Photo courtesy of Museum Mouth
  • Photo courtesy of Museum Mouth
  • Blurring the lines, Museum Mouth

Rare is a record so aptly titled as Sexy But Not Happy — the fuzzy and feisty 2012 outing from Southport pop-rock outfit Museum Mouth. Sparked by buoyant bass lines and jittery drumming, the record explodes with aggressively colorful guitars and nervy choruses that typify the deluge of girl trouble and growing pains that often drown dudes in their early 20s. But despite its perfection, the titular phrase was a happy accident.

“It was a summer tour in 2010,” recalls singer and drummer Karl Kuehn, speaking via phone alongside bassist Kory Urban as they recover from a late-night drive on another mid-year trek. Guitarist Graham High couldn’t leave his “real job” to hit the road this time out, but he’s been replaced twice over to fill out the band’s sound.

“I don’t know who said it, but it was just a resounding sort of thing like, ‘Oh my god, those words perfectly describe if not this band at least the way all of us feel or want to feel.”

Museum Mouth makes depressing songs that manage to move with a frenetic sense of fun. It’s a thrilling mix mirrored by the band’s demeanor. Kuehn answers the phone groggy and put-out, having grabbed a mostly ineffective nap after driving through the night. The grind has him down, but he quickly perks up, excitedly announcing that the following day will find the band riding roller coasters at Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park and attending a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. As Kuehn and Urban speak, fun and frustration never seem too far apart.

Frustrations overflowed as Museum Mouth recorded Sexy. The line-up that made the group’s debut, Tears in My Beer, broke apart as singer and bassist Savannah Levin moved on. At the same time, Kuehn was moving back in with his parents in Southport, struggling to figure out if he wanted to stick with expensive art school or pursue music full-time. High was finishing up a degree at N.C. State University and feeling similarly conflicted as to how much he wanted to stick with music. Urban, who took up bass in Levin’s absence, was stressed by relationship drama and his workload at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

“I think the year that we spent writing Sexy was a really frustrating year,” Kuehn says. “No matter how you cut it, the record that we were writing was going to be heavier and more aggressive.”

The album seethes with sexual tension and existential angst, blurring the lines between the two in taut, emotionally potent pop songs. The title track rides restless riffs and herky-jerky drums as Kuehn sings with a crackling croon. “I don’t want a baby black widow,” he cries, philosophizing a lover’s disinterest in monogamy. It’s an irrepressible mix of high-minded intellectualism and romantic melodrama, conflicted and cathartic in equal measure.

“I think it’s grown in a way that’s made sense,” Urban explains. “I don’t think old Museum Mouth and new Museum Mouth are so different that they aren’t obviously part of the same thing. It’s a process that has made sense and that will continue to grow.”

Right now, things are looking up. Museum Mouth is almost done demoing songs for a full-length follow-up they promise will be more upbeat. They’re also hoping a label will release an upcoming EP of “goth songs” — four gungy dirges that Kuehn wrote when he dyed his hair a “really ugly” purple and was wearing black all the time.

“Being in this band is really fun,” Kuehn says. “It sort of threw everyone for a loop when we had the frontman, line-up change, but it’s always made sense to us. Museum Mouth is one of those things where once it started, I was like, ‘OK, this is what I want to be doing. This is the kind of music I want to be making.’ It’s easy to be in Museum Mouth.”

Museum Mouth plays Local 506 tonight alongside The Radio Reds, Heyrocco and Tragic Magic. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and costs $5.