It has been over seven years since the Issaquah indie-rock band Modest Mouse released the studio LP We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, and with their freshly announced album Strangers to Ourselves there will be a eight-year gap between releases. Although there has been plenty of time passed since their last LP, Modest Mouse has been all but stagnant. What follows is a comprehensive timeline of the band’s lead-man Isaac Brock, and the band’s activity over that time.
Over the past seven years the group has mixed around a few members, released a small EP, extensively toured locally and internationally, and has spent a very, very long time delicately crafting an album to add to their five-LP, six-EP discography. The progress on their newest record can be attributed to all of the reasons above; but everything falls under lead-man Isaac Brock’s philosophy with both his label, Glacial Pace, and musical direction (which moves at a glacial pace.)
In an interview with Pitchfork Media in 2010, Brock expressed that direction:
It’s way too early for me to know what direction this thing is really headed. It’s just a bunch of random shit at the moment. It’s more time spent hanging out than playing music.
Since settling down in a house in Portland, Oregon, Isaac’s formation of his own independent label in 2005 has embodied that philosophy, signing bands that he “would listen to on his own” and that he “believes in.”
Originally the label was designed to be a subsidiary of Modest Mouse’s label Epic Records, but after expressing a discomfort with Sony and Epic after they turned down the musicians that Brock would suggest, he decided to found it independently. Since then, he has signed Portland-based musicians like Mimicking Birds, Love as Laughter, and Talkdemonic, and a handful more from Kentucky and Minnesota. Brock expressed on the most Portland show in existence, WKE, that he hopes not to “sign the same band over and over.”
By early 2006 guitarist Johnny Marr from The Smiths joined Modest Mouse to play on the group’s first album since 2004; starting recording for the project in late 2005 and releasing the new LP titled We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank in 2007. The album was released under Epic Records, and kicked off a North American tour in 2008 that had over a hundred live performances.
The following year, Marr left the group to join two other musical acts and take over lead guitarist. Modest Mouse then released the EP No One’s First, and You’re Next which was comprised of b-side tracks from previous albums Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004) and We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (2007), with recordings dating from 2003-2008.
In 2010, almost three years after We Were Dead, their 2000 LP release The Moon & Antarctica was reissued on 2-LP vinyl in honor of Record Store Day. Soon afterwards, they begin touring as part of the 80/35 Music Festival in Iowa and part of the End Of The Road Festival in England. At the end of the year they headline both the Reading and Leeds festivals, for the years following they would continue playing about 50 shows per-year, slowly dishing out new material that would be understood as soon-to-be part of Strangers to Ourselves.
In late April, OutKast member Big Boi surprises fans from both his and Modest Mouse’s camp by announcing that he had spent studio time with the band working on their next LP.
Me and @mouche1 in the studio workin with Modest Mouse on their new album Turnt up ! Shout out to Issac and the crew!
— Big Boi (@BigBoi) April 25, 2011
The following month, Modest Mouse played two brand new songs off that album during the Sasquatch Festival titled “Lampshades on Fire” and “Poison the Well”. A few months later they contributed a cover of “That’ll Be The Day” by Buddy Holly as part of the Rave On Buddy Holly compilation album. The ended the year playing at the Splendour in the Grass Festival in Queensland. Isaac Brock also announced that he was writing the score for the film Queens of Country. Details surrounding the (then untitled) album Strangers to Ourselves stayed hidden. With Big Boi explaining his collaboration to MTV in a little more detail as a “hodgepodge of funkiness”:
Mainly, me and Chris are acting as producers on the record. I’m not rapping on anything, as of yet. … It’s their music. I’m also a producer, as well as an artist, but I’m not just going to jump on something just to jump on it …
The following year the band kicked off 2012 playing at The Warfield Theater in San Fransisco. By the middle of the year Pitchfork.tv released a 45-minute documentary revolving around the original members of Modest Mouse and the conception of their critically acclaimed album The Lonesome Crowded West. The documentary featured archived live performances from the band, as well as home-movie footage with some of the band’s original recording sessions.
It was early 2013 and Modest Mouse was continuing to sprinkle random tour dates and locations throughout the year, playing the Good Vibes Festival in Malaysia, as well as a massive main-stage appearance at the Coachella Music Festival in Southern California. After that huge performance they shot around North America hitting up festivals in Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, and New York. It was getting more and more difficult to determine what progress the band was with their new album. With newer songs like “Lampshades On Fire“, “Coyotes“, “Pistol“, and “Poison The Well” making their rounds into the group’s set lists over the years, a seven-year abstinence from studio-produced material kept things a guessing game. Now snap to the current year 2014, and the group out-of-nowhere announces the officially-titled single “Lampshades on Fire”; their first studio-recorded music in over five years, by teasing fans with an Instagram photo of a 7″ vinyl pressing of the single as an a-side track on December 8th.
Epic Records or Isaac Brock were ready to begin torturing fans with hype. That Friday, the group uploads another photograph on Instagram showing eight houses set in an unusual island cul de sac neighborhood. The image is perceived by fans as a potential front cover for their new album set to release in March of 2015.
Since then, it has been further revealed that the new album will be titled Strangers to Ourselves. The album title has the unique characteristic of being the shortest titled LP in Modest Mouse’s discography, which is used to a typical long-winded sentences for their titles. A few fans were also contacted via Twitter by Modest Mouse’s management and received the 7″ vinyl pressing of “Lampshades on Fire” pictured above.
The group followed the announcements with a performance at the 25th Annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas, and by early Monday Morning officially released their new track “Lampshades on Fire” through Minnesota Public Radio’s The Current. The funky roots of Big Boi’s production can be heard in the track as well as Modest Mouse’s signature minimal-note melodies, although it’s not yet known if it was one of the songs that Big Boi was involved in.
The track can be heard here, and the new album will be released on Tuesday, March 3rd of next year.