Part of Jul 2011 by

Country Mice’s Jason Rueger Talks Music

AdobeAirstream spoke with Country Mice front-man Jason Rueger as he and his bandmates were in Brooklyn, NY preparing for their tour in support of the recent release of Twister (Wao Wao Records). The tour will bring Country Mice to Austin on Friday, July 22nd to play at Stubb’s (inside stage) with BOY.

Rueger grew up on a farm that was passed down through three generations of his family in Beattie, Kansas. Like a story torn from the pages of a children’s fairytale, Rueger, the country mouse, transformed himself into a city mouse when he relocated to Brooklyn to pursue music. Rueger fatefully united with fellow Midwest transplants Ben Bullington (guitar) and Kurt Kuehn (drums), and We Are Country Mice almost immediately came into being. Rueger quips, “After the fact, we realized that we were all from the Midwest. I don’t know, maybe our smells attracted us to each other?”

The trio then recruited upstate New Yorker Mike Feldman (bass) and eventually shed the “We Are” from their moniker. As Rueger explains, “we always referred to ourselves as Country Mice; also, a lot of bands were coming out with ‘We Are’ in their names. We had a decision to make before Twister came out because this was our first real step out there. So, we decided to let the ‘We Are’ go and never look back. I feel like Country Mice is pretty distinctive; we haven’t found any bands with a similar name, so a lot of people figured it out really quickly.”

When searching for lyrical subjects, Rueger tends to write a lot about his life in Kansas. “The displacement, first of all, has given me a lot of inspiration. It makes me nostalgic a lot, I miss home. Every time I close my eyes and try to write a song, the first images that pop into my head are from my farmhouse and the countryside in Kansas. When I was in Kansas, Brooklyn was like a myth to me, because I read about it so much; I just wanted to discover it for myself. I couldn’t be happier in this really great environment for helping musicians, here in Brooklyn.”

Most music critics are quick to compare Country Mice with Wilco and Neil Young, which Rueger is honored by, “I love their music and I have for a long time, their music is so ingrained in me.” There have also been some really random analogies — such as Oasis, Cracker, and even Fugazi (specifically their melodies) — which Rueger does not necessarily find fault with. “If everyone said Neil Young, Neil Young, Neil Young, I would be disappointed. I don’t want us to sound exactly like anybody else. We get a really good a perspective living here in Brooklyn because there is such great music going on, it definitely helps us push the limits of our sound.”

Yes, the limits of their sound… With Twister, Country Mice have taken country music and classic rock and upgraded it with health doses of experimentally distorted guitars ala Sonic Youth. Rueger explains, “the songwriting will start with me working at home on my acoustic and I’ll get the melody and basic structure down and I’ll bring that into the rehearsal space and we will let everything — the melodies, the more restrained parts, the parts with distortion — build from there.” When performing the tracks from Twister live, Rueger states “a few of the songs are kind of set in stone, but I bet half of them are stretched out, we jam on them a little bit more live.”

Even with Twister fresh off the presses — literally, it is available on vinyl — Country Mice already have about 20 songs in the pipeline for their next album. As Rueger explains, “we want to make sure the new songs sound good live first and we feel good from start to finish with them. We are going to try adding a few of our new songs to the set for this tour to get them worked out. We have hopes of recording again in November and releasing the next album in June [2012]. We want to give the new songs time to grow. It’s hard; you get excited about the new songs and you want to release them as quickly as possible, but we also know that there is some goodness in letting the songs grow organically.”

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