By Phil Pucci
I’ve been following Museum Mouth since I fell in love with their song “Outside” on Tears in My Beer, an album they released in 2010. It’s a song about having a complete loss of songwriting inspiration in the wake of a breakup. The chorus lyrics read like an apology to the literary greats that they aspired to be like and to which they felt like they were doing a disservice. On subsequent releases, including their recent full-length Alex I Am Nothing (Self Aware), the Southport, NC fuzz pop outfit has retained that sharp wit and biting lyricism. Alex I Am Nothing brings to the forefront vocalist and drummer Karl Kuehn’s knack for a good narrative; it’s a concept album about an unrequited love, and just like “Outside,” Kuehn isn’t just singing about his feelings, he’s addressing his crush directly in his lyrics. He gushes, bargains and pleads for answers — sometimes all at once.
I spoke with Kuehn online recently, and initially planned to ask him a few questions about the new album, but instead we ended up chatting about the World of Coke, the cover photo on Museum Mouth’s Facebook page and his new project Family Bike.
Museum Mouth plays Reverb Fest: Eskimo Kisses this Friday, January 30 at Neighborhood Theatre.
CLTure: Hey Karl, how’s it going? My friend Michael from PMCR recently enlightened me about your band name being a Cap’n Jazz reference. Is that true?
Karl Kuehn: YEP! Very true. Back in the early 00s when I was in high school and dreaming of being in a cool punk band, taking your name from a Cap’n Jazz song seemed like the cool thing to do, so I more or less had the band name picked out before I had the band.
CLTure: What do you talk about on the phone with Josh Robbins [of Museum Mouth’s label Self Aware] when he calls you?
K: Oh god. I would say 90% of my phone conversations with Josh (*note: he’s the ONLY person who calls me. Even my own PARENTS opt to text me) are him quoting movies I’ve never seen. He also does this thing where we’ll talk about something in person, maybe a plan, or some business or something, then in a week he’ll call me and basically repeat everything we’ve already talked about. I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
CLTure: How was it playing Hopscotch this year?
K: Hopscotch ruled! We had a perfect slot with some of my favorite bands at one of my favorite places to play in Raleigh (s/o to Mark Connor and Slim’s baby!!!!). Tons of friends showed up and danced and screamed and stuff. I’d do it 1,000,000 times if I could.
CLTure: I’ve been browsing the web for nearly twenty years. By now, it’s rare that I audibly react to anything I see on the internet. But the cover photo on Museum Mouth’s Facebook page made me cup my hands on my mouth and squeal. Where did you find that beauty? Is that how you feel on stage?
K: Pretty sure it’s one of the many treasures I’ve found via Twitter but I can’t be certain. At this point my brain is all 1000100110’s and failed autocorrect. I wish I knew where it originated because I DEFINITELY FEEL EXACTLY LIKE THAT ON STAGE.
CLTure: How did your new band Family Bike start? How do you balance your creativity and effort between your two bands? Help me, I have so much trouble with this.
K: I started Family Bike mainly because I wanted to play guitar in a band like really really bad. I’m also trying to obliterate every second of free time I could possibly have. But for real, Family Bike is easy and fun to be in. It’s me and my buddy Taylor and we’ve been best friends since I was like 11 or 12. At this point in MM’s career we have a sound, and some songs I write just fit that sound, the other songs go to Family Bike things… that is as long as they don’t scream sass and beauty and glamour, those songs go to OK McQueen things.
CLTure: What does Family Bike sound like?
K: Well we have two songs online that are both from the record we’re putting out in March, BUT to me we just sound like MM’s little brother. The songs are less abrasive but somehow heavier? But only sometimes. We’re like more acoustic guitarish too. Idk.
CLTure: So basically you’re a folk band?
K: No!!! Hahaha but maybe kinda? Definitely not live. Live we’re just a mess… but like a good mess. I think Taylor listens to a lot of folk, or has in the past, and he writes songs about loving his friends and family and I just automatically assume that songs about that kind of subject matter require acoustic guitar things, ya know? And since the guitar is my job and we self-recorded this whole first album, I just sorta approached his songs from a producer’s perspective more or less.
The big laugh is that you can definitely tell what songs I wrote and what songs Taylor wrote on this first album, and the joke is that there’s a song on the second half of the record that Taylor wrote called “Kith and Kin” BUT if I had written it it’d be called “Kith and Kill Yourself” LOL
We sound like if the Avett Brothers were in Blue Album era Weezer and one of them was gay.
K: Thank you.
CLTure: What’s the drink of choice when you’re getting ready to play a Museum Mouth show?
K: SODA. Specifically, Coke. I’m not trying to get a sponsorship or anything. I just really love Coke. Like A LOT. Have you ever been to the coke museum in Atlanta? Bury me there.
CLTure: Me too. I’ve been to World of Coke twice. I love the polar bear Coke commercials the best.
K: Dude the tasting room! BEVERLY.
CLTure: The second time I went I pranked EVERYONE with the Beverly.
K: I JUST CAN’T GET OVER THAT NAME! The biggest, funniest dude ever was standing in front of it warning everyone when I went over the summer.
CLTure: All of this is going in the article.
Listen to the album Alex I am Nothing by Museum Mouth