Modern Baseball Interview
Modern Baseball is a group of four rambunctious young adults who decided to get together and write about girls and the troubles that they have had with them. They go a step further by creating cathartic, powerful songs that lead to any listener screaming out the lyrics that hold a different meaning to each individual fan. It’s something relatable to all people that pick any song to listen to. Recently, Modern Baseball has released Holy Ghost as a way to cope with the struggles that the members have dealt with in the past year. These pioneers of a new pop-punk and emo sound sat down with me before their show at the Summit Music Hall on their tour with Joyce Manor and Thin Lips.
Collegian reporter Alec Erickson reviewed the show. You can check out that article here.
How’s tour been going so far?
Jake: It’s been great. It’s been really, really awesome. Everybody’s nice, shows are good, we’ve played some shows with ASAP Ferg. That was cool, by accident.
Jake: There were two times on this tour so far where his tour lined up with ours. There was one night, actually last night, where he played the bigger room of the same venue we were playing. Then, in California, there was this one time where we played an early show and he played right after.
You guys met up with Say Anything’s touring party for one of the shows, right?
Jake: It was funny because the first one, one of the bands on their package got sick and then Joyce Manor from our package got stuck on the highway and couldn’t come to the show. So it ended up being a normal size show, which was kind of funny. Then the second one was a bunch of bands.
You guys are breeding your own genre and almost starting a new wave of pop-punk mixed with emo music. How does it feel to be the forefront of bringing pop-punk back to life in a new way?
Jake: I guess it’s cool. I feel like we’re just doing whatever comes out. We’re definitely proud of the music that we’ve been making and it feels good that people are accepted to it.
Sean: And it’s nice to be at a point where we get to pick the band… I mean we’ve always picked the bands that we want to tour with but we’ve been touring enough where we get a chance to take a lot of the bands that we like out. And it’s a chance for the kids, that may not know them, to discover them.
There’s been a lot going on with your band in the last year. You had to cancel a tour because of Brendan’s mental health but your fans were very receptive and appreciative of that honesty. What was the band’s response to Brendan saying that all of that is going on?
Jake: We were just as supportive as we could be. Obviously, it was really a friendship first, band second kind of scenario. Which was easy because we were all friends before we were a band. We put a tour on hold. We put a couple things on hold so he could get the help that he needed and continue to get the help that he needs. So we just try to be supportive as we could for our main dude.
Fans were very accepting and nice about the whole situation. Not many bands like the transparent and honest approach because it’s very scary. Especially with the mini documentary you put out. So what did other artists say about that to you guys?
Sean: A lot of bands we’re friends with, and bands that we don’t know, came forward. It was really incredible. And to hear people who are in other bands or just your friends say, “I watched the documentary and I cried.” It was like, “Oh my God.” You don’t expect them to relate that far.
Jake: People we had gone on tour with, we exchange phone numbers and we become friends. But to have them hit us up a year later and say that they watched our thing, it’s like, “Holy shit.”
You guys have a big scene in Pennsylvania and a very close community for music. I know that in Colorado that scene is there but there’s not much coming out of Denver or anywhere else as much. How does that compare to the rest of the country while touring around?
Jake: Well there’s John Denver. (Laughs)
Sean: Rest in peace. Just kidding he’s definitely not from Denver.
Jake: Pennsylvania is very cool.
Sean: Yeah, we’re very lucky.
Jake: I guess now, more recently, with the tours that we do… A couple years ago we would do touring more so where we would go to a town and have a couple bands with us but also have a band from that town play the show. In those cases we could get a way better idea of where there was cool stuff going on in the town. But now, usually, we’ll just pick a couple bands and not know what’s going on there. Which is some ways less interesting, but also you can still tell from the people that come to the show what’s going on in that city. Like the other day we played a show in Boise, Idaho. Idaho? Iowa? (Laughs) No it was Idaho. It was at… What was it called?
Sean: It was Shriner Hall.
Jake: Yeah. At Shriner Hall. There’s not very much going on there at all. We played a show at a bike shop like two years ago. We had a few hundred kids come out that were all like, “Thank you so much for coming. Cool stuff never happens here.” So every now and then there’s a really neat moment like that.
Sean: Where did we play when we asked if bands came out there and they were just like, “Yeah, last year’s something or other had Slayer or something ridiculous.” They were like, “Slayer came out last year.”
Jake: Yeah, they were saying that one huge band came like a year ago. It’s like, “Oh man. I’m sorry.” It is cool I guess because when we play a town like that, we don’t necessarily have a local band open up but we’ll have a ton of kids come up after the show and not only say, “Thanks for playing cause I like your music.” But they’ll say, “Thanks for coming here because nobody comes here.” So that’s a cool feeling when that happens.
You started Modern Baseball when you were still in college and taking classes. How did you handle both school and a band?
Jake: It was a lot of work. It took a lot of planning and diligence, I guess. It was kind of annoying. Not the band part just the classes part. But I’m glad that we did it. I think it was well worth it.
Sean: And now we’re all educated.
Jake: Yeah! We all, you know, got our thing.
