Short-circuited spazz pop screamers Math the Band have been grinding out and streaking across the country for nearly a decade, spreading a tapestry of peaked soundboard levels and extreme sincerity.
Guitarist, singer, and composer Kevin Steinhauser teamed up with his girlfriend Justine Mainville in 2007 to solidify the current line-up, and he estimates the band is approaching over 900 live shows played. While acknowledging the grueling physical toll of near-constant touring, Steinhauser says the band is fueled by a positive feedback loop of high-tempo posi-punk songs feeding high-energy audiences who give the good feelings right back.
"Every night we see people who are all probably motivated and energetic people themselves," he says. "It all feeds into itself."
The band spent last summer recording their latest album, Get Real, at the mammoth non-profit art collective AS220 in Providence, Rhode Island, where the two are artists in residence. The album combines the arena-sized bear-hug riffage of party rocker Andrew WK (who brought Math on tour last year), the tweaked synth dorkery of Atom and His Package, and the absurd yet serious motivational verse of traveling YouTube "Internet poet" Steve Roggenbuck. The band proudly notes that not a single track on Get Real dips below 170 beats per minute.
Though the music is an over-caffeinated spree, Steinhauser is even-keeled and soft-spoken on the phone, thinking carefully about how to describe his process for writing lyrics that are as manically silly as they are universally motivational. "We don't have anything in the past four or five years that are narrative songs," he says. "I write the lyrics last, but I'll have the melody for the lyrics written and just fill it in like a Mad Lib."
He only makes a statement that merits exclamation when talking about writing "Tour de Friends" from their 2009 album Don't Worry, a frantic slideshow of memories he jotted down while on the road. "A motorcycle rode into a grocery store, I saw that happen in California," he laughs. "Nobody else saw it. They all thought I was lying! The lyrics to that song are just one jumbled thought after another."
The band's music videos are perfectly parallel: the Tumblr-colored imagery of cat .GIFs and pizza slices injected with gnarly Tim and Eric graphic drool. Steinhauser offered an open call to friends and fans interested in conceiving video ideas for the new songs, and among those directors are John Yi, who currently directs his own HBO miniseries, Small Talk. Their most recent video, a clip forGet Real
's stomping title track directed by Eric Michener, is a slow-motion montage of mutton-busting footage, a youth rodeo event where five-year-old boys wrap their bodies around stampeding sheep and inevitably face-plant in the dirt.
Some people simply can't keep up with vibes this frantic, but Steinhauser is secure in knowing that their antics are a turn-off to anyone not willing to fully jump in. "This is weird to say, but I think it takes a certain kind of person to be really into our band," he says. "I feel like most people that like our band would be friends with one another."
Of course, physical preparedness factors heavily into Math the Band's longevity. In addition to stretching, Steinhauser said there is often some innocent chemical assistance involved. "Justine usually drinks a Red Bull a half-hour before the set," Steinhauser admits, "but I don't really do that."
His pre-game routine involves not eating at least five hours before the set, a practice he adopted from his time on the high school track and field team. "I still get nervous and jumpy before every single show," he says, "like I'm crouching down at the starting block, waiting for them to shoot the gun, excited and anxious."
Beyond nerves, the regiment is a practical way to prevent onstage spewing. "Not for the shock factor, my stomach just wasn't doing so good," he laughs. "It's better now, but in the last few years, there's a lot of people who have seen me throw up."
Math the Band is scheduled to perform Monday, December 3, at Trunk Space.