City Mouth Interview

This is an interview I had with City Mouth’s creator, Matt Allpow. 

LH: How did you form this band?

MA: City Mouth started out as my solo electronic indie pop project. I started programming beats when I was a freshman in high school and when I started college, I decided to apply it to a project by combining production with my singing and songwriting, which I have been doing for a large portion of my life. I always hated performing live with electronic tracks though. I just felt like I couldn’t convey the energy and emotion that I wanted to in a live performance without real people creating the music. So I gathered up a backup band for our first show, which was also the release show for our electronic album called The Things That Haunt Me. The lineup for the show was originally supposed to have a lot more synth and other instruments in order to capture the feel of the album, but a lot of our members had to drop out because they didn’t have time. So we ended up being forced to do a more minimal approach to the songs with only one guitar, drums, bass, and vocals. It basically ended up being a pop punk show which wasn’t really a bad thing because it added a lot of energy to the songs. Eventually, I decided to officially make City Mouth into a rock band because it felt a lot more natural and exciting to do it that way. We now play as a six piece band (two guitars, bass, drums, keys, and vocals) with the only current permanent members being Troy Sennett and myself (Matt Allpow).

LH: What’s the origin behind your band name?

MA: The name is a combination of Aesop’s character, the City Mouse, and the term kids and parents use to describe the inappropriate children, “potty mouth”. I always think of the city as a metaphor for the “real world”. The big bad world out there and all of the good and bad influences that come with it. I think the reason I started thinking of it this way is because I grew up in this little suburb that nobody’s ever heard of called Evergreen Park. It’s just about 20 minutes south of downtown Chicago. My first job was downtown at Millennium Park when I was probably a sophomore in high school and that was the first time in my life that I was consistently going into the city. So I associate the city with that first knock at the door that reality gives you and says “it’s time to grow up now”. I also felt like the city was the embodiment of the cold world that I had just begun to become acquainted with. It was dirty, everything was made out of metal and concrete, and the people seemed calloused and disconnected and they could get angry about the slightest things. It was during this time that I felt myself growing less innocent and I started to become more like those disconnected people. The way my songwriting has evolved reminds me of these changes in myself that I’ve gone through as I have been (and continue to be) excited, overwhelmed, confused, and let down by the big bad world around me. This kind of reminds me of those little kids who get in trouble for being “potty mouths”. Maybe the kid watches too much TV and is constantly being exposed to that exciting, scary, and twisted world behind the screen. Maybe they have all these influences, good and bad, just cooking inside their heads as they struggle to make sense of it all, and maybe it comes out as this little voice screaming obscenities. Sometimes it feels like when I write I am that confused kid yelling about things I don’t completely understand, with all of these little thoughts that can be too much for me to handle just swimming around in my head and jumping out of my mouth when they get the chance. There’s something about that idea that I really like. I think that, to an extent, you can’t really control what influences you; you can really only choose how it does. That’s a part of the human experience that I find really interesting to share through art.

LH: What are your musical influences?

MA: Personally, there are a lot of artists that influence my songwriting that don’t really sound very much like any of the City Mouth songs that I’ve written. Some of these include fun., Kanye West, Ellie Goulding, Glen Hansard, Frank Ocean, and a lot of other random artists. There’s too much great music out there that it just seems silly to me to restrict yourself to one genre.

Then there are the bands that we sound a little bit more like that are more shared influences of both Troy and myself (although Troy likes a few of those previously mentioned artists just as much as I do). Some of these include Taking Back Sunday, Motion City Soundtrack, The Format, Brand New, Envy On The Coast, Into It. Over It., Jimmy Eat World, The Wonder Years, Mixtapes, Warren Franklin & The Founding Fathers, Fall Out Boy, and more pop punk, alternative, and emo bands.

When I’m asked what bands we would compare our sound to, I would say Motion City Soundtrack and Brand New.

LH: Can you talk about the story behind “Out Late?”

MA: This is a funny question because whenever people ask me that I always say something like “ugh, it’s really complicated. I’ll tell you later.” But i guess now is the time to explain it to the world (or the five to seven people who care about our songs) what this song is actually about. This was about two years ago, the summer before I went away to college. There was this girl I met at a party that I started talking to a lot and I kind of liked her. We started talking and hanging out a little bit right before she went to Ireland for like two weeks. During the time she was in Ireland, we would text every day and it was clear that we were both interested in each other. I was just waiting for her to come back because I really wanted to become more than friends with her. So after two long weeks she comes back and the first chance I got to see her was when she needed a ride from some party near my house. So I picked her up and drove her to sleep over at her friend’s house. Mind you, she was quite drunk at this point. She basically wanted to make out with me right then and there and I didn’t want to because I didn’t want it to turn out to be that she kissed me just because she was drunk. I didn’t want it to be like I took advantage of her or anything, and even more I didn’t want to start off something that could turn into something more serious in such a cheap way (I was kind of a hopeless romantic at the time). So the next day she was all offended that I didn’t want to kiss her and I explained my side to her. She responded to that by saying that she didn’t want to get into anything serious before she went away to school. She just wanted to have fun and mess around without all of the other complications. She said she thought it would be best to just “rip the band-aid off”.  So then we stopped talking for a little while and during that time I decided that I kind of wanted that too. So I told her that and we started talking again with this no-strings-attached relationship that we were both pretty bad at. It mostly consisted of me picking her up from parties and then making out with her and then a lot of texting. But I guess we talked way too much for that kind of thing, because she ended up getting really attached to me. So we basically switched places. Then when I found out that she was getting attached, we stopped talking for a while and she kind of hated me (or seemed to). Then when I started school, I started talking to her again out of a combination of loneliness and curiosity. She came to visit at one point and we met up at a party. That was the night that I THOUGHT (she has since promised me that I was wrong) I tasted vomit off of her tongue. I’m not sure why I included that gross detail in the song, but it just shows how ratchet the whole situation was. At that point, we talked and she got angry at me and she said that she didn’t want to talk to me ever again. I felt bad, but at the same time I felt like I hadn’t done anything wrong. It was a big confusing mix of emotions so I decided to write about it. The cool thing is that when she heard the song, she knew it was about her and she apologized for being kind of crazy. It was nice because the song actually helped us have some closure on the subject.

I know that’s a really long answer and it might not make any sense, but that’s why I always avoid the question.

LH: Any shows approaching?

MA: We have a CD release show on January 31st at Firehouse Pizza in Normal, Illinois which is also the release show for Troy’s other band, Modus Aurora’s full length album. Other than that, we don’t have anything confirmed yet. We’re working on setting up a spring tour in March, so keep a lookout for when we announce those dates.

LH: What are your plans for 2014?

MA: We plan to play as many shows as possible this year and make as many connections with other bands and listeners as we can. We’ve also started writing songs for our next release. I’m thinking that my next goal is a seven-song EP, but we’ll see how the ideas evolve.

LH: How can listeners get involved?

MA: There are a lot of different ways that people can get involved. The biggest ones are probably listening to our music, sharing it with friends, and coming to support us at shows. We’re also always open to hear feedback or just to chat with anybody who is interested in what we do. Any interaction is welcomed and very appreciated. It would also be cool to hear some covers by anybody who plays and/or sings. One of our biggest goals is to connect with other people, so any chance to do that is awesome.

For more information regarding City Mouth, check out their Facebook page:

Luke Helker


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