Cultural Bulletin
Cultural Bulletin is a quarterly magazine that provides an international view of creative work. We look to film, music, design and art as signifiers of our cultural moment.


Above is John Maus’ full set at the Pitchfork Paris Music Festival. Leading up to this Maus had cancelled many live dates due to the sudden death of his brother and bandmate Joe Maus (aged 30) due to a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Given these circumstances, it is of note that Maus performed solo, without a live band, opting to revert to singing over a backing track. 

Maus had recently explained in a Reddit AMA that performing with a band had made playing live more enjoyable and also less nerve racking. Given the tragic circumstances of Maus’ return to performing solo - it was hard to not admire his bravery in fulfilling this booking. 

Much of Maus’ music looks to the transcendent quality of pop, with the audience encouraged to share in the collective emancipative nature of his songs. However, it was hard to not apply a more autobiographical narrative to the songs such as ‘My Whole World Is Falling Apart’ and ‘Keep Pushing On’. Lines like, ‘Holy mother why are you crying? Why are you sad?’ must now resonate more deeply with him.


To many of his fans, Maus represents a heroic figure - a consequence of his sincerity, openness and ‘hysterical body’ live performances. There is a ‘self sacfricial’ aspect to his them that conform to an archetype of what a hero represents. In his quest to ‘really be seen’ he also becomes a symbol for the every-person and their capacity to also ‘be seen’ both to themselves and by others. Maus is in search of a truth and by looking for it through the vernacular of pop music and pop culture as a whole, transmits a hopeful message to his audience. It is one of overcoming adversity and being a positive person. 

Maus has been known to be a reclusive character and with his wife leaving him weeks before his brothers death (which he also revealed on the Reddit AMA). These events could have been the catalyst for Maus to understandably retreat to Minnesota. The fact that Maus is again travelling to his audience positions himself strengthens the sincerity and premise of his music - that contemporary modes of creative expression can provide us with a meaningful platform to ‘reach out our hands to the one alone tonight’ and transcend our suffering. There is a feeling that this person is now John and that in his courage to continue we must also reach out our hands to him. AG