Modern Life Is War - 08.15.13

Interviewed by
Modern Life Is War - 08.15.13I recently talked on the phone with Modern Life Is War vocalist Jeffrey Eaton about the group getting back together, recording its fourth full-length record Fever Hunting and hitting the stage again for the first time in years:

What was the main factor that motivated you to reunite after calling it quits in February 2008?

We really wanted to write music again, that was honestly the main factor. You know, some of us have done bands since we called it quits and other people in the band have not played since we called it quits, but it was something that we did need a good break from at the time. We definitely probably thought it was never going to happen again, just with the way everyoneís lives were going. Some people had moved to away, others had gotten married and gotten serious jobs and stuff like that. It just felt like it probably wasnít going to happen again, but we all still, especially after a couple years, we just had this great desire to play music together again. We had been playing music together for so long, this is actually my third band that Iíve played in with [Tyler Oleson] the drummer of Modern Life Is War. John [Eich, guitar] and Chris [Honeck, bass] had been playing together since they were 14 or 15 years old so all of us playing music together is not a thing that we just did for that band. Our friendships and creativity together started long before that and it was just something that we started to miss. We all remained friends, we kept in touch and we just started talking about how much we did miss it and how much we all have started to have some really solid ideas for what we wanted to do, specific song ideas and stuff like that. Thatís kind of how it started. The way we agreed on it was that we would get together and write all or most of the record before we told anyone we were doing it or talking about potentially playing a show or anything like that.

You admitted earlier that you needed a good break. Was there any particular reason? Or was it just dealing with real life stuff in general?

Yeah, pretty much. Matt [Hoffman, guitar] had left the band to do things in his own life. You know, he didnít leave on bad terms but I think in general it was just kind of a weird and stressful time in his own life personally. And I think that I still really feel that he shouldnít have left at that time, I donít think it was the best idea probably, but also you have to do what you feel like is right for yourself at the time. You donít always know if itís the best decision, but sometimes you have to roll the dice. So we lost Matt after Witness and then shortly thereafter we lost Chris who played bass so we had two new members Sjarm and Tim. Those guys were great and everything and we were playing with them. They had moved to Iowa to play in the band because at that time we were touring so heavily and it didnít make sense to be so spread out so we all lived in Marshalltown. And the last, before we announced we were breaking up what happened was we were touring. We were in Atlanta and we were planning on touring more, going down and playing Fun Fun Fun Fest in Texas and touring with Sick of It All. Then I got a call from home saying that my grandma was sick and probably only had a couple more days to live so I had to cancel the rest of the tour. The band drove overnight to take me home, I got to say goodbye to my grandma and everything, but we had been on tour a lot, been on the road a lot. I was just kind of mentally and emotionally exhausted and kind of expressed to everyone that I needed a break. Since we had two guys who had given up their own lives and moved away from their homes to play in the band the last thing they wanted was to take a break. They had really committed themselves to the band and what we were doing. And I felt that I was at a breaking point where if I didnít get some time that I was going to be in a bad place. So I sort of forced it, it sort of felt like we were starting to lose focus, there was this massive emphasis that we had to be out touring and had to be out making a living off the band and stuff like that. I just felt like it got too serious, too stressful and too far away from the reasons we started the band in the first place. At that point I was just like ĎWell, I guess this is how bands end. This is what happens, this is what ruins bands.í It was happening to us and I just had to accept that and try to walk away from it.

When exactly did you start writing Fever Hunting?

We started early last year, I donít know, I think March of last year. We all got together and completed the record in September of last year in terms of writing it. And then we actually didnít record until May so we ended up adding a couple songs and changing some things before we got to Godcity and started recording. Itís been well over a year long process of writing.

Was there anything you wanted to accomplish with this record that you didnít get to do with previous Modern Life Is War releases?

