Around the age of 10 or 11, Kevin Steinhauser started having recurring dreams about supermarket shelves stocked with vintage keyboards. As a teenager, with an especially eager eye out for synths manufactured between 1970 and 1985, he'd arrive at Sunday yard sales at 6 am to lock down first dibs. He tells me this over the phone while he and bandmate Justine Mainville are road-tripping to a tour stop in San Diego.
About 15 years after the supermarket dreams, the wee Steinhauser's subconscious inclinations haven't led him to compose anything resembling standard electronic music. That's why Providence, Rhode Island's Math the Band play shows with acts like Andrew W.K. and Bomb the Music Industry! instead of . . . I dunno, Deadmau5 or someone like that.
And they tour a lot — about 120 shows per year for the last five years, despite the staggering physical endurance required to deliver one of their meta-kinetic aural demonstrations. They play their songs — frantic, jubilant squeals of soaring 8-bit melody that summon the unabashed exuberance of punk without a shred of that genre's typical angst — really, really fast. Onstage, Steinhauser plays guitar, Mainville keyboards, and they both sing. They will do it again Sunday at the Middle East in Cambridge. "Some people expect me to be an incredibly upbeat person; I would say I'm probably middle of the road," Steinhauser responds when asked why Math the Band never play sad songs. "But I don't write songs to say how things are. I write songs to say how things should be and can be. We're not a band about reality."
Or maybe Math the Band have created their own reality — a parallel world where a Windows 2000–administered shitbox linked to "a few dozen" analog synths and video-game consoles is what a person uses to write a rock album. The 25-year-old Steinhauser guesses he's released something like 18 Math the Band records since his freshman year at Westford Academy. The latest, Get Real (Anchor Brain Records), stands as the most accurate approximation of a blissfully berserker Math the Band live show currently available on Bandcamp. "Everything sounds exciting when you're playing fast," Steinhauser announces during track three, "Mission Statement." Although they've retained some winking self-awareness, Math the Band have advanced beyond the shtick and costumes of some gigs of yore. Rightly so. Just because their songs aren't about anything doesn't mean they're ironic.
"Lyrically, our songs don't generally convey any messages or meaning at all," Steinhauser says. "So emotions that are going to be taken out of our songs are going to be from the music itself."
Hyper counts as an emotion . . . right? "I usually start a session of songwriting by drinking five cups of coffee," he says.
MATH THE BAND + STREIGHT ANGULAR + THE BYNARS + PONY BONES:: Middle East Upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge :: January 20 @ 8 pm :: 18 + :: $12 :: 617.864.3278 or mideastclub.com