M.U.T.T. by Jason Abramovitz
M.U.T.T. by Jason Abramovitz

“Punk rules, everyone else can kick rocks.” – an interview with San Francisco band M.U.T.T.

7 mins read

Rising from the echoes of Culture Abuse, a band that met its end too soon, John Jr. found himself adrift in the uncertainty of what could follow such an intense chapter. The dissolution wasn’t just a closure but a catapult that flung him towards a new beginning. This pivot point led to an exchange of home recordings with Matt Walker, igniting the spark that would become M.U.T.T., a band that soon expanded with the addition of Isa Anderson and Shane Plitt, former comrades from diffrent projects.

We caught up with the band to talk about their genesis from the ashes of Culture Abuse, the alchemy of their diverse musical influences, and the deeply personal stories that fuel their lyrics. We also touched on the almighty influence of San Francisco itself, a city that both destroys and inspires in equal measure, and how working with Jack Shirley shaped the sonic signature of “Dirty Deeds.”

“Dirty Deeds” was released on February 23rd on Quiet Panic Records.

After the rollercoaster ride with Culture Abuse, how did M.U.T.T. become the phoenix rising for you guys? Was there a ‘eureka’ moment when you all realized, “Yeah, this is our sound now”?

That took awhile to be honest. When we started writing for this new band we were starting, my goal was to initially have that sound you hear on “Dirty Deeds”. In the very beginning, we started writing fun, lighthearted songs a la the Ramones, Screeching Weasel etc. that weren’t meant to be serious. We were very eager to be out playing live shows again, and just have fun together. I say that because the last few years of Culture Abuse were a very difficult time. It’s very hard to be in a full time career band, there’s a lot of stress, a lot of uncertainty, you’re out on the road a ton. Despite all the late nights, bad food, and miles driven, the highlight was always performing. So after Culture Abuse ended, playing shows is what we missed the most.

M.U.T.T. by Jason Abramovitz
M.U.T.T. by Jason Abramovitz

How did you guys navigate through your wide array of influences to distill something that screams M.U.T.T.? Was there a lot of tug-o-war in the studio, or did the pieces just naturally fall into place?

If there was ever a conflict within this band as far as writing new material goes, we wouldn’t do this anymore. All of us in M.U.T.T. have been through the ringer as far as band experiences go. So we’re fortunate enough to have a strong friendship first that helps make this band what it is. If it wasn’t fun to do, we wouldn’t wanna do it at all. We’re all passed the point of playing music to “make it” or whatever that means, we are doing this band because we all LOVE playing music together. Yeah, we all dig different music, we all vibe in our own way, but that’s what’s good in this band.

Matt for instance — HUGE Thin Lizzy head, the kid wishes he was Phil Lynott. So when we were writing the song “Downtown Boy”, I legit said: “this song needs a sick guitar lead, and that’s on you.” And he nailed it!!!! And that’s what makes that song so good!!!!! Same with everyone else in the band! We know each other so well that we trust each other to play our parts in our own way! And having different musical influences and styles creates a more eclectic style that could appeal to more rockers out there.

“SF Is Killing Me” hits hard with its raw honesty and personal backstory. Can you dive a bit deeper into how your environment and personal experiences in SF bleed into your music? How do you balance that line between personal storytelling and making it universally relatable?

SF right now is in an “interesting” phase. I moved to Downtown SF, which has always been gnarly, but I was excited to be in the heart of the city. However, once I began walking the streets and attempting to discover my new neighborhood, I realized what shape this city is currently in. All the retail stores Downtown are no longer, just empty storefronts. Drugs and addicts on every corner. I literally have to watch my feet while I walk to make sure I’m not gonna step in shit, which is always a gamble because it could be from a dog or an unhoused local with nowhere else to go.

With the tech industry in flux, the work from home initiative a lot of companies took to because of the pandemic, and with a sore in crime due to the lax theft laws, a lot of business don’t wanna bother with a brick and mortar any more. That’s where the inspiration from this song began. As I was walking home from work one night, I just started writing some poetry about what I saw. Once we were deep into the writing process, our bass player Shane came to us with this song. So as we worked on that together, I began to take the writings I had and mold them along with some of the late night conversations I’ve had with Shane about where he feels his life is at, and what struggles he experiences daily with his mental health, living situations, love, and fear.

