Interview: Modern Baseball
Very rarely do I come across an album that I exude as much love for as I do with Modern Baseball’s “Sports” and “You’re gonna miss it all”. The Philadelphia based band has been taking the pop-punk scene by the horns ever since the release of their first LP; and with the release of two LPs, a new song “Alpha kappa fall of troy the movie part deux”, and a full US head line tour under their belts, MOBO doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
I had the chance to talk with bassist Ian Farmer last Saturday when they rolled through Denver on their tour with “Say Anything”. We discussed movies, Ian’s love for driving on tour, and Queens of The Stone Age.
Ian made a comment about my “Against Me!” shirt before we got onto their tour bus, so the interview starts with us discussing their set at The Aggie theater in Fort Collins.
You can read the interview below, or listen to it here.
I caught some of their set in Chicago at Riot Fest, but other than that I haven’t seen them in like four or five years.
Yea, they’re like one of the best live bands.
Seeing them in that Environment was really cool too, because the place was so small, so Laura was like crowd surfing and everything. So it was really funny, but I felt kind of bad, because they had such a big tour rig so they had to kind of squish it onto stage.
Do they still do that thing where they do not stop at all in between songs?
They stopped a couple of times, like once or twice, but it was Ramones style, just slam through.
Cause I remember the one time I saw them in Brooklyn; they played 19 songs in 55 minutes. They literally stopped once.
For like a second.
So cool man. I guess lets get started, just a general question, how is life for Ian right now? How is tour for you guys?
Tour is going great; life is awesome. It’s kind of a bummer Hard girls can’t be here tonight because their van crapped out on them, but they’re all fixed now, they’re going to be joining up in a couple of days, but this has been a really fun tour. Every single band on the tour, which are not only incredible bands, which is not always the case, but Hard Girls, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and Say Anything are three fantastic bands full of the best people you can meet.
The lineup is unreal.
Yea, and it’s not a lineup that anyone would expect, when we found out that Cymbals eat guitars and Hard Girls are on the lineup, I was freaking out, because I’ve been listening to those bands since I was in High School (laughs), and that was really cool, and now to be on the tour and two days in Mike and Max from hard girls had to Fly out to San Jose so that they could be in a wedding and Jake and I learned their parts over night, and played like three four songs with Morgan for the next three nights.
That is awesome!
Yea, it’s been fun (laughs).
That is so cool, I was really excited when you guys rolled through, I saw you last year, was that your first full US headline tour, with Somos and Foxing…?
That was our first headline tour
I remember seeing that lineup, and I was like if you don’t go to this you’re an idiot, because that was such an awesome show.
That tour was so much fun, we have a big problem, we just want to bring so many bands, that’s why there was like seven bands on that tour.
But they were all really good bands though!
I was extremely happy with it, and everyone there was so cool too. We’ve been very fortunate, with the bands that we’ve toured with.
With some of the monotony that tour brings with being on the road, do you guys have anything that helps you get through the drives and what not? I guess the 23 hours that you’re not on stage?
This tour, the game has definitely changed, that before for me was driving, I would do almost 100 percent of the day driving.
It’s funny because most bands argue over who has to drive, but Jake and I would literally argue over who gets to drive (laughs). We were really big on that, but now I don’t have that and I kind of go insane if I’m not doing something, even if it’s just like whatever, so we have a couple of guitars in here and so someone is usually playing guitar, we’ve been watching a ton of movies which is cool because normally when I’m home, I don’t have any time to do that…and also reading a bit…Just general things.
What’s been on the movie list? Are you a big horror fan?
Yea, so I just got it follows and the shining, and the mummy trilogy, we watched Evil dead the other night.
Always a classic.
And also Army of Darkness.
The best movie.
The other day we watched all three Men in blacks (laughs), but last night we watched Jackass two, a cinematic classic (laughs) classic Spike Jonze film, but we’ve been watching a ton of stuff, because Brendan is a huge movie buff, and if you open that drawer right under you, you will see the extensive collection that he brought with him.
(I open a drawer right under the bench I am sitting on to find it packed from corner to corner with movies) Oh wow
And that’s not even like…
That doesn’t even get through all of it?
You have some good movies in here though…
Yea you can really tell we’re into sci-fi, horror and romantic comedies…romantic movies in general.
But those are like two of the best genres, so you’re good to go.
