MOD SUN wants you to make your own Movie

All photos by Isaac Biehl

Minnesota based artist MOD SUN is currently on his Drive In Movie Tour, celebrating the release of his latest album, Movie. I had the opportunity to catch up with him before his performance on April 27th at The Waiting Room Lounge in Omaha, Nebraska.

I got to the venue at 5:30 and had come to find out that MOD was taking a nap. Which if you think about it, makes a lot sense. Going from city to city every night and performing your heart out definitely takes a toll. If I was him, you bet I’d be catching some Z’s. The doors weren’t open until 8 anyway so he was using this recovery time wisely. I waited inside the venue and watched Benny Freestyles, Marty Grimes, and others do soundchecks as they would also be performing that night. Joey Alva, a member of the New Hippies and a friend of MOD’s, was testing out the mics and doing an awesome rendition of Cher’s “Life After Love.” The aroma of Popeye’s Chicken was filling up the room which was absolutely killing me. I love that place. Popeye’s is one of the world’s greatest wonders. Some of MOD’s friends and collaborators were the ones eating it, and they had come to find out they didn’t get any sauce, which as any person with a good heart would know, is tragic. MOD finally came in ready for the interview glowing with a positive energy. I joined him in the green room where he and his friends were talking about camping in the Redwood Forest for their California stop. We sat and talked for about 20 minutes, and I don’t think MOD stopped smiling the whole time.

The Happy Hippy

There was already a group of kids waiting outside the show before I got there, and by the looks of it, they must have just gotten out of school for the day. They’re the reason I knew the moment MOD had stepped off the bus. Their screams were a dead giveaway. It was rather amazing to see the amount of youth that was in attendance. And it made MOD’s performance that much more special; at least for him, I’m sure.

My movie is gonna be fucking great. Because I love all these scenes I’ve been making.

The Drive In Movie tour has been a big difference for MOD than his past tours. For one, he’s moved from vans to tour buses. It’s also helped him create a stronger bond with his listeners. “This tour is different because we’re documenting these kids really well. It makes a difference when they say these things right to your face. I’m really just realizing how cool my support system is.” He really appreciates the fact fans are lining up five hours before the show starts, and that this time around, everyone is singing along. “MOD SUN concerts have usually been a lot of people singing the hooks. Now they know every fucking word to every song.”

MOD had just played shows in both St. Louis and then Chicago right before the Omaha stop. Chicago was a special show for MOD because his sister and mom were able to make it out for the night, whom he credits to raising him and always being a big support system. When asked about his mom, MOD instantly beams up. You can tell that she means a whole lot to him to this day. “She’s an angel man! An angel sent down to Earth.” MOD’s whole optimism and confidence in himself can probably be credited to her. She never let him think there was anything he wasn’t good at. She followed MOD’s lead. If he played a sport, she would learn how to play it so they could do it together. “My mom always told me that I was a natural at everything. The first time I went ice skating. When I picked up a skateboard. She’d tell me “You’re just a natural.” And I’m gonna tell my kids that.” Even if he really wasn’t a natural, MOD says it made him a natural at things. It made him feel like he could do anything.

Titling an album MOVIE is a bold move. A move that stems from a bold concept. “I’ve always thought of my life as entertainment. I’ve always felt like there’s a witness to what I’m doing.” MOD doesn’t know who or what that witness is, whether it’s aliens or anything above, but he knows he’s putting on a good show for whoever the witness may be. You’ve heard people say that your life flashes before your eyes when you die, so MOD is making sure that his movie is as good as it can be when that time comes. “My movie is gonna be fucking great. Because I love all these scenes I’ve been making.” MOD wants people to push themselves for those types of scenes and experiences. “The harsh reality of it all is that some people live their life for other people. Like working for other people’s dreams their whole life. Their scenes will be filled with other people’s successes, but not their own. That’s what I want to instill, is that this is your movie.”

You’re gonna see kids cry tonight.

MOD recorded 300 songs in 10 months while making Movie . Studio sessions with MOD are a form of art. He won’t leave the studio without something materializing from these sessions. I asked MOD how many instruments he played, and his response was nothing short of brilliant: “Every fucking instrument.” He can play trumpet, saxophone, cello, violin, guitar, drums, piano, etc. “I can play the drums like a motherfucker.” While he might not be technically trained in some of these instruments, he doesn’t want to be or need to be. He trusts his ear. And the music speaks for that.