It’s tough to talk about because the song has a negative connotation to it, even though it’s written about a person I love so deeply. But the point wasn’t to put his shit on blast, it was to help him see that he’s not the only one in the world struggling. If there are those who can relate to these experiences, that’s a good thing for everyone. Let’s talk about it.

M.U.T.T. by Jason Abramovitz
M.U.T.T. by Jason Abramovitz

Working with a Grammy-nominated producer like Jack Shirley must have been a trip. How did his expertise shape the sound of Dirty Deeds? Were there moments during recording when he just blew your minds with his suggestions or changes?

Jack is one sick ass MFer. Him and I have been friends for 20+ years and never really worked together in music, I guess maybe the timing wasn’t ever right. When M.U.T.T. started up, the only person I wanted to work with was Jack. And maybe its because we’re so comfortable with each other that he has no qualms telling us to play better and for me to try to sing on fucking key. He is integral in our sound at this point. We let him do his thing completely. We just show up and play, and he works his magic. We go back and forth with mixing notes and stuff and he has no issues with us being stupid ass shit when it comes to telling him what we want to hear, he is very good at deciphering our nonsense. And that’s why that MFers name is in the Grammy history books.

With shows lined up in SF and Sacramento, what’s the vibe you’re aiming to bring to the stage? Any special preparations or rituals now that you’re showcasing a whole new beast with Dirty Deeds?

Right now, our focus is delivering these songs as powerfully as they sound recorded. We are tweaking things in our rehearsals to make sure these songs fucking go off. We always like to mix some samples in with our set so it’s never quite, and we even go as far as to play a hype track before a song to keep the energy high. We just wanna rock the fuck out!

M.U.T.T. by Jason Abramovitz
M.U.T.T. by Jason Abramovitz

So, Dirty Deeds drops and the world gets a taste of the new M.U.T.T. What’s the grand plan for 2024? Hitting more stages, spreading the M.U.T.T. gospel far and wide, or maybe diving back into the studio for the next chapter?

Absolutely!! We are working on playing more dates out that work with the individual schedules we have. We’d love to tour, but we also love our jobs and apartments, so everything has to make sense for us. If that means we fly out and do some shows in this area of the country when we can, we will. We got plans to hit the East Coast and maybe, maaaaaaaaybe hit the UK. We’ll see, but we’re stoked!!!!!

The Bay Area’s music scene is a treasure trove of talent. Which local bands or artists have been lighting up your world recently? Any shoutouts to acts that everyone should be keeping an eye on?

Bay Area is strong as fuck right now. With all the sick hardcore bands coming out of the South Bay, everyone is really paying attention to what’s going on here. Shout out to Strangelight, Pardoner, Fentanyl, Toner, Bite the Hand, Pale Green Stars, Viral Sun, States of Nature, West Cult, shiiiiiiiit this list could go on and on but I’ll leave it with those stand outs right now.

M.U.T.T. by Jason Abramovitz
M.U.T.T. by Jason Abramovitz

Punk’s had its ups and downs but always finds a way to stay relevant. In your eyes, what’s the secret sauce that keeps punk vital in today’s music landscape? How does M.U.T.T. contribute to that ever-evolving story?

Punk stays relevant because we’re the ones creating scenes and making cool shit happen. Why do you think the Kardashians rock vintage metal/punk merch?! Why do major brands promote new products with zines or guerrilla marketing? Why do huge music artists have photos that look like analog photography or have Xerox textures?! Cause it’s sick as fuck and more than likely, that trend was created by a punk or punk adjacent. Punk rules, everyone else can kick rocks.

Feel free to drop anything that you feel is worth sharing here. Cheers for your time!

Check out the “Dirty Deeds” EP! It’s tight as hell for real. We worked our asses off to make this group of songs a stepping stone for us and it’ll only get better! Don’t miss out on being the old head.

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