Amuse // Interview
Indianapolis pop punk band Amuse is back and ready for a fresh start. After taking a hiatus from 2012-2015, the band has reunited with new drummer Keith Tajc and have signed with Dodgeball Records. The band released Life Sucks in 2016, their first new material since reuniting and will soon be releasing a full-length album. I chatted recently with founding members Kaine Gibson and Mike Muse about how it feels to be writing and playing together again, their decision to sign with Dodgeball Records, getting to play the final Warped Tour and what to expect from the upcoming album. You can stay up-to-date with the band on Twitter, Bandcamp, and Facebook. | Interview By: Emily May
You guys took a hiatus in 2012 but reunited in 2015 with new drummer Keith Tajc. What led to the departure of your previous drummer?
Kaine: Weston Jordan, who had previously played drums for us, lives in Nashville, TN. So it had always been a hassle to get together and rehearse or write or play shows and at first it was ok, we dealt with the 6 hour drives, but being young and broke and trying to find ways to make it financially worth it was hard. So we kind of just stopped playing for a few years. We got asked to play a show with Squirtgun in May of 2015, so we played that and that’s when Mike and I really started to want to take playing in a band seriously. We had kind of just done it as a hobby and for fun up until that point. We all three decided that it was just too hard with the distance so Mike and I started looking for a drummer and we found Keith, rehearsed all summer, he played his first show October of 2015 (which was with Teenage Bottlerocket and Pears, what a SICK first show for him, right!?) and things took off from there.
You released a new EP last year entitled Life Sucks. What was the inspiration behind the album and how did it feel to write and record together again?
Kaine: Well, I guess the name says it all, Life Sucks, because sometimes it really does. We just wrote songs about our lives, past and present. Friendships and relationships that ended badly, growing up and not giving a fuck about anything but having fun, working jobs that you hate and trying hard to get ahead but always falling short. Also, there’s a song about Mike’s dog, and my obsession with Gillian Anderson and the X-Files. When Keith joined, Mike and I knew we wanted to change up the sound a bit and we felt that Love Songs(2012) wasn’t a good representation of what we were anymore and we needed to release new material immediately so people could understand what we were trying to do. Most of the record was written in a couple of weeks and then recorded in 5 days (I think). It was great to get back into a studio and really see how our music had changed since the last album. Working with Mass Giorgini again was rad. He brings a lot of experience and knowledge into the room, which you would think would be really intimidating, but he makes the atmosphere so much lighter with all of his jokes and whatnot. We all had the same kind of humor so it was really fun. Let’s just say lots and lots of dick jokes were had…
How do you feel that your new music compares with your older material?
Kaine: I feel the music we are recording and finishing up right now is a more refined and thought-through version of Life Sucks. It’s still the same sound that we had on that album, but we put more effort into the songs than we did with Life Sucks. For Life Sucks, we kinda just through together songs as fast as we could so people would hear our new sound and understand the direction we were taking. With the new album we let more of our influences shine through on the songs than we have before and I think it really makes the songs better and more complex.
I read that the cover art for your EP was done by Jennie Cotterill of the band Bad Cop/Bad cop? How did you meet Jennie and decide to have her do the artwork? Who came up with the idea behind the artwork?
Mike: I never had actually met Jennie when I ask her to do the artwork. I am a huge fan of Bad Cop Bad Cop and happened to stumble onto Jennie’s personal website. Her paintings on there were phenomenal. It wasn’t the fact that she is from a band I like, it was simply that I thought her art was amazing. I kind of came up with the album art. I love retro looking sci-fi stuff. Jack Kirby drew up some of the best sci-fi art to this day. I basically ask Jennie to have a guy getting his brains sucked out by an alien since the album is called “Life Sucks” but with kind of a retro B-movie feel. She killed it!
You are now signed to Dodgeball records, which was founded by Chris Messer (Showoff), his wife Dani and Mike Felumlee (The Smoking Popes/Alkaline Trio). What led to your decision to sign with them? Were you influenced by their bands growing up?
Mike: We had shopped around a little for a label once Life Sucks was finished. We were in talks with a few cool labels but the timing just wasn’t working out. We honestly just weren’t very worried about being on a label. Then we got a message from Chris Messer and he wanted me to call him. I was thinking “The guy from Showoff wants to call me? “. Chris was so enthusiastic and excited to do Dodgeball Records. I felt like this guy actually cared about us. It was a no brainer to sign.
Was I influenced by either of them growing up? Of course! Showoff was one of the original architects of that early 2000s pop punk sound. Chris is an amazing singer and songwriter. Mike has been and still is a huge influence. Alkaline Trio is a major part of Amuse’s history and will always be in my top 3 favorite bands. Every time I see Felumlee I think “this is the dude that played that amazing intro to Take Lots With Alcohol”. Beyond that Mike was a game changer for me when he released that split with Dan Adriano. Mike’s songs were that summer’s anthem for me and sent me down a rabbit hole of find more solo music like that. That album also made me discover the Smoking Popes which Amuse also loves!
How does it feel to be playing a date on the final cross-country run of The Warped Tour?
Kaine: Wow, it’s amazing. The final cross-country run of Van’s Warped Tour and we are finally cool enough to play one date on it. My one goal in life for this band was to play Warped and now we can finally say that we are doing that. All of our favorite bands have played and we grew up going every year and it always seemed like all the bands were having the raddest time. We got a little taste of what Warped life was like a couple of years ago when Teenage Bottlerocket invited us to hang out with them in Indy when they played and they took us to the bbq afterwards and we just hung out and met a lot of cool people. That really made me want to be on the tour. It will be fun though. I’m really looking forward to meeting a lot of new and interesting people and hopefully making some new friends. So STOKED!
Mike- You started a solo acoustic project during the band’s hiatus. Is that something you plan to continue doing on the side?
Mike: I am always writing solo stuff. I’m actually super proud of the stuff I have written. It’s so much different than what i would write for Amuse. One of my solo songs that I recorded is finally finding a home on the new LP. There is actually another song on the new album that was meant to be solo. It’s so different that it’s obvious which one that is once you hear it. It’s really depressing but I’m excited to bring that to an Amuse song. When I have time, I would love to keep doing acoustic shows an eventually release a full album. I want to really be proud of it though so I won’t rush that at all.
You guys are currently on tour in support of your EP. What have some highlights been so far?
Kaine: Yeah, we have been playing a ton of shows since we released Life Sucks. We’ve been playing so much that it all kind of seems like a blur. One memorable thing that happened was when we were in Cleveland and Keith got arrested for meth. We were at a Walmart and couldn’t find him. He had gone inside to use the bathroom, and cops come out and Keith is in handcuffs. They said he was shooting up meth in the bathroom. So, I’m pretty strong and what not, so I knock both of the cops out, I break off Keith’s handcuffs with my strength, and we grab the cops guns and then a 4 hour long standoff begins. Guns pointing at Keith and I, guns pointing back at the other cops that arrived. I finally convinced them to let us go when I learned that one of the cops was a big TSwift fan. We started singing together and all became friends and the rest is history. I made all of that up. I can’t really think right now, but the bartender/barista at Colony in KC was nice.