Modest Mouse Releases Sixth Official Studio Album, Strangers to Ourselves
By Kyle Eustice
Modest Mouse vocalist/guitarist Isaac Brock is busy. Not busy like he’s taking a shower, making some toast or watching some random music video on YouTube. He’s spearheading his record label, Glacial Pace, rehearsing for the remainder of the Strangers To Ourselves tour in support of the new album and juggling interviews like he’s a court jester. Brock is amidst a rare two-week break, but he has trouble even calling it that.
“I’m on a two week break, whatever, if you call it a break when the first thing I did when I got home was come back down to the studio to start working and shit,” Brock says from his studio in Portland, Ore. “I’m in my super hot building, hating global warming, hating summer. It’s just absolute shit.”
Over the past few months, Brock has been exceptionally chatty. It’s a far cry from the eight years of virtual silence we got from Modest Mouse as Brock and the rest of the band did other various things. Brock was working on two movie scores while the other guys were having kids with their respective partners. However, Strangers To Ourselves was a constant work in progress. It just took awhile. Now that the album is out, it’s a matter of getting the new material drilled into Modest Mouse audiences, which have come out in droves to see them play. From Poland and Ireland to the U.K. and Germany, Modest Mouse has already played a “bagful” of shows, as Brock puts it.
“It’s wiggly days, wiggly nights,” he says. “I’m in constant motion. There’s not really any time to slow down and check out the sights, but occasionally you get to check out the sights and that’s good. For some of the people in the band, it’s the first time since they’ve been in it that we’ve done a full tour cycle. That changes everything. We’re a much fucking better band now at the end of this tour than we were at the beginning. That’s great. Not saying we were bad. I’m not bragging either. I still fuck up songs I’ve been playing for 20 years. I know how to get back. When I fall off, I can get back up easier or at least work it in.”
Needless to say, with almost two decades as an active band, he’s a vet. Only these days, Modest Mouse has grown from a few people to upwards of 10 people playing on stage at a time.
“Here’s the good news on that regard,” he says. “It’s not extraneous. We don’t have people up there just playing shit or banging on stuff because we don’t want them to feel left out. Everyone’s got specific jobs and they’re doing ‘em.”
If you’ve ever seen Brock live or talked to him in person, you would have quickly discovered he’s witty, colorful and great at telling stories, which is clearly something that seeps into his songwriting. Modest Mouse headlined the Maha Music Festival Saturday, August 16 at Stinson Park to a sold-out crowd. The group headlines Riot Fest 2015 in Denver on Saturday, August 29. Brock was happy to talk being too “cute,” some of his favorite hip-hop artists and what older Isaac would think of the younger Isaac.
Kyle Eustice: Was it awkward being on CBS in the Morning and is it really filmed in the morning?
Isaac Brock: It is not because you saw me on it. That’s how you know. In the morning, I’m a mogwai. The thing about that is we don’t get a lot of those so the fella interviewing me was a different type of personality and I really liked him. I really enjoyed talking to him. He was really sweet. When we were playing the song, there wasn’t a live studio audience or anything, but he was just there taking his own personal pictures, enjoying it for what it’s worth. I don’t know. It was fun. I felt like I was doing something different from what I normally do, which is…well, it’s not always good, but it can be and it was.
I almost felt like you were getting interviewed by my dad or some sort of father figure.
That’s exactly how it felt. Like, ‘I’d like to marry your daughter, sir.’
[Laughs] Speaking of, I read you once said you had a steadfast rule you would not date anyone that played in a band with you. Obviously that has changed [Violist Lisa Molinero is both in Modest Mouse and Brock’s girlfriend]. How is it?
I can say that I had a steadfast rule like that, but the fact of the matter is, I had never dated a musician before until now. It was definitely something I knew I wasn’t going to do. I knew for certain that I would never do that. No one wants to hear from a rock and roller that touring is hard and shit, but it wears down on your constitution. You’re around people 24/7, often times without a lot of sleep. You’re not showering and even the most charming person on the tour you’ll start to get annoyed with because they’re too fucking nice.
I did research. I am a scientist. And the research came in that the dudes that smoke the most weed on tour are the easiest to be around. They don’t get bent out of shape. Like I’m a low grade weed smoker. I never sit down and have a meal weed and shit. A hit here, a hit there throughout the day is it. I also can be a cranky dude for no reason. Like…leave me alone. I’m thinking I need to work on that, get some weed in me.
