Though often thrown into the category of emo or pop punk, Modern Baseball’s music defies tradition, transcending these genre labels. With raw emotion and hook-laced songs, Modern Baseball has been picking up an extreme amount of momentum, playing about 14 shows in 2013 to 180 shows in 2014. Having just released their sophomore album You’re Gonna Miss it All (Run for Cover Records) as a follow up to 2012’s Sports, Modern Baseball is poised to be a contending force in the indie rock scene.
I had the opportunity to sit down with singer and songwriter Brendan Lukens to discuss the band’s fast rise, worries about the future, and where he sees the band going from here.
StageBuddy: You guys have been moving rather fast these past two years, especially with the recent release of your sophomore album You’re Gonna Miss it All. What does that feel like?
Brendan Lukens: It’s definitely been very fast. As far as playing goes, we went from doing two weeks at most last year to 180 days this year. So it was a pretty big jump for us, but it’s been great and all of the support has been really awesome. Everything that people have been saying about our second album, You’re Gonna Miss It All, has been really great. The whole experience has just been incredible. We’ve been able to travel half of the United States this past year, and we went to the UK and Europe for the first time. It’s been definitely one of the best years of our lives.
People like to put you in the category of “pop punk”, but it’s really so much bigger than that genre. How do you see yourself fitting into the music scene?
A lot of different people call us a lot of different things. As you said, we get pop punk, we get emo…those are the two biggest ones we get called. We really like to just play it safe and say simply indie or rock, but we do appreciate everyone categorizing us as so many different things. We think it’s so cool that there are so many different scenes, and that so many of them recognize us as part of their community. But I usually just say indie, which honestly is too broad to fail.
Part of this may be, and you may disagree with me, that your first album was a bit easier to narrow down into a genre. Between the two albums though you guys grew so much musically and lyrically. What was the transformation between the two like?
With the first album, it was really just a collection of songs that Jake [Ewald] and I had written together throughout high school all the way up until our sophomore year of college. There was a lot of us just developing, which was a lot of scattered thoughts and nothing concrete. With You’re Gonna Miss It All, we went into it thinking, “we are going to write a record.” It was definitely more concentrated, but in between them what really helped, was moving to Philadelphia and discovering so much new music. There was a lot of figuring out new ways to say different things. (Laughing) Being in school definitely helped as well.
Especially on the second album, you capture a specific period of life so well, most notably in lyrics like “Caught between my adolescent safety net and where the world wants me to be”. Do you feel like this will change as you get older?
Yeah, I do. I definitely already now see us growing as a band and as individuals. Being away from home and traveling so often, I feel like it’s bound to happen. Just seeing the world in general changes your perspective on a lot of things. One thing we’ve always said is that we want to improve with every release, and we’re definitely trying to stick with that plan.
I noticed a big theme on this recent album was the future, particularly how it weighs on your mind. As the band’s future only gets brighter, does this change for you?
(Laughing) Um, no. The worry goes from goofy high school things to more substantial reasons. The band’s future is brighter than I ever could have imagined it to be. I feel like a little bit of that weight will be lifted off my shoulders.
One striking aspect to your lyrics is this blend of hyper-realism with dreamy poetry, such as in “Two Good Things”, which has an atypical rhyme scheme. What inspired you push the boundaries of the genre in this way?
We’ve always been a band that’s listened to a lot of different things. When Jake and I were first ever listening to music, it was mostly Green Day and stuff like that, in addition to top 40 radio. That’s definitely where a lot of our pop aspects come from, just listening to so much radio until I was a senior in high school. I can almost not even comprehend a song without some sort of hook in it. At the same time though, we have influences of Motion City Soundtrack and Say Anything, who we always felt just did what they wanted to do. They would explore parts of music that that genre had not really seen before, so we definitely wanted to do the same thing. With this record we were able to push ourselves a bit, with songs like “Two Good Things” and “Timmy Bowers”. With all of these we really pushed ourselves to write more than just the typical song or the same songs we’ve done before. It’s funny you mention “Two Good Things”, that one and “The Old Gospel Choir” are some of our favorites to play live, and definitely the ones we want to expand on in the future.
It’s so exciting to see where you will go from here. I know it’s a little premature to ask since you just released your last record this fall, but are you working on any new stuff?
Jake and I are always writing, it’s just kind of how it’s worked with us. Sports came together casually because we had so much material from over two years, about 40 or 60 songs, which we narrowed down to 20, finally ending at 12. You’re Gonna Miss It All is a little more straightforward. We had 15 or 18 songs that eventually became 12. We’re always writing, though it’s been a bit harder since we’ve been on the road so often this year, but I know that we’re itching to get home and record some demos. But we have no plans of recording anytime soon. Like you said You’re Gonna Miss It All just came out. We’re going to go home, focus on school, and enjoy our time off.
The album seems like it is about a very specific time period in life. Do you feel you need to get away from the period a bit before you can release something new?
Oh yeah, with You’re Gonna Miss it All and Sports being somewhat similar in that sense, I feel like there will be a hybrid vibe to whatever we do next. Particularly because we’ve been on the road for half the year, and it’s just impossible to take all of those things into account and not write about them. At the same time though, we are going back to school and jumping back into things, which I feel like will definitely be stressful, so some things will probably come of that.
Modern Baseball will be playing two shows in December: 12/12 at Gramercy Theater and 12/15 at The Music Hall of Williamsburg. Both shows are $16 and start at 8pm.