Smile Politely

On the road with a bunch of Mutts

Last spring, I interviewed a delightful band called Mutts. They were playing at Mike N’ Molly’s, my most frequent hang-out in C-U. A couple of weeks ago, I was surprised to get an email from Mike Maimone, the piano player and vocalist from Mutts:

Hi Katie, how are you? I hope all has been well!
We’re out on the road for 25 days & 24 shows this month, and are excited to have just been added as support for The Dirt Daubers at Cowboy Monkey. The singer is also in the Legendary Shack Shakers. It should be an awesome show, and it’s been a few months since we’ve had the pleasure of visiting C-U, so we’re stoked. If you can make it we’d love to see you there. Here are the details:

Friday, Sept 20
Cowboy Monkey (
Doors: 9
Mutts: 10 (
Dirt Daubers: 11:15 (

Thanks, Katie, and have a great weekend!


Mike Maimone

How fun is this? I’ve interviewed this band and I already like them, plus they’re on an insane tour that includes one of the best places to hear live music in C-U. So, over the past couple of weeks, I emailed back-and-forth with Mike Maimone, Bob Buckstaff [upright bass], and Chris Pagnani [drums/percussion] on their journey through America. As they took turns at the wheel (and laptop), I got to enjoy my very favorite combination: road trips and music.

Smile Politely: Tell me about this tour! Whose idea was it? Or did you just happen to have 24 shows in 25 days…

Mike Maimone: After our LP release tour for Object Permanence in the Spring, we spent the Summer playing regional festivals around the Midwest. It felt like we still were gaining momentum on the new album, so we should just keep on playing out. Also, while the response to the new acoustic songs was fantastic, we heard from a lot of friends and fans that they did miss the amplified feel. So, on this tour, it has been exciting to blend the two. And we’re playing a lot of cities we’ve been frequenting, so we’re getting to headline and play longer sets for the most part, which makes it possible to create peaks and valleys in the set list. It’s definitely our most dynamic and challenging tour yet, and so far the audiences have been overwhelmingly receptive to the mix.

SP: That’s great! How far along are you on this tour? When did it start/when does it end?

Maimone: Today is Day 5 of 25. It kicked off at the northernmost point of East Lansing, MI and ends at Midpoint Music Fest in Cincinnati. Our outermost stops are New York to the East, Nashville to the South, and Columbia, MO to the West. Definitely looking forward to another visit to Champaign in the middle!

I’m currently writing to you on the way to State College, PA. The wooded landscape is still clinging to its shades of green, and we’re flanked by golden wildflowers and tall brush. I’m not sure if this is Pennsylvania yet or still Ohio, but it’s beautiful.

SP: Gorgeous…

What are your road trip be necessities?

Maimone: Coffee is essential. Whiskey used to be, but lately venues are being cooler about watering us. Jude (our tour van), baby wipes and Gold Bond (we don’t have A/C and you gotta stay fresh somehow), and a football or another projectile for passing time or getting the blood following after a long drive. Bread, cheese, hummus, and gas station condiment packets make up our dinner feasts. Oh, and keys. Can’t forget the keys. 

SP: What’s your favorite sit-down, on-the-road hot meal, Bob? [Interviewees changed briefly]

Buckstaff: This tour we’re trying to do Saturday morning hot breakfast at the local greasy spoon. Yesterday it was the Yankee Kitchen in Youngstown, OH. The kind of joint with a five dollar special. Eggs, homefries and rye toast all around. Big ole carafe of black [coffee], too. We’re essentially truckers. Young, swassy truckers.

SP: Swassy is going in my permanent vocabulary.

How do you keep from fighting? Road trips can be rough!

Buckstaff: Vitamin C and kinesthetics every morning and a white noise generator at night.

SP: Sound advice! No pun intended, I swear… 

Do you ever get tired of touring or is it pretty awesome all the time?

Buckstaff: We love it. That’s why we make it a staple in our lives. There’s so much to see. So many great people to relate to in a way that can only be done with music. We’re a few dudes from a plain state that get to climb mountains and dip our feet in an ocean or two every now and again.