You know my situation. I don’t do anything.
Yeah, I do. Not doing shit is probably a good way to get shit done.
I rode 14 miles on my bike today.
Do you have any regrets?
You wished they were kilometers?
I don’t even know the conversion of miles to kilometers anymore.
What is it? Like 3.1 km for each mile?
Oh, well then I wish it was in kilometers.
That’s why when people brag to you about doing a 5k, you don’t need to be f*cking impressed.
[Laughs] Do you get a lot of hecklers?
Yeah, I kind of brought it on myself, too. There are different ways people talk to audiences. You’ve got the storyteller and then the thing that seems to be really popular, and I don’t know why this works and why people in the audience like it and why the people that do it don’t feel like complete fucking dinks, but the hyping up like, ‘Yeah! Let’s party!’ All the bands do this shit and it’s so insincere to me. Early on, people used to throw a lot of shit at us when Modest Mouse started playing the music we were playing. It was not a very popular style, even amongst the punkers. Some of this shit was too cute, maybe? With early Modest Mouse, I sang with a squeaky voice. It’s fucking annoying. I’d throw shit now. In the past though, I was getting razzed. I am good at being a dick so I do it. I kind of enjoy it. I don’t have a thing. I don’t go on stage knowing what I am going to say or how I am going to be.
Do you read any of your interviews and if so, do you ever wish you wouldn’t have said a certain thing?
I don’t actually reread the interviews. I did earlier in my life because I didn’t know any better. I scanned the one you did for Thrasher and I was like, ‘Oh shit, I probably shouldn’t have publicly shit on the guys from SubPop. They’re still my dudes. Anymore, I kind of don’t give a shit. When I try to be nice, it backfires. When I fly off the rails, sometimes I get rewarded for bad behavior. I don’t know. It’s weird. I don’t look at reviews too much. I don’t want to bring me down. People will bring it to my attention. If something interesting or negative, usually negative, pops up, they’ll let me know.
Well, you’ve been nothing but positive with me. You’re one of my top five interviews for sure.
Fuck those other four. Who are they? Where do they live?
Chuck D is a pretty good one, but not as colorful as you though. Bryan Ferry, because that was so rare. Morrissey was just a little bit ago. Then probably DMC of Run-DMC or Santigold. You’re like number first or second place.
Well, cool. Let’s have an interview-off.
Is there anyone you’d like to meet?
I kind of avoid meeting people I really respect because why ruin it? I turned down meeting Bob Dylan because I didn’t want to be 1 millionth person to tell him he writes great songs.
Who are some of your favorite hip-hop artists?
Run-DMC is my favorite, favorite hip-hop group. I like The Clipse, Slick Rick and, of course, OutKast.
Listen to Sir-Mix-a-Lot’s “Swap Meat Louie.” He knows how to tell a good story. If you like Slick Rick, you’ll like this.
[Laughs] When I was in the 7th grade, I was on a public access talk show, like Letterman thing, but Seattle public access. I did the movie reviews. I’d roll in on a skateboard and I didn’t even skate. I was trying to skate, but I was shitty at it. I didn’t understand it. I had the Valterra “Back to the Future” skateboard. Cool stuff. I’d roll in and review movies I hadn’t actually watched. They’d have live music on it. One of those live shows was Sir-Mix-a-Lot, which was the show that got me into hip-hop.
No way. That’s awesome. Ok so how is the Isaac then different from the Isaac now? How have you grown as a musician, human…
Keep listing things. Musician, human…I’m still both those things. I’m almost certain that the musician human I am now would not want to hang out with the musician human then and vice versa. I think out ideals are possibly much different now. I’d get annoyed by hearing old me lecture about veganism and shit. Like, ‘Dude what are you talking about? You have no idea what you’re talking about. Quit making up vegan facts.’ You don’t have to be right about shit. Everything you’re saying to me now young Isaac is something you heard another friends say and they or another friend made it up. You’re all lying to each other. Quit.
Basically, you’re saying you’re wiser.
I have a different set of information now. I’m not sure I’m doing anything better with it then what I had back then [silence]. I’m pausing so I can think before I speak. A rare instance. The deck has been reshuffled. Pretty much the same cards are there. I might be playing a slightly different game, but it’s all just a reorganized version. I’m just a lot better at it now.
Modest Mouse, Maha Music Festival, August 15, at Aksarben Village, 67th and Center, All day. Tickets are $50. Visit www.mahamusicfestival.com for more information.