Q&A with MODOC

Following the footsteps of Nashville contemporaries The Black Keys and Jack White, MODOC win fans and critical acclaim the old fashion way: by writing stellar songs and blowing the doors off every place they play. Heavy on hooks and light on pretension, the trio seem primed to ride the blues-rock revival into the mainstream. They’ve already started cracking it; the big single off their self-titled album, “Devil on My Shoulder,” has popped up in promotions for network TV shows “Reckless” and “666 Park Avenue.” We’re very excited to debut the lyric video for “Devil on My Shoulder,” which you can check out below along with our conversation with MODOC’s Clint and John, wherein we discuss the importance of honesty in rock and roll, some of their favorite places in Nashville, and that time they got kicked out of a Louisiana casino.

GGM: How’s tour going?

John: We’re just finishin’ up. It’s festival season, so we’re doing festivals every week. It’s been great, playing some big crowds we wouldn’t normally hit. Clint: We hit the east coast next week. That should be fun. We’re hittin' up Philly, DC and a couple different places in New York.

GGM: Do you have any cool or crazy road stories?

Clint: (laughs) I don’t know if cool is the right word… John: Recently down in Southern Louisiana, we got detained in a casino.

GGM: What happened??

Clint: That’s what happens when you, uh, kind of cherry pick the penny slots (laughs). I think they purposefully leave a certain amount of money on these machines to get people to go to them. We’d go to some that had however many free pulls on it, and we wound up winning like 50, 60 bucks. They didn’t like that after the second time we went around. John: It turns out the foreman and all of the security crew escorted us deep back into the back hallway of the casino and they got our mugshots, and we got kicked out for life. Clint: Kyle and I were sittin’ at these other machines getting texts like “get the hell out of here!” We had to meet them clear out on the road cuz they got escorted to our van and security followed them out. They made them leave the premises. We had to go meet them out on the road to get to wherever the hell we were going next.

GGM: That's a pretty good shenanagin! Your self-titled album is good and heavy. What was inspiring you during the writing and recording?

Clint: I think we’re constantly inspired by other music. We have such eclectic musical taste within the band. Music inspires a lot, and the road inspired a lot of that record, the struggle of trying to make due while still trying to have a good time. John: Yeah, being poor is all over that record (laughs).

GGM: I understand you’re working on a new one. What changes can fans expect between your S/T and your new one?

Clint: That’s a good question. I feel like we’ve grown a bit as songwriters. There’s still a lot of the usual. Rock and roll is historically about women and drinkin’ and bein’ broke, so that stuff’s gonna seep in all the time, but as we get a little bit older, I think we write about a larger variety of things. That might be the most vague answer I could possibly give you (laughs). John: I think the last record was a little more straightforward and some of these new songs have an ambiguity as far as meaning. It might not be as easily deciphered from a listening standpoint, but it has a lot of the same undertones.

GGM: You guys rightfully get mentioned alongside Nashville contemporaries The Black Keys, Jack White, and Kings of Leon. When you formed the band, did you know that this city had the scene for you?

John: When we first moved to Nashville, things were changing, but it wasn’t nearly what it is today. I don’t think Jack White lived here. I don’t think The Black Keys lived here. Kings of Leon were an enormous blip on our radar but essentially nobody else’s. I don’t think we had any idea it would be the mecca of contemporary rock and roll that it is now.

GGM: Favorite rock records growing up?

Clint: I would say Zeppelin II is a pretty good standout for me. A lot of the Pearl Jam catalog. John: We were early 90s kids, so Weezer's Pinkerton and The Blue Album. Just about anything Smashing Pumpkins did back then. We were old enough to be lucky enough to miss the constant train of crap that came in the early 2000s.

GGM: Constant train of crap, eh?

John: Rock and roll lost a lot of honesty there for a little while when it became so polished. It made a comeback. They definitely made it fail proof. We just weren’t fans of what came out of certain time periods.

