together for years. But adding the well-known regional musician, and Lost Lakes band leader Corey Mathew Hart on vocals and electric guitar, has led to some pretty great surprises. Probably the biggest being that it’s ramped up each member’s individual efforts, and that of the entire group. “We actually didn’t go out looking for this to happen. Corey started by filling-in at shows when our former guitar player wasn’t able to make it. We wrote a few songs together, and through the entire process, found him to be a true professional musician,” Erik says. “This new foursome now just feels right, plus it’s really comfortable with him, too. Corey brings so much to the table, and the biggest thing is he makes all of us want to play together more than ever. Making music really is number-1 for him, and it is for us, too.”
Music has long been a priority for the members of The Mascot Theory and the group has the accolades to back up the work. Five albums, more than a dozen Madison Area Music Association Awards, along with nominations for the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Awards, and Erik recently earning a WAMI win for Male Vocalist of the Year. Each has also worked with other projects, some are ongoing, but The Mascot Theory is the one that’s been regularly playing shows. And though Erik now calls it a ‘bump in the road,’ the line-up change could take this band to the next level. You can hear it on this new album. And you will see it when they take the stage to play the songs from it for the first time. “This was just written, so it is fresh, and it is this band’s work,” Erik says. “It represents this particular time for us, and all the songs that go with this time. But we are already planning to keep writing and recording new music. I really believe the best is yet to come.”
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The Mascot Theory’s show for the release of the new CD, “Dawn and What Comes After,” is Friday, August 10th at The Brink Lounge in Madison. Opening, and also releasing a new CD is the duo Future Stuff, featuring Madison-native, Gabe Burdulis, who now calls Nashville home.
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