I think that our only goal was just to write a record that we all felt was worthy of putting out as Modern Life Is War. That name, that band, it means a lot to a lot of people and it means a lot to us. Thereís sort of like a legacy some people might say with that band and we wanted to write a record that would make people who had devoted a lot of time to listening to our records or going to see us live, you know thereís people with Modern Life is War tattoos. We wanted to make those people, as well as ourselves, feel like this record was something that needed to happen. It was just something that was relevant and not just an afterthought or a way to play shows again or something like that. We wanted to make sure that we were doing something that was quality and that was still important and still relevant.

So kind of like a continuation then?

Yeah exactly, a continuation of what we were doing before, not a reunion record. A continuation of what we were doing before, after taking a few years of figuring out our own lives and what we needed to do with ourselves personally outside of the band.

You also continued on with Kurt Ballou and Deathwish when you got to the recording process.

Yeah, I think that those were our best experiences as a band in terms of working, especially with Kurt. I felt like when we worked with Kurt he really made us sound like how we sound. We didnít feel like it was any sort of embellishment or detraction from the way we sound. We just felt like he did justice with the ways we sound playing in a room together and he was able to translate that into a recording, which isnít always an easy thing to do. We had very little doubt or discussion on where we wanted to actually record the album. In terms of going with Deathwish, we put out Midnight in America with Equal Vision and it was a good experience with Equal Vision, they treated us very fairly and we had no problems so to speak. But we didnít feel at home on that label at all and we didnít necessarily identify with any of the other bands that were being released on that label at the time. And that was kind of an odd thing, it made me feel like anyone who would be potentially interested in our band, they wouldnít be following Equal Vision. Deathwish really has the communication with the people who would potentially love our band so it makes sense for us to be there. Itís just another thing with a little bit of time and perspective that we were able to see clearly.

Whyíd you choose Fever Hunting as the album title?

It was just kind of a concept that I had for a song more or less, just an idea and I thought that it was very fitting for all of the lyrics on the album. I thought all of them were relevant to that, you know? Basically the concept of it, though not spelled out entirely clearly in the songs we were writing, is that youíre hunting for something that you canít necessarily hold in your hands. Itís something that when you accomplish it you might not know youíve accomplished it and when you find it you might not know that youíve found it. Itís something thatís more than money or more than a job or a career. Youíre hunting for a connection with humanity, youíre hunting for a purpose and joy. Those kind of things that are more of a constant battle, moreso than theyíre a goal that you work hard to attain. Itís an ongoing thing, I think thereís a lot of things in life that kind of distract you from that purpose, from that hunt to find that connection with humanity, that happiness, that balance and that focus. Thatís what the fever part of it is about, if youíve ever had a really terrible fever you know youíre light headed and youíre not thinking clearly, your thoughts arenít clear. You may know what youíre looking for and you may know your purpose, but thereís always those things that will distract you from it and those will always be present. Itís just sort of an overarching idea about the things I was thinking about the record lyrically.

Whatís your favourite song on the record and why?

Thatís so tough, I like all the songs on the record. I think that ďFind a WayĒ is not my only favourite song, but itís one of my favourites on the record. Itís the last one and lyrically itís very, very simple which is maybe not something that Iím known for, but I really feel like it sums up a lot of how I feel about my life right now and what my personal goals are. "I believe I am here to create, armed with love and knowledge I will find a way." It's very simple, but I think itís a very important thing and it really does in a very clear way represent how I feel. I also think that musically itís one of the best written songs on the record and has one of the best melodic hooks and vocal hooks on the record. Thatís one Iím really proud of right now, but thatís changed a lot as weíve worked on the record.

One of the songs that stood out to me was ďMedia Cunt.Ē
How did that one come together?

