At the heart of every Modern Baseball song lies a question. Not always a literal one — though, more often than not, they have those, too — but the inquisitive nature is built-in to the band’s songwriting style. It feels like there’s a hesitant pause at the end of every sentence and note, like they’re never completely ready to commit to what they just said. MoBo Presents: The Perfect Cast — the Philadelphia band’s surprise new EP that comes out today via Lame-O Records — is filled with songs that pivot around questions:
“Hey man, whatcha thinking about? Not to be blunt, but I haven’t heard from you in days. Are you OK? You can talk to me. Do you have anything to say?”
“Do you remember what you said when we met? I’ll never forget. You said: ‘You and I were made to feel this way. When worlds collide, will you be there with me?'”
“So, is this the hook you wanted? Is it stuck inside your head? Can you sing it to your friends, or alone? So, am I what you needed?”
It’s the band’s signature: wordy, meditative, quizzical about the nature of life and love. Hyper-observant, painfully self-aware. It’s part of the reason why Modern Baseball are so appealing to listen to: They’re in a constant dialogue with themselves. They channel their nervous energy into bright and bleary punk songs that have garnered them the devotion of a larger audience than the basements and DIY venues where this kind of music usually flourishes. And they do it by coming across as accessible and tangible, as approachable and relatable as the emotions they express in their songs.
The Perfect Cast sees the band operating at full-speed — it serves as a bridge between the sharp and powerful Sports and You’re Gonna Miss It All, and the more fleshed-out sound that will come on their third full-length, Holy Ghost, due out on Run For Cover next year. Until that comes around, we’ve got six great new tracks to chew on.
And, in the band’s grand tradition of over-explaining and making a direct connection with their fans, members Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald broke down and gave some context for every track on the release. Read their words below.
“The Waterboy Returns”
Paying homage through the eyes of Boucher himself, it is sometimes hard to see that you’re sinking into depression, anxiety or even just a slump of bad days or grumpy mornings. I couldn’t see that I was sinking for a very long time, and sometimes the only way to come to a realization so big, with such depth, is by receiving some tough love. Though not for everyone, in small doses it would get me out of my house and out of my depression. It’s okay to want help. It’s okay to ask for help. And it’s okay to receive help. There is always someone who will listen. Long Live The Waterboy.
“Alpha Kappa Fall Of Troy The Movie Part Deux (2 Disc Directors Cut)”
It’s easy to be dishonest with yourself. In fact, most of the time, it makes life a lot easier in the short term. Pretend you don’t care, or just don’t feel. It’s not until you meet someone you can be unabashedly honest with that you realize how half-assed your life has become. Be real with your friends, be real with your partner, be real with yourself. I still suck at this (a lot), but I’ve been lucky enough to have some really great friends/family who keep me in check and force me to pick up the phone. As much as you don’t want to, keep picking up the phone.
I was stuck in a time loop. Touring for months at a time, coming home and not leaving my house, then leaving for tour again. Waking up at 3pm, going to bed at 6am and trying to forget the space between. So many people would try and help me break my loop but I didn’t necessarily want to. Your perception has so much to do with any situation and I was blinded by my desire for “nothing.” I was not going to be exposed. Those who would try to get me out of my house, would see me less. Those who tried to call me, would stop hearing from me. I was ready to say goodbye to anyone who believed my judgement was anything but true. I just didn’t expect so many people to stand in my way.
“The Thrash Particle”
I think so many different things when I hear this song. So many people and places come to my mind. I can still feel everything, honestly. Those people and places become real again. Too dumb to understand — “Thrash” came about during a case of jealousy, on the edge of mania, too jealous to understand how dumb I was being, I did and said things to put my relationships to “the test”; making sure my relationships were strong and for all of the “right reasons.” In time my paranoia grew and I began to hurt those I wanted to be with the most. I wrongfully assumed and took advantage of others feelings because of how jealous and paranoid I was being. I was jealous of friends, family, him, her, it didn’t really matter. My change in behavior was becoming clear to those close to me, but I didn’t want to see it. I would snap. Try and pick apart my relationships, acting like I knew the reason why everything worked the way it did. Well I didn’t, I don’t, and I never will.
