Published Jan 01, 2006For a band that released four albums and four EPs in a span of four years early in their career, Modest Mouse has been as quiet as their name suggests for the last four years. Though the band released an EP of rarities in 2001, there's been nothing new from them since. Front-man Isaac Brock did moonlight as the bizarre Ugly Casanova and put out an album on Sub Pop in 2002, but the erratic disposition of the record was in a completely different direction than his band, featuring members of Red Red Meat, Califone and Black Heart Procession.
Despite his reputation as a workaholic, Brock seems rather nonchalant about his time away from the spotlight. "It hasn't been four years exactly, but I see what you mean. We've just been busy doing our own things having babies and working on music with other people. Plus, we all live in different parts of the country. We're constantly touring around the country every few months whether we have new material or not, but it is always nicer to play new songs." Glibly casual, he quips: "I consider getting drunk and having a hangover as doing something, so we've definitely been keeping ourselves busy."
Modest Mouse last released an album in 2000, entitled The Moon & Antarctica. In the four years since then, they've been preparing their follow-up record a remastered version of The Moon & Antarctica? "I wasn't satisfied with the mastering of that album," Brock admits. "It was never how I wanted it to sound, so I had a chance to go back and do it the way I imagined, with new artwork as well. I was ready to pay for it out of my own pocket and then the label offered to, so that was even better."
Brock isn't really a sadist to his fans though. Along with the re-release comes the proper follow-up, Good News For People Who Love Bad News. Surely the most contradictory work the band has recorded, Good News features sparklingly pristine production by Dennis Herring (Camper Van Beethoven, Throwing Muses, Cracker), new levels of melodic prominence (courtesy of pop hooks and snappy keyboards) and a song that recalls a deadpan Tom Waits. Yet most striking is Brock's newly optimistic outlook on life. After years of venting lyrically about his constant unrest with just about everything, is he finally showing signs of contentment? "Yes, I would say that I am now content. More than I was, say, four years ago. But I wouldn't say that is something I feel all the time."
Perhaps the most interesting detail of this extended absence though is Brock's budding role working A&R for Sub Pop Records. Sub Pop's Megan Jasper, who works closely with Brock, admits, "He started about two years ago. While working with John Orth [on Ugly Casanova], he also helped John put together a Holopaw record. Isaac basically went in and helped them record some demos and then shopped the demos to Sub Pop." Even before he was added to the label's payroll, he was busy helping his friends find record deals, like acclaimed popsters the Shins. Jasper concedes, "A long, long time ago before we were interested in signing the Shins, they were Flake Music and he took them out on tour. He really urged Sub Pop to work with them, so we did because we loved them too."
Jasper feels Brock is cut out for the work, both as a travelling musician and a visionary. "Because he's touring all the time, he's meeting and hearing bands that we don't get to hear. We figured he should help us out in finding some new acts. He has a perspective that a lot of other people don't have because they're not in bands. He's really insightful."