Lets see, so “Sports” came out in 2012, and “You’re gonna miss it all” came out two years later, and then, I know somewhere in there you guys had that split with Marietta, and also recently you were on that 6 way split that came out on Lame-o, and I know in that video Jake was saying that you guys had a friend that is unfortunately affected by Cerebal Palsy, correct?
So obviously it was a cause that hit close to home for you guys?
Yea, Lame-o records are quite literally our best friends in the world, that’s my roommate Eric (laughs). Their first release they ever put out was Sports, and since that release one of our other very best friends in the world Emily Hakes joined too and now it’s the two of them putting out some of my absolute favorite records, and so they asked us to do this, and they were doing this for our friend James who is kind of like an insane almost super hero story of a person who was told he would never even be able to walk, and now he is walking, talking doing all these crazy things, so it was certainly a fun thing to do, and we got to be on the split with a bunch of our favorite Philadelphia bands.
Those were all Philadelphia bands right?
Yea, except for technically Beach slang is in all different suburbs of Philly, and Spraynard are from Westchester, but basically all Philly. Yea.
Very Cool, So I guess, in between all of those releases, you guys have put out, I mean one of my favorite discographies personally, can you kind of speak to how you guys have developed as musicians, and to I guess how your songs have sort of developed too? I know that’s a really broad question…
Yea, so Modern Baseball kind of started just as a Jake and Bren writing songs together when they were in high school. They recorded kind of like a demo/EP kind of thing called the “Nameless Ranger” which was just Jake recording all the guitar and bass through a line 6 Pod or something (laughs).
Cause I know that first song Brendan did on just an iphone right? Best friend? (The name of the first song on the EP)
I think it was actually a mac book like computer microphone or something, but I don’t exactly remember…
Just like real DIY.
Yea, and then after they kind of decided that they wanted to do more full band recordings, and so sometime around when we were recording “Sports” they were just like two of my best friends that I met through school, and that’s how we met Sean too, and they finally just like had us come be part of the band, so we weren’t actually on Sports, I was just producing, and Jake and I were recording it. And then “You’re gonna miss it all”, Sean and I played our parts of course, cause now we’re part of the band, and we started to write our own parts, and now it’s kind of evolved into where they bring us a structure of a song and we all come up with how it should be, together. Which is cool, and a lot of fun, and we’ve all gotten way better at playing our instruments since we started (laughs).
Very cool, so it’s a very group effort, somebody brings in a riff, and you jam on it until you get something you like?
We are a very democratic band (laughs).
There’s no benevolent dictator? So to speak (laughs)? So you Jake and Brendan, all three are still in school, right?
Yea, we are.
Very cool, how’s that been?
It sucks, it sucks so bad, but we’re so close that we can’t…
Just can’t give up now
No, no I’m actually currently in online classes this summer, I have to take an online class this summer in order to graduate. Jake and I are in the same program so we’ve been doing this, but we’re trying to graduate a term early which would put us graduating in March, we’re on a weird ten week schedule thing, so in order to do that, I have to be in this online class. I don’t know when Bren is set to graduate, but he’s going back to school soon too. So it’s kind of more difficult for him, because Jake and I are both on the same schedule, which is a very weird schedule, and doesn’t match up with his schedule.
You guys are at Drexel?
We’re at Drexel, he’s (Brendan) at Chest nut hill
Oh that’s interesting; every class is ten weeks?
Yea, we have trimesters rather than…
That’s kind of what Denver University is like too (I could be wrong about that).
And you and Jake are both in music production?
Yea essentially, we both are the tech side of music industry, which is recording, production.
Do you guys record other bands and stuff at home too? Cause I know you both did… you guys did everything right?
Yea, up till now we’ve recorded everything ourselves, except for the split with Marietta, which was done by one of our friends, but yea we record a bunch of other bands, and we’ve been very busy which makes school very difficult, but it’s all worth it, because it’s really something that we all enjoy doing, and we’re actually building our own studio right now, which is quite the project, but a rewarding one.
I can imagine, especially getting everything acoustically treated…
Right now we’re just at the process, where we’re building new walls and floors and stuff, so…
very cool, so what initially sparked your interest in studying that?
I don’t know, I kind of always knew that that was what I wanted to do, cause I never thought of myself as being able to like play in a band, which I guess here I am now, and so I thought that that was like the next coolest thing, and I guess it’s worked out.
(I introduce myself to Brendan and Jake)
Oh yea, so a couple of weeks ago, I was going through the run for cover YouTube page, and I found your record selection, how stoked were you to find that Menzingers seven inch?
