Listening to City Mouth, it’s surprising that the band began as an electro-pop solo project.
The Bloomington-based band, which describes itself as “indie-rock influenced pop-punk,” has gone through numerous lineups and even genre changes to become what it is now.
City Mouth began as frontman Matt Allpow’s electro-pop solo project while he was a student at Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal, Ill. The songwriter planned a live show accompanied with a band to debut his project but a week or two before the group was set to perform, a number of the musicians bailed. With the remaining musicians, Allpow played stripped down versions of his songs that ended up sounding more pop-punk with the full band.
They added more instruments and became a full group, abandoning the solo project ideology. Allpow was determined to remain an electro-pop band but the new pop-punk sound was too great for him to ignore.
At the end of the first semester of his sophomore year Allpow dropped out of college to focus on music. He moved back to his hometown, Evergreen Park, Ill. – a place that has remained central to the band, according to Allpow – and quickly recruited new members. From there, the band started writing and performing around the Chicago area.
They have just finished a tour of Illinois and the tracking for their new EP, Allpow said.
While a release date has yet to be announced, writing for a new release makes one question what it takes to build a good song and what one wants to accomplish through music. For Allpow, music is about connecting with others.
“We try to relate to what other people are feeling and for other people to relate to what we write is powerful,” the band’s frontman said.
But for a song to stick with a person, it has to be more than just relatable.
Allpow writes about ”figuring out how to deal with growing up and feeling like you don’t have all the pieces together yet still having to move forward.”
“For a good song, there has to be a certain amount of natural feeling to it,” he said. “What makes pop music work is combining familiarity in a way that people haven’t heard it before.”
That’s what City Mouth tries to do in their songs. They write about issues that affect all people yet approach them in a manner that separates their experiences from the audience’s while still holding onto that familiar feeling.
The city of Chicago was one of those things that had always been familiar, yet separate to Allpow. The name of the band was partly based off the relationship Allpow had with the city.
The original idea for the band name was a play on the title of the “City Mouse, Country Mouse” story. For Allpow, “a city mouse is a person who speaks like they’re from the city. I grew up close to the city, pretty much in Chicago but at the same time outside of it.”
The familiarity and alien feel of Chicago itself was a point of inspiration for Allpow’s writing.
“To me the city was a symbol of the outside world and the world outside of the innocence that I grew up with,” Allpow said. “City Mouth represents the start of me writing with a less innocence.”
The band has gone through a number of changes and matured since their start in Bloomington. But while they are still gaining a name outside of Central Illinois, City Mouth has always been a Chicago influenced band.