An Interview with Brendan Lukens

Words by Nicholas Parco

You can say that fate brought Modern Baseball together. After knowing each other in high school, Brendan Lukens and Jacob Ewald just so happened to end up at the same university in Philadelphia at a time when the city of brotherly love was on the cusp of a punk rock renaissance.

Two albums later, Modern Baseball is at the heart of the Philly music scene that has taken the country by storm. Their honest-to-God lyrics (You might run, oh but I won’t hide/Shed an ounce of light on my half-hopeless life) combined with pitch perfect harmonies and a driving pop-punk sound could make you believe that the band came up in the same scene as Say Anything and Motion City Soundtrack.

On top of the relentless touring that band has managed to do while three of the members are in college, they also have recorded and produced both of their albums. We recently sat down with Lukens to talk about a number of topics, including the band’s next music video, how it feels to be playing bigger venues, and their bromance with punk celebrity/hero Chris Farren.

You and Jake knew each other in high school right?
BRENDAN: Yeah we actually met because I was dating his twin sister.

You both wound up going to Drexel University. Was that planned or did you separately choose to go there?
BRENDAN: Jake ended up going to Drexel after I was already attending school at a different place in Philly (Chestnut Hill College). Neither of us planned to end up in the same city.

When you went to Drexel and you found out that Jake was there did you guys immediately decide to try and find a bassist and a drummer to start a band?
BRENDAN: Almost immediately. For a little while it was just the two of us and we were playing acoustic shows. We went on a little winter tour run, just the two of us, and after that we knew that we wanted to be a full band.

Have you guys left Drexel full time?
BRENDAN: We haven’t officially left school yet. We took a semester off. Drexel works on quarters, so Ian and Jake took of their winter and spring semesters to do this tour and I took off my last semester, this current semester. After the tour we will go back to school in late June.

What is it like living in Philly at a time when the punk scene there is so big?
BRENDAN: It’s awesome. Obviously all the bands in Philly are great, but the best part about it is how supportive everyone has been. The reason that we are a band and the reason we are here today is because of how supportive everyone in the Philly community is and how much everyone helped us from the beginning. We were definitely lucky to join the scene at such a great time.

How do you think the internet helped spread the word of Modern Baseball?
BRENDAN: This current tour is a great example of how much stuff like Facebook and Twitter has helped bands become bigger. When we talked to The Wonder Years they were like “yeah we used to have a MySpace page. We were on Facebook when it was just starting up.” Now bands will become big off of the internet. The way bands used to do it was just by touring constantly. Luckily for us, we’ve been able to use Facebook and we have Bandcamp and we have Twitter. Since we are in school we can’t tour that often so it’s great to be able to reach out to our fans on a more personal level.

You guys are playing Starland Ballroom in a few weeks. When is the last time you guys were there?
BRENDAN: The last time we were at Starland was when we played with Bayside. Ian and Sean are Jersey boys so playing at Starland was very big thing for them… that’s the venue they went to growing up. When we were told that the Bayside show was hitting Starland they were very excited, and then when The Wonder Years added a Starland date it was even crazier. We’re excited to go back.

Are you guys used to the bigger venues like Starland in comparison to the basement shows you used to play when touring for Sports?
BRENDAN: It’s actually funny. We are definitely getting used to these bigger venues. Being able to hear yourself every night is something that took some getting used to for us. Honestly though, we prefer the bigger venues not only because we can hear ourselves but there is just so much more room on the stage. When we were playing house shows it would just be us pushed up against these walls and all these kids sweating and spitting all over us. It’s definitely a change of pace. We love all the intimate shows and we love the big shows without barriers. We are excited to get back into some smaller rooms and go nuts with it though.

You guys played all of Sports acoustically after it came out (youtube link). Do you have any plans to do that for the new record?
BRENDAN: As of now no, but I would not be surprised if we did. We’re really proud of You’re Gonna Miss It All. A big thing that we have done for both of our records is knowing how to play almost every song on them. We never have a song that we can’t really play. For You’re Gonna Miss It All, we are currently finishing up re-learning all the songs and making them sound as tight as we want them to. So you never know… hopefully it happens.

The new album has a more mature sound than Sports. A lot of songs have tempo changes and there are more harmonies. Did you guys plan that or is that just what happened when you were writing the songs?
BRENDAN: It’s a little bit of both. This time around was a lot different than recording Sports. When we recorded Sports we had a ton of songs written with just the acoustic guitars and vocals and we worked off of that. We basically wrote the record while recording it. With You’re Gonna Miss It All, we went into the studio with full band demos, that way we were able to tweak things and make them exactly the way we want them.

Do you sing the songs you write and Jake sings the songs he writes?

What about Sean’s verse on Your Graduation?
BRENDAN: I wrote the verse for Your Graduation. Originally when I wrote it I thought somebody else in the band should sing it. Ian doesn’t sing much, he usually does harmonies and stuff, so I thought maybe him, but when we went in to the studio we were like “Sean sounds like a grown man we should probably use him for something.”

The band has self-produced and recorded both albums. Do you always hope to do that regardless of how big you guys get and what label you are on?
BRENDAN: Absolutely. We are pretty controlling and hard on ourselves so producing the records ourselves is very good for us. For as long as I can see this band going, we will have a major part in production. We love being able to record our own records. It is something so cool that we are very proud of.

The Your Graduation music has been a big hit on YouTube. Do you guys have any plans to release a new single or record a new music video?
BRENDAN: We actually do. While recording the Your Graduation video, we did some live performance stuff for Potholes. The same producer is jumping on tour with us for the final week to do some live videos, and we will put the finished video up soon… almost right after the tour.

Can you explain the bromance between Modern Baseball and Chris Farren?
BRENDAN: (Laughs) The reason we became friends with him is because he really liked our band. Sean and I loved Fake Problems (and still do)… to the point where I listened to them almost daily in high school. When they hit us up and said “We really love Sports, this is such a great record… we should hang out“ we immediately said yes. As it turns out, Chris Farren is the funniest guy on the earth, so it was very easy to start talking to all of them. | Philadelphia