Courtesy of Bare Mutants
If you think you’ve heard Bare Mutants before, it’s because you probably have. The new project of the Ponys’ Jered Gummere, the slick-backed baritone and somber songwriting of the five-person band aren’t too far off from the Velvet Underground-inspired indie rock that made Gummere famous.
What has changed is Gummere himself.
“I had a total meltdown this morning,” he admits by phone, on the road to a gig in Minneapolis. But it’s not from pulling a bender or any other glossy rockstar cliches. The frontman’s been suffering from newborn daughter separation anxiety.
“It’s the first time I’ve left since she’s been born,” says the new dad.
Domesticity has become a way of life for Gummere since he took his last bow with The Ponys in 2007. In the hiatus before this new project, the singer took a job as a carpenter and spent his weekends catching up on sports radio. “I had to take a huge break from music. I was over it,” he admits—and for good reason.
As one of Chicago’s rock royalty acts of the 2000s, the Ponys toured relentlessly and pumped out three albums in three years for In the Red and Matador Records before finally disbanding.
“There was music in the van, music each night. I just needed to turn it off and sit on my couch and watch the Bears.”
Slowly though, Gummere was drawn back to songwriting, and in 2011, he began work on music that would become Bare Mutants. Although the effort was originally intended as a solo labor, Gummere “got lonely” and brought other local vets to the fold, including Seth Bohn from Mannequin Men and Jeanine O’Toole from The 1900s. They helped flesh out the pensive, fuzzy slow jams on the band’s debut The Affliction. One of the album’s standouts is the emotive “Crying with Bob,” a track about the doorman at Empty Bottle where Gummere works.
“We both were really going through some rough times with our families,” Gummere says. While he was coping with the loss of both parents within three years, his coworker was dealing with the death of his father. “The song was about us helping each other through that time.”
It’s that sense of community that keeps Gummere rooted here in Chicago, although he has been tempted to pick up and move a few times.
“As I’m getting older there’s a whole new scene but I feel I still have a good grasp of what’s going on here,” he says, recalling a recent Cairo Gang show he went to at the Burlington and revealing his admiration for Angel Olsen’s new album.
But for those thinking that connection might tempt the Ponys to rekindle the flames, it’s time to get over it.
“Most of us are just not into it anymore,” Gummere says, noting guitarist Brian Case’s focus on his own band, Disappears. “It’s probably best that we just move on to new adventures.”
Thankfully, Bare Mutants is just getting started on theirs.
Bare Mutants play a record release show at Empty Bottle on Friday, September 13 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and available here.