The idea of that song, itís not about a specific individual, but itís just about seeing people or talking to people that you used to feel like you related to. That they shared the same passion for life or disgust with the same things that disgusted you or rebelled against the same things you were rebelling against. You felt like you were in that same mindset or struggle together, that was something you shared and you were on the same path together to try and live a meaningful life I guess is what I would say. And then talking to them again many years later and feeling like they entirely abandoned that in the name of convenience or comfort. You know, itís just a strange thing and no matter how old I get thatís still going to emotionally affect me and bring out a certain anger or certain rage in me. I still feel like, in terms of my ideals, I still feel the same way I felt when I was much younger and itís just my way of expressing that anger at those people. Just saying ĎOK, you gave up on this and I know why you gave up, because itís really scary and difficult and thereís a lot of pressure that makes you want to abandon all of those ideas. But Iím not going to and you did so I donít mind calling you out on it.í Thatís what that song is and thatís why itís maybe more angry or spiteful than what people are used to hearing from us.

In terms of the song title, it was in the lyrics that I wrote. When I write lyrics I obviously donít censor myself and I always use the language that I need to use to express an idea to help people visualize what Iím visualizing. I wrote the words in that song ďMedia CuntĒ as a way to describe what I was feeling or a way to visualize what I was trying to talk about. Typically the way I come up with the title of a song is to take something from the lyrics and make that the song title. Usually thereís one thing that sticks out as the obvious song title, within a set of lyrics and I thought that was the best song title for it. Itís kind of interesting you know, we could have discussions about whether it was offensive or if it is offensive, then why itís offensive. If itís a bad thing, if we should shy away from calling a song something like that because it is potentially offensive. But really at the end of the day I determined that the song title in and of itself isnít offensive and itís in context of the lyrics in the song and the lyrics of the record. To call it anything but that would be pulling a punch and thatís not really something I do. The fact of the matter is I think thatís the best title for that song and thatís why we decided to call it that.

Have you actually gotten a lot of backlash? I was picking out the actual song more than the actual title.

No we really havenít yet, Iíve had a few people kind of express that they thought there was backlash and they thought I had offended people. But I havenít read anything or heard from anyone whoís actually offended by it. I think maybe itís not really a big deal to people and that I wonít, but if it does really offend someone and if they feel itís anything chauvinistic then I donít really agree with that. And Iím not necessarily out to be, my goal is not to be as friendly and agreeable as possible with this band. Thatís not necessarily important to me, especially when it comes down to artistic integrity, Iím not going to compromise on anything that I want to do because I think it might be potentially offensive. Thatís not me and itís not my band.

Were you talking about something in particular with that song? Like growing out of the hardcore scene or something else?

No it doesnít really have anything to do with that, it has to do with how you spend your time, you know? I guess for an example, if the lyrics to a song seem to be the most important thing in your life or something you derive a lot of conversation or meaning from and now the most important thing in your life is your weekly reality TV shows, that would be an example of that kind of person. You used to seek out art and meaningful creative things to define you, who you are and how you spend your time. And now you just do whatever is convenient or whatever you can talk with your work friends about or something like that, you know? And sometimes itís not easy to be that person whoís like ĎNo, I donít know anything about celebrity gossip and no, I didnít watch that TV show last week. But I just got this new record and these lyrics on it are really important to me. Or I just discovered this artist, I really like the work they do and itís really meaningful to me in this way.í I feel like a lot of people almost celebrate the fact that lives can be very shallow and kind of cheap and stupid and meaningless and that makes it more easy or fun to exist, you know? I just fundamentally disagree with that and donít want to be that kind of a person. Itís just calling out that kind of person that used to value art, creativity and important things, then abandon that because itís convenient and easier. I have no problem talking shit or calling that kind of a person out. I think thatís a good thing to do.

Moving onto another song, thereís a line in "Currency" that goes ďYour friends are precious and they are slipping away. Your time is precious and it is slipping away.Ē Is that sort of a general line or does it specifically apply to your band and why you decided to regroup?

