It was a love of guitars (and a belief in using lots of ‘em) that finally brought the men of the Mean together. Since growing up in Princeton, N.J., members of the sextet have played together in various arrangements, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago they united to form the Mean. “We had done stuff in the past, but it never sounded right. It never sounded like enough guitars. That sounds ridiculous, but there were never enough guitars to cover everything,” explains guitarist and vocalist Aaron Livingston, though that distinction is practically worthless: Seemingly everyone in the Mean is a guitarist and vocalist. “Here, you have three guys who play guitar, without that ‘guitar god’ mentality,” Livingston says.
With a gentle mishmash of most every genre under the sun, the Mean have found a way to be completely unique without becoming obscure. With ‘60s pop hooks, late-1970s soul vibes and strong undercurrents of funk and R&B, the Mean create songs that are intelligent, layered and dense, yet catchy and accessible.
But in addition to pleasing the aural palate, the Mean also pay close attention to the words behind the music. “Aaron, I think, has a real poet’s soul. That’s very evident in his lyrics. I feel like my writing is a little more story-based and Mike [Gibney]’s has a certain amount of nostalgia to it and it’s very emotionally evocative,” says, ahem, guitarist and vocalist Charlie Raboteau.
As the group prepares to release its first full-length album, Meet Us Here, the band members have different but complementary hopes for the album. “I feel like there’s a sense of freedom I get from the music that I hope comes through—a sense of freedom through freedom of expression,” Gibney explains.
Livingston adds, “The way I listen to music, I take what I want to take from it. I would be happy for people to do that.”