Modern Baseball Get Giggly With Us, Talk Poison City Weekender

According to a scientific study in 2012, French Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard is the world’s happiest man, after brain scans revealed that his capacity to experience joy produced a level of gamma waves “never reported before in the neuroscience literature.”

Now, I’ve never met Ricard, but based on the two times I’ve spoken to Modern Baseball frontman Brendan Lukens, he’d be giving the monk a run for his robes.

Lukens is the bubbliest, giggliest person you’ll ever have the chance to speak to – his honest and permanently cheery disposition without a doubt the thing that makes him so endearing as a frontman.

And he has good reason to be radiating all those positive gamma waves too. Over the last couple of years, his band, along with a swathe of others from the Philadelphia punk rock scene, have experienced unprecedented popularity and acclaim.

Modern Baseball’s most recent record, last year’s You’re Gonna Miss It All, proved to be their breakout release and has seen them tour almost non-stop ever since, playing sold out solo shows as well as supporting giants of the scene, including Say Anything and the Wonder Years to name a few.

The band are now set to embark on their first Australian tour for the Poison City Weekender Fest, as well as an East Coast tour with Iron Chic, and to suggest that Lukens is pretty fucking psyched about it would be a criminal understatement.

Music Feeds spoke with Lukens recently about making their long-awaited first trip down under; the triumphs and tribulations of spending so much time on the road over the last year; why the Philadelphia punk scene is proving such fertile ground for bands; and why the punk rock community feels stronger, larger and more connected than ever before.

Watch: Modern Baseball – Pothole

Music Feeds: I’ll start this interview off by saying something I’ve heard a lot here lately – HOLY SHIT, MODERN BASEBALL ARE COMING TO AUSTRALIA!

Brendan Lukens: [Laughs] Yeah, we’ve been saying the same shit!

MF: Are you excited to be heading here for Poison City Weekender and have you heard much about the festival?

BL: Poison City told us some rumours of how it can get so we’re very excited [laughs] but we’re so excited to come down. We’ve been talking about it since before winter, last winter when we started booking it.

MF: I interviewed you over a year ago and you were talking then about how you were going to bug the Smith Street Band to get you down here for a tour and now it sounds like that’s come to fruition. But there are so many other Philly bands we’d love to see make it down here too. Are you guys thinking you’re going to be scouts for other Philly bands on what the crowds are like down here?

BL: Oh yeah, that will definitely happen [laughs]. I mean, the main reason we’ve wanted to go there forever, besides obviously playing in Australia and the thought of it, is because the Menzingers were like “You have to fucking go! It’s insane.”

Listen: Modern Baseball – Fine, Great

MF: So it’s pretty undeniable that there’s a distinct scene operating in and around Philadelphia right now. I mean the list of bands is getting insane. Modern Baseball, Hop Along, Cayetana, Girlpool, Radiator Hospital, Restorations, Little Big League.

It’s a scene that has really established itself solidly over the last couple of years. Are you guys aware of the fact that you’re in the midst of something special?

BL: Yeah we definitely feel it. Especially when we come home or we announce a tour or that sort of thing. The love that we get from Philly is pretty evident. Not only that, but we’re so close with almost all of the bands that you mentioned. I don’t know Girlpool – that’s it.

It’s just a loving community and everyone’s supporting each other so constantly and, like, letting each other use each other’s vans and gear – it’s definitely something special and we’re very aware and very lucky to have it.

MF: I’ve actually been trying to come up with a name for the scene. “Philwave” is the best I’ve got so far – what do you think? Got any ideas on others?

BL: [Laughs] I don’t know. I don’t think so, no [laughs].

MF: Again, when I talked to you a little over a year ago you’d just released You’re Gonna Miss It All and you were psyched you’d just passed 50,000 likes on Facebook. Now you’ve chalked up 100,000. Not that that is exactly the barometer for judging one’s career success from, but have you guys been feeling a steady rise in acknowledgement and appreciation and, I guess, popularity over the last 12 months?

BL: Oh yeah [laughs]. We’ve definitely been feeling a lot of love everywhere we go. Usually if we haven’t been somewhere before, we go there and a few months later, like half a year later, and it’s way crazier – and the first time was so crazy. We didn’t even expect it.

Touring with Say Anything was a good example of that. I think it was the first time we saw how many of a true fanbase had come out to a support show – especially when the shows are $20, almost $30 for kids to be coming out to that, it’s crazy.

