Philly's Modern Baseball, a four-piece emo band have accomplished what some bands never can, in a matter of a few years. They've toured the U.S. and Europe, are signed to a powerhouse indie label (Run For Cover Records) and have charted on the Billboard Top 200 chart. Oh, and the average age of the band members is around 21. Guitarist/vocalist Jake Ewald spared some time on the road last week to chat about the band, where they're going and how they got there. The band plays a sold out show at The Smiling Moose tonight with Tiny Moving Parts, The Hotelier and Sorority Noise.
You're latest album, You’re Gonna Miss It All , charted on the Billboard 200 chart. How did that feel?
It was kind of, well I guess it still is, unbelievable. When we started the band, we had no idea that any of this was going to happen, let along charting on Billboard. To go from that to having the record come out on one of our favorite record labels is insane. There's been a lot of milestones for us in the band, but that was one of the really, well I don’ want to say cool again. It was one of those really unbelievable moments. It's something you can show your parents and your grandparents and be like this happened. It was just really cool and it felt amazing,
Was there any blowback from fans thinking that you "sold out"? Do you think your perception has changed?
(laughs) Umm, not that we can really tell. Well, I don’t know, it's been cool to see our friends followng us through the experience. At the beginning of this tour, we did two shows at the Barbary in Philly that sold out and one of the dudes at the show that day was Reuben who booked us our first show at The Barabry. It was us begging him to put us on this Waxahatchee show because we love Waxaahatee and we freaked out when he put us on it and there were like 30 people there maybe. But just to have support like that from someone who’s been there since the beginning booking basement shows for us and still be there for us is really cool.
At the end of our last tour, we did a surprise show at Golden Tea House which is like one of our favorite house venues down the street, and its cools because it’s this mixture of all of our old friends who used to come see us in basements and like all these kids who come out of the woodwork from the high school around the corner. It's definitely weird when the two collide, everybody’s like”who are these kids?’ “who are these kids?” But it's still neat to see everyone supporting us and just being really awesome dudes. Because we’ve made so many great friends just through being in this band the fact that they’ll support us through anything is an incredible feeling.
How important is it to maintain bonds with friends, bands, etc.?
Its definitely something we think about pretty much constantly. Its really important to keep friends involved. When you care about the people you're working with and they care about you, its like, I don’t know. The music industry can get kind of gross sometimes. But when you're all friends and you can be real and honest with each other, it’s a far more enjoyable experience.
Is Modern Baseball the main priority now for all of you now?
For a while, it was constantly changing and we were trying to figure out how we were going to work it. But we came to a point, I guess, on The Wonder Years tour when we kind of like started to comprehend how cool the opportunities were that we were being offered. Like what are you gonna do when you’re 65 years old and you tell your grandkids “I could of went on this really cool tour, but I didn’t.”
We sat down with our booking agent and our academic advisors and came up with a sort of back and forth plan for the next year, where we're going to be in school for certain periods of time and tour for certain periods of time. So were kind of just like balancing the two right now. It's going pretty well. It’s a lot of work but we’re happy we can get out degrees.
We’re also happy because we get to play really fun shows and rive around and eat Taco Bell. It’s a good combination
You self-recorded Sports and You're Gonna Miss It All. Can you talk about that choice?
The thing that’s really cool about self recording is that there are no limitations, pretty much. In a sense, there are no limitations because you can do whatever you want, try whatever you want and have however much time you want at your disposal. And since we are [Jake and Ian] recording students, it's a great learning experience for us, to be able to sit down and record a whole record and figure was works and what doesn’t work.
The only thing that is less convenient is you don’t have that older influence that you would have from a producer or engineer, someone whose been around a little bit longer and can help out with more of the detailed things. I guess the biggest problem is you know how you want something to sound in your head but you cant always achieve it and that’s where it helps a lot to have an older producer or an older engineer.
So we've been talking about, for whatever we do next, considering bringing in someone else. It would have to be someone we all agreed on and really respected. It’s definitely something we’re thinking about constantly.
How did you develop your sound?
I guess it started in highschool. Me and Brendan were listening to the same bands, kind of like Motion City Soundtrack, Say Anything. But that was before we were in a four-piece band so it would just be us and an acoustic guitar. I guess in a sensee that began shaping our sound. It's funny because if you listen to Sports, 95 percent of the songs just start with a voice and guitar, theres no drum intro, no bass intro, no riffy intro, nothing like that because all of those started with us sitting down startong to sing something.
Once we got the whole band together and started playing more shows there was definitely some influence from Philly bands we were playing with. One of the first bands we kind of met and befriended was Marietta, and they were doing the whole, I don't wanna say twinkly emo, but they were doing open tunings and a lot of noodling around. That definitely kind of rubbed off on us a little. Definitely on Sports theres a lot of moments where we would sit down and there would be a chordy part that was written when it was just one of us and an acoustic guitar and then try to go back over that and say how can I make this more interesting and try to fit in a more interesting guitar line over that.
