Interview: Modern Baseball

Written by Erin Mathis

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Think back to who you were 10 or 12 years ago. If you were anything like me (and if female), you had bows in your hair, an unnecessary amount of eyeliner on and around your waterline, and a first generation brick of an iPod packed with bands like Dashboard Confessional, Death Cab for Cutie, and Taking Back Sunday. Your parents didn’t understand you, your classmates didn’t like you, and self-pity felt really, really good. Flash forward to present day. You’ve probably moved on. You’re probably in school, or starting a career, and over the years have even managed to glue the pieces of your previously shattered self-esteem back together into something that resembles confidence. But deep down, you know you’ll always be that awkward teen, putting more effort into your Myspace prof pic than your homework. And I’m here to tell you, that it isn’t something to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s time to embrace it, because guess what? The emo music scene is making a comeback.

Bands like The Front Bottoms, Modern Baseball, and artists like Front Porch Step, are gaining some serious attention, and for good reason too – they’re freaking amazing. I’m talking heart on the stage, speakers on full blast, and an audience screaming along to the lyrics. I had the immense pleasure to speak with Jake Ewald of Modern Baseball, and ask him all of the questions that I’ve been dying to know the answers to.

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Your band definitely has an emo influenced-sound. Were you originally into emo music when it became popular in the early 2000s?

Jake Ewald: Yeah, we were huge, huge Motion City Soundtrack and Say Anything fans, and they were kind of like, a branch of emo. There was a lot of anxiety-based lyricism, and we thought that was pretty cool. Those were definitely the bands that were the biggest influences, and the ones that made us start writing songs.

So I saw that you go to Drexel University. What’s your major there?

JE: Ian [Farmer] and I go to Drexel for music industry. We’re in school for the summer right now, and we’ll be off in the fall for The Wonder Years tour. It’s basically a music recording program where you learn how to record audio or run a record label if you want to do that. It’s relevant to the things we enjoy.

Was there a deciding moment when you knew you needed to take your band further than just something that you and Brendan [Lukens] did for fun?

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JE: Actually, yeah. There was a specific day. Brendan and I started playing together in high school, and when we first started, there was kind of a moment where we were both dissatisfied with the music that was around us, and we sat down and said pretty much that we wanted to write songs that meant something to us. And that’s when we started writing Modern Baseball songs. And then there was another moment, after we went to college, when we already had our EP out. We decided that we wanted to really push this album to vinyl, and be a “real band.” We wanted to make something tangible, that people could like and listen to.

That’s awesome. So you were saying that you wanted to make things that meant something to you. All of your songs are really personal, they’re stories, and the lyrics are so raw and beautiful. Who typically writes the lyrics? Brendan?

JE: Well, Brendan writes the Brendan songs, and I write the Jake songs. Some people don’t know that I sing too, because when you hear our songs, our voices sound pretty similar. But really, as far as song writing goes, I don’t think we’ve ever actually written a song collaboratively.

Besides lyrics, how does the song usually come together?

JE: For the first album, it was Brendan and I each writing songs on our own, just our voices and acoustic guitars, then I would add the drums, base, and guitars over it. And with the second, most recent, album, we would still each write the songs, and I’d demo out the other instruments, and since Sean and Ian were in the band at that point, we would bring it to them in the studio, and they would add their own flair to it. But now that all four of us have been playing together live, we’re still going to write separately, but for putting the whole sound together, we’ll probably do a little more jamming in the studio, ‘cause now we can really vibe off each other, and become a cohesive unit.

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When I first saw the video for “Your Graduation” I was surprised to see that Sean [Huber] was singing. His voice is awesome, and he gives the song such a harder sound. Is he going to sing more?

JE: Maybe. He had a solo thing that he sung for, and we just never thought to ask him to sing on anything before, and then we listened some of his solo songs and were like – wait a minute, his voice is sick, why don’t we have him sing on something? Brendan had this really angry song, which was “Your Graduation”, and he said, “I want Sean to sing on this, and I want it to sound like BAAAAARRRGGHHHH.” We didn’t hear him do it until we were in the studio, but once he did it, we knew it had to go in the song. And then right afterward, we found out that Ian could harmonize, so now everyone in the band sings.

That’s so exciting. So, random question time now: If you could play for a band that was any other genre, what kind of band would it be?

JE: Probably something super heavy and fast. When I was in high school I was in a metal-core band, but there was no room to be funny or silly, so then I started writing Modern Baseball sounding songs. But I think if I could go back to that now, since I’m a little bit better at guitar, I think it’d be fun.

Cool, cool. Have you had any embarrassing on-stage moments yet?

JE: Probably the worst, was when we were playing in Orlando about a year ago, when our friends Sean and Adam had set up the show for us. We were hanging out with them for an entire two days straight, and we played the show on the second night, and it went awesome. At the end of our set, I wanted to thank them, and I don’t know why, but I called Adam, Andrew. It was the most soul-crushing thing. We were hanging our with this guy for a whole 48 hours, and he was the coolest dude, and he was standing right next to me on stage when I said it. I felt like such a jerk. And the guys still give me shit for it.

Oh man, I’m sorry. Yeah, that’s a bit embarrassing. What about prepping for the stage? Do you have a typical routine before you go on?

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JE: We’ll say, “Ready for the rock-gig!” And then we go rock the gig, that’s pretty much it. But a few times, when we were opening shows and if there was a big curtain that they’d pull back, we’d think of different things to do while the curtain was opening. Like one night we all had our pants down, and then quickly pulled them back up once the curtain opened.

So now that you guys are really blowing up, do you have any crazy fan stories?

JE: Gosh, I wouldn’t say anything too weird. But this one girl made a really, really interesting collage of Ian pictures on the internet. It was pretty creepy. Did you watch Hey Arnold! growing up?

PB: Of course.

JE: You know how Helga had that weird shrine-thing? It was kind of like that, but with pictures of Ian and a bunch of hearts everywhere. It was pretty weird, but also really funny.

That’s so great. Soon you’ll be on tour with The Wonder Years and Taking Back Sunday. How do you feel about that?

JE: I’m freaking out about that. We went on tour with The Wonder Years in the spring and it was easily the most fun, pleasant, awesome experience we’ve ever had with another band. To tour with a band that we grew up listening to, and then have them be so friendly and actually care about our band, is really neat.

And just one more question. Did you watch Shark Week this year?

JE: No. I’m too scared to. My parents live near the beach in Delaware, so I can’t expose myself to that type of programming.

Modern Baseball performs at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Saturday September 6th with I Am the Avalanche and Beach Slang. Click here for tickets.