What is your name and role within the Modern Painters?
My name’s Gabe… Goodman—I’m the lead singer-songwriter of the group, and I play rhythm guitar. You could call me the COO.
Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like there?
Modern Painters, Inc. has its headquarters in Boston, where most of our members and collaborators are operating out of. Boston’s an alright place—all of us were there for school, so we took advantage of our collegiate connections in affecting synergy within new networks of budding innovators.
Seriously, though, we owe a lot of our inspiration to Boston-based (or once-Boston-based) acts like Wilder Maker, Horse Jumper of Love and Vundabar (who three of us were in high school with). I used to go to house shows so often, I must have been seeing more live music in college than I could remember… The red wine definitely helped in that respect—the not-remembering, I mean.
How did you first start playing music?
Max DiRado, our VP in sales and lead guitarist, was born into the house across the street from me (seven months after my own non-volitional arrival) and in an ensuing streak of good fortune we ended up spending most of our time together as kids. We both started playing guitar at some point, and our personalities unfolded and tangled sonically into what is now, in its current iteration, Modern Painters. James Robotham, chief marketing strategist and saxophone extraordinaire, spent some time with Max and I in the early days of MP Inc., where round after round of investor funding hinged on our hiring subject matter experts from the high school jazz band.
What’s the story behind Modern Painters?
Well, I’ve given you the origin story of the small-town, grass-roots initiative which was Modern Painters in its primary stages. Of course, once we hit the city we figured we needed someone with a little more grit—someone to show us the ropes and challenge our perspectives on just what Modern Painters could be. Aidan (life coach/bassist) was the bohemian guru we were looking for. He plays fretless and basically does what he wants, or rather he enlightens us to what we didn’t know we wanted. Anyways, he and I spent a lot of time at the MFA while I was writing our first album—not exclusively in the Making Modern collection by any means, but I spent long, hungry hours staring at O’Keefes and Beckmanns (and learning about the modernists as people) until I eventually gleaned something from them, or so I’d like to think.
What’s been happening recently?
This is a good time to mention Jacob Benavidez (archangel/drummer), who’s been mixing our album with me over the past year or so (I mostly just sit there). Max got back from LA earlier this month, so we’ve been down a lead guitarist for the majority of this period. While Max was kickin’ it and launching his solo career (https://maxdirado.bandcamp.com/) most of our time has been spent in the studio tracking and mixing City Folk. We’ve been putting on shows, of course, but with varied arrangements. James and I like to hit the subway when we’re feeling listless—I consider our busking a kind of vigilante counter-offensive to the yuppies’ attack on modern man in his search for meaning. I’m tired of hearing how, like, grateful software developers are to have found their passion… incidentally one that makes them seven figures while skyrocketing their neighborhood’s property values.
Please tell us about your upcoming double single release of ‘In Class’ & ‘Hive’ why have you decided to releases two singles at once?
The two tracks communicate themes of the album that are sort of… well, seemingly in opposition to one another. ‘In Class’ proffers a child-like set of “life lies” and an eventual resigned contentment, “It’s the best I have,” while ‘Hive’ commands a hard-headed resignation of another type. I copped some of the lyrics to Hive from ‘Lizards in the Sun,’ off our self-titled Modern Painters, but they’re hardly recognizable in this new context. “After the fall, it all went to hell… As far as I can tell, love it all, oh well, oh well, oh well…” It’s kind of a play on the positivity of the old lyrics, twisting them into this expression of anguish and despair—of racing thoughts and tiredness-of-it-all, as opposed to the unconditional acceptance of ‘Lizards’… perhaps resulting from it?
The real answer to this question is that we happened to finish mixing & mastering these tracks first, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t an unconscious move towards these songs early in the process. A few confounding factors nixed the idea of releasing each single separately, but I’ve always been a fan of the A-side/B-side analog-era single format, and artists like Weyes Blood have continued in that tradition to some degree.
There’s no A/B side to our release, exactly, because there’s no record label telling us which one is “better” and worth promoting. After uploading the tracks to Soundcloud, though, Jake pointed out the freaky coincidence of the track lengths… ‘In Class’ running 2:34 and ‘Hive’ running 4:32. I’m not a superstitious person, but we agreed the inverses of counting up (positivity) and “counting down” to some apocalyptic event worked synchronously well in capturing the tension of these hopeful and dystopian themes at the center of the album.
The artwork for each of the singles (along with the City Folk cover art) was done by our good friend Ryan Gottlieb, God bless his soul, while living in New York City. The singles both have a kind of disparate, unsettling imagery to them, but ‘Hive’ is certainly the outlier in terms of its chaotic visual. ‘City Folk’ being the title of our release, I asked Ryan to take inspiration from the surrounding apartments visible from his rooftop hangout. He asked me if it could be a chair, and I kindly requested that it not be. As you can see, we managed to come to a sort of compromise.
What influenced the sound and songwriting for these tracks?
Our friend Malcolm said to me, shortly after solidifying Modern Painters as a new and serious group, that he loved the Destroyer reference which was our new band name. I had forgotten the pivotal track off This Night, but was delighted at the suggestion. I hurriedly explained that I hadn’t meant to steal Bejar’s IP (I don’t think he’s filed a preliminary patent yet, so we’re one step ahead of him there), but that I had instead co-opted the band names of two of my favorite groups at the time, The Modern Lovers and Red House Painters. It’s still a joke in my mind, but the influence these artists continue to have on my songwriting is undeniable.
How did you approach the songwriting process for each?