Watch: Modern Baseball – Your Graduation

MF: Do you have any other specific moments like that where you realised, “Holy shit, this is beyond what we ever thought it would be.”?

BL: We played Boston on the Say Anything tour and during the pause in the song Rock Bottom where it goes “Whatever, forever” I backed up and looked out and it must have been like 2,000 people screaming [laughs] in a House of Blues across from Fenway Park – it was really weird [laughs].

MF: So would you say you’ve learned a lot from this period on the road and do you foresee these experiences making their way into future songwriting?

BL: Definitely. Last year, for all of us, was the best and hardest year of our lives and we’ve all definitely matured and our songwriting has definitely matured just to show that. And moving forward I think now, more than ever, [co-songwriter] Jake and I feel we both understand what we want to say and how we want to say it.

And with Sean and Ian I think they’ll just bring in the rest of what we want to say for us [giggles]. But yeah, we feel really great. We feel really confident in just our live show and how tight we’ve been and how things are going. We feel great, yeah.

MF: You did say though that it’s been a hard period as well. Has that been partially getting used to living on the road and being away from normality for large chunks of time?

BL: Exactly, that’s exactly what it’s been for all of us. The Wonder Years tour for example, the first one we did, I think we were like, “Man, that tour was really long.” And we got home and then we did another one that was like eight weeks straight and we were like, “Okay – THAT was a really long tour” and then we got home again and continued doing the same thing.

I think everyone’s starting to deal with it better and better and we’re starting to find ways around it. But yeah, everyone’s – we’re getting there [laughs].

Watch: Modern Baseball – The Weekend

MF: You’re also touring with the legends in Iron Chic when you’re down here, which is fucking awesome.

BL: It’s fucking awesome, isn’t it! Uggghhhh!

MF: Yeah, to be doing a whip around the country and get to some areas that aren’t just Poison City Weekender – are you psyched for that experience too?

BL: Oh yeah, so excited! When we first started booking the tour they were like, “Yeah, we feel like this will be really comfortable for you because you’ll have these shows and at the beginning and the end these festivals with people that you know, like friends of yours, and the rest of the time you’ll be off with one of your favourite bands which will be awesome.” [Laughs] So we’re definitely excited for every fucking show!

MF: Dealing with the Poison City guys, who as you’ve mentioned are putting on the tour and the festival and are the Smith Street Band’s label, amongst others, – they seem to be really similar in their approach to your label Run For Cover. Have you noticed that there are pockets of like-minded people from the industry you’re dealing with that are all interconnecting?

BL: Yeah, totally. I think that’s the craziest thing for me – going into a different city; different country; different continent and having like-minded people that are almost like brought up the same way you are, and have this like, DIY ethos. It really, like I said, makes it easier for us to be on the road for like 200 days. [laughs]

MF: It does seem to have a lot of similarities with the older DIY days for sure. If you read a book like Our Band Could Be Your Life, where they talk about the late ’80s and early ’90s where bands all interconnected and share instruments and venues and slept on each other’s floors and booked all their tours through friends and the phonebook. Despite the existence of the internet, that seems to be something that’s happening again now, organically.

BL: Oh exactly! And that’s the thing that’s totally helped Philadelphia, because every person that plays in a band in Philadelphia has worked some shit fucking job so them and their band can pay for some van and then use google maps to tour the country. I mean our first full US tour, I booked like six weeks prior to us leaving strictly on Facebook.

MF: It’s a bit of a generic question, but what can Aussie fans hope to see from you guys when you hit the stage in a few weeks’ time?

BL: Planning for the winter headliner [tour] we had a few set lists worked out – some that are focused on [first album] Sports, some that are focused on You’re Gonna Miss It All, but I think our main objective every night is to play as many songs as possible before our set ends [laughs]. On our last tour we did 19 songs in 50 minutes and we were like “Woooooo!” [laughs]. So I know Against Me! Does 22 in an hour, so I’m trying to beat that. [laughs]

MF: And just finally, when you finish this tour and head back to Philly are there plans to head into the studio soon and maybe start recording a follow-up to You’re Gonna Miss It All?

BL: Um, not yet. We’re definitely writing and there’s definitely been some talk but no concrete plans. We just released a new song and there’s definitely some more music that will come out in the future – the near future – but yeah, no new record yet.

MF: Well, either way we’re psyched to have you coming to Australia.

BL: Hell yeah – so am I! [laughs]

Modern Baseball play the Poison City Weekender this September, get all the deets and ticket links here.

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