Modern Baseball is that kind of band that easily goes straight to your heart with their music, simple like that. In the last couple of years, the band went through a really rough time and the result is their most in-depth album to date, Holy Ghost. We chatted with Brendan, Jacob, Sean and Ian to know more about their new album.
You are preparing to release your third album, Holy Ghost, and it’s probably your most in-depth album to date. How are you guys feeling now that the album is about to come out?
Brendan: We’re excited! Like most of our records, we sit on them for a little bit before we can start playing them and sending it to people, so now that we’re under a month mark, is just kind of a free for all. [laughs] We’re just kind of waiting to play everything live.
Your documentary Tripping in the Dark is brutally honest, funny and charming. First of all, are you Freaks and Geeks fans?
All: Yeah! [laughs]
And so that’s why you did that awesome introduction in the documentary.
Sean: Our buddy Kyle Thrash, who directed the documentary, he directs all of our video concepts. He kind of had the idea because we wanted a fun way to kind of introduce the doc, especially with the heavier parts of that and he brought up the idea of doing that and it was a bless to do it, but also we got to record the cover of Joan Jett with Ian singing. [laughs]
How did you come up with the idea to do this documentary about the beginnings of the band to nowadays, and also about making your new album?
Jacob: It was really most of the idea of our director Kyle. He’s been a big part of the band ever since we made our first music video, creatively and also emotionally. He has a strong connection to our music, so when we started talking to him about going into the studio for recording, he knew everything that was going on in our personal lives. He felt like it would be a really timely opportunity to kind of give to the world a quick history of our band and also having the opportunity to explain how important everything that is currently going on and kind of breakdown what we’re about to do. It was kind of him having a vision and then we let him run with it.
The documentary gives a raw and intense insight into what you’ve been through these last two years and it was something that must be really hard to deal with. Was it easy for you to go back to those feelings and to share them in this documentary?
Brendan: It was much easier than any of us expected to be just because how close Kyle is with us. He’s been with us for so long, it really did feel like venting to a friend about stuff and there’s a ton of information that he wanted to know, as low as knowing so much about the band and so he was really able to dig deep and get out of us what we wanted him to get out of us as well what he wanted to get out of it. Luckily, we had Kyle. [laughs]
Do you have any funny story while shooting this documentary?
Brendan: Not really. [laughs]
Jacob: It was really fun to do the Freaks and Geeks thing. [laughs]
Brendan: Yeah! [laughs]
I know this is a delicate subject, but Brendan, you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and before you knew that, you went through some harsh moments. How are you feeling nowadays?
Brendan: I feel good! It’s a lot sometimes, but I have the band and they’re really my biggest support system, so it’s really great. I feel really great and our fans have been so supportive about everything. It’s really easy to just power through everything and stick through it.
How was it like for you to jump into making Holy Ghost right after what you went through?
Brendan: It was a little challenging just because I was coming out of treatment and went right into recording. I had to write my half of the record while we were still in the studio, but overall, having everyone be really excited to be in the studio and to write and record music together again and to have our producer Joe Reinhart being so actively involved, it felt like a normal writing process. Honestly, it was amazing getting there and feeling so natural.
Holy Ghost is a portrayal of what you’ve been through as a band and as individuals. Brendan and Jacob, each one of you wrote different songs and split the record in half, which Jacob wrote all the songs on the album’s A-side, while Brendan wrote all the songs on the other side. Can you tell me how was it like to work for this album that way?
Jacob: It was fun, we’ve never done that before. Each one of us had our own space to kind of create a mini-record for ourselves and then two sides ended up going together really well because Brendan and I have pretty similar writing tendencies. It was kind of refreshing and it was a really unique experience, I’m really glad we did it.
“Each one of us had our own space to kind of create a mini-record for ourselves and then two sides ended up going together really well because Brendan and I have pretty similar writing tendencies.” – Jacob
This album conveys a lot of emotions and an urgency to put that on music, and you simply did it in such an impressive and inspirational way. What was the best part of working on the album?
Jacob: Probably finishing it and then having to decide the track listing. [laughs] That was easy because we had to mix together all of our different songs and figure out a good order, but it worked and made sense, even though two different people wrote them. This was really nice because we just immediately finished it and listened to it from front to back pretty much, and it was cool.
The first singles revealed were “Everyday” written by Jacob and “Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind” written by Brendan. Why those songs to be the first singles?