It's definitely kind of a combination of like, also lyrically its pretty obviously from the bands we listened to in high school, but its kind of a combination of like being by yourself and just having that voice and guitar and taking influence from the bands we were playing with at that time.
How do you fell about the whole "emo" thing?
I don’t really know how we feel about it. We kind of joke about it a lot. And say like “We’re out here on the revival man, we gotta keep it alive" (laughs).
The thing that I like about it, which is what some people don’t like about, is it's an easy way to classify bands this whole scene of bands coming up right now who don’t all necessarily sound alike, but are kind of all playing the same shows,attracting the same kind of kids.
A lot of people make the argument that you call it "indie rock". But when you think of indie rock, that’s kind of like anything ever, in my mind (laughs). They used a silly word for it, but I think it's cool that as a collective this kind of scene of bands playing these shows and kids that are coming out to these shows can have this community with a funny name on it.
Do you have goals for the band?
It's always kind of been like a case by case basis, I guess. When we first threw together the songs that were gonna be on Sports, it was just a collection of songs that me and Brendan had written in high school and we were finally going to record them as a full band. At that point we just wanted to have a vinyl record. We just thought it would be something cool to say "hey I did this in a physical format".
The record came out and it did way better than we could have ever expected and we did a couple small tours and I think it wass our first winter tour, about halfway through and we were in a really tiny van playing a bunch of basements and we were like ‘Okay we’re a band now, lets make a 5 year plan for fun.”
We were like "Run For Cover is a pretty cool label, if we could get signed by Run For Cover in the next five years, that would be so sick and a dream come true." And then literally a week later on the same tour, we woke up on New Year's Day in Upstate New York and we had an e-mail from Jeff at Run For Cover and he was like “Hey guys I really like your stuff. We should talk.” And we were like "WHAT THE FUCK?" After that, everything has just been icing on the cake. After that, we can’t really make goals any more
What are your future plans?
We’re just kind of writing all the time. We’re dogin a couple festival Fashon Week Music Festial in Ohio, The Fest in Florida this fall. We’re playing Riot Fest in Chicago which we're really excited for.
We just announced a UK tour with Spraynard in the fall, whichc were really exited for, well be back in the UK again. There will be a couple more tours coming out soon. As far as recording wise, I don’t really know yet. We’ll see
This is the first time we’ve been out for a long time and we’re still not really used to or able to write songs on the road it's definitely a weird environment to create stuff because you're constantly around people and you don’t have much time to be alone unless you take your guitar into the van and try to get real emotional for a second. But we're gonna be home for June, July, August and some of September as well and that’s probably when the bulk of the writing will happen. And once we get those songs together, we’ll see what we’re going to do with them.
Anything planned for 2015?
We're gonna sit on You're Gonna Miss It All a little longer than we did with Sports, and try to get more people to hear it. We’re going back to the UK . We’re going to do some more US touring. Touring is the big focus right now.
Would you say you "made it"? How do you view yourselves?
It's kind of weird because for us, it honestly feels like were perpetually adjusting to where we are. We've never really sat down and felt like comfortable at a certain point, not that this is all uncomfortable (laughs).
Especially with this, on this headlining tour. Some of the shows have been absolutely insane. The first five or six shows were totally sold out and everyone knew all the words. Now on this tour, I don’t want to say made it, but it definitely feels like we’ve accomplished something really really cool and it definitely feels like we have accomplished something. This spring, we did the The Wonder Years full US tour. We went to Europe for the first time, which was a crazy experience. And now were back kinda doing this, a couples weeks in familiar cities headlining shows.
It's really unbelievable. Its definitely feels like we’ve accomplished something really cool. And we're all so so proud of each other. It’s a really neat experience. Its kind of bonkers, if you will.
Any memories of Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh is actually usually awesome for us. The first show we played in Pittsburgh was at a house called The Vatican’t, at Dakota Bahney’s house. There were a few people that knew the words to our songs, it was actually that first winter tour when we got hit up by Run For Cover, but it was kind of deceiving because everyone was pretty drunk and in a basement and everyone was moshing for some reason and like dancing which was awesome. Because normally when we play a show and people don’t know us, people just stand there or maybe nod their head. Peopele didn’t know us but they were dancing and jumping around, that was so cool.
The next time we played at some bar, upstairs above a bar, that was one of the first crazy shows we had in Pittsburgh, where kids were really into us and the whole time the floor was shaking really bad and 75 percent of the way through the set, the bartender from downstairs came up and said ‘Yo, you got to tell the kids to calm down or they’re gonna break the floor.’ That was kinda cool.
Pittsburgh has always been really good to us. Shout out
I really wish I could have attended the Rob Mazurek show. How was the attendance?…