That was so sick, I had tried to get that for a long time, and it was completely out of print, and then I found it!
(A fan had given Brendan a vinyl copy of Motion City Sound Tracks, “Commit this to memory, here, which was awesome, so he was showing Ian)
So funny enough, that was the video that actually got me into Era Vulgaris…
Well what I did was, you were bringing up bands, and I would like open pages and just look them up, so that’s how I found the promise ring and super chunk too, but I was curious though, because you said you weren’t a huge fan of Era Vulgaris, and I was just wondering, why?
I love that record, as far as Queens of the Stoneage records go, I don’t think it quite compares to “rated r”, and “songs for the def”, but I do love that record. There are just a few songs on there I think could’ve been cut out, because there just not as weird and cool as Queens of the Stoneage usually is.
I feel ya, I was curious to get your opinion on that cause it’s pretty sweet. But ya after that I kind of kept looking…
That’s really cool
Well that’s why I love that cause every one they do, that’s how I’ve been finding more and more bands, and the promise ring, I actually found…I’m spacing on the album…
I think so? (I was referring to their record “Nothing Feels Good Anymore“) whichever one has uhm, “Forget me not”, and “make me a Chevy” on it…
Was that the first record? Nothing Feels Good?
Yes! I believe so.
That record is incredible.
Definitely one of my favorites
You should definitely check out Very Emergency too, if you haven’t, it’s just like the perfect pop rock songs.
I actually showed them to my brother, and he dove like way into them, and he went on a trip to California, and it was really cool, he brought me back the Texas is the Reason and The Promise ring split, and he goes here I couldn’t really find anything, but here’s this, and I was like this is awesome!
So I’m a huge gear head, and I’m always really curious to see what people are using, and especially with you guys because I’ve definitely noticed on your recordings and when I saw you guys last year like, everything is mixed so perfectly where it just cuts through, so what are using on stage? And does that differ from what you’re using in the studio?
It only has just because our rigs have changed so much over time, on “Sports”, (laughs) it was our first recording that we had ever done, like not as a band, but as recording engineers, and everything was done through our school’s like shitty Orange, through a shitty Mesa, which are not shitty companies…
But not for the music you guys are playing…
No, not at all, and they weren’t super great amps either, there was not a single guitar pedal used…until Alpha Kappa (laughs) until the split, and that’s just because our rigs were so basic, we were just like whatever, we were just like a band, and then we started getting more into the tone game. Now I actually use a fender super bassman 300, which, that was always my dream amp, but I used to play a 700 RB, because it’s a solid state, sounds pretty good, and it’s a tank and will absolutely never break on you, but then this just kind of happened to fall into my hands, for like a super unreasonable price. One of my friends was like hey I’m selling this, this is what I would sell it for normally, this is for a friend, I hit him up and he goes well how about I cut 250 bucks off that and give you free power tubes, and stuff too, I was just like yea! Sure! I ended up getting it for super cheap, which is how I got my cab too, I play through a ’79 ampeg V4, that my friend Scuff from Sorority Noise was selling, and he sold that to me for dirt cheap, and I love the way that thing sounds too. I really want to upgrade my rig to some sort of 4×10 and 1×18 combo.
That’d be pretty sweet
Yea, but I haven’t found the right cabs yet. For bass, I use a ’78 P-bass which has this really weird jazz bass neck, that they… they got really weird with necks in the late 70’s on Fender basses, and this one is called a bass ball bat neck, and it is like ridiculously thin. I bought it on reverb, so I didn’t know quite how thin it was until I got it, but the headstock, it’s probably only that thin (Ian motioned with his fingers) and that’s not an exaggeration at all (laughs).
Well that’s got to be nice though, cause that’s pretty fast.
I can play anything on it, and I love it, it sounds great too, and then my back up bass is this sweet tele bass that I found, it’s a Squier but it sounds awesome. It’s got a Seymour Duncan pickup in it, I don’t know what kind, but I bought it with it in there, but that I got dirt-cheap too.
That’s pretty sweet though, so there’s definitely those benefits to being in the Philly scene right (laughs)? That’s awesome. That should do it, so what’s next for Modern Baseball?
uhm, I don’t know, we’ve got some stuff cooking up, We’ve been playing a new song that will come out soon, and some other stuff to follow, but nothing concrete yet, but yea, we’ll always be touring and stuff when we’re not in school.
Very cool, I wish you luck on the rest of the tour!
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August 3rd, 2015