Eclectic influences put stamp on Modern Life
IF YOU GO
Who: Modern Life
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: The Lemon Grove,
122 W. Federal St., Youngstown
Tickets: $3; call 330-301-0282
By John Benson
Singer-guitarist Rocco Sait of local band Modern Life describes his quartet — he’s joined by Bethany Mathews (bass, vocals), Alan Williams (drums, vocals) and Dave Knowlden (saxophone) — as an alternative, folk, indie-rock, experimental kind of band.
“We’ve been mostly compared to Neutral Milk Hotel, but we get the occasional strange comparison as well,” said Sait, a home-schooled Youngstown native who buys and sells antiques at Market Street Furniture. “Sometimes we’ll be compared to TV on the Radio, and I guess I’ll understand it. And we’re compared to Bright Eyes, which I understand that too. I think it’s just a general thing, like they have horns and a full sound. Also, people will say Nirvana sometimes because of our live show.”
As for the latter, it’s more of the “Nirvana Unplugged” aesthetic, though other comparisons truly speak to the heart of Modern Life. You don’t find too many local bands citing Kurt Cobain and Cole Porter in the same sentence as inspiring figures.
“It’s more based on the eclectic approach with the recordings,” Sait said. “My main influences were Frank Sinatra and that sort of like Cole Porter or early Irving Berlin, Ella Fitzgerald sound. Then growing up in the ’90s, there was that influence. So it ended up being very eclectic like that.”
Formed just three years ago, Modern Life has been downright prolific with its recordings, which include 2007’s “Picture Show,” 2008’s “All Aboard the Spaceship,” 2009’s “Animal Animal” and 2010’s “Purple Mixtape” and “Center of Your Own Universe.” For the most part, the act is a one-man band, with Sait doing all of the songwriting and arranging. Still, he said it was a collective effort for the newly released “Center of Your Own Universe.”
“Stylistically, it could be almost Frank Zappa in a way,” Sait said. “Each song takes on its own kind of monster. It’s emotionally driven and orchestrated in a way that the instrumentation fits the mood and the emotion of each song. We pushed more on this album than any other album before. There’s some stuff that’s kind of more gritty, and there is some very produced material. The idea was to get a full volume of what Modern Life has been and what is now. It’s a stamp, a mile marker, and we’re moving on to sort of a different style after that.”
Sait may have dreams of stardom, but that doesn’t mean he can’t wait to get out of Northeast Ohio. In fact, he feels Modern Life’s mission is to unite the local music scene into something bigger and better. That’s why he’s taking part in Friday’s show featuring various like-minded groups at the Lemon Grove.
“The show as a whole is about the camaraderie in Youngstown, which I really enjoy,” Sait said. “It’s about people being more positive about things in Youngstown. As far as we’re concerned, we’re bringing more of an actual show and experience back to a live show. It’s like the feeling you used to get when you’d see a live band. When you pay $5 to get in, you’re paying for something to get back, and you’re getting more than your money’s worth. That’s the idea.”