Music Interviews

Interview: The Modern

The Modern. It’s a brave name for a new band, a statement of intent. What backs them up in this claim is a notable ‘first’ – the first download only single to be released by a UK band.

Early developments suggest they’re headed in the right direction, signing to Mercury Records after considerable levels of interest elsewhere. Having just bagged a gig at Camden’s Barfly it seemed a good time to gauge the opinion in the camp.
The quintet comprise vocalists Emma Cooke, Chi Tudor-Hart and Nic Linn, whilst Robert James plays guitar, and Bob Malkowski, a man with taller hair than Gavin Henson, drums. Decamping downstairs between sound check and gig gives us a chance to discuss their recent signing.

Chi takes up the mantle. “It was very exciting, going into this enormous hit factory and seeing all the discs on the wall, but what really swung it was the guy who signed us. We’ve had some people saying to us that we’re like some sort of electronic version of The Darkness, ‘cos we like to dress up on stage and stuff, but we’re a lot more than that. We’ve had people say to us ‘oh you need to do this, do that’, but he was just like ‘I totally get it’. The last thing we want is a record company that will squeeze the life out of us”.

When I offer the view that record companies indulge this practice too often, the band nod vigorously. “Well you only have to look at what happened with bands like The Bluetones says Nic, “and how they became really uncomfortable with what they had to do”. “We don’t want to be pigeon holed like that” adds Bob, “we just don’t fit in to any particular genre or sound”.

The band have just met with prospective producer Tore, flying back from Malmo only hours before this appearance. “Tore was a very nice guy, very easy going and relaxed about the whole thing. The town was weird though, it was like going to an IKEA town” says Emma, “and his studio got inspiration from the weirdest sources, he had pictures of producers with really straight ties, just like Kraftwerk, and he had loads of instruments from the early 70s, which are kind of cool again now. We hope to record the new single there, and maybe the album too.

“We just don’t fit into any particular genre or sound” – The unclassifiable Modern avoid pigeonholing…

The new single will follow up the download only Suburban Culture EP, a release whose method is described by Bob as “absolutely the right decision. We thought about releasing a white label but what good’s that gonna do? Emma, who occasionally reminds me of Cerys Matthews, talks of the track being played in America, and how some guy has “even set up a life journal about us! People have streamed our tracks into clubs over there as well, which is really exciting.”

I’m curious to know if last year’s success of the Scissor Sisters has made their own progress easier and the band wholeheartedly agree. “It’s not just their music, though,” says Nic, “it’s the fact they put on a great show, and I think with them and bands like The Killers and The Kaiser Chiefs, people are really seeing a merge of indie and pop. I mean this year, the Brits and Brats were practically identical!”

“This year, the Brits and the Brats were practically identical!” – The Modern on how indie has become more and more embraced by the mainstream…

The band’s website is ultra modern, to coin a phrase, but they remained concerned that despite their stress on new technology “it’s very important to be us, not to be the antidote to this or that”. Their roots are South and East London, the band evolving from Deptford and ‘recruiting’ Bob a couple of years ago. He captures their position perfectly, describing them as “just out of the blocks. We’re in a weird sort of limbo but it’s really good as well, we just don’t know where things are gonna take us.”

Loose plans after current single Industry include another release in July, with an album to follow in the later summer, but that could easily change with the band at the unpredictable writing stage. Later on the gig sees them emerge triumphantly from a potentially damaging sound problem at the outset, giving a performance of flair and virtuosity. Their ’80s influenced brand of guitar pop could be about to find itself plenty more online fans.

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Interview: The Modern
The Modern @ Paradise Bar, London