Foursquare with Maureen
On Cell Phone Freaks, Metallurgy and Fame
Maux: [removes shoes and socks] Ahhhh.
BD: Thanks for granting this interview. It's wonderful to finally meet you.
Maux: [laughs] Thanks. I feel the same way.
BD: I'll start off with something your husband and producer [Soapy Argyle] pointed out to me. On the “11 Minutes” album, you made this handwritten cd cover. For the inside liner notes, rather than the typical “thank yous” to guest musicians or minutiae about songs, you simply wrote the words, “I am very serious.” What did you mean by that?
Maux: I wrote “I am very serious” because it means I am very serious. It's because people might hear some of these songs and not recognize the deeper meaning. I want them to know – they are probably correct.
BD: So you were being ironic.
Maux: Yeah. You know those people who get hangovers after partying too much and say, [in serious man voice] “Man, I got to get serious!” -- but they'll go about their day the same way, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and pot, all the time thinking, “I am so serious. I'm going change my tune. Really, I am.” [laughs] It's so stupid.
BD: After reviewing your oeuvre, I found you're songs fall into two possible categories – those which contain childlike whimsy, like “Walk with Caitlin,” and those which advocate brutal violence against others, like the punk songs “Cell Phone Freak” or “He was Firing Me. ” These seem like extremes, but maybe not. Maybe it's the flip side of the same coin. Care to comment?
Maux: That's a good point. [laughs]
BD: I make the points, so you don't have to.
Maux: Is there a question in there? Just kidding. No, I think it's true. Punk music is a very raw form of expression. The songs are very short. They're made for short attention spans. And the words are raw, too, and political from a very selfish point-of-view, and not logical – which all can be seen in children, too.
BD: Did working as a counselor for drug abusers inspire your punk songs? Did you get some ideas from your clients?
Maux: Yes. Definitely. More in the attitude – that's what I'm making fun of in the songs. It's like I was saying before about being very serious. The more serious you are, often it makes the situation become comical. You accomplish less if you're “serious” than when you go about things with a more fun attitude.
BD: You're also a metallurgist. Sparky the Dog Studios, I think, is the only recording studio in the country with its own blacksmithing forge. What's similar between metal and music, in your estimation?
Maux: Oh, well, when I made the album, it was before I was a metallurgist. But lately I will tell people “I'm really pleased about what I'm doing with metal,” and they think I'm meaning heavy metal.
BD: They think you're headbangin' hardcore.
Maux: Right. But I don't like metal [music]. In high school, I went to a Van Halen show with my basketball friends because they had a free ticket. They dressed me up in tight pants, high heels and makeup. We went to the concert and met some Air Force cadets with a keg and a beer bong, and I don't remember anything of the concert whatsoever.
BD: So that's your metal story.
Maux: That's the extent of my experience with the lifestyle, yes.
BD: Foursquare or kickball, which game is a more worthy challenge of a true sportsman?
Maux: Oh, well, if by sportsman you mean someone with a love of the game…
BD: Yes, exactly. Love of the game.
Maux: In that case, you need to keep a good attitude. Foursquare, then, definitely. As you know, that game can make many men go home in shame and defeat.
BD: Wait, surely you don't mean me ?
Maux: No, your roommate Sean. Remember?
BD: [laughs] Oh yeah. All that shit-talkin' and he couldn't get out of D square.
Maux: [laughs] Don't put that in.
BD: You had the dominant vocals on an interesting song by Soapy Argyle, “I Ride My Bike in the Snow.” How did this song come about?
Maux: That was very fun. The story behind that song is that Greg [Soapy Argyle] was riding his bike to my house – this was long ago when we were dating – and it was snowing, and he kept singing this tune over and over in his head. Sort of a mantra to keep him going so he wouldn't collapse on the side of the road and die of hypothermia. He got to my house and played it for me. It was a round, so I sang the other part. And a year or two later, he recorded it.
[Soapy Argyle interjects, gazing into his wife's eyes, with sonorous tone]
SA: Maureen, I was very much in love with you when I wrote that song.
BD: Hey, Chief, I'm trying to conduct an interview here, do you mind?
SA: Oh, uh, sorry. [exits]
BD: Maux, tell me this, how do you maintain such utter coolness at all times and with all people?
Maux: [cackles with delight] Enlightenment: if you've got it, you got it. If you don't, you have to work really, really hard.
BD: Can you honestly do no wrong?
Maux: Like they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And so is wrong.
BD: Finally: Is OK with you if I ask out your younger sister?
Maux: [pretends to strangle the interviewer] It's gonna be hard once you stop breathing…
BD: [regains throat] But seriously, no, here's the question. You've been around since the beginning. What's your favorite “Sparky the Dog” moment?
Maux: I think a big victory moment was meeting a group of women down in New Mexico . We were sitting around drinking wine, and one woman, she was from New Orleans – quoted my song. She referred to the line, “leprechauns in your hood,” from “Cell Phone Freaks.” It was then I knew the power that this record label had over hearts and minds.
BD: Wow. What next for Maux?
Maux: I'm just gonna keep on walking that fine line between innocence and extreme cynicism. [laughs] A balance I live daily.
--Brett Duesing, December, 2004