[Interview] Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse talks ‘The Golden Casket, Metallica and almost moving to New Zealand

Interview : Nev Pearce (Everblack Podcast)

Modest Mouse in my opinion are one of the greatest bands to ever walk the planet, a massive call I know but to myself and many others that share the same sentiments for the Portland based indie rockers it’s not that far of a stretch.

Led by frontman Isaac Brock who’s unmistakable voice and lyrical storytelling style have influenced other artists across multiple genres and even captured the attention of Metallica who once had them part of their Orion Festival.

The band are almost about to reach their 30th year in existence, despite this Modest Mouse have only released seven studio albums (and a few EP’s) including their latest The Golden Casket which saw its release on June 25 after a 6 year wait. (Read our review here)

The Golden Casket is a triumphant return by the band and see’s the lyrical subject matter tackle everything from situations of being stuck with friends on acid, intrusive technology, parenthood and an optimistic outlook despite the current world events.

While the overall vibe and tone of the record is slightly different from previous releases it is most definitely a Mouse record and one that stands up to iconic Good News For People Who Love Bad News which catapulted the band into the mainstream with the single ‘Float on’.

Despite running slightly late, Isaac Brock is in seemingly high spirits, after spotting my action figures in the background he instantly reels me in with a story about a rare toy collection he found in a store in Hawaii before shifting the conversation to touring Australia, new record The Golden Casket, how the process was less problematic than their previous record Strangers to Ourselves (which took 8 years to see the light of day), Metallica and almost moving to New Zealand!

Watch/ listen to the full interview below :

Isaac : ‘Oh. I’m a big fan of Australia and New Zealand’

Well, we haven’t seen you in a while…

Isaac : No. It’s a trip getting everyone on a plane at the right time and having it all line up and not lose our shirts, it’s a balancing act, man. I’m always surprised. like, “We’re playing reasonably sized places. Why isn’t it going on?” and management are like ‘Because flying and doing Australia’s expensive, Isaac’, and flying your equipment to Australia and stuff like… That’s where they get you!

And you’ve got lots of stuff too, you don’t pack light!

Isaac: Right. We’re going to show up and just acapella. It’d be a barbershop quartet band, you know?

You know you could do that and people would be losing their shit over it, which would be amazing. Anyway the new Modest Mouse album, The Golden Casket, I love the hell out of it. This one seemed to give you a little bit less grief than the previous album Strangers to Ourselves right?

Isaac : Yeah, Stranger’s to Ourselves was… We were talking about that yesterday. We were all practicing, getting ready to go out on tour and stuff. And I was just like, “That was a tedious fucking record.” Mainly because honestly, I just couldn’t… I knew what I wanted it to be, and I think it was already that, but I couldn’t believe in it. Something happened. So we just ended up spending fucking over a year, so just missing it over and over again. And producers would sit someone down at the console and it’d be, “Next.” Including myself. I started by like, “I’m the producer.” I’m like, “Next.”

So, that one was a nightmare. This one, it just kind of… One thing that I didn’t do was work on my schedule as much on this one. And I think that was helpful. It was just like, “Okay, I’m going, I’m in here at this point. These are the hours to do it.” And it’s fucking expensive, because initially we were going to record this record in my studio and that’s just, you know, all the time in the world, and I’ll be running up the hill to go up to my house every fucking hour or so, and then hanging with my kids for two hours, because they’re sticky. Can’t get out the door.

So, you know, we went and worked at a Dave Sardy’s place, and especially after a while, it’s just like we were very aware that the clock was ticking.

Did you write a whole bunch of stuff for this album that got left off?

Isaac : Yep but those songs I felt still needed a little tweaking. So there’s still some songs that I just was like, “Maybe. Maybe it needs a few more days of work or so on this, and the record is fucking good without it. Let’s just move on.” I didn’t want to make a record that had too much stuff on it, because I’ve largely made a career doing that, and sometimes I just feel like it’s a bit overwhelming.

In regards to the tone it doesn’t feel as dark as previous albums. Is that sort of reflection of where you’re sort of at at the moment?

