The Lonesome Crowded Inland Northwest

by PAIGE RICHMOND & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & saac Brock -- to use a well-worn idiom -- is a tough nut to crack. The pitchy-voiced lead singer of Modest Mouse is reluctant to discuss his music. When asked if settling down with his fianc & eacute;e in Portland, Ore., has changed how he writes his band's trademark rhythmic songs, Brock says, "I don't know. I don't have an answer for you, sorry."

Modest Mouse, which released albums on indie labels like K Records and Up before moving to major label Epic in 2000, has been a long-time member of Washington's indie-music scene. It's possible Brock is still adjusting to media attention. The Issaquah, Wash., native has often proclaimed his dislike of being interviewed. He once told a writer for entertainment newspaper the AV Club, "It's a lot of questions I don't have answers for, a lot of questions about the music industry. I make music; I don't give a f**k about all the details of why it's different being on a major label than it is being on an indie label."

It's no surprise that Brock can be impenetrable in conversation when his lyrics are known for complicated wordplay. Take the lyrics from "Missed the Boat," off the band's most recent album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, as an example: "Of course everyone goes crazy / Over such and such and such / We made ourselves a pillar / We just used it as a crutch." His songs are more ideas than melodies; it takes a few listens to really understand what Brock means.

Fortunately, with Modest Mouse's upcoming tour, Brock and the rest of the band will become more accessible. When the tour kicks off here in Spokane next week, the band will play in off-the-beaten-path towns like Norman, Okla., and smaller-than-arena-sized venues (like the Big Easy). Brock spoke with The Inlander about recording, running his own record label, and why he can't wait to visit Spokane.

Modest Mouse is starting this tour with two shows in Spokane--

... which should be f**king fun, because they're not big places and oddly enough, the whole time we've been a band and lived in Seattle and everything, we've played Yakima and all sort of places -- did we play Yakima? I don't know. But we've played smaller places and we've never ended up in Spokane, which seems a little odd to me.

What made you decide to play here now?

The last time I drove past Spokane, on my way up to Montana to visit my dad ... just driving on the freeway by it, I got a different vibe than I used to ... It looks like its blooming, that little town. I'm more excited about playing Spokane than I have been anywhere, in a little while.

You've been playing to sold-out shows in big venues for a few years now. Do you ever miss playing in small bars with only 20 people watching?

No, not really. I like playing in smaller bars, but playing to 20 people can make for an awkward evening. Especially with our band being as big as it is now, once you start outnumbering the audience I think it would be -- well, it's fun to have the energy of a lot of people, even if it's a small club.

Let's talk about We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Are there any songs on that album you now wish weren't on it?

For this album, right now, I think I'm too close to it to think that, but you know, the previous album [Good News for People Who Love Bad News], I probably wouldn't have put that song "Once Chance" on it, and I might have put some different songs in its place, but there's always shit I'd do different. You can sit and think about things forever and constantly make changes, but it's just best to just call it at that point in time.

More often than what's on the album, it's the album cover that I really wish I had done differently. I was pretty happy with the Good News one, but still there's some things I would have changed. I don't think since Lonesome Crowded West did I actually think that the album [art] was totally right for the record.

It was three years between the release of Good News and We Were Dead. Are you heading back into the studio soon?

Not for a record. I'm doing some work here in Portland right now, starting tomorrow, doing some work on some old songs we're finishing up. Just working on about seven to nine songs that I really like that we didn't have time to finish in the studio off of those last two records. That's what we're doing right now: Tying up some loose ends. We're just gonna put out an EP, maybe a nine-song EP.

Speaking of recording, you just signed tour mates Love as Laughter to your label, Glacial Pace.

I was just in New York [recording] with them, and I'm pretty f**king stoked. I knew I was gonna like what they put out when I signed them, but this is a really good album, I think. The first band I was ever in was with [LAL lead singer Sam Jayne] when I was like 14 or something. I've always kind of followed what he was doing, and I thought in some ways he was quite a bit better, you know? I was surprised there was never more attention given to them, so I'm f**king definitely gonna do what I can to make that happen. I just think they're too f**king good not to be heard by more people.

The Inlander Showcase presents Modest Mouse with Man Man and Love as Laughter at the Big Easy on Wednesday-Thursday, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, at 8 pm. Tickets: $32. Wednesday's show is sold out. Visit or call 325-SEAT.

Scotty Austin @ Razzle's Bar & Grill

Fri., Feb. 10, 8 p.m.
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