MODERN BASEBALL are generally regarded as somewhat pop punk, somewhat emo, and somewhat better-than-everyone-else, so if you didn’t catch them on their East Coast tour recently, that’s your problem. Ahead of the release of their upcoming studio album Holy Ghost, Peyton Bernhardt caught up with co-frontman Brendan Lukens and bassist Ian Farmer to reminisce on their Aussie shows, fresh tunes, and how they’re so idiosyncratically positive they can’t hate anyone.
You guys have killed it on this tour. Are you enjoying your visit down under?
Ian: Oh, yeah.
Brendan: A lot. It’s been really, really amazing – and the shows were.
Ian: The shows were insane. Australia in general, we just didn’t really know what to expect. We knew that we were probably gonna like it, but it’s awesome. We’re having a blast.
Good to hear! I caught you at Oxford Art Factory and it went off – no one expected that reception, especially that level of crowd surfing.
Brendan: We didn’t really expect it either! That’s what everyone’s said; is crowdsurfing not really a thing here?
I frequent Oxford Art Factory and it’s relatively rare.
Brendan: Then our shows were crazy [laughs]. Oh wow. We did not know that.
Do you think the cancellation of your last Australian tour contributed to the hype for this one?
Brendan: Logistically, that would make sense … people were very welcoming to us and they were like, coming up to us and saying how grateful they were that we were coming back.
Ian: It definitely wasn’t the aim of that.
Brendan: Like, “If we cancel this one, I’m sure more people will come back!” [laughs]
Ian: Pull a power move!
When I chatted to you last August and you said that you really wanted to hug a koala.
Brendan: Yeah! Didn’t do it.
Ian: We found out that the only place you can legally do it without a trainer present is in Brisbane and we missed our chance. So next time!
Brendan: We’ll have to come back soon.
Any excuse works for us! You’ve got your new album Holy Ghost coming out, which I had a listen to and it’s a great record. Is there something you specifically want people to get out of it, something different from your prior releases?
Ian: I don’t really think about that stuff all too often.
Brendan: Especially when we write, we don’t really think about it, or at least it’s not the first thing we think about – audience reception and stuff like that. There are definitely a lot of lyrical themes about togetherness and relying on others and relying on support systems and being able to open up to those in your life that you trust and love. So I feel like that’s the general theme that we definitely want to convey. We also want people to notice that we can play our instruments [laughs].
Relating to what you put into your albums, you said in the documentary that in the beginning, the band was kind of like a journal. Is it still like that, or less cathartic because of some kind of pressure?
Brendan: Never any pressure. We’ve never had any pressure from really, anyone, to do anything specific. To do anything [laughs].
Ian: Pretty much only pressure from ourselves, trying to push ourselves harder and harder with each thing that we do.
Brendan: Really, it was much easier to open up this time around for me and my songs just because Jake (Ewald, guitar/vocals) was so open with his half of the record and because we were all in the studio together, bouncing off each other. The vibe was way more apparent.
Holy Ghost seems to be darker, I thought, by being more honest. It’s just kind of heavier. Were you worried about the people close to you listening to it, or seeing the documentary?
Brendan: We kind of wanted that.
Ian: It was definitely something that we wanted to embrace. Like we said, the whole point of the band is to be as honest as possible. In order to do that, you can’t hide the honesty from anybody. So to just go out in the open and put it into song for everyone to hear is kind of just the point.
Brendan: I feel like the only people I haven’t showed it to is my parents.
Would you be worried about that? You don’t have to answer that if it’s too personal.
Brendan: No, no, it’s not! Not necessarily worried, it’s just like, our mindsets are different. If you knew my family you would get it [laughs]. Like, they’re just starting to understand Modern Baseball and Jake and I writing songs and what it actually means for us and everything like that. So … just kind of holding off until I see them in person.
Fair enough! Do you get anxious about playing new songs?
Ian: Honestly it’s kind of exciting, playing new stuff. Obviously you don’t want to do it too much, because everybody has been that person at a show who sees the band play four or five new songs that they don’t know and it’s like “ugh, okay”. But one or two is a lot of fun. We’ve been playing two new songs that have been “released” technically, that are out there for people to hear, so it feels good. It’s refreshing to play something new and something that we feel, at this point in time, more personally connected to.
Brendan: Definitely. I mean, when we came here we realised, like, “people want to hear ‘Sports’ and ‘You’re Gonna Miss It All’ because we’ve never played here before”. So we weren’t gonna just be like, “we really wanna play the new record”, and play that. We also had more new songs in the older set that we were playing that had two songs on Holy Ghost that we aren’t playing now and we were just like “four might be a lot”.
Maybe not! With the documentary – how important was it to be able to view that instantly on Youtube, instead of having it as a bonus on a DVD or something?
Brendan: Oh yeah, we wanted it to be free.
Ian: We wanted it to be something that everybody could see.
Brendan: Because of the same concept of like, we wanted to be able to tell the story behind the record and behind how we got to this mindset along with people being able to listen to the record. You already have to pay for the record, so we might as well make one of those two things available to anyone for free! Also it just felt right. It would have felt weird to hold it and promote it, especially with the story – “listen to us talk about our hardship!”
You guys are a very honest band, and I know that’s what you aim for. But a lot of bands try to give off that impression without practicing it. What’s the difference?
Ian: I guess the real, main point is just be yourself.
Brendan: Like, I mean, we can’t pinpoint anyone that we think is “dishonest”. But at the same time, like we were saying earlier, we felt that hiding anything from anyone was inappropriate to our message. We had to … I don’t know how to say this in any other way: lead by example, almost. Because we can’t say “be really honest with everyone that you know and your relationships will prosper” and then be like, “I’ve never talked to Ian” [laughs].
Ian: To quote the great Audioslave, “to be yourself is all that you can do”.
Brendan and Ian both laugh for approximately ten seconds before apologising.
The website this is for is called I Probably Hate Your Band, which is totally nicer than it sounds. What would you probably hate about a band? What sort of band do you never want to be? Obviously, you don’t have to throw shade on anyone.
Brendan: We’re kind of like, gear brats, and stage brats. It’s all really tiny things.
Ian: We like to not, and I’m speaking in the general “we”, but I know it’s true, judge a book by its cover. We like to get to know people. We don’t like to hate [laughs].
Brendan: I guess a good way to spin this question, or spin the answer, would be like: I get turned off originally to listening to a band if their name is crazy.
Ian: Are you talking about Diarrhea Planet?
Brendan: I’m talking about Modern Baseball! [laughs] Talking about Diarrhea Planet. That is actually a good example, like a band that I love, and they’re so good, and the first time I heard someone talk about Diarrhea Planet I was like “oh my god”.
Ian: I just remember like, “yo, did you see Diarrhea Planet and Bucket Flush play that show?”
Brendan: But even then, like Ian said, can’t judge a band by their band name.
HOLY GHOST drops on May 13 via Run For Cover Records/Cooking Vinyl Australia. Get hyped up with Modern Baseball’s moving documentary below.