From Incubus to Moby, Eve 6 to Liz Phair, Blink-182 to Beyoncé to Paramore, Karl Kuehn of ILM’s Museum Mouth wants to hit the road with any or all of the them. “If you or someone you know is involved with booking these bands, please, let me know,” he says. “I wanna go on tour with them so bad.”
Kuehn (drums and vocals) is one part of a three-piece indie-rock/punk trio. He’s joined by Graham High (guitar) and Kory Urban (bass), and all are riding high from touring and releasing their latest album, “Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig,” earlier in the year. The vinyl itself is something to admire: bright pink/magenta on one side with magenta splattered in the center alongside white accents around the border. Our local record store, Gravity Records, not only is selling the vinyl, but they’re hosting the band as part of Gravity’s 12th anniversary party on Saturday, Aug. 6 at 3 p.m. Domestic Heathen and several other bands will play before Museum Mouth goes on at 7 p.m.
Kuehn has a special place in his heart for Gravity, not only as an employee but as a genuine music enthusiast. encore sat down with Kuehn to talk about the new record, the album art and vinyl culture continuously making a comeback over the last few years.
encore (e): Let’s start with the obvious question: What’s the story behind the title of your latest album, “Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig”?
Karl Kuehn (KK): [Laughs] Well … early on in the writing process for this record I was joking with Kory about how funny it would be to make the follow-up to “Alex I Am Nothing,” something completely out of tune with our fan base (similar to what Weezer did with “Raditude” in 2009). The bad, fake, ridiculous album title I came up with was “Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig,” but as the album started to actually take shape, I don’t know—“Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig” just felt right.
e: What can you tell readers about constructing these songs and your process of marrying lyrics to instrumentals? For example, when you come to the table with a song, do you have a specific vision for it or does that come together with Kory and Graham?
KK: It kind of happens a number of different ways. Some songs I’ll demo out guitar, bass, drums, and vocals completely in a day. Others exist in my phone for months as just 20 seconds of acoustic guitar strumming, which I’ll listen to over and over again before any words start to fit. I think Kory and Graham operate the same way. Usually, once one of us has something of substance, or at least a pretty clear vision of where an idea could go, we’ll present it to the group to get everyone else’s opinions and input on it.
e: How does this album reflect Museum Mouth’s growth as a band and its sound?
KK: As cliché as it sounds, I think this album is definitely our most mature to date. We definitely couldn’t have made “Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig” in 2009 when Graham was just learning how to play guitar, and every song I wrote was 65,000 bpm [laughs]. We’re old now. Graham doesn’t even listen to music with words anymore. And I think this album does a great job of finally revealing what some of our influences have been all along; we just didn’t know how to show y’all before.
e: Now that you’ve had a chance to tour with the album, have any of the songs evolved or grown in new ways live?
KK: Yes and no. “Incubus Tattoo” is a song I was particularly nervous about playing live, but touring helped me figure out all these hacks to make singing while playing those ridiculous drum parts way easier. For the most part, though, I think it’s all pretty similar live. We wrote the majority of this album knowing we’d be touring more and being more of a “band” than I think we’d been in the past.
e: The vinyl for “Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig” (“PFGP”) is pretty sweet. How important is it for you guys to get your album pressed in vinyl?
KK: Vinyl is such a complicated thing. As someone who works in a freaking record store I love it, and I love the concept of selling our “art” to people through this giant, goofy, very tangible medium—but actually getting your record pressed in 2016 sucks. With every pressing plant backed up for the next two million years, I get why a lot of bands are turning to tapes. Plus, tapes are cute.
e: Can you tell readers about what went into getting its unique design and colors? How important was it to you guys to get that aspect right?
KK: A good album, to me, has an overall color. Like “Alex I Am Nothing” was our blue album. All the songs were about unrequited love and trying to reason with emotions. But “PFGP” was more about freeing yourself … err … myself from the instability I was going through on “Alex.” That sort of cleansing-through-creativity-type mindset is attributed to the color magenta, so “PFGP” became our magenta album.
e: Speaking of records, how do you guys feel about helping Matt Keen celebrate 12 years of Gravity Records?
KK: OMG! I’m so excited! I love Matt Keen and that store so much, but I’m probably pretty bias [laughs]. We played Gravity’s 10th anniversary, long before I started working there, and I actually recorded all the vocals on our new record in the shop bathroom. So this honestly feels like the least we could do, ya know? And shows in the shop are always all-ages—that’s a super big deal to us as a band.
e: How important is vinyl culture and stores like Gravity to you guys? Not just personally but even to your music.
KK: It’s ridiculously important to us. Before we signed with Rory/Equal Vision we didn’t really have the ability to [distribute] our records to bigger retailers, so shops like Gravity, Nice Price in Raleigh, and Lunchbox records in Charlotte were the only way to get our music into people’s hands that weren’t physically at a show to buy it from us. Vinyl culture and the hunt for limited variants is such a fun and easy way to consume music. I’m on a quest to put out the prettiest record of all time.
e: Are you guys planning anything special for your set that day—too soon for new work?
KK: It’s never too soon for new work! But, nah, we’re gonna attempt to play one of the more challenging songs off “PFGP” … so I guess we’ll see how that goes.
See Museum Mouth at Gravity Records’ 12 anniversary party, along with others, this Saturday. Visit the Facebook Event Page for more.