Jacob: I don’t know… I think we didn’t really have any particular singly songs. We felt a pretty strong connection to the record as a whole and we just tried to pick two songs that were a good representation of certain spots on the record. It just felt right.
Jacob, one of the themes that you approached on the songs for this album was about the loss of your grandfather. Was it cathartic for you to put all those feelings into these new songs?
Jacob: Yeah! That is a good word for it. I was thinking about a lot of stuff that I hadn’t really thought about before and I hadn’t actually processed things until I actually wrote a song about it, so I kind of forced myself into a position where I had to think about everything and write about it. It felt pretty good.
Musically, what did mainly inspire you while writing the songs?
Jacob: I was listening to a lot of Pedro The Lion, Hop Along… mostly Pedro The Lion. [laughs]
Brendan: During that time, I don’t know if I was actually listening to anything but daily stuff like Dogs On Acid… I like a lot of movies, I don’t really listen to music as much as most people think I do. [laughs]
What movies sort of inspired you for this album, if there was any?
Brendan: For me a lot of the subjects that I was talking about was me getting out of treatment, dealing with processing everything from my treatment program, with being diagnosed with bipolar disorder to being properly medicated, to medication sucking, to having to give up drinking… But, there are a few sci-fi references here and there throughout my side of the record. [laughs] That had to do with the fact that I bought the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as Jurassic World collector’s edition, so I think that can contribute to some aspects.
The closing track “Just Another Face” is a brilliant and strong song, just a great way to close the album. How was the writing process for this one in particular?
Brendan: Unlike the rest of the songs on my side of the record, it’s either very loud or it’s very long, this song is much longer than the rest of the songs, almost equally as long as all the songs put together. Musically, it was something that I was sitting on for a really long time and it kind of came the most naturally out of all of them, which is probably why there’s so many verses, but this was definitely the one that I wanted to be about accepting my treatment and myself, accepting help from my support system and other support systems, trying to kind of write something that would get me out of bed in the morning and make me realize that is easy to keep moving forward.
“This was definitely the one [“Just Another Face”] that I wanted to be about accepting my treatment and myself, accepting help from my support system and other support systems…” – Brendan
Holy Ghost marked the first time that Sean and Ian wrote all their own drum and bass parts, and also the first time you guys ever recorded an entire full-length together. What can you tell more about that?
Sean: It was kind of a crazy experience and it was way different from anything we’ve ever done. Basically, we just got together in a room and jam out all of the songs and figure out all our parts together, which I think it allowed a medium to really lock in into be aware of what each other were doing or what Brendan and Jacob were doing and select what we wanted to do. I think that allowed us to craft the songs into more as a unit as opposed to individual parts.
Besides that, Holy Ghost was also the first album recorded by someone other than you guys. You had on board the producer Joe Reinhart (Hop Along, Joyce Manor). How was it like to have him working with you guys?
Jacob: It was awesome! It was the first time that we worked with a producer and the first time we hang out with Joe. It turned out really well, not only because he’s really smart in a musical sense, but also it turned out that we have a lot of the same musical sensibilities and he’s also really fun to be around and easy going. The fact that he was just down for everything and always kind of in a good mood made us really ready to do whatever all the time, which is awesome. It definitely made us really productive and made us really positive about the whole experience.
The album’s artwork is a photo taken by Jessica Flynn and it feels so nostalgic. What can you tell me about this photo and the meaning for you guys?
Brendan: We like the artwork a lot because, first of all, it’s probably the only time that I think we could put ourselves in colours. [laughs] But it’s also a photo of us taking a video of Flynn, which is really meta, and it felt right for the whole vibe of the record like looking on all of our decisions and all the themes that go along with the record, but also we really liked the photo, we really liked taking a photo of Flynn – someone who’s really part of our lives, our crew and our family, and someone we worked with literally every day.
Jacob: It was taken on tour.
Brendan: Yeah, in Utah!
Jacob: It was in a Guitar Center parking lot. [laughs]
What records or bands have you been listening to lately?
Jacob: I’m really into Guided By Voices.
Sean: I probably listen to pop more than anything right now, not just every night, but after the shows even. And then Ian made me a playlist of mid-2000’s Chicago punk and I listen to that all the time.
Ian: The record that I’ve been listening to a whole bunch lately is the new self-titled record from a band called Gunk. They’re from Philadelphia and they’re awesome.
Brendan: I also listen to pop. [laughs]