Yeah, I think itís both. To me itís a line, those two lines, theyíre kind of like universal truths when you think about it. I think that itís something that if everyone sort of stayed mindful of that, theyíd ultimately end up living a more fulfilling life. Our time here is limited, itís precious, our time is always fleeting. Iím 32 now, Iím getting older and Iím going to die someday. That might be of old age, but that might be before then. There could be an accident or something else could happen, weíre not guaranteed any amount of time and you know, life is always going to lead us and the people we love and care about in different directions. The guys in the band are my best friends and we live in 4 different states now, I donít get to see them all the time and itís kind of saying like ĎHey, when you see those people you truly love and care about, you better cherish it because itís not going to be there forever and itís the same thing with your own life.í I had someone tell me ĎOh, I didnít expect you to write something like that, itís kind of cheesy or kind of clichť,í but Iím like ĎIf itís clichť thatís good because itís fucking true.í I donít mind saying something I feel like is true and if I say it in such an obvious way itís just because I really mean it, I really feel that way. I didnít want to code it in poetics, I just wanted to come out and say that. I think itís something that maybe for younger kids, I think itís something important to keep in mind. I know when I was 18, 19, 20 all my friends were living in my hometown and we were all going to shows on a weekly basis, hanging out all day everyday in the summertime skateboarding. I thought I was going to hang around those people forever, I thought that was never going to fucking change but of course it did and I guess being older I look back and think ĎOf course that wasnít going to last, of course all those people were going to find their own paths in life and pursue those.í But itís a pretty important lyric to me on the record and itís cool that you picked that one out and brought it up.

Moving onto shows, were you a bit nervous going into This Is Hardcore in Philadelphia a few days ago?

Yeah, we played Friday night and yeah I was really nervous. But the show went really well, it felt amazing to play, the room was full of energy and I felt like we had the entire crowdís undivided attention, which is amazing. There was so many people there and I know they werenít all there just to see our band.

And you have some record release shows coming up?

Yeah, weíre playing Iowa, Chicago, D.C., New York and Boston all in October. I just got home from the festival today so thatís kind of the next thing Iíll be really working on and preparing for.

What's next? Do you have any more plans to tour?

We do, we do definitely, weíre trying to plan a couple of shows on the west coast later this year. Those arenít confirmed yet, Iím not sure whatís going to happen right now. We havenít really mapped out next year yet, but we want to do a lot of stuff next year. Weíre not going to be doing any long tours, we all have other responsibilities we want to maintain while being in the band so we want to do a lot of weekends. If we go overseas itíll probably be for one week maximum, we wonít be going on a month long tour and following it up overseas. At least right now thatís not really in the picture for us.
Displaying posts 1 - 10 of 10
10:17 AM on 08/15/13
Young, Planetary
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Great interview. I seriously hope these guys get West, I'd die to see them live.
10:21 AM on 08/15/13
Next Show: Jack's Mannequin NYC 2/3
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ACA's Avatar
"What was the main factor that motivated you to reunite after calling it quits in February 2008?"

A large aspect he neglects to mention is that heavy music is once again something that will sell tickets. In a few years the cycle will put them back in a position where they'll have a hard time making money playing their style.
01:00 PM on 08/15/13
Deborah Remus
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Deborah Remus's Avatar
Great interview. I seriously hope these guys get West, I'd die to see them live.
Thanks for checking it out!
02:06 PM on 08/15/13
jack tripper
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really hope the west coast dates work out, it's gutting me to not be in the midwest for the october dates. great interview
02:16 PM on 08/15/13
Christian Wagner
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This record is damn good. Great interview Deborah!
03:01 PM on 08/15/13
Regular Member
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beauvais910's Avatar
Awesome interview
08:22 PM on 08/15/13
Jake Denning
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Jake Denning's Avatar
"What was the main factor that motivated you to reunite after calling it quits in February 2008?"

A large aspect he neglects to mention is that heavy music is once again something that will sell tickets. In a few years the cycle will put them back in a position where they'll have a hard time making money playing their style.
I don't know if heavy music ever stopped selling tickets, I think it's always been relatively popular. Bands like The Ghost Inside have been slaying for the past 6 years or so.
09:51 PM on 08/15/13
my new pep pep
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Fever Hunting sounds so good. SOLID album. Love that these guys are back, wish I could see them.
11:23 AM on 08/16/13
Standard Edition Scumbag
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jacobthewar's Avatar
great interview Deborah

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