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Interview: Matt Kass of Modern Inventors on building Trains and Aeroplanes

They may be sneaking their debut full-length Trains and Aeroplanes quietly in during the last week of the year, but really, it’s just setting Modern Inventors up for a great 2013. The band had been plugging away this year, covering McCartney songs and appearing on the air with Helen Leicht, opening shows for Ben Solee at the TLA and Cliff Hills at World Cafe Live at the Queen, and sneaking up to Brooklyn for a Backyard Brunch session.With the album out, we get to hear the full range of a group that started out as a collaboration between singer-songwriters Matt Kass and Josh Benus. I caught up with Kass over e-mail today to get the details on Trains and Aeroplanes and more.

The Key: You perform often as an acoustic duo or trio, but the album has a lot of range – there’s big rock moments that might be unexpected, depending on how people were introduced to the Modern Inventors. Did you want the record to stretch your sound, or was the bigger rock-ness always in the cards?

Matt Kass: I think we’ve always wanted to have a full band, and the duo and trio thing is just a way for us to perform in situations where a band normally wouldn’t be appropriate. It’s great for support sets, because we can come in and play in whatever configuration the headliner wants. But ultimately, when we’re writing these songs, we’re thinking of the full band arrangement. I think as we play more and do more of our own shows, you’ll find us playing with a full band.

TK: You and Josh originally began working together because you were going to produce his solo record. How did it turn into a new band? Was there a moment in the studio where it “clicked?”

MK: Well, Josh and I have known each other for like 6 years now. He played in a band that used to open for my old band, The Brakes when we would play in New England. He came to a Brakes show at Mercury Lounge in 2008 and asked me to produce his solo record. I liked the idea, and I could tell my band was winding down, so I jumped at the chance to make his record.

We went into the studio under the assumption that this was going to be a solo record, but as we started writing and recording, it became clear to me that this could be more than just a producing thing. The songs that he was writing, and the direction we were taking the project became very similar to the sound I had in my head… Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Modern Inventors at Johnny Brenda’s, Homesick Elephant at The Fire, Chill Moody at The TLA, The Hold Steady at Musikfest Cafe

Modern Inventors
Modern Inventors | Photo by Alicia Brown
Philly rock-and-soul outfit Modern Inventors have a fine new full-length album, Trains and Aeroplanes, and a release party tonight at Johnny Brenda’s. Joining them are Philly folk favorites Hezekiah Jones and retro-pop rockers Shark Tape, kind of reflecting both ends of the Inventors’ musical spectrum. The show begins at 9 p.m., more information is available here. Below, stream “Goodbye Northbrook Drive” from the album

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Modern Inventors celebrate Trains and Aeroplanes at Johnny Brenda’s on 12/28, album presale available now

Modern Inventors
Modern Inventors | Photo by Alicia Brown
Soulful Philly roots rockers Modern Inventors are gearing up to release their debut full-length, Trains and Aeroplanes, later this month. The album is now available for pre-order at Bandcamp, along with name-your-own-price downloads of two songs – “Hello” and “Goodbye Northbrook Drive.” The band is celebrating the release of the album at Johnny Brenda‘s on December 28 with Philly folk ensemble Hezekiah Jones and indie-rockers Shark Tape – a lineup that, in a way, spans both halves of the Inventors’ world. Advance tickets are available here, and fans who buy in advance get a free copy of the album at the show. Below, watch the band perform “These Eyes” for Bands in the Backyard last summer.

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Kuf Knotz, Modern Inventors, The Districts and more to perform Beck’s “Song Reader” at World Cafe Live on 01/08

We’ve all heard about it by now: Beck, the cutting-edge musician who gave us leaf blowers on stage and the 1994 hit “Loser,” set forth his latest release in an unconventional medium – a songbook.  Available this week and distributed by McSweeney’s and Faber, Song Reader: Twenty New Songs by Beck features unrecorded songs in sheet music form, up to interpretation by those adventurous enough to step into its full-color illustrations and lush binding:

“The songs here are as unfailingly exciting as you’d expect from their author, but if you want to hear “Do We? We Do,” or “Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard,” bringing them to life depends on you.”

Over a dozen local musicians have accepted Beck’s challenge and will perform their interpretations of the compositions at World Cafe Live on Tuesday, January 8th.  The line-up so far includes Sean Hoots, Johnny Showcase and the Lefty Lucy Cabaret, The Levee Drivers, Killer Whale, Modern Inventors, Kuf Knotz, Penrose, The Districts, Juston Stens and the Get Real Gang, Satellite Hearts, The Great Unknown, The Bailey Hounds, and Chris Kasper, with more to be announced soon.  Tickets and more information for the show can be found here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Menzingers opening for The Gaslight Anthem at The Electric Factory, The National Rifle at PhilaMOCA, Shelby Lynne at World Cafe Live, Twin Sister at Union Transfer, Modern Inventors at The Note

Philly punk rockers The Menzingers released their major label debut On the Impossible Past in February after wowing Bad Religion guitarist and Epitaph Records founder Brett Gurewitz.  Tonight, the Scranton-born outfit opens for New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem at The Electric Factory.  Tickets and more information can be found here.  Watch The Menzingers’ video for “Nice Things” below.