That being said, it’s not awesome all of the time. Nothing is. Touring is a job. The “Mondays” still exist on the road. It’s midnight at Nowhere Bar, USA as opposed to nine a.m. at the office. We get a great deal of gratification out of our work, though, and great response from our audience. Those are the things that keep a guy clocking in every day.

SP: Gotta love your job! 

Any good stories from the tour so far? Jerks or angels?

Mike Maimone: So far I’m happy to say no jerks, plenty of angels! We’ve been hosted at a few old and new friends’ places each night; it’s always fun to hang out after a show and then have couches and floors to get some good sleep. 

Last night we played a festival/fund-raiser for an organization in Youngstown called Golden String Radio which employs adults with disabilities at an internet radio station. They are great people, and the lineup was incredible. We played just before headliners Daikaiju, which is an experience you have to see to believe. It’s intense instrumental surf punk played by four guys in Kabuki masks. By the 2nd song the guitarists were in the crowd shredding and moshing at the same time. By the end, even the drummer had moved his kit onto the ground and they finished the set with the audience on the stage, around and amongst the band members. It’s another reason we love touring; we get to cross paths with inspiring (and sometimes possibly insane) artists!

SP: That sounds incredible. Kabuki masks and possibly insane artists? Sounds like a good time! 

How do you think your experiences since last spring will shape the Cowboy Monkey show?

Maimone: This is our first time at Cowboy Monkey. We’ve played Mike and Molly’s a handful of times – the last one was on the Object Permanence release tour in May. By the time we get back to you on September 20, we will have played 64 more gigs. While all the traveling and performing makes us tighter and better as a band, we’ve also visited old friends on the road who have gotten married or broken up or had kids or moved or gotten a dog since we last saw them… constant reminders of how much life keeps rolling forward whether you’re moving or stationary. It makes us want to give everything we’ve got each night, to make each show special because, for now, those are the milestones by which we measure our own lives.

SP: That’s a great way to look at it. Life keeps rolling… 

What’s coming later? Are you cooking up an album? Or am I stressing you out. “Just let us finish the tour! Geeze!”

Chris Pagnani, pictured right

Chris Pagnani: For this band, there’s always a new, next thing on the horizon, if only because, to amuse ourselves, we’ll often say, “What if we tried (insert wacky experiment here)?” and then we feel obligated to accept our own challenge.

When we got into the studio a year and a half ago with the intent to record our second full-length [album], we decided we should push ourselves to actually complete two new LPs, and, hey, while we’re at it, why not get even weirder and do one record using solely acoustic instruments (upright bass rather than electric, grand piano instead of a distorted keyboard). More recently, when discussing whether or not to repress the original three Mutts EPs that are now out of print, we thought maybe we should just record a live album where we perform those records and put that out. So we simply booked the date for the show and went from there.

We get a lot of exciting results from ideas that initially might seem goofy. This band really just enjoys setting the bar for ourselves a little bit higher with each project. We don’t spend time thinking about whether or not it would work for another band because then nothing would get done.

As for the coming months, we obviously will be thinking more about when and how to properly release the live record. I know we’re also pretty eager to get into a room together and finally start working on new songs. We’ve been on the road a lot this past year, so writing hasn’t been our top priority. It’s just a cool feeling to know that, regardless of what we decide to work on next, it’ll never be too this or too that. Nothing’s really taboo -it’s all just Mutts.

SP: What a great attitude! I also think Insert Wacky Experiment Here is a good album title, by the way. 

Live albums are an unknown process to me. Do you record certain shows, knowing that you’ll use them for the album or do you compile different nights?

Mike Maimone: For the live album we just did one show all the way through. We wanted to re-release our first three EPs that are now out of print, so we just did all of those songs in a row. It put a lot of pressure on us to pull it off, as well as our engineer to capture the performance on the spot. There were definitely a couple errors, but it’s a true reflection of three guys playing live together, which is pretty much how those songs were recorded initially. So we’re happy with the outcome. Now we just need to mix it down and find a good time to put it out there. We also might look for a small tape label to help with that.


This is how my night is likely to go down: Get to Cowboy Monkey by 9 p.m., when doors open; hear Mutts play at 10 p.m.; drink cold beer; lose voice. 

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