By Jason SchreursWhen recently reformed Iowa hardcore band Modern Life Is War called it quits in late 2007, the decision was meant to be permanent, vocalist Jeffrey Eaton tells Exclaim! It took a reconnection of all the band's original lineup to get them back in the studio to record a new album, Fever Hunting, out now Deathwish Inc.
The kernel of a reformation came when bassist Chris Honeck and Eaton were talking on the phone, and Honeck asked about the possibility of doing a reunion with the band's original members, despite the fact they were now spread around the country. Eaton said he wasn't interested in doing a "reunion," but he would love to see the band get back in the studio and create a fourth album of their dirty, dark hardcore.
"We all maintained a friendship, and no one ever had a falling-out," explains Eaton from his new home in Kansas City. "We talk to each other on the phone all of the time, and I hang out with Chris all of the time… actually, Chris is calling me right now, that's funny. Speak of the devil! [laughs] So we all just remained friends, and it was brought up that we should consider doing it again. And what I valued the most from the band was the process of creating records and writing songs together, so I said if all of the original guys were willing to put in the time to try and write a record, and we thought it was worthy, that's something that maybe we could pursue."
According to Eaton, an integral part of the band that was missing on their last album, 2007's Midnight in America, was guitarist Matt Hoffman. Now playing in punk supergroup Only Crime (which also includes Russ Rankin of Good Riddance and Bill Stevenson of All/Descendents), Hoffman was thought to be the one member who wouldn't be able to jump back in, but in fact he had been thinking about Modern Life Is War since the breakup.
"I thought he'd say no and that he'd moved on long ago, but as it turns out Matt had been saving anything that he wrote that he felt sounded like Modern Life Is War, so he actually had a catalogue of ideas for songs and was anxious to put those to good use," says Eaton. "So everyone jumped in right away, and it was cool seeing these people that you did so much with, and remained friends with get that one phone call and just jump into action. It was like, 'Here we go.'"
The result is an album that easily matches and perhaps even surpasses what many consider the band's crowning achievement, 2005's Witness.
"You can really hear echoes of everything we've done on Fever Hunting, going back to our first 7-inch that we released ourselves, and the other three albums, you can hear elements of all of those on the new album quite clearly in different areas," says Eaton. "At the same time, I don't think we were trying to recreate any one of those. We weren't trying to reinvent ourselves or be musically progressive or weird just for the sake of it, but it's also not a throwback record. I think we took a step forward, even if it's kind of subtle."
Once again in the studio with GodCity studio owner and Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou, who also produced Witness, Modern Life Is War's no-nonsense approach and the fact that they had all worked on their own ideas coming into the recordings made for a smooth, productive recording sessions.
"Sometimes it's hard to all get into a rhythm together and then try to stare at each other until you write a song; it's almost counterproductive," says Eaton. "So it was kind of nice just being apart and knowing we had limited time for each of us to come to the table with some material and we could really hit the ground running once we were in the studio."
Lyrically, the album is a testament to growing up and, as Eaton explains, the youthful concept of endless possibilities that sometimes comes to a head when responsibilities, adult relationships and financial struggles come into play.
"In time your life takes different turns and you have different struggles, and you realize that although you can accomplish a lot, there's still so much to be done. And possibilities are limited. Some things that you fucked up are going to affect you forever, and it's about dealing with, to be cliché, that 'coming of age' thing, combined with the idealism of your youth."
Songs like "Currency," "Health, Wealth and Peace," and the title track weave a theme of how money dictates most things in life, but are quick to point out how "time is as valuable as money, and friendships are as valuable as money, and all of these things are forms of currency and you have to figure out how to balance them all and make them all work in your own life," explains Eaton.
As for the reformed band's future, Eaton says that besides playing live shows again they're already planning to write another record after Fever Hunting.
"We've already started talking about what we might do next in terms of a record, but nothing definite yet. We have a song that we'd almost finished for this record, but we decided to shelve it and just work on it some more. So we already have another song that's in the works, but we're definitely going to be writing and recording in the future."