Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered and mastered by Matt Oliver
The day of the second session that Country Mice taped with us, lead singer Jason Rueger was packing the rest of his Brooklyn mates up into the group's it'll do touring van and taking them down to a relatively inconsequential town in Kansas. For a few days, they all were going to be killing time on Rueger's family's farm in Beattie, the middle of the country, clearing brush and working for their meals the hard way, happily doing so and happily being as far removed as their adopted new city as they could be, smelling things in the air that have no chance of being in the air in New York City.
We're not sure if it was the first thing he did when he got there -- it was likely the next day as they would have arrived too late in the evening for such a thing -- but at some point, Rueger threw on a pair of boots and climbed the wooden ladder into the old barn on the property, pulling himself up into the haymow. He dragged a guitar with him, and a camera and he sang the solitary song, "Ghost," up there with a choir of crickets irked and chirping in the background as it seemed that dinnertime was setting in in a quick hurry. Rueger stood singing, with the camera cutting him off from the shoulders up nearly the entire song. The fading light of the day was struggling its way in and it looks as though, up on the wall, there was a marking indicating that the structure may or may not have been erected in 1936. Certainly, the wood that was used to make the big, red beauty was cut and nailed into place by hands that belong to no one still living. He shifted from one foot to the other, with a hot fall's warmth glistening on his forehead and forearm, singing, "Get 'em outta my walls/Get 'em outta my walls/Get 'em outta my walls...," oddly and ideally capturing the creepy spirit of the song a second time.
It's always intriguing seeing folks in the places where they're most comfortable and there - out where you can hear the stalking paws of a coyote from 300 yards away if you're listening for it, out where you have to wipe the gravel dust off of the porch swing every time you want to relax in it - is where the formidable thoughts for Country Mice got started and they continue to breathe in songs like "Ghost" and "Festival," as well as in "A Good Old-Fashioned Barn Raising," which feels more like one's being burned down to the ground, lending to the ceremonies a demented Isaac Brock affectation from the song when he's calling Bukowski, or a spade, a spade. There seems, within the band's songs, a need to extend, to stretch and get out. It's a feeling that leads kids to climb water towers, just to get a better view of what lies outside the small town's confines. It makes you want to get up to the steeple of the barn, to perch with the wrought-iron rooster, acting as a weathervane, twisting this way and that in the wind, with no affinity or control over the direction, just stuck up on that crease, nailed in place. It can wear on you. Even so, you still might never leave. Or, worse yet, you'll leave and realize that back there, with the rooster, was as good as you'll get it.