Modern Baseball finds its sweet spot

By Jake Abbate
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Feb. 19, 2014

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Hit men: Philadelphia four-piece Modern Baseball is gearing up for a major spring tour. (Photo by Ari Remold)

Assuming Modern Baseball guitarist-vocalist Brendan Lukens speaks for his friends, he and his bandmates hate worrying about the future—at least according to the opener “Fine, Great” on their week-old sophomore full-length, You’re Gonna Miss It All. To be fair, this all-too-common gripe is perfectly natural for Modern Baseball. Barely into their 20s and with most of them still working their way through college, these kids—it seems acceptable to refer to them as such—have plenty to concern themselves with in their very active present, including a fast-paced music career.

College would serve as the proverbial melting pot in which the group would finally gel together. Lukens and guitarist Jake Ewald had established a friendship in high school—and, somewhere along the way, dealt with the awkwardness of the former dating the latter’s twin sister—in their hometown of Frederick, Md., before transitioning to Philadelphia to further their education. The two had already been recording music under the Modern Baseball moniker, but it wasn’t until Ewald met Jersey natives and fellow Drexel University rats Ian Farmer and Sean Huber that they fully rounded out the lineup. 

More than two years later, Modern Baseball is proud to call Philly home and has had no discernible problems in asserting itself to the forefront of the city’s musical vista, whether by playing an intimate house show or braving a recent bout of snowfall to film an upcoming music video at FDR Skatepark. Either way, the diversity and the multitude of concert locales hasn’t gone unnoticed by the band, especially bassist Farmer, who, thanks to a random conversation about bowler hats, is also known as Slugworth, in reference to the character from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

“There’s a big difference [for me],” Farmer tells PW. “I’m from Central Jersey, where there really wasn’t much going on. There were a couple of metalcore bands, but basically, the only places to go to shows around there were Starland Ballroom—or, if I wanted to drive 40 minutes away, there was Asbury Park. Philly is a very different story.”

Modern Baseball’s You’re Gonna Miss It All—out now via Run For Cover Records—follows a path similar to the band’s 2012 debut Sports, with more snarky, easily relatable lyrics that appear to call out their own generation for, among other faults, its short attention spans and preoccupation with the trivial. But make no mistake: This isn’t a bad thing. The band’s greatest strength lies in reflecting honest, everyday conversations—the more deeply personal, the better. The otherwise mundane becomes catchy, thanks to the creative braintrust between Lukens and Ewald, where narrative storytelling takes priority over typical songwriting conventions.

You can’t say it hasn’t paid off. Their almost subversive take on songcraft has led to increased exposure on a national scale, adding a tour with scene heavyweights Bayside and Man Overboard to their list of credentials. And just a few months ago, they earned a spot on BuzzFeed’s oddly specific listicle of “21 Newer Bands You Should Definitely Check Out If You’re Desperately Missing ‘90s and ‘00s Emo.” 

“It was weird,” Farmer says of the recognition, “It was cool for sure, but it was like a weird thought that our band was even mentioned on a site like BuzzFeed.” 

Do they identify as an emo band?

“Not really,” he admits. “We don’t really know what we are. We just kind of like to play the music we play. We kind of like how we can fit into a bunch of different worlds, though—how we’re able to play shows with the Wonder Years and, in the same year, play with the Menzingers—one of our favorite bands—and then we can also play with You Blew It!”

In fact, it’s this eclectic musicality, which Farmer has credited to influences such as the Weakerthans, Motion City Soundtrack and the Gaslight Anthem, that undoubtedly got the attention of the Boston-based Run For Cover, who reached out to them just over a month after Sports was released.

“We really wanted to be on that label because we really liked a lot of the bands that they were putting out, like Tigers Jaw and Captain, We’re Sinking,” he says. “We were stoked on those bands, and that just seemed like a good label for us to shoot for. Now that we’re on the label, we’ve met a bunch of these people, and we’ve grown to love them. Run For Cover is absolutely the place where we all want to be right now.”

They may hate worrying about the future, but in all honesty, theirs is looking pretty bright. This spring will bring about what looks to be their most extensive US tour yet, opening for the Wonder Years, Fireworks, Real Friends and Citizen, followed by the band’s first trip to Europe in May. Says Farmer: “It’s a really good feeling to know that that’s what we have in store for us.”

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1. Anonymous said... on Feb 20, 2014 at 06:19PM

“good band”

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