Nina Simone opens a recorded performance of "Mississippi Goddam" by saying that the song is "a show tune, but the show hasn't been written for it yet." The Mute Group approaches every song this way, if the shows were dark, period operettas.
The Mute Group met and live in Nashville, TN, but their training is further afield: Amy is a Baroque organist and a former producer for the Memphis Symphony; Zachary is a Byzantine chanter and the former songwriter for defunct Nashville prog-pop group Umbrella Tree; Ryan is a unicorn who can’t seem to do anything badly, formerly of Porcelain Teeth, Umbrella Tree, and the one-man Crowned Whale project; John is a University of New Orleans–trained jazz drummer with his own experimental/improvisation career.
“The set became theatrical immediately,” says Gresham. “The songs are as much about the characters’ voices and the way they speak as they are about their situations and feelings, so it always feels operatic. Amy sings a lot more than she thought she would, but she sounds great and it breathes life into the dialogue. A lot of the new songs are about archaeological uncertainty and dealing with historical kinship. The rest are about witchcraft and sex.”
Sinister Hand, will be released on YK Records in October 2018.