INTERVIEW: Mouthing off with Museum Mouth
I used to think pop-punk was a dirty word(s). That was until I stereotypically had my musical palette expanded in the dorms my freshman year of college by stealing music via some back channel way we found to share our iTunes libraries over the network. That’s where I found the Say Anything album …Is A Real Boy and finally understood a world where pop and punk could coexist beyond “My friends over youuuuu.”
Say Anything is a perfect transition to talking about Wilmington, NC based Museum Mouth for a couple of reasons. First of all, they’ll be releasing their new album Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig on Max Bemis’ Rory Records on April 29 and will be touring with Say Anything and mewithoutYou starting April 20. But looking at the bigger picture, Museum Mouth also have a similar approach to writing, leaning heavily on introspective lyrics trying to figure what the hell is going on in this thing called life. Their sound might be a little more lo-fi, but that same energy and self-deprecation that made …Is A Real Boy so essential to the adolescent experience bleeds out of Museum Mouth’s music.
I caught up with Museum Mouth (Karl Kuehn drums / vocals, Graham High guitar, and Kory Urban bass) and naturally talked about Rihanna and Panera gift cards. Oh and also their new album that’s name is too long to type again.
WINDUP: How’s it going guys? Let’s start with a quick band origin story. How did you three meet and end up forming Museum Mouth?
GRAHAM: Karl was experimenting with the Liz Phair record Whitechocolatespaceegg in college. In the short time he was at college, he told me, one day that he was going to teach me guitar and I was going to be in a band with him. I think he was targeting my lack of ambition and my chill nature. It took us four full lengths and a couple EPs, but I think we finally may have made our Whitechocolatespaceegg. Kory joined the band after a year or two because our original bass player and primary vocalist bailed.
You guys are label mates and will be touring with Say Anything very soon, was …Is A Real Boy as important to you as it was to me (hint: hugely important record for me)?
KORY: That record was a huge influence on my songwriting because I learned how important bridges are, and how to write a good bridge.
KARL: Against Me! and Say Anything were my first experiences with punk bands fronted by people with unconventional voices saying things that… I don’t know… felt real? (pun intended???) …Is A Real Boy taught me (a sheltered dumb idiot from a small town) a lot about dealing with your neurosis through songwriting which OBVIOUSLY was and still is very important to my life as a whole.
What other records were really influential in shaping you guys as musicians?
KARL: INCUBUS S.C.I.E.N.C.E.! Good Charlotte’s The Young and the Hopeless. That’s it. That’s me.
GRAHAM: I was really into techno and Cursive in high school. I can never get those out of my system.
KORY: Everything by Laura Jane Grace, Jeff Rosenstock, and Max Bemis
KARL: Graham told me once that a Tiesto song changed his life.
What was the writing and recording process like for the new record?
KARL: It was truly GOD AWFUL.
GRAHAM: You ever had Rihanna sneak in guest vocals when you’re recording guitar? There’s nothing you can do to stop it. Space blankets, new cables, nothing.
KARL: It was basically like trying to build a house, but every time you bought tools to build the house, you’d hurt yourself with them. Or they’d go missing. The tools would become sentient or they’d become Twizzlers. It sucked. I cried. Probably a couple times. I try to block it out now.
I know your last album was more or less a break up record, does Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig have a central theme?
KARL: Yeah, it definitely does. It’s not as obvious of a theme as Alex had. It’s a record about self-empowerment through self-realization, which in laymen’s terms basically means it’s a record about owning your flaws.
KORY: It’s a record about being stuck inside your own head. All the inane shit you think about all day.
KARL: And how important all that inane shit is.
KORY: It’s not important!
KARL: It’s important!
KORY: It’s important but it doesn’t really matter.
KARL: It definitely matters…Perfect.
How have you guys evolved from Alex I Am Nothing to where you’re at today?
KARL: I think we’ve become a lot more confident. I’ve become more confident as a songwriter at least I think cause I’ve achieved what feels like a small amount of validation? But, like, I also feel more confident as a hot man now than I ever did in 2013/2014.
KORY: Shit got weirder.
Stylistically, in what ways does the new album differ from your previous material?
GRAHAM: SHIT GOT WEIRDER.
KARL: The heavier songs got heavier, the slow songs got slower.
GRAHAM: This is definitely a step in the right direction for what I want Museum Mouth to become, which is a noise band.
KARL: (Laughing) Fuck you Graham. But also yes.
Tell me about your favorite song on the new record
KARL: “History’s Mysteries” is my favorite. It has the word DADDY in it. Everyone told me not to do it. I did it, I feel excellent.
KORY: I really relate to “Lacquer” because sometimes I buy shoes and feel guilty about it.
KARL. That’s not even what that song’s about! This is a prime example of misinterpreting an artist’s lyrics. But I love it.
GRAHAM: “Koopa” slays.
KARL: “Koopa” goes off.
Considering how personal your lyrics are, the day after a record or new song comes out, do you ever get “Is ___ song about me?” texts?
KARL: I never respond to messages like that.
KORY: I ask Karl if every song he writes is about me.
KARL: They never are!
KORY: Yeah, they never are.
What do you hope people are able to take away from Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig?
KORY: Sympathy over apathy baby.
KORY: Or is it empathy?
KORY: Empathy over apathy baby.
KARL: This is a prime example of an artist not knowing their own lyrics. I’m tired I did a lot of pushups today.
What are you looking forward to most about your upcoming tour with Say Anything and mewithoutYou?
GRAHAM: I’ve never been west of the Mississippi River! I haven’t even seen the Mississippi!
KARL: I’m scared.
KORY: As Karl picks his toes.
KARL: THERE’S SHIT ON THEM! Shut up!
GRAHAM: I had a huge mewithoutYou period when I was younger. To go from seeing them every time they came to town to actually touring with them is something I never could have imagined.
KORY: I’m excited to see all my friends all over the country.
KARL: I’m excited to make Teen Suicide be our friends.
KORY: I’m excited to see Say Anything and mewithoutYou every night.
KARL: I’m excited but I’m scared.
What’s the most random thing someone has offered to pay you guys with for playing a gig in lieu of actual money?
KARL: I have my friend C Phillips’ Wake County library card. Also a Panera gift card with like 76 cents on it.
How ready are you for the album to finally be out?
KARL: I am BEYOND ready.
GRAHAM: I still feel like we just finished it. I don’t handle time well.
KARL: If Beyonce surprise drops an album the same day as ours I’m gonna be LIVID.
Anything else you want to add or talk about?
KARL: Rihanna is God. Jake Gyllenhaal is Jesus. #BuyPopcornFishGuineaPigOniTunes
GRAHAM: We practiced too much the day before tour.
KARL: Graham’s already mad at me.