Justin Mauriello, head of the I Hate Kate trio, is only in his mid-twenties and already has a seasoned career. At the beginning of the last decade with his first band, Zebrahead, he found respectable success both here in the States and in Japan. In 2004, he put all of his efforts into his side project I Hate Kate.
Since then, the band has gained major traction in Denver - the act's newest single "Free Without You" became the most listened to song on KTCL - thanks to the support of Jeb Freedman (better known in these parts as Nerf, KTCL's program director and afternoon drive time host).
We caught up with Mauriello in advance of I Hate Kate's show at the Marquis tomorrow night, and asked him about the new album, working with Lee Miles (Oh My Stars, Tickle Me Pink), how it feels to be an LA band but to get so much love in Denver. He also told us about the real life Kate and how a recent freakout on her part is prompting a name change.
Westword (Brian Frederick): Your newest album is rumored to be produced by Lee Miles. Any truth to this?
Justin Mauriello (JM): Yeah, we worked on it with Lee. He's a character. We did this new record with him and also a new one for Japan, so I did two with the guy in six months. I've spent a lot of time with him, plus he lives right down the street from me, so we hang out quite a bit. On a musician level, I really respect him and think he's very talented and full of good ideas. On the friendship level, I just really like the guy. He's good people.
WW: Colorado became a main launching point for I Hate Kate a few years back. How does it feel to have that success from a state you're not originally from?
JM: Oh I'm very happy with it. [laughs] I like it a lot! Obviously we have got much love for the Denver area. Every time we play, it's just incredible. The people there are very receptive. KTCL has been great, NERF has been great, the shows have been phenomenal and all the local bands the same way.
The whole music scene has been really nice. People ask us all the time, 'Are we from there?' We say no, but it's almost like we are. Everybody has been very accepting as far as having us involved in Denver's music scene. It's really cool having that feeling like everyone from the fans to the bands to the radio stations are so supportive that it feels like home even though we're from L.A.
WW: You've been in the industry for more than a decade...
JM: Well over a decade, and I'm still only 26 -- how amazing is that!? Well you know I was a precocious young boy; I started at a very young age. You know how that is, man? I started young in music. I started driving before I got a license. I was very sexually active at a very young age. I was just very precocious; I started early.
WW: In that span of time you've most likely seen your own highs and lows. What's your take on the industry today?
JM: For bands, it's really good now because you don't have to rely on labels so much to make or break you. If you've got a little bit of talent and a lot of gumption then you can do something. You can make a name for yourself. You can get out there. As far as getting your band known, I think it's great.
The music industry is kind of odd right now, where is it going, where is it headed, you know? It seems to keep changing and evolving like, 'Where are we going now?' And everyone is emerging together without knowing what they're doing. There's a lot of interesting parts to it. I'd like to see where it's going in the next few years.
It's changed a lot, I mean a LOT, in the last decade. It's good because bands can do a lot on their own where you couldn't before. At the same time, if you wanted to get the push from major labels, it's not as easy as it used to be. They're not handing out deals like they used to hand out, and they're not handing out as big of deals as they used to hand out.
Now, they want more, they want more of a percentage of more things as they wanted before, because they're not selling like they used to. So they make up for it in other areas. You know, it's interesting, but to be honest with you, as far as music and creating music, it's a real exciting time because people are getting more and more experimental and more shit comes out where people are pushing the envelopes. Who was it that said, "the most exciting time of your life is when you have no idea what's happening next?"
WW: That must mean I've had an exciting life thus far?
JM: [laughs] That's what I'm saying. That's what keeps me on my toes. Fuck being in the comfort zone, man. That's when you become complacent.
WW: What's with the story surrounding I Hate Kate and its namesake?
JM: Kate had a little bit of a freak out, and started threatening us with lawsuits and whatnot. So we said, "Okay." The best bet for us is to go ahead and change it. We thought of a bunch of ideas about keeping Kate in there or changing it to IHK so people still know it's us, but then we said, "You know what? Fuck it. Let's just start with a different name."
So that is what's going to happen. Soon, very soon. In fact, she left a very nasty voicemail on my phone, it was really amazing. It was so amazing I saved it, and sent it over to Nerf. He said he's going to try and play it on the air, which is going to be great. It's one of the better phone calls I've ever gotten. It's horrendous. We can sit around and mope about it or just say, "Okay, this is what we've got to do, and do it and move on."
WW: The last album was a cynical and sarcastic view into failed relationships. Is the new one in the same vein?
JM: The new record is a little bit darker, musically. It's not over the top but definitely a bit. Lyrically, it's great. It's kind of about breaking out of being in a position of being unhappy. Or being in a comfort zone. Somewhere where you're not making progress or making the changes you need to make in your life and just breaking out of it.
It's really inspiring for me lyrically, and obviously I write about things that are going on: This is where I was at, and this is what I wrote. So to me it's real it's genuine; it's almost that I'm vulnerable because I'm like, "Look, this is where I'm at. This is what happened to me, and I wrote about it."
Whereas on the first record, there were times where I was irritated at a certain person, perhaps, and then, you know, later on, it was more along the lines of doing something about areas in your life where you think you could improve. I always tend to have a sarcastic undertone in the songs that I write, you know, all in good fun, and you'll definitely pick up on that at first.
"Then You Kiss"
"It's Always Better (When I'm With You)"
I Hate Kate, with Politic, the Epilogues, Rocket Comme Ca, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 5, Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer St, $12, 1-866-468-7621.