GGM: Do you guys listen exclusively to rock? What’s something you listen to that fans might not expect?

Clint: I grew up loving Roy Orbison. I know that’s rock and roll, but when I think of Roy Orbison, I don’t think of, you know, Pearl Jam or Zeppelin. We listen to all kinds of different things, but I don’t think anyone would listen to MODOC and go “They must love Roy Orbison or Paul Simon!” but I think if you listen to the way John plays drums, you would probably pick up on that.

GGM: “Devil On My Shoulder” has been used to promote shows like “Reckless” and “666 Park Avenue,” but the video you guys did actually reminded me a bit of the opening credits of “True Detective.” It got me thinking, what shows do you guys watch in your spare time?

John: True Detective’s a big one. It’s long gone and each season’s gonna be different, but I loved that show. All the ones people talk about. The water cooler shows, House of Cards— Clint: All those HBO shows are good if you have the time to get into them. No matter what the content, HBO does a really good job. John: Also! The Newsroom. I think we’re tentatively scheduled to have a song on there, which I can’t confirm or deny, but we were huge fans of that show before any of those talks started. Clint: Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld.

GGM: Movies?

John: Oh man, Dances With Wolves all the way. Clint: (laughs) We’re big western fans. If there’s a horse and a gun in it, I’m all about it. I’ve seen every Clint Eastwood. Pale Rider is probably my favorite.

GGM: What are you guys reading right now?

John: I feel like me and Clint are on opposite ends. Clint’s read every biography you could imagine and I’ve read every Bukowski poem you could imagine. Kurt Vonnegut, all that trendy bullshit that everybody else has read.

GGM: I don’t know if that’s trendy bullshit! Vonnegut and Bukowski are great!

John: I mean, they’re awesome! But every kid in Brooklyn is carrying them in their back pocket, you know?

GGM: So Clint, what biographies are you reading?

Clint: I’m reading a lot of rock and roll biographies. I just finished up Gram Parson’s biography called Twenty Thousand Roads. Keith Richards' book. Bill Graham Presents. I like to read all these books because you sometimes run into the same people and I’m blown away that a character I know in a book is real. That’s fun for me. It hits close to home. It makes me feel like I’m part of something that’s really happening, and just kind of living the nostalgia in a way.

GGM: What’s the best place to play in Nashville?

John: I’d say the Mercy Lounge. The owners are a killer group of people.

GGM: How about to grab a bite?

Clint: That’s an unending list. Every day place, I love the Copper Kettle. For extravagant wonderfulness, a good steak, I’d go to Kayne Prime or Lockeland Table.

GGM: What kind of band do you hope MODOC eventually becomes?

John: Hopefully still a relevant one. If you look at it, you can spot the trend from the day it becomes popular. Some aspects of music evolve on and on. I honestly can’t think of an era when somebody wasn’t doing something cool with rock and roll. It’s not like we’re dead set on our sound, but we’re not stupid either. Five years from now, if we’re gonna be making music that is both cool to us, we’ll have to evolve with tastes just as much bands too. Clint: I think we definitely progress and stay relative. We’re not blind to think everyone will always love a certain kind of music. We’re constantly looking for new music and something to pull from. I think that’s gonna continue to bleed into how we make music.

GGM: The self-titled is kind of bluesy and rock driven. Are there styles or influences you want to pick up on?

Clint: I think we’ll stay true to a rock and roll vibe. I think we’re a lot less bluesy than we were at one point. That’ll always be somewhere in there, I imagine. We’re not afraid to throw things like a stomp 12-bar in there if the song needs it, but if it doesn’t need it, it’s not gonna go. We try to shy away from pentatonic leads as much as possible because it’s so cliché. There’s more that can come from doing out-of-the-box things. We’re gonna continue to have rock as our fundamental, but we’re always gonna try to progress and do something different. If we don’t like it, than we shouldn’t be doing it.

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