Modern Baseball: Batter Up
BLUNT checks in with Modern Baseball’s Jake Ewald to take a look at the little punk band that could.
“I hate worrying about the future ‘cos all my current problems are based around the past” offers Brendan Lukens in the opening lines of “Fine, Great”, the first track off Modern Baseball’s recent LP, You’re Gonna Miss It All. Not familiar? That’s okay. The Philly punk outfit have been hailed as “the best band you’ve never heard of” – members Lukens and guitarist Jake Ewald started the band as high school buds before up and moving interstate to attend college, where they’d bulk up the band from an acoustic duo to an indie-cum-pop-punk four-piece. A six-month gap between releases stateside and Down Under for You’re Gonna Miss It All has given Ewald the chance to have some perspective on his group’s “make or break” second release.
“It’s kind of funny,” the guitarist begins, “when we did the first record, it was mostly just me and our singer Brendan doing most of the legwork ‘cos we didn’t have a real band yet so when we went in with this record, more than anything, we were just excited to have a full band and make the record that way. We were so excited about it all that we weren’t really thinking about any of that [pressure] until it was done and we were about to put it out and then we were like, ‘Ohh wait, what if everyone hates it?’” he laughs.
Their style isn’t your typical pop-punk fare; like Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum or Placebo’s Brian Molko, Lukens’ simultaneously monotonous, nasally, and overall charming vocal delivery distinctly sets his group apart. His words are sharp and spontaneously delivered, the acoustic element of their sound still at the heart of what’s going on and complementing the earnest nature of the lyrics. Anyone who’s grappled with young love, moved out of home or felt generally lost and awkward will find something relatable here, though when the words are this personal, it’s surely got to feel as though the contents of your diary is being broadcast over the PA system to the entire school?
“I guess the writing alone aspect helps because you’re not really thinking about it when you’re writing a song in your room,” Ewald considers. “Usually one of us has had a crappy day or thought of one cool line and we’ll go run off by ourselves and try to build around that, so you’re not really thinking about when a bunch of kids are gonna hear it at a show, you’re just kind of thinking about how – at least for me personally – it’s a good way to fully realise your emotions and dissect how you feel about something by being able to put it into words.
“It’s funny, you put out the record and people start talking about it and you’re like, ‘Oh wow, all these people know how I was feeling at that time’. It’s kind of a weird sensation, but it’s a really cool feeling when you can see people who are relating to it and feeling the same way.”
Anyone who’s on the ball when it comes to the US punk scene will have noticed that Philadelphia is thriving right now. The Menzingers, The Wonder Years, Restorations… Vice have even dubbed the city as having “the most prolific and most honest punk scene in the country right now”. So what is it about Philly that lends itself to punk success?
“It’s pretty cheap to live there and there’s a lot of college kids,” Ewald begins. “It’s not the nicest city; there are definitely nice parts, but there are also really dirty parts. In New York when bands start, it’s so overwhelmingly competitive because it’s such an enormous city and there’s so many people who want to be the best at everything. But in Philadelphia, you can go to each end of the city in one night to see a different punk show. It’s got the city aspect with all the different variables and things going on, but it also still feels like a pretty small community within the punk scene. With the internet and the ease of making music available to people, it’s helped so much, that’s the number one tool for putting something half-baked out there for a bunch of people to hear. Everybody can put their punk band on the internet.”