By Brian Tucker
On Record Store Day in April Museum Mouth’s Karl Kuehn was working his last day at Gravity Records. Within days Kuehn and band mates Kory Urban and Graham High would be on tour with indie rock band Say Anything. We talked in the store’s large display window area and Kuehn seemed happy, hardly daunted, about the upcoming tour that would run through the end of May.
He seemed more than ready to get in the van. The singer-drummer listed stops on the tour and local attractions to take in, like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum when in Ohio. This moment, this tour, was a long time coming for the local punk/indie rock band that’s been growing its fan base and name steadily the last few years.
They’ve made self-recorded lo-fi and catchy music across four albums (and a few EP’s) like 2014’s critically acclaimed Alex, I am Nothing. It was this grounded, homemade quality of the band’s music, and Kuehn’s ability to write engaging material surrounding a gay male’s life within the punk rock genre. All this endeared them to Say Anything’s Max Bemis, a band Urban said he had been listening to since high school and helped them learn to write songs.
“Museum Mouth is a game-changing band for me as a fan of punk and indie rock,” Bemis said in a press release. “Karl as a songwriter and front man is as unique as any I’ve come across…Karl is among a very rare breed of punk rock front men to unapologetically defy the sexual stereotype of the sullen, whiny heterosexual male, and I think it’s easy to see why I had to sign this band and recommend them to any listener who craves music that’s authentic, immediate and brilliant.”
“It’s interesting to hear from someone whose music you’ve respected for so long and is all of a sudden, I like your band,” Urban said last June, shortly after being signed to Bemis’ Rory Records imprint on Equal Vision Records. It began after a song from their album Alex, I am Nothing on was accidentally posted on Punk News. Kuehn tweeted about the mistake, bringing the attention of Bemis, impressed with their ability to home record songs using old GarageBand software.
Out April 29th, the new album Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig (their fourth full-length) has been receiving good reviews. SPIN called it “one of the most gratifying and empowering sets of three-chord self-defeat you’ll hear this year.” New Noise called it “one fiery piece of art after another.” Stereogum describes the band’s sludgy soup sound as “both more accessible and more off-putting than their previous work.”
Not likely to disappoint fans, it’s left of center of their crushing, grungy music complimented with sugar coated atmosphere. Kuehn said it’s a record out of tune with their fan base (with an off-kilter album title to match). But their sound is largely unaltered by signing to a label, retaining their manic, distorted, or pile driving sound along with Kuehn’s throaty, hollowed out singing, whether on catchy songs or slower ones.
Urban said that Bemis wanted them to follow old habits, sending a new Mac computer to record on. They demoed songs last summer while Kuehn was on tour with side project Family Bike. In January Kuehn said the album was mixed and mastered and that he “listened to it in a variety of formats and was really happy with it.”
The album has surprises – somber opener “Bugeyes,” the bouncy “Failure’s Hall of Fame,” or sludge ‘n groove heavy “Histories Mysteries.” It rests easy alongside previous work, whether its the I’m-over-you burner “Riff in My Head,” about trading in desperation for anger as energy, or slow burning “The Big Stairs” that echoes Family Bike and reveals a different side to an evolving band.
The Say Anything tour stops in Wilmington on May 20th at Ziggy’s in downtown Wilmington.