Jake: Yeah. It feels good. It was a lot of work and we also, I know at least me and Ian, we had really helpful advisors at school who really understood how much we cared about the band and were able to help us form schedules that worked around touring. So we were really lucky in that aspect.
Was school your first priority?
Sean: It was give and take.
Jake: Yeah. It was really back and forth. We would go back and forth between three months of school and three months of touring. We would tour for a certain amount of time and then we’d be like, “Well, we kind of played everywhere. I guess we should go back to school for a few months.” And then we’d go back to school for a few months and then get a tour off for something else. And it was a good system, it was just a lot of work. You would get home from a tour and instead of decompressing when you get home, it’s like you’ve got to go to class. It wasn’t that fun. But now it’s over and we can chill.
You and Brendan write everything.
Do you also write all of the other instrumental parts? Or when does the rest of the band come in to help?
Jake: On this record, me and Brendan each wrote lyrics to each song and the main guitar part. Then we brought it to Sean and Ian. Then Sean made up a drum part to the song and Ian made up a bass part… Also, for me and Brendan’s songs, Brendan would make up a lead guitar part for a song I had written and I would make up a lead guitar part for a song that Brendan had written. So this time around it was more collaborative.
Have previous records albums been different than that?
Jake: Yeah. Previous albums, I was super anal retentive… (Laughs with Sean) Brendan would bring me songs he had written and I had songs that I wrote. Then I would do a demo of drums and bass and all the guitar parts and then give it to Sean and Ian to learn…
Sean: In a day.
Jake: (Laughs) In a day, yes. Usually in no time at all. And then we’d record it. But this time around was way more regular bands style.
For this album, Brendan stuck to writing very short songs until the last one. Was there a reason that you know of for him doing that?
Jake: From the way he talks about it, a lot of those songs are very in your face and aggressive. He felt that that’s what kind of suited the songs best. He didn’t need to draw it out to fit a certain length. But he did do “Just Another Face”, which is the last one, purposely longer than the rest because he wanted to put a lot more content into it emotionally. Also, we’re both huge fans of short songs because we don’t have huge attention spans, so that’s good.
Last time you were at The Summit you opened for Say Anything. How does it feel to be headlining it now?
Sean: It’s crazy (Laughs)
Jake: It’s kind of cool.
Sean: I was talking to some of the guys in Say Anything and we were just talking about places, they had just ended their tour and we had just started. We were just talking about places they played and I was like, “Oh, we’re playing there. Oh, we’re playing there too!” (Laughs) It was crazy. But we love Denver. The fan support here has always been crazy.
What’s your favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?
Jake: I don’t think I know them enough to say…
Sean: How about… Do you know Street Sharks, the rollerblading sharks?
Jake: What is that?
Sean: It was a show. A cartoon.
Jake: Was it a failed cartoon?
Sean: No, it was very successful! (Laughs) It was like the plot of TMNT but they were sharks on rollerblades. I was more into that.
Did they not have to breathe underwater?
Jake: Did they have tanks on their heads? (Laughs)
Sean: I guess not. They were land living and fucking skated around.
Jake: Yeah, they must have been hella advanced. Anyways, I’m Michelangelo… You know what, I think I’m Raphael. I just like that name the best.
Sean: I’m Leonardo because when Leonardo DiCaprio played him in the new movie…
Jake: Yes. Exactly.
Sean: I really identified with the character. I’m glad he finally got that Oscar for his role in TMNT.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Jake: Go to shows.
Sean: Go to shows. Talk to people.
Jake: Be nice and don’t be fake nice. Be real nice. Play shows when you can.
Sean: Set up shows in your basement. Even if you play at your parent’s house. We played a lot of sick parent’s houses.
Jake: For sure. Part of the thing about Philly and the reason that a lot of bands can come out of Philly is because so many people around the city host DIY shows in their houses all the time. By doing that, you meet bands from all over the country and every time a band comes and plays your house, they’ll be like, “Hey we’re from Minnesota and here’s my phone number. Thanks for the show. Hit us up when your band comes to Minnesota and I’ll book you a show at my house. So it’s a never ending punk circle.
Sean: Yeah. So do stuff like that.
What’s the difference between the house show and these big venues?
Sean: The amount of outlets. (Laughs)
Jake: Yeah! Way more outlets. I guess everything is more rigid scheduling-wise. Like on our first tour, we did we didn’t have to do the show until six or seven at night and we would just plug in and start playing in somebody’s living room. But now we have to get here at two or three and sound check and we don’t play until ten or eleven. But they’re both sick in their own way.
Which one would you prefer to do?
Sean: I would prefer to do this and then have a house show once a year.
Jake: Yeah, totally. In Philly so we don’t have to drive there.
Sean: We’ve done some secret smaller shows. People have always been cool with letting us do that. But a lot of it was, I don’t miss the house shows mostly because, for the crazy ones, Ian would fall on my drums every song.
Jake: And everyone pours beer on your guitar pedals. Honestly, when I play Slaughter Beach, Dog (Jake’s side project) shows and everyone is just standing and listening to the music. But it got to the point with Modern Baseball house shows that it became a disaster most of the time.
Sean: And we all do our projects where we get to still do those, which is cool.