MODEY LEMON – interview by mike bushman
An inventively creative two piece caked in that gritty low-fi, high wattage garage punk / b-movie rawk and roll. It’s a twisted influence of greaser/garage rock sounds adjusted with an art punk mentality. It’s got Cramps, y’know? They use sounds/structures you swear you’ve heard worked into the ground by the greaser’a-billy punk scene, yet manage to present a fresh approach on most every number. Like the bad horror movie meets Reverend Horton Heat psychobilly freakout vocal scream that provides the breaks in “It’s Hard (The Squeal)”. Or the ‘muma-muma-muma-muma-maaaa’s’ of “Coffin Talk” (if you hear the song, you’ll know what I mean). Totally uninhibited use of vocals to add the much needed texture over the more familiar 50’s rhythm and blues-rock standards the music wraps itself around. The album is packed full of rock nuggets that have a dirty boogie tempo while challenging the listener with untraditional ideas that somehow sneak by sounding like a band that could have been pounding out this brand of rock for decades. The dichotomy of fresh vibe against retro rock has been seeing a large resurgence (another two piece band and a Lego video made a hit with the same formula). So maybe the world will embrace Modey Lemon. They should as two Modey Lemon’s could kick the shit out of an entire band of Hive infected Strokes.
Oh, and if you were wondering about the name, it comes from the rotting fruit that littered the ground of some of their first outdoor guerilla-like street shows. Think of a lemon, covered in mold, then say, “Moldey Lemon” in your best British accent. Clever fuckers from Pittsburgh ain’t they?
How does Modey Lemon embrace this elusive element that we call Rock n Roll?
Phil. Teeth. And Metal claws.
Paul: Full throttle
Phil: We race full throttle, then we sink our saber teeth into, then it’s embraced.
Only two people, vocals and three instruments. Why the moog organ? (as exemplified in “It’s Hard (The Squeal)” and the story lined worker stomp of ‘Caligula’).
Phil: We kind of had trouble getting along with a third human member. So we figured the next step would be incorporating a non-human member that could play just as much of a role. And we stumbled across the moog, and he was willing to join the group. And we wanted to try and mimic some of the Fat Possum Records type bands, because they were only two-piece. And make some money. That was kind of the motivation to go down and do it. We were playing music and we were like, ‘Why don’t we just go down and play on the sidewalk and try and make some money while we are playing’. So we went down and did that. Then we decided to write some of our own songs. At first writing our own songs was more for like our repertoire for playing on the sidewalk. So we just kind of came up with the idea of writing Modey Lemon stuff. At the time, we didn’t really think there were any other two-piece rock bands around.
How much of an influence are bad horror movies on you lyrically?
Phil: At the time we first started off, that was just sort of an element that we thought would be appropriate to incorporate. Because we could get all the kind of eerie sequels sounds of the moog. Not so much the campiness or kitschy-ness of horror films, that wasn’t the thing we were drawn to so much as the… well, we found a lot of humor in it to. We were just kind of screwing around half the time. But I was also drawn to the more supernatural element. The darker elements of nature. And death is like a metaphor for isolation.
How has the world of Modey Lemon changed since the release of your first full length?
Phil: It’s been more shows. Bigger shows. More money. We have an official release out now with distribution. Basically with the album we are looking outside of Pittsburgh. When you are first starting out, all you can really do is worry about the immediate region that you are part of. It’s on a lot bigger scale now than it could have been before.
Is there so much rock in you two that you equal out to like a 4-piece rock band?
Phil: That seems to be more of a statement than a question. Paul said ‘Thanks.’ That’s his answer to the question. My grandpa saw us play and that’s what he said.