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Q&A: ISAAC BROCK of Modest Mouse (Excerpt)

IB: I’ve got a crack team of fucking weird folks I’m kind of compiling and getting ready for when I have the time.

SS: Just to clear the record and get the real story: Was the name of the band really taken from a short story by Virginia Woolf?

IB: It was required reading in some class I was taking at the time. It was from a Virginia Woolf book where she referred to people who were working the grind as “modest mouse-like people.” I wanted to originally name the band Modest Mouse-like People, but that seemed a little long. I regretted the name for some time because it sounds so cutesy. I got really sick of seeing posters with Mighty Mouse on them. I don’t even remember which story [“A Mark on the Wall”]. I just remember that part.

SS: Modest Mouse album titles are like declarations that stick with you. How long do you labor over album titles?

IB: Longer than the songs. It all has to sum up a bunch of different songs. I usually feel like if you get the title right, one way or another, the songs make more sense.

SS: From what I can tell with the latest record, the band really is trying to do something along the lines of what the Talking Heads or the Pixies were doing in the Eighties where you could keep progressing, and yet have some more pop sensibility built into some of the songs, but not necessarily all of them.

IB: I think that I’ve gotten past listening to a song with a four-minute intro that doesn’t go anywhere or weird noises that don’t help make any scenery. Also, the whole idea that it doesn’t sound the same all the way through. It’s got yelling songs and soft songs within the same album because it’s more dimensional that way, but they still make sense together. The Pixies did that so well. By the way, Johnny played in the Talking Heads at one point.

SS: I think the music press has been ridiculous about Johnny Marr joining the band, but it seems like the two of you are having some fun with it.

IB: We have a really good sense of humor about it. If we’re both doing an interview with the same person, I have him go first because then it just clears up all the Johnny questions, but by the time they’re done, half the time they don’t have any questions to ask me. Which is great because it saves me a lot of time.

SS: Johnny Marr is on a different level, but I wonder why they never ask about Joe Plummer from the Black Heart Procession being in the band, too?

IB: I often bring that up when they ask me about Johnny. I’ll just start talking to them about Joe. Another thing I’ve started doing when they ask, “Was it weird having Johnny play?” I’ll turn it and say, “I’m sure it was an honor for him.”


The complete Stop Smiling Interview with Isaac Brock appeares in the second annual 20 Interviews issue. Click here to purchase 20 Interviews


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