Jeff Mueller is a musician and printer living and working out of New Haven, Connecticut. He operates the impressive Dexterity Press, and has been a member of the majorly influential bands Rodan, June of 44, and Shipping News (and let's not forget King G and the J Krew). Jeff was kind enough to take some time and Spill The Beans for us, as June of 44 reunites to play their first shows in 19 years.
Hi Jeff, thanks so much for taking the time to do this. Why don’t we start with you telling me about Dexterity press.
Dexterity Press is a letterpress studio - we print all sorts of things. We edition fine art prints for people like Archer Prewitt and Toshio Saeki, we print music packaging for bands like Shellac and Rachel’s + many of my own projects - for excellent labels like Touch and Go and Thrill Jockey and Three Lobed Recordings, we print wedding invitations for awesome humans like you and your sweet bride Sara, we also print business cards and stuff for Chicago Mastering Service and screen-printers like Dan Grzeca and sometimes Jay Ryan - like, ages ago. And, when there is time, I like to print my own art, that’s the best.
You were involved in several musical projects that were influential to many, and had a profound effect on me. I had to rub my eyes when I first saw the news that June of 44 was playing a handful of reunion shows, coinciding with the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Uzeda. How did that come together?Thanks man, that’s really nice of you to say. Our friendships with Agostino and Giovanna of Uzeda are some of the most important, inspired and beautiful friendships we’ve made via music… they are incomparable humans, our love for them is immeasurable. We’d received offers through our 19 year hiatus to play festivals all over the planet, but, we had no interest in a traditional reunion of sorts. This is not a traditional reunion. When they asked us to come to Catania to play the Uzeda 30th anniversary celebration - we simply could not say no, nor did we want to.
It’s been an interesting process, dialing back to music that’s still very dear to me - yet foreign in the sense that I don’t play guitar the way that I did 20 years ago, I hadn’t played with a pick in at least 5 years.
Jeff performing with Shipping News in Chicago, 2006
Are there any other musical projects you are currently involved with?
I’ve been playing with some new friends here in the northeast, we are called Animal Body (I think), Bob Weston mastered a 4 song EP mid-last year, I’m tenderly trying to find a label that would put it out. I’m in a solo project that performs coffee-house music for an exclusive audience of my two children - my stage show is kinda weak, but the kids do love me.
You’ve been in New Haven for several years now, and before that Chicago, Philadelphia and Louisville. How do you compare the art and music cultures in these cities?
New Haven is a curious place, there is a very well established art community here, surprisingly prolific for a city its size. Yet, as an artist, it’s a tricky place to find solid ground, it’s unjustifiably expensive to live here, and, despite the large turnouts at gallery events, you need a much broader national reach or work flow to make life work.
My immediate art and music culture in Chicago was immeasurably supportive and in constant positive motion - you could get everything you might need as an artist or musician. Great record labels, great places to show art + great venues for both.
Philadelphia was a blur - we lived there from 1998 to 2000, I was gone for more than half that time working music. From what I can recall, it had a very insular vibe. Those that had been there a while, or those from there, kept to themselves. I could only attribute this to the epic feeling of transience the city had back then, people growing roots in Philly didn’t want to waste time with people that weren’t, which seemed fair enough. Back then, it was super cheap and somewhat broken. None of this is true nowadays, it’s ultra-hip, cosmopolitan, and pretty pricey.
My creative relationship with Louisville is largely tethered to the late 80’s and 90’s. The energy of the city back then was like me when I first started playing guitar and had very little interest or knowledge of the right or wrong way to play. It was much more about getting something out that had a little fire and then showing it to your friends. Everything had fire, and ultimately, nobody gave a shit about what was happening anywhere else.
How about the coffee culture?
New Haven has some great coffee. Mostly unpretentious and comfortable, well made and no fuss. There’s a shop here - Blue State Coffee - that makes a really solid cup of coffee, it reminds me a bit of Intelligentsia before Intelligentsia blew up.
Alrighty, let’s talk about coffee. What kind of a role does it play in your day to day existence?
I’m no different than anyone else - it’s the first thing I do when I get up. I try to time it so that I finish making my son’s lunch at the same time the coffee is ready. I like to sit, and have it while it’s hot - and most certainly use it as a gateway to morning connections with my team before we jump out of the house and go bananas for the day. I’ll have another at lunch, that one is far more utilitarian. Then maybe another in the evening every now and again.
What is your preferred brew method at home?
We use a 6 cup moka stovetop coffee maker - I’ll drink one by myself, then cook another for Kerri. We both take it black, no sweetener.
The Bialetti Moka Pot, photo by Kristan Lieb
If you’re out and about?
I like to get an Americano when I’m out, sometimes with an extra shot. It’s a guaranteed fresh cup of coffee.
Excited to have some coffee in Italy again?
C'è un vecchio detto italiano: "Bevi caffè come faresti con un pacchetto di 12 lite in una lattina di alluminio da dodici once ... tutto il giorno, tutta la notte, al cento per cento, non te ne pentirai."
Ho intenzione di farlo ... In realtà non avrò scelta.
Thank you, Jeff!
Thanks so much Ben! GO GLASSWORKS COFFEE AND SPAGHETTI DRINKS!