Museum Mouth talks new line-up, new LP
Perhaps one of the Carolinas’ best-kept secrets over the last couple years has been Wilmington’s Museum Mouth. In that time the strung-out garage group has been busy, releasing a very free and very good pair of 2010 releases and enduring line-up shifts typical of an indie band getting by in the underground. Leader and multi-instrumentalist Karl Kuehn has also been hard at work with his SWTHRT project.
The band’s new LP, Sexy But Not Happy, promises to be the payoff of all that work. Its first single (streaming below, via Bandcamp) ups the ante with catchier hooks and more wildly distorted guitars. Shuffle‘s Jordan Lawrence caught up with Kuehn via e-mail for a quick chat, as the band readies the album for release next week.
Shuffle: You guys have had some line-up shifts lately, fill me in on that and tell me how that’s affected things in the Museum Mouth camp.
Karl Kuehn: Yes we have. I used to split vocal duties with our old bassist Savannah Levin. She sang most of the songs on the last record, Tears [In My Beer], but Graham and I were always the core songwriters so when she left the band in the winter of 2010 to travel and do her thing we didn’t see any reason to call it quits, we just needed to find a new bassist. We recruited Kory Urban from the one-man-band Mourning Is For Suckers here in Wilmington to do the job and I really don’t think we could have found a better fit. I’ve always been a huge fan of his songs and he completely understood the direction that Graham and I were trying to take the band in. His input was a crucial part of the writing process for this record and it’s cheesy to say, but I know we couldn’t have made the record that we did without this line-up.
Shuffle: I glean from the first two songs you’ve put out there from the new record it’s going to feature that same up-tempo-music-meets-depressing-narrative dynamic. What draws you guys to that?
KK: Hahaha that description is perfect! I really don’t know why our songs are so sad but I’m super into it. We mostly write songs about our personal lives and the events that circulate them so I guess we just live bummer lives? No, we totally don’t! I guess it just comes naturally to us. We write music when we’re bored and lyrics when we’re in misery and it shows. The new record is pretty dark in subject matter but very upbeat and catchy musically and I love it.
Shuffle: I was really entertained by the horror movies you guys posted on your Tumblr. Is that typical of the dynamic in your group? Pretty fun-loving bunch?
KK: Oh my god, you liked my movies!? I’m so flattered! I would definitely say that we’re on the less serious side and we all have a similar sense of humor. I laugh at most everything and Graham and Kory are two of the most hilarious people I know so when it comes to band business we tend to make things comical even if they aren’t. I mean, we’re serious when we need to be — like while we’re recording or working on songs. But we try to keep things interesting and entertaining!
Shuffle: The guitars (and the distortion) seem to be filled out a lot on the material you’ve put out there from the new record. Is that indicative of the album as a whole? Why go with that bigger approach?
KK: Yes I would say that that sound is indicative of the entire album and it’s definitely what we were going for. I mean, when we first started putting out material I had never recorded anything before and had no idea what I was doing, but with each release I feel like I’ve learned a lot more about recording and being a “producer” and I knew that if at some point I could just really take my time making a record then I could create something that would do this band and the songs we had been writing some justice. We recorded Tears in less than a week, and recorded this over the span of four or five months during which most people didn’t think we were even a band anymore so it only made sense for this record to be big.
Shuffle: That’s a pretty classic photo that you picked for the cover of Sexy But Not Happy. Where’d you find it? What made it appropriate?
KK: Thank you! It’s actually a picture of Graham that I found while going through old photos with his sister (and my fellow SWTHRT band-mate) Becca. I think it just fits with the mood and title of the record perfectly. He’s making this solemn and sort of sassy face, but at the same time he’s just a lil’ kid and I think that same pairing of ideas applies to these songs. They’re gloomy or they’re angry or they’re snarky but they never really sound that way and probably don’t need to be. And to avoid him gettin too embarrassed or gaining too much of an ego we stuck with the childhood photo motif and Kory and I both contributed ones of ourselves for the liner notes. They’re ridiculous.