In honor of completing their new album in Baltimore with producer J. Robbins, I am posting my Modern Life is War article that I completed last April for The Bottom Line.

Modern Life is War


“I just try to work it every night. I try to keep in mind that each show has a place in the history of my life. The better I make each one, the happier I’ll be,” explained Jeff Eaton, vocalist of Modern Life is War, a hardcore punk band from Marshalltown, Iowa. Every Modern Life is War show has a ton of intensity, but Jeff and the guys handle it really well. Although a lot of other bands may get tired of it because they’re doing the same thing every night in a new place, “I love it. The more wild and intense and loud and crazy it is – the better. I totally thrive off of that,” said Jeff. He kind of uses shows as stress relief. “That’s just such a release for me that it allows me to be a little more centered and controlled in my everyday life. I feel like I‘d be a crazy person if I didn’t do this every night,” he explained. Modern Life is War just finished a short headlining tour of the Midwest on their way to Baltimore, where they’re recording their third album. Once recording is done, “We’ll be touring constantly for the next year,” said Jeff.

And because the boys spend so much time on the road, stuck in the van and playing intense shows, the transition from life on the road to just chilling at home is not an easy one. Jeff explained that you get used to playing a show every night, sleeping on a random floor, packing up and unloading equipment. “Your body doesn’t stop moving the whole time you’re out there. When you come home there’s just nothing. It’s like you’re going from 100 mph to just slamming on your brakes,” he said.

One of Jeff’s goals regarding playing shows: “I would like to get to the point where we could fill a small club every night. A small club to me is, say, 200 people. We played a show in NYC the other night that was 200 to 300 people, and that wasn’t even a club – it was a loft apartment. That night to me was perfect.” On April 1, Modern Life is War played the Charm City Art Space in Baltimore. The venue is a basement that has no stage, no barricade and can’t be larger than 25 feet by 25 feet. Venue size can definitely contribute to the intensity as all of the kids packed into the room lose control. “I would easily play a big club full of 1,000 people. I would get a kick out of that…but at the same time I like playing on the floor…having 150 kids packed into a room, going wild,” said Jeff.
For Jeff, it all started with a show on MTV called 120 Minutes. “That was back when they’d actually play videos from smaller bands…I saw a Rancid video,” he said, “that was really something I’d never seen before, something that was really exciting to me…it kind of hooked me.” Since then, he’s started listening to a ton of other punk and hardcore bands, and he explained that, “what Modern Life is War does is hardcore punk.”

When they started, Modern Life is War had been a long time coming. Jeff worked with drummer Tyler Oleson and guitarist John Eich in other local bands and by the time they formed Modern Life is War, “We’d had a lot of trial and error at that point,” Jeff explained. They already had a feel for what they were doing.

When it comes to lyrics, “The people that inspire me are the people that sing about regular people and the places they are from. A lot of times there’s a psychological aspect to it or a sociological aspect to it,” said Jeff. He’s learned a lot from The Clash and Bruce Springsteen. “The inspiration kind of comes from them, but at the same time, what I learn from them is that the inspiration comes from who you are and who your family is and who your friends are and your town and people that you see on an everyday basis.” Jeff said that he wants to explain his thoughts clearly and write about things he can really relate to personally and literally. “I think writers that talk about things they don’t know about will fail. I talk about basic stuff that’s going on in my life.”

“There’s always the urge to explain myself more clearly than the last time. I think we do that musically and lyrically from record to record,” he said. With each album, Modern Life is War strives to stand out from the crowd. “We don’t really just want to be a part of it. We want to stick our heads above that or just be completely on the outside of that. We want to be our own f—king band,” he explained.

The band is currently recording their new album with a new label, Equal Vision, and a new bassist, Spanish Bombs’ Tim Churchman. “We feel pretty free in a way we haven’t felt before with this new record…people don’t really know what to expect,” said Jeff. They have a month to record, and they went into the studio completely prepared with lyrics and music. “I’m so much more confident in what I’m doing now and I think we have a really unique record on our hands,” said Jeff.

At the start of Modern Life is War, after pressing 500 copies of their first E.P., “We just didn’t ever think we’d be able to sell 500 of those…our original goal was just to put that record out,” said Jeff. After accomplishing that, they wanted to do a tour. “We did a tour of the East Coast…just the fact that we did that, we already won the whole game to us. Even if nothing were to happen after that, we had already done what we set out to do and had a good f—king time,” he said. Of course, that was not the end, and Jeff believes, “We’re in it for the long-haul.”

I heard their new album the last time they played D.C. All I’m going to say is that it sounds a little bit different from the last two.


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