A lot of people hate on Nebraska, but MOD loves Omaha. Some of his first shows were actually played there when he was still in bands. “I used to come down here and rock out. I love Omaha. There’s always been a secret scene down here.” The Midwest might catch some unnecessary flack for being “boring,” and with MOD being from Minnesota, he knows it doesn’t matter where you come from. “You don’t strike oil in the middle of the city man. The gold is in the Midwest. It’s a hidden treasure.” MOD doesn’t care about the numbers from the show. If it’s sold out or if there’s only 100 people, he’s still going to have fun performing. He values the crowds energy much more, and doesn’t look at the people as just another ticket sale. “You’re gonna see kids cry tonight.”

Well, he was right.

After the show the only thing that I could think about was how positive MOD was. I knew he was a happy dude beforehand, but it isn’t an act. He’s real. A moment that stuck in my head after our interview only further proved that to me. As I sat at my table while the VIP ticket holders shuffled in, MOD greeted the group of kids like he had known them forever. One fan brought him a Slim Jim and a big gallon of green fruit punch. Never had I seen someone so excited for fruit punch in my life. He waved the jug over his head and proceeded to take photos with each VIP member. MOD SUN is a man of the people. He knows without them, he wouldn’t be where he is today. Which is probably why MOD calls his supporters “friends” and not “fans.” It’s a much closer relationship than most artists. “The people who come to my shows are bonafide-fucking-special. They do something to me. They do something to this world.”

Showtime

The youth flooded into The Waiting Room, running right up to the front and claiming their spots. The openers for MOD were clearly smart choices, as they all seemed to share his same attitude and outlook on life: They are dream chasers. Hitting the stage first was Benny Freestyles, who fans instantly sang along to. That’s another thing I noticed – the crowd knew each opener like they were one big happy MOD SUN family. Every set was high energy and got the crowd moving. After Benny performed we got to see the New Hippies, a collective traveling with MOD, who brought everything from classic rap, acoustic guitar, and almost some punk rock trap. Once again, the crowd ate this all up. I couldn’t help but become very drawn to one New Hippy in particular, that being Angel White. Now I’m not saying Angel is the next Raury – because he’s the first Angel White – but you get what I’m saying. He wore goggles on his head all night, and then while Swaghollywood was performing Angel could be seen dancing around in the crowd with a box of something that smelt fried.


Swaghollywood was wearing a tie dye hoodie that he eventually threw into the crowd, which was prompted by some girl yelling “I want your hoodie!” If the energy was high before, Swaghollywood was really bringing it. He played hits like”You Ain’t Got It” and “Monday” where his stage presence was absolutely exuberant. Then came in Marty Grimes, who played some tracks off his latest Martyjuana tape, and promptly got the crowd to light it up, as he did himself on stage.


Then it was time. The anticipation for MOD SUN to come out was insanely high. Once they got his visuals screen set up, it was only a matter of minutes. The lights dimmed down and the screen started rolling, starting this Drive In Movie for real. MOD came out wearing this red and silky looking collared shirt (which he eventually would lose) and some giant sparkly and red lens’d sunglasses he has been wearing around for his tour. His aesthetic symbolized freedom and fun, and his show felt just like a sanctuary for positive vibes and good music.

MOD played some smashes from his last album Look Up like “1970,” “Shoot ‘Em Down,” and one of the greatest songs from his set was “Free Love,” to which everybody sang their hearts out. Then of course he played hits from his latest MOVIE, including “She Just Wanna Dance,” (which was one of my favorite moments, as Barb Simpson was laying in her bed on the screen behind him) “We Do This Shit,” “Two” which he opened with, and many more. He wasn’t lying about what he told me earlier – everyone did know every fucking word. I’ve been to a lot of shows in my short time alive, but MOD SUN is easily one of the happiest people to be on stage. He seemed to be having a euphoric moment throughout the last quarter of his set, as if he was on the verge of tears for about the last five songs. This was especially evident on “Make Something of Yourself,” a song that really captures MOD’S message as not just a artist, but a person. MOD let the crowd run up on stage as he submerged into the crowd to perform, before ending back up on stage for one big party. It was a truly beautiful moment. Like I was watching a movie.

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