This is a more difficult question. I still don’t understand my “process,” but the underlying shared trait of each song that forces its way into existence with enough fervor to climb onto a release has to be the unrelenting psychological event which spawned it. An idea that grips me is always behind a song that grips myself and the band enough to be deemed worthwhile. Maybe it has something to do with storytelling.
The crux of ‘In Class’ is the idea of “the lie which protects us from destructive truth,” but these truths are often necessary to inspire honest reflection and growth. In the case of the baseball-game-scenario which opens the song, an unwilling narrator shows up late to the game hoping for it to be rained out (“Was that thunder?). Upon striking out looking, a thought, “It must be the bat,” surfaces. I liked this imagery, as it recalls childhood situations of feeling inadequate when the actuality of the insufficiency is really pretty trivial. These kinds of lies can’t protect us from these feelings or realities, but they’re often useful enough to postpone self-judgement until we can forget about our fumbles and find ourselves in new territories of competency. Then the song ramps up to take on adolescent romance in the same vein… “And it feels like, she might never text you back… she must be in class.”
I don’t think I’ve ever really 100% believed these kinds of lies myself, but many times they’re more true than the alternatives, in terms of the often-arbitrary nature of personal failure.
‘Hive’ is a harder one to put into words. An early version included a 1984 reference after the descending vocal round, “We are the dead.” Do with that what you will.
Where and when did you record and who with?
The recording process for this album was intense, and I owe everything to Jacob Benavidez and the band for making it happen. Jake essentially came forward and said he’d like to record one of our songs with us for his audio engineering program, and the project ended up encompassing the entire album over multiple sessions, locations, and engineers with Jake overseeing the most taxing element of the process—the mix. Most of the record was laid out at Big Nice Studio in Providence, RI, where Bradford and Chaimes were already familiar with our sound and general philosophy from our self-titled debut. We recorded two of the tracks and some overdubs at East Left Productions in Charlestown, where we also started mixing the album. This record wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the patience and ultimate willpower of everyone involved—the band put in the work, the studios put up with me, the mastering engineer (TW Walsh) was hugely helpful… but the past year of mixing that’s made the album what it is—that was wholly the effort, dedication and serious ear of Jacob Benavidez.
What programs/instruments did you use to record?
We used Pro Tools across the sessions, with Max serving as engineer for all of his guitar tracking and overdubs (a large part of the album’s sound). During these sessions we tracked guitar, mandolin (thanks to Riley for lending us his 1920’s family heirloom), saxophone, and violin. We recorded sax and violin with Jake also, along with female vocals—have I mentioned Julianna? Jules is killer. Most of my vocals were recorded at Big Nice, with the exception of the two tracks done at East Left. We have some keys on there, too… and of course our lead engineer doubled as our drummer—Jake does it all. Seriously, if you ever have the chance to work with a multi-instrumentalist as an engineer, it’s a dream come true.
Where can we buy/listen?
What’s planned for the remainder of 2019?
2019! What a time to be alive.
I’m headed to Tokyo soon to teach English, so these summer shows will be the last with our current lineup—for a while, at least.
Friday, July 5 – Our most important upcoming date, in my opinion—we’ll be performing at ONCE Lounge in Somerville, MA for an early show celebrating our release City Folk, which will be available everywhere that day. We’re playing with our long-time friends Fish House, Jake’s other group where he sings and plays guitar. It’s $6 adv., $10 day-of, so make sure you hit that ticket link ASAP <3
Saturday, July 6 – Couldn’t make the release show? We’re extending the party with a daytime hangout at Midway Café in Jamaica Plain, where we’ll have chilled-out performances by our talented pals Salty Greyhound, Trash Girl and Emma Pannullo (of Dig Safe), along with a stripped-down set by yours truly.
[We’re also playing a Sofar show that night, so let us know if you want the ***secret*** ticket link]
Saturday, July 13 – We’ll be playing Jamaica Plain Porchfest at Tres Gatos featuring a set by Boston veteran Rick Berlin. We’re closing out the show at 2:30pm, and it’s ~free~ as heck.
Tuesday, July 23 – Our last date in the States for some time—If you couldn’t tell, we’re still firming up the details for this show, but it’ll be a good one for sure. Montreal artist Alexia Avina along with U.S. transplant Emmett McCleary will be joining us at Trendy Shit Town, our favorite Roxbury house venue. Hit us up for the address!
P.S. I shouldn’t bother mentioning this, but Max and I are trying to get some new tracks down this summer for release while I’m in Japan… there are some pretty controversial lyrics on these songs :///
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Bob Dylan (The Rolling Thunder Revue)
Weyes Blood (Titanic Rising)
Horse Jumper of Love (So Divine)
Cate le Bon (Reward)
Bill Callahan (Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest)
The Doors (Morrison Hotel)
Katsu (Nose Always in Blossoms)
What do you like to do away from music?
I enjoy looking at art (I spent yesterday with my parents at the MFA for the Toulouse-Lautrec show), reading (I just finished Hemingway’s three major works followed by a 30-hour audiobook of Mary Dearborn’s 2017 biography… sufficiently revelatory so that now I have to read them again), and after five years of engineering school I’m hoping to get “travelling” added to the list (I just got back from Spain and I’m headed to Tokyo for a year in August).
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Aside from the MFA? Shoot… Tres Gatos is a gorgeous little tapas bar in Jamaica Plain—great for a drink and some shrimp if you have the cash—and it’s a nice walk to Jamaica Pond. Did I mention there’s a record store attached? We’re playing Jamaica Plain Porchfest there at 2:30 on July 13th… and it’s free!
If you don’t have the cash, just hit the Arnold Arboretum and bring a snack, or swing by Fiore’s for a vegan “Chocolate PB Boomerang…” just trust me on that, they’re Aidan’s favorite.