Jealously is an awful, poisonous feeling, violently thrashing through every thought that passes your mind, masking the fact that it’s not always the worst case scenario. Sometimes, everything is spelled out for you. Sometimes, saying one thing doesn’t mean another. Occam’s Razor, or whatever. All my journaling aside, all I wanted to say is trust the people you care for, be honest with those people. Give them the time in your life that they deserve and value that time. It’s easy to excuse someone from our lives over something petty or small, especially when you have as much pride and/or stubbornness as someone like me. Perception and communication are key in any growing, challenging and healthy relationship; and like the last line of this song, there are always two sides to every story. Trust the ones you love y’all.
My family moved a lot when I was younger — commonly bouncing from place to place; it became easier to say goodbye to others and, in time, move on. Eventually everyone says goodbye to someone they love.. but we weren’t ready to say goodbye to each other, no matter how right it seemed to give up.
“Revenge Of The Nameless Ranger”
History repeats itself — or so I’ve been told. And I feel that way sometimes, I do. We are all connected through some crazy universe thing. The science-fiction advocate in me could go on about the interconnected cosmic phenomenon that is “everything happens for a reason” for quite some characters, but I digress. There have always seemed to be cycles in my life; making me feel like history does indeed infinitely repeat. Every 5 or so years, my life would reboot. New friends, new environment — whatever it was. Now that seems to be happening again, and for once it could be for the betterment of myself, but not without sacrifice.
Artwork & Closing Words
The idea was brought about after we were exploring (Jessica) Flynn’s photo journal of Modern Baseball. She has been on tour with us on and off for a year now — as a friend, a photographer, our merchandise and sometimes tour manager — and over time she captured so much. It was really crazy, almost out-of-body to see so many of our personal moments captured by someone we love and admire. It was great. We had new songs for The Perfect Cast EP and they were beginning to enter the final stages of the mixing and mastering process.
Just to branch off really fast, our friend Matt Schimelfenig who plays in the Lame-O Records band Three Man Cannon, mixed the EP and gosh are we happy. It is so great. One love, Matt.
Anywho, we have always liked using photographs for album artwork. We seemed set on the same for the EP, but wanted to switch it up. Not too much though. A drawing of a photo with the image pertaining to MOBO. Our original idea was to use a drawing done by a fan, under the Twitter account @badlydrawnmobo, but in the end we wanted something more vibrant. “Why not draw some of our favorite Flynn photos?” we thought. So we did. Most of us. Our tour manager Jacob Overholt, “Holt”, who is the other person on the cover with us, did not participate … and that will forever bum me out. After drawing a few of our favorites, we were happy with the results and excited to piece it all together when we would return home from our tour with Say Anything. When we got home we asked a few more friends of ours to draw some of their favorite Flynn photos. One of those friends was the ever so talented Beau Brynes. Beau is the greatest. I play in his musical project, Broken Beak, who Jake has worked with in the past with producing and recording, he is an incredible artist with such a great style; and was able to take Flynn’s photos and make them his own while still making us remember back to when those pictures were taken. It was perfect. All our worlds colliding.
Beau had drawn 5 photos. We decided 4 of them would make good covers. Only one of them had all of us on it, so that is the one we went with. I can remember Beau focusing on the one we used for the cover so much. “Look at this! Flynn is crazy!” The other drawings we used as artwork for the singles. The first was a pair of photos of Holt and I, which we used for “Revenge of The Nameless Ranger.” The second was of Ian, in his infamous hospital-gown-phase attire, and Jake.
Every time we released a new song someone would ask: “Who drew this?” “What picture is that?” It was great to have so many people involved on a release. Perry Shall, who does almost all of our artwork for us: merch, show posters, tour posters, really anything we need, wrote out everything that had to be written out for the physical to give it that “mobo” style, and that was that.
This Modern Baseball release is very special to us. It’s one of the first releases where everyone has written their own parts, and where we have had some time to put into the recording process. Which is why its much heavier and much cleaner than past releases. It meant a lot that the album cover fit how we were all feeling about the EP and I think it does; just us and some friends.. but in crayon. We will most certainly use all the drawings our friends and ourselves have done in the future. For what, who knows? But I’m sure we will be equally excited to share that with you then. Peace, y’all.