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Download a live set from Modern Inventors via NYCTaper (playing Steel City Coffeehouse on 12/07, Johnny Brenda’s on 12/28)

Philly rock outfit Modern Inventors traveled up 95 in October to participate in Brooklyn’s Backyard Brunch Sessions.  With a format similar to Philly’s own Bands in the Backyard, BBS host Dave Chaitt invites bands into his backyard for an afternoon of music and home-cooked food (though this particular session appears to have occurred inside).  Several Philadelphia area bands have been featured in past sessions, including XVSK, Family Band and The Spinning Leaves.

Modern Inventors, preparing for the release of their debut album Trains and Aeroplanes, played a mix of old and new songs at the final BBS session of the season.  Omnipresent New York concert archivists NYCTaper were on the scene with their professional recording equipment, which means you can now download Modern Inventors’ entire session for free here.  View the setlist below and stream the live version of the rock band’s new single “Hello”; they a have a few dates coming up including a show with Suzie Brown and Scot Sax at Steel City Coffeehouse on December 7th and a headlining gig at Johnny Brenda’s on December 28th.  Tickets and information can be found here.

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Download Modern Inventors’ new single “Hello” (playing The TLA on Wednesday)

Photo by John Vettese

Gearing up for their show at The TLA on Wednesday, local song-crafters Modern Inventors have released the single to their upcoming debut album Trains & Aeroplanes as a free download on Soundcloud.  “Hello” is a catchy, well-built rock song with hints of Wilco and The Hold Steady woven throughout the guitar riffs and punchy drum line. The band also recorded an acoustic version of the song when it appeared on the Leicht Lunch this summer, and you can stream and download both versions below. Trains & Aeroplanes will be released in December.  Go here for tickets and more information about Modern Inventors’ show with Ben Sollee at The TLA.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Ryan Shaw at Mt. Airy Night Market, Turning Violet Violet at Kung Fu Necktie, and The Fractals at Underground Arts

Night Market Philly, a free, food-centric street festival, is coming to Mt. Airy tonight. The event features 50+ food trucks and restaurants, as well as a music provided by WXPN. Grammy-nominated R&B artist Ryan Shaw, singer Ginger Coyle and Americana band Reckless Amateurs will be playing live sets throughout the night. The event is scheduled to run from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. For more information visit the Night Market Philly website here.

Philly indie rock band Turning Violet Violet is playing Kung Fu Necktie tonight with Birthmark (Nate Kinsella from Joan of Arc) and The Sky Drops. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are available here for $8. Listen to Turning Violet Violet’s new album, Double Cure, in the player below and, if you like what you hear, the album is available for pay-what-you-want download on the band’s BandCamp page here. You can also download their Key Studio Session here.

Philly alt-rockers The Fractals recently joined WXPN’s Helen Leicht in the studio to perform live on her show, Leicht Lunch. Now the band are joined by local bands The Lowlands, and Modern Inventors for a show at Underground Arts tonight. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the 21+ show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are available here for $6. Listen to The Fractals’ on Leicht Lunch, download their acoustic performance of the new song “Twila Darlin’”, get an mp3 of their studio recording of “Miss Kensington,” and hear an archive of their entire appearance here.

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My Morning Download: “Goodbye Northbrook Drive” by Modern Inventors (playing tonight at Underground Arts)

Photo by John Vettese

Modern Inventors is a collaboration between Josh Benus of South Mountain Pass and Matt Kass of The Brakes. Kass and Benus started their virtual New York-to-Philly musical relationship a couple years ago and it has since flourished in real time as Benus moved to Philadelphia earlier this year. Modern Inventors were recently on the Leicht Lunch with Helen Leicht; you can listen to it here. Below, download a new song, “Goodbye Northbrook Drive.” Modern Inventors play Underground Arts tonight with The Lowlands, opening for headliners The Fractals. Go here for tickets and more information about the show.

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Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company
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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Cliff Hillis with Modern Inventors at World Cafe Live, M83 at Electric Factory, Zeus with Juston Stens at North Star, and Kindred the Family Soul at @ World Café at the Queen

Tonight singer-songwriter Cliff Hillis celebrates the release of his latest album, Dream Good, with an official Philly record release show upstairs at World Cafe Live. The album is Hillis’ first release in three years and the show includes a performance by the Philly indie rock band Modern Inventors (who recently recorded with WXPN’s Helen Leicht on Leicht Lunch). The all-ages show starts at 9PM. Tickets are $10 and available for purchase here. Listen to Cliff Hillis’ new album in the player below.

French electronic band M83 are bringing their ambient vibes to the Electric Factory before they head to Lollapalooza and then continue their extensive three month-long U.S. tour. The all-ages show starts at 8PM and features support from Big Black Delta. Tickets are $40.40 and can be purchased here. Watch the official music video for the band’s infectious single “Midnight City” from their latest album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming in the player below.

Toronto band Zeus are headlining a show at the North Star Bar tonight along with Juston Stens & The Get Real Gang (featuring Juston Stens formerly of Dr. Dog) and Megan Reilly. The 21+ show starts at 8PM and tickets are available here for $10.

Finally, Philadelphia natives/married couple/musical duo Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon (AKA Kindred the Family Soul) are bringing their soulful sound to World Cafe at the Queen in Wilmington tonight at 8PM. Reserved seats for are sold out, but general admission tickets are still available for $29 here.

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