Eight years is a significantly long time in the music world. Bands can come and go within eight years; songs you heard eight years ago may even be considered classics and that young edgy band you liked are now well into their thirties.
For Modest Mouse the past eight years have included producer changes, band members leaving and a mighty tour after their successful 2007 record We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Luckily for us they still found the time to write and record their sixth album Strangers To Ourselves, that was released in March last year. While you mull over what you’ve achieved in the last eight years, here are ‘5 Things With Modest Mouse’.
1. They Had a Bit of a Slow Start
Though forming in 1992, Modest Mouse had a slow start before the release of ‘mainstream’ successful record Good News For People Who Love Bad News in 2004. Switching record labels multiple times, band members coming and going and the financial instability that comes with being a musician, the band struggled to break into chart success. Signing with major label Epic Records brought about the album The Moon & Antarctica in 2000. Lyrically existential, layers of intricate melodies and that signature Brock vocal charging full steam ahead; the record in hindsight was a definitive one. One that would see not one, but two critically acclaimed and successful albums to follow.
For a flashback, here’s the single off their 1996 debut album.
2. ‘Float On’ Is An Absolute Tune
If you’ve ever caught yourself explaining one of your favourite songs to your friends and have said “Oh you’ll definitely know it once you hear it” chances are you were spreading the gospel that is Modest Mouse’s track ‘Float On’. The first single to come off their 2004 record Good News For People Who Love Bad News, is without fail the most successful of their career, ‘Float On’ received a number of nods of approval from the industry, including a Grammy nomination in 2005 for Best Rock Song, peaking at the Billboard charts at No. 68, No. 11 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2004 and no. 94 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 of All Time. As soon as that catchy guitar melody trickles into earshot at a party, at a bar, on the radio, it’s not uncommon that everyone will shout-sing in unison with Isaac Brock “And we’ll all float on alright”. In an interview back in 2004 Brock spoke how the song was a conscious effort to write something more positive:
“I was just kind of fed up with how bad shit had been going, and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere…I just want to feel good for a day”.
And that’s exactly the kind of vibe you get from this anthem. Fuck all the bad shit in the world, the state of the world, your shitty boss, that boy/girl/human from way back, Isaac Brock says “don’t worry if things get too heavy” and with that he and Modest Mouse gifted the world ‘Float On’.
3. THEY APPEARED ON THE O.C.!
Let’s acknowledge and move pass the fact that The O.C. was/is/forever should be your guilty indulgence for teenage angst and drama, because even if you couldn’t stand (Marissa) the show, the soundtrack was actually so on point. Modest Mouse not only featured heavily on this soundtrack, but also actually featured in an episode at a club show. Alongside a feature of indie rockers on the soundtrack including Death Cab For Cutie and The Shins to just name two, Modest Mouse can probably cement their success in the approval of everyone’s favourite music nerd of the 2000’s, Mr. Seth Cohen.
4. Notable Band Members
Starting off as a trio, currently performing as a six piece and having approximately a million changes to their line up, its no surprise that Modest Mouse’s band history is so extensive that Wikipedia needs big ol’ graph to explain who was apart of the band and when. Amazing.
Most notable of all the additions to the band was in May 2006 when former guitarist for The Smiths, Johnny Marr joined the group prior to the release of their 2007 record We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Marr’s influence to this record is undeniable. The creative pairing of Brock and Marr delivered this energetic, guitar heavy record that completely transported Modest Mouse into a realm of indie rock they’ve never completely gotten to before. Stand out tracks like ‘Dashboard’, ‘Fire It Up’ and ‘We’ve Got Everything’ showcased Marr’s stellar guitar contribution as these beautifully chaotic melodies matched the intensity set by the rest of the band.
5. Brock Is An Absolute Perfectionist
It should come as no surprise that founding member, lead vocalist and guitarist of Modest Mouse, Isaac Brock, is a meticulous perfectionist. In an extensive feature interview with Buzzfeed in early 2015, right around the release of their latest and long awaited album Strangers to Ourselves, Brock opens up about the last eight years between albums.
“I’ve killed myself making this record. Fuckin’ literally thought I was going to die. I wrote a will on an airplane, and I was like, I know I’m dying…every little fuckin’ freckle on this thing I would look at with a magnifying glass, and then decided I needed to look at it from the top of a fucking mountain”.
But despite the restless wait from fans, the past eight years have not been the low key, off far away in a cabin writing music and finding ones self down time that people may assume. Writing 30 songs, touring for two and a half years, following the next year after that with another round of shows, plus an innumerable amount of producer, band member and personal changes to the band is the kind of schedule neither you nor I would envy.
Brock’s artistry is one of precision and instinct for what he knows will work, as noted by founding member Jim Fairchild:
“There were tons of writing sessions. One thing I learned about Isaac is he doesn’t settle. I’m not exaggerating when I say I heard at least 50 riffs that could have been really good Modest Mouse songs, but for whatever reason he wasn’t satisfied. There really was no downtime.”