Isaac : Well, I’m not trying to turn that frown upside down or anything, but no, I mean part of me lives in the nightmare reality that we all have and shit, but when we’re working on this record, with what was going on in my neck of the woods, daily riots, and obviously death tolls rise, I kind of was just working on projecting a reality, I’ve got babies and I kind of feel like if I can’t find something to be like, “Oh. This is doable.” so I ended up maybe tricking myself into feeling too good about a bad situation, if that makes any sense.

That makes sense. But I mean, some of the early material there’s an anger and a sadness that definitely helped me deal with my own throughout the years, not only that, you’ve also got some stuff that really hits hard emotionally on each album. There’s tracks like Little Motel, Ocean Breathes Salty, and on this one you’ve got Lace Your Shoes, which is a very personal song and it’s relatable. I’m also a parent, and that song just hit me really hard. Do you find those sort of songs are a little bit more difficult to write, being from that personal perspective?

Isaac : They’re easy to write, hard to put out there. Because being honest with yourself or earnest, it’s hard to not make it get too cute and whatnot. And that’s for sure. When you’re singing about loving your kids, it’s hard to not to get too saccharine and shit. No, I think it’s just that song in particular was just harder to actually give to the public. It’s like, What are people going to do with this song about my kids?” but I think that’s in the writing. Make it everyone’s.

Yeah mate, it’s very relatable. It’s a beautiful song, And not only that, I mean, you’ve got a knack for dubbing vocals as well, which I don’t think anyone does the way you do. I mean, for instance Parting of the Sensory. The end of that, I think, well that song in general, I think is one of the greatest things ever put down on wax.

Isaac : That’s Really nice to of you, man. That is not an often referenced song and I’m very proud of it. So thanks, man.

I tried to replicate the end of that in a death metal song….

Isaac : Oh that’s really interesting!

…. And I couldn’t nail it haha

Isaac : Yeah it’s a hard one, It’s frantic and there’s a lot going on there. Don’t plan on breathing doing it.

Where do these vocal layer ideas come from?

Isaac : Oh, I just let them fall out. Usually, half the time when we’re writing music, it just comes from us playing and the lyrics are the same thing. Half of it makes sense and then I have to kind of piece it together and you’re like, “What was that? What was going on there?” It seems like the easiest place to just… I don’t know. It’s kind of a blackout mode for me when playing music gets good. And sort of like speaking in tongues, I guess. Just let it roll.

Well, here’s another thing, I love my metal and I know there are a lot of other metal dudes who love Modest Mouse as well,. There’s definitely a weird crossover and I don’t know how it is over where you are, I know Metallica love you guys, because you played that Orion festival years ago.

Isaac : Well, that was an odd show because there was a lot of middle-aged Metallica fans just being like, “What is going on? Why? This is not metal.” You never want to be that thing in the way, We opened for Beyonce once and that was equally as fucking weird. Apparently we don’t have the same demographic and I’m just like, “Oh, this is where pretty people go.

You’re prepping for this massive tour. How’s that going? I know things are starting to open up.

Isaac : I think it’s going to be fine. I mean at this point, if your vaccinated you’re invincible and shit, and, that’s why I don’t even look for across the street anymore. I’m just feeling good. I mean we reached herd immunity in Portland, and so everything just kind of opened up and it feels good. I did go to the playground the other day and there was a kid who showed up just coughing this crazy cough. I was like, “I’ve not heard a cough like that on somebody that wasn’t smoking.” And so I was like, “Kids, in the car.” I just picked them up and fucking ran away basically, because you can’t immunize toddlers. Anyways, about tour though. I’m very happy to be going again. I have actually, I have literally been on my management’s cases. Like, “When can we tour Australia?” Not yet. Still not yet. I mean, I was trying to move to New Zealand That’s been a goal, although you are different places. I get that very much so. You’re the continent island of fucking deadly things, and they’re the tiny island of safe things.

…. Hobbits

Isaac : I like that safe shit. Yeah. Hobbits. Hobbit things.

Modest Mouse – ‘The Golden Casket’ is out now via Sony Music

order here : https://ModestMouse.lnk.to/TGC-PreOrder-AU