Artist Interview: Gay Meat
Posted: by The Editor
Karl Kuehn is probably best known these days as the frontman of North Carolina cult favorites Museum Mouth (or, if you’re a weirdo, for his stint as drummer/vocalist of Say Anything). But whatever you know about Kuehn from those days, you can throw it away. Bed of Every, his debut EP under the name Gay Meat, is a complete reinvention of Kuehn. It’s his most exuberant and colorful release yet, and we caught up with the singer-songwriter to discuss the EP, his musical beginnings, and what comes next.
This is your first release as Gay Meat, right?
First EP, yes. I had three singles before.
This is your first straight-up solo project, right?
Technically it is. I had something in 2013 that skirted SoundCloud rap. Gay Meat really is the second coming of that project in that it’s just me day in, day out, making little things, recording things. Funny enough, “L’Oreal,” one of the singles I released as Gay Meat, was going to be on the follow-up album from that old era. I just reworked it.
Were a lot of Gay Meat’s songs around before this?
Two of the three singles I wrote the day I recorded them. The singles era was an experiment trying to fall back in love with songwriting. For a while it was a really toxic relationship. “One Word AK” I wrote the song and just decided to demo it and then uploaded it to distro the next day. “Ever Always” was the same. That spark of creativity from those two, that’s where “L’Oreal” came from.
Were the Bed of Every songs written to go together then?
They weren’t written to. They were just songs I had lying around, but everything I have for the Gay Meat LP I’ve been working on was all written in 2018. After writing those, I had these ditties just sitting around, and I didn’t know if they’d go on the next LP. I just wanted to release something good to bridge Museum Mouth and where Gay Meat’s headed, and these five songs were it. I think they fill that void nicely.
So you’re doing the 1975 thing of writing an LP, then dropping an EP of new stuff, then releasing the old LP.
You know, if they’re the blueprint, then yeah! I’m obsessed with that band. I don’t know the lore, but I am obsessed with the music.
What sort of sound should we expect from the LP?
It’s way more adventurous. It’s a little slower, a little quieter, and the subject matter is very heavy. I feel like Museum Mouth had a few moments of being more personal, and it’s in that vein. It’s serious, and it’s pulling at a lot of the influences I didn’t think would be possible in a band setting, and especially not in a three-piece rock band setting.
So your hope is to pull Museum Mouth fans back in as well as go for a new audience.
Museum Mouth is one of those projects that was never a band that was insanely popular, but I prided myself on the fact that our fans love us. We played with a band I revered at the time, an early Tiny Engines band I think, and the singer said, “Your band feels like you have to be best friends to get it.” At the time I thought it was shitty, but as time went on and the band grew and the fans grew, I felt like a lot of these people were my friends. They got it. I always had a good ability to recruit people who were just as insane as I was, and I think there’s something endearing about it, and I hope those people continue to support me.
So this is the most Karl Kuehn band there is.
I’d say so. Obviously I’m not the youngest person making DIY indie rock emo music, but I do feel like the most myself now. I didn’t have meteoric success as a young person for a reason, I feel like, and I feel galvanized–there’re more eyes on me now than ever. It feels like I’m representing myself the best these days.
Museum Mouth was on Tiny Engines, right?
We were the last band they signed. We released one song, and I got paid $11 for it last month.
And you worked there too?
For four years. I originally started just doing mail order. Will and I’ve been friends for a long time, so he knew I did graphic design, so slowly but surely I started redoing the site, running the socials, making promotional graphics. A couple bands submitted unfinished artwork, and he was like, “You want to help these bands finish this?” The last two years I was there I was the on-site graphic designer. I did Hypnic Jerk, A Healthy Earth, Eerie Gaits, Yolk in the Fur by Wild Pink, the Oceanator record–almost all those bands that era. I have a personal design site and all that’s on there. Zach from Spirit of the Beehive sent over some collages from Hypnic Jerks and said he wanted pink and drippy text, so I handpainted that.
