Scottish prog-punk band Modern Family boast a rich sound with a tapestry of influences that makes them one of the most unique bands releasing music today. The band, formerly known as The Shoals, released their single ‘Joan of Arc Part 2’ in the December, a stand out track of the year that firmly placed them as one of the most exciting prospects for 2021. We wanted to know how they achieved their memorising sound so got them on board to give us five of the albums that influenced them and their sound.
Schlagenheim- Black Midi
Calum: The first time I ever saw black midi was on the KEXP Youtube channel whilst I was
binging Fontaines D.C content, from the very first note I was hooked. The album was able to
capture that exact same feeling they were able to communicate in the live performance
which is something I’ve always been impressed by but no one I’ve listened to managed to do
it as well as black midi. The control they have over their own chaos is something we have
wanted to push into model family as much as possible. The way they structure their songs
has also really inspired our writing, trying to let our songs go on their own journey and
become something without following a formula is something they have inspired me to try and
this album is the most satisfying car crash I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.
Jamie: I also heard black midi for the first time playing live on KEXP and my mind was
blown. The album is also excellent and it really opened my eyes musically. It showed me
that there are literally endless possibilities when writing and arranging music. It’s a very
inspiring album to listen to. I feel like it’s helped the way we play together, especially when
doing improvisational jams during practise.
Jack: It took me a long time to warm up to this album, and I think the thing that won me over
was Morgan Simpsons drumming. The whole band is excellent but I don’t think that guy has
ever missed a beat in his entire life. The music Black Midi make is totally unchained by the
laws of man, so if you like organised chaos then this is the one for you.
Daniel – I’m certain there was a period of time where every time I saw Calum he’d have the
KEXP live performance of these guys on and I kick myself for not getting on the hype train
sooner. The erratic yet controlled nature in which effects and riffs are interweaved here give
me goosebumps every time, I’ve definitely caught myself shifting to these techniques more
and more recently, the album art is also very much horror material.
Plays Live – Peter Gabriel
Jack: I think the first time I heard Peter Gabriel was when I was a kid, and Sledgehammer came
on in a compilation cd my dad had in his car. I remember liking it but never really paid any
attention to it. Flash forward to the start of lockdown and I set myself the task of listening to a
different artist each week. The first artist I chose was Peter Gabriel and the first song that
came on after I pressed shuffle was ‘On The Air’ from Plays Live. I was completely taken by
the bass playing. There were weird slides scattered throughout the song and the tone was
just incredible. So I went ahead and listened to the rest of the album and loved every minute
of it. The highlights of the album for me are ‘Not One Of Us’ for the phenomenal bass licks in the
choruses, ‘I Go Swimming’ for the sole reason that it makes me dance the swim, ‘San
Jacinto’ for the way it builds and the soundscape created by the instrumentation, ‘Humdrum’
for Tony Levins excellent bass part that goes between being really attacking with slaps to
really mellow seamlessly, and finally the album closer ‘Biko’ which is just an absolute
monster of a track. Gabriel’s vocal performance in it is unbelievable, the structure is perfect,
all the instruments sound massive, and the constant drum beat locks you in. This song really
puts you in the crowd at that concert.
It’s safe to say that I have taken massive inspiration from every aspect of this album in the
music that we’ve worked on more recently. For example I used massive chorus on the bass
in Joan of Arc to try and replicate the bass in San Jacinto.
Silent Alarm- Bloc Party
Jamie: My album of choice is Silent Alarm by Bloc Party, which was introduced to me by
Calum, our front man, when the band first formed. Upon first listen I was pretty much
hooked to most, if not all of the songs on it. Being kind of new to drumming at the time, the
drummer (Matt Tong) became a big influence of mine. His fast paced, energetic grooves
really resonated with me and it pushed me to get better. I don’t think I’d be where I am today
if I hadn’t listened to that album.
Jack: I can’t say I was ever a massive fan of this album but it definitely shaped some of my
early days playing, we covered Banquet once and I think the bass part for it inspired the
bass in Cockroach.
Calum: This album was a very close second, I wouldn’t be writing or playing music if it
wasn’t for this album, This Modern Love may be the best song of all time and Matt Tongs
drumming all over this album is insane.
New Levels New Devils – Polyphia
Daniel: I’m an absolute sucker for very technical instrumentation but this album really made
me appreciate the guitar on a different level. G.O.A.T, the first Polyphia track I had ever
heard just had something about the ominous howls and chiming that precedes Tim Henson’s
first note is so suspenseful it’s frightening to think of what will come next. His style
immediately blew me away and the rest of the members lived up to the hype he set,
everything in this album is so well placed there’s little to no moments I didn’t enjoy. Despite
there being almost no lyrical content here, you can still feel what’s being said on each track.
I think my biggest takeaway from this album was realising that everything in a song should
have its place, despite it being so densely packed with guitar hooks and and some of the
sickest drum grooves i’ve ever heard it all fits and no instrument ever overextends itself, I
definitely don’t come close to the technical prowess that these guys exhibit but that lesson
carries itself in the space i take up in our own music.
Mister Asylum – Highly Suspect
Matt: For me this album took the idea of blues rock in a familiar but albeit different and
slightly weirder direction. Throughout the album the 3 piece manage to maintain a huge
powerful wall of noise that is complemented perfectly with each of the trios skilful playing.
Expect lots of fuzz, intricate guitar and bass as well as crashing drums. The blues influence
on this album is omnipresent in Johnny and Rich’s playing and fits perfectly with the harder
rock influences spectacularly well. The effects used by Johnny also offer an interesting twist
to the songs most notably in the song “Lost” with the excellent use of pitch shifting. Johnny’s
vocals throughout the whole album are bluesy, gritty and can often be rap like at times,
however they effortlessly complement the instrumentation. The lyrical content is straight up,
personal, serious and very real, and the emotional delivery of the lyrics hammers this home.
An example of this comes in the song “Mom”; “you kissed me on the head and left me out
for dead, when I was only one”. Almost every song on the album features a blues solo
from Johnny and not a single one disappoints. They flawlessly fit the moods of the songs
and the use of effects in them brings out that different/weirder side. To summarise the feel of
the album is that it is about some seriously personal real shit with attention grabbing
swagger that makes for some seriously fantastic listening that you can’t help but head bang
along to. This has influenced my playing as I try to take familiar concepts and contrast them
with our different alternative writing style.
Calum: I have to agree with Matt on this one as well, this album is in a league of its own in
terms of taking a classic concept and bending it to the writers will. I absolutely love it!