Few hard rock albums are as intimate as the modern output from OF MICE & MEN. Their songs pack the kind of rhythmic punch and anthemic bombast that thrills festival crowds, plus the confessional lyrics, and haunting melodies are the heart of what they do. Taking all creative matters into their own hands, the Southern California quartet self-produced and engineered all of the songs on Tether, their astonishing eighth album. Frontman Aaron Pauley mixed and mastered the album while Drummer Valentino Arteaga designed and painted the album’s artwork. As a legion of devoted listeners worldwide has come to expect, guitarists Phil Manansala and Alan Ashby, Aaron, and Tino poured their hearts and souls into every note, creating another sonic document of their lives.
“With this one, we weren’t really focused on how it sounded as much as we focused on how it felt,” Pauley explains. “And that’s a weird thing to do when all you’re working with is sound. But that was really the goal. And we walked away from making it, feeling like we’ve accomplished that.”
OM&M take sobering looks at depression, anxiety, loneliness, and existential dread, powering through the darkness, and emphasizing the importance of creativity as a balm for mental health. A commanding tempest of sounds coalesces within Of Mice & Men, blending the uplifting eloquence of modern active rock with the atmospheric dissonance of experimental post-rock. The band first emerged as part of a vanguard of future aggressive rock hitmakers. Over the years, they’ve distinguished themselves with musicality, creative ambition, and resilient determination.
When we last heard from the band, they released a diverse trio of EPs that followed, collected as Echo in 2021. OM&M wrote that, Echo “covers life and impermanence, love and the infinite – how the most wonderful and most tragic parts of the human experience deeply intertwine.”
Album #8 is no less ambitious. Tether is anchored by a reflective meditation on what it means to draw together as friends, family men, artists, and bandmates. What does it mean to be there for the people who depend on us, knowing we can’t fully protect them from the hardships of life?
Tether is the next step in OM&M’s evolution, combining their core sound with experimental and ethereal sound designs. The creative process focused on the excitement of discovery rather than preconceived “goals.” Pursuing the moments when the elusive “x factor” reveals itself in the songs. Those moments are palpable in songs like the album’s new radio single, “Castaway”.
“Emotions and feelings are fleeting and change. Things that excite you one day don’t always excite you the next,” Pauley says. “For us, it was so much about continuously and endlessly chasing a feeling. Not only do we feel like it produces an album we can be proud of that will resonate with our fans, but there’s something deeply human about chasing the excitement in the process. As they say, ‘The man who loves walking will go further than the man who loves the destination.’”
The Of Mice & Men core since 2016 – Aaron, Alan, Tino, and Phil – maintain a powerful bond with their audience and each other, no matter the obstacles. Whether a powerful anthem or atmospheric confession, their songs translate in intimate clubs and massive festivals. “It’s about creating moments for people,” Pauley says. “Music is the soundtrack to people’s lives.”