MOD SUN can’t help but smile when he recalls an early Fall Out Boy show in 2003 at the Quest’s Ascot Room in Minneapolis. The artist still vividly remembers the moment a Take This To Your Grave-era Patrick Stump started belting an a cappella version of “Grand Theft Autumn / Where Is Your Boy.” How could he not, though? He was front row as a ninth grader, singing it with the band.
MOD SUN considers himself a “scene kid” in every sense—from spending hours on end practicing Travis Barker’s drum fills to shopping around for Diesel jeans to getting Coheed And Cambria and Jimmy Eat World lyrics tattooed on each arm as his first ink. As he enters a new era of his career, one that he hopes further highlights his skills behind the kit, he thinks the music will start revealing more of those early influences. And he thinks it’ll help fans truly “feel his energy” this time.
Who’s that person you always want to be that you’re showing to the world at this point?
It’s just so suiting that I’m talking to you because I am a true kid from the scene. My first love was being front row to all these bands that no one had heard of. Fresh out of high school, I started touring around in a 15-passenger van, sleeping on floors every night, playing for no money. That’s where I came from. I strayed so far from that to come right back to the start, which is my new song. “Karma” is a perfect example of the kind of music that got me started into making music.
You were seeing bands that no one had heard about. Who were some of those bands?
I was front row at [one of] Fall Out Boy‘s first shows outside of Chicago, the Quest’s Ascot Room. This is the MP3.com days, too. This is not PureVolume yet. They play, “Where is your boy tonight? I hope he is a gentleman.” I’m singing it a cappella with Patrick Stump, and they stopped the song.
[I also remember seeing] the Early November, [who] ended up staying at my house. My mom was the cool mom. How I got cracked into the whole scene and being able to get out of my city was that my mom would tell me, “Go to the shows, and you can tell the band that if they want, they can stay at our house, and they can drink the whole liquor cabinet. They can take over the house. Then when you go to school in the morning and I go to work, they can stay in the house.”
My mom was so trusting and cool. She knew how much I loved this music. The Early November were the first big band to stay at my house. I have a VHS of them playing “Sunday Drive.” They fucking played “Sunday Drive” in my living room. The next day I woke up and went to school as a ninth grader. Legitimately, that was pretty much as finger on the pulse of no one knowing who the fuck someone was and watching them take over. That being said, same thing for the All–American Rejects. I watched them play with Motion City Soundtrack, who were from my city. I watched Motion City Soundtrack play for five people in a place called Fireball Café in Minneapolis.
So everybody coming up into this kind of music, and being a fan of this kind of music, you always have particular outfits or a style that you adapt to make your own. Can you describe your style and your favorite scene T-shirt?
I’m a style kid at heart, so I can tell you in chronological order, the cracking off this whole shit. Gabe Saporta from Midtown, who most of the world knows as from Cobra Starship, but fucking Midtown, that’s how we know Gabe. I think he was one of the first people I ever saw wear Diesel jeans, which were the only tight-fitting male jeans at the time, and these fucking jeans to us broke scene kids were expensive, like $300 a pair.
Originally, I was a blink kid to start. I was in Dickies and Famous Stars And Straps and all that—super skater kid. Then that New Jersey shit cracked out, Drive-Thru Records. All of the sudden, we were wearing girl’s jeans, extra-small T-shirts, scarves and dyeing our hair half and half. All of a sudden, the scene got really pretty, I’m not gonna lie. Our hair started looking good. We were really on some style shit.
I think you touched on something really interesting where we saw the migration of punk rock innovating the DIY show flyer, where they’d paste flyers on telephone poles and whatnot. But you’re right. This scene culture really innovated the idea of DIY in the internet age.
My American Heart made bands need to step it up and do their own marketing, as far as I’m concerned, when PureVolume hit. All of a sudden, you could buy these banners, and you had to design these banners to a certain dimension that we had never heard of. We had to figure all this shit out. We had to figure out how to hyperlink it to your page. It was fucking hard, man. It really was. This was the start of the internet.
Who were your influences when you were first learning how to play drums, or who inspired you to sit behind the kit?
I can tell you one line of order, and it’s really funny. I’m totally cool with not looking like the cool guy. The reason I got a drum set for Christmas one year was because of the band Hanson. That’s why I got a drum set. My sister was obsessed with the band Hanson. Her and all her friends thought this band were so fucking cool. I must have been 8 or 9.
I saw Travis Barker, and I realized that this is my way to make it out. This is my fucking way. I’ve never seen someone look cooler… And everything changed for me right there. I spent probably a solid three years of my life in front of a computer with a 56K [modem], watching that little bar from blink-182’s performance at Sydney’s Big Day Out, watching that fucking bar get bigger and bigger until I could watch the whole show. But I would let a minute load, study that minute for an hour, then another minute load, study that minute.
You kept talking about how you’re going back to your roots here. What do you hope your fans can take away from that energy of going back to your roots?
I feel very fortunate because I’m 33 years old, and I’ve been doing this. And I put in half of my life for this, half of my existence on this fucking planet, I’ve put into this. People that listen to me, that are truly listening to me, that aren’t new listeners, I really believe that they want me to win, man.
I want people to really feel my energy for what it is. I think I could talk about anything on this new album. And what you’re going to really feel is my energy finally is out. It’s almost like I’m talking about this, and I’m talking about this situation. I’m here, and I’m there. But really right at the middle. You’re going to finally feel my genuine energy.