And then you were in Say Anything too.
We met Max in 2015, and he signed us, and we toured with him in 2016 for I Don’t Think It Is, and shortly after he hit me up like, “Hey, I’ve got these songs and this really heady idea, and I was wondering if you’d want to help.” I heard them and thought, “Holy fuck, I’d be so stupid not to.” They were so good. I wrote one song front-to-back, and he spent two or three weeks with Will Yip tracking, and I drove up to Conshohocken and recorded drums, sang, and then recorded the one I wrote.
You’ve been around.
I’m 32 and I have been making indie rock since I was 15!
It feels like a lot of people who’ve been in that sphere for a while without significant recognition have sort of begun to very suddenly. I think the ur-example of that is Japanese Breakfast becoming the biggest band on the planet. So my first question here: how’s the reception been to the singles?
It’s been good. I don’t think I’d have made the EP if the singles weren’t as well received. It’s funny you bring up Michelle–she has this rise in the zeitgeist that I admire and respect, having been in Little Big League, made a bunch of records, and had a strange trajectory in the label world. My friend played a show with her in 2013 when Japanese Breakfast was juts an offshoot, and I admired her so much finding time to write and tour this different stuff. It’s funny that there’s so many similarities between her and I–the mom of it all, losing your mom in the most tragic way. Seeing her success makes me happy, and we’ve never met. There is a way to find that kind of career gratification in indie rock and DIY. People are excited about the EP. I’m excited. I think there’s a lot of focus in a post-COVID world on the green streaming app, and as someone who’s willing to do whatever online, I’m willing to shill! It’s a great tool–even if it doesn’t pay, there are other ways to make money. A fan who streams you will buy a shirt, will see you live. For someone with no management or PR or agent, it’s received well. We’re on the front end of the wave.
You just had a premiere on Brooklyn Vegan right?
The EP announce went out there.
That feels like the place you go right before the bubble pops. Brooklyn Vegan, Stereogum, once they’re covering you, you’re about to stop being indie rock and start being just rock.
Yes and no. I think my trajectory in indie rock, where I’ve been at the top, but through my lot in life I’ve been pushed back–I don’t know. We got press, Museum Mouth, on those sites. Those people who write about you there, you build a relationship with them, and they’re there. I was elated when I sent press for this that Andrew at Brooklyn Vegan picked it up.
Looking at this EP, what do you want your ideal listener to take away from Bed of Every?
I just want them to enjoy it. I had a lot of fun making it, and I hope they see the songs for what they are. I only write A) when I want to and B) when I have something to say, and all five of these I felt like I had something to say. I think the songs are really nuanced the lyrics are true to me as a songwriter. It fucking slays!
I think “Sweetheart” is my favorite. Is there a song here you’re most proud of?
For starters, I love that you love that song. Technically I think that’s maybe my first love song. It’s really about my anxiety and overthinking everything, but I wrote it for my BF, and he’s literally in it at the end. There’s this Instagram filter where they give you funny words to pronounce. I visited him in Chicago and we were doing that, and it was so funny. I was like, “This is a song for Nick, so I’m putting him on the track.”
That feels like a good encapsulation of the EP, that it’s goofy, but when you look past that, it’s really sweet.
Yes. I always want music to be fun. It’s been unfun in the past, and I agree. People have described my songs as “quirky” or “bizarre.” The last Museum Mouth record was called Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig. There’s always a sense of humor. It’s easier to enjoy something when you can tell the maker was enjoying it. The song I’m most proud of–it’s a two-part answer–sonically is the title track. It turned out exactly how I wanted it to. I feel like I was in my bag on that one. Then “Perception Shift” is the song I think is the coolest. It did the most growing while Brett, who co-produced the EP, and I were in the studio. It turned out so much cooler than when I brought it to him. It scratches an itch for me I’ve always had.
Bed of Every is out tomorrow on Self Aware Records.
Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison
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