”Never settle when you got nothing to lose. You may become filled with black and blues. Nobody else is gonna fill your shoes. Ah, the world is just a puzzle and it’s easy to get confused.”
There’s a preternatural wisdom and lived-in worldliness to Philadelphia duo Modern Inventors that doesn’t at all reflect the youth of creators Matt Kass and Josh Benus. In fact, there’s a rightness and mature craftsmanship to the pair that seasoned pros would give their eye teeth to possess. Press play on their recent debut Trains & Aeroplanes (pick it up here) and one is quickly reminded of Neil Finn, Josh Rouse, Michael Penn and James Taylor in his 70s prime. Modern Inventors joins this dear choir of pop-rock universalists with a sparkling song cycle that dig into human experience and pull out tunes that make one close their eyes and shuffle, understanding given catchy melodies, intertwined harmonies, and words that make sense of things we all struggle against.
A recent trip hop-ish cover of Paul McCartney’s “Every Night” (listen here) proves this is no retro act, and has even garnered some appreciation from the “Cute Beatle” himself (likely appealing to Macca’s The Firemen side). The track builds on the sculpted feel of their debut, showing off the care and playfulness woven into the fabric of this band. As breathlessly smooth as their songs appear to be this dynamic only occurs through thoughtful planning and attentive execution. This is pop descended from the era that birthed McCartney and his Liverpool mates’ foundational combo, so it’s little wonder the man himself gets a kick out of it. And like the best work of the 60s & 70s, Modern Inventors’ music feels vibrantly immediate, not some looking back but something built for today and tomorrow.
We asked Matt Kass, who we already dug mightily in his old band, the shoulda-been-huge The Brakes, to get gently philosophical with us.
What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you see the word “God”?
Hmm, okay…when I hear the word God, I think of the vast expanses of outer space, about how incredibly and unfathomably huge our universe is and how maybe the whole idea of God is an attempt to try and make the immeasurable, more measurable. But then I think some more about it and decide that this all can’t be an accident or confluence of random events, that there’s gotta be something greater than what we see in front of us, going on behind the scenes. But an old man with a beard, living in the sky? I think not.
Which has the better cosmology, Star Wars or Star Trek? Why?
I think they’re both pretty interesting, but the fact that Star Trek is meant to exist in our own future, somehow makes their cosmology more engaging for me. I love Star Wars, don’t get me wrong, but Earth exists in Star Trek, the characters are mostly humans from our planet, and the future technologies and civilizations that are worked into the show are a projection of the potential future of our own civilization. Cosmologically speaking, it hits closer to home.
Name one album that has spiritual resonance for you.
Band of Gypsies definitely has spiritual resonance for me. I first heard that record when I was like 15 or 16 and it totally fucked me up. Hendrix’s guitar playing on that record completely blew the lid off of my conception of what was possible to do with a guitar. There’s something dark and conjuring about the vibe of that record. I think it, better than any other of his records, explores how masterful and revolutionary Hendrix’s guitar playing really was. Not to mention Buddy Miles and Billy Cox are killin’ it, too, and it was done live! Shit, gotta keep practicing.
Woody Allen once said, “I don’t know the question but sex is definitely the answer.” So, what’s the question?
What’s the last thing you think of when the words ‘Woody Allen’ are mentioned?
You can have a dinner party with any three people throughout human history. Who do you invite, what’s on the menu and what intoxicant do you share for dessert?
I think i’d invite Carl Sagan, Levon Helm, and Stanley Kubrick…why the hell not? We’re BBQ’ing steak, drinking scotch on my roof-deck, and we all smoke a giant joint after dinner. The whole thing is recorded by the way.