I didn’t know that was gonna play! A surprise to us, there was a lot more people that showed up. Some of them are just one and done, and I’m like Oh, yeah, okay. One would be that I let my politics sag and shit. I smoked for many years, and I stopped recently, over the last year. “No,” he replies, “otherwise I wouldn’t really be putting out the other ones.” After a tangent about old music and new music, he admits, “I try to stay away from vain-sounding, and this sounds like a perfect opportunity to sound vain, so I’m going to weasel out of this line of questioning, by saying those words.” Still, Brock reviewed Modest Mouse’s history as best as he could, telling Vulture about the band’s best and worst, and how it’s changed over the years. Like, Why are you not angry about everything? The Golden Casket puts that notion to rest. At one point, I mention that “Dramamine” was the first track on Modest Mouse’s debut album. More From This Series

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Tags: What’s that song? Even, you know, “Wild Packs [of Family Dogs],” which was just at one point an acoustic guitar, me, and shit getting banged on. And not just on a particular song, but to everything. And someone was like, “Hey, you’re sitting in the friends and family seats for the Trail Blazers, you should probably not be cheering for the other [team].” And I was like, Oh, right, yeah, yes, my team, now I have a team. Photo: Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Isaac Brock is trying to remember his band’s old songs. I don’t spend that much time in the Modest Mouse catalogue in this way. Best Modest Mouse song

It kind of depends on the occasion, really. It may not look that way from the outside — after it took eight years for Modest Mouse to release its sixth album, Strangers to Ourselves, in 2015, Brock promised a follow-up “as soon as legally possible,” and then stalled for six years. So that’ll be tricky. And what should happen but “Float On” comes on, and there’s a picture of me on the Jumbotron. Brock has already dodged naming a favorite song, but I ask anyway if there’s one album he wants to be his band’s legacy. I go back and visit them to play them. Weirdest place you’ve heard ‘Float On’

I wouldn’t say this was a weird place, but it was kind of overall strange. First Modest Mouse song you’d show a new listener

Honestly, that never comes up. I enjoy going to them occasionally live, in real life, because these events are fun. I think the premise was, “Hey, rock star, why don’t you get season tickets?” or something like that. [Laughs.] I did not have any interest in being on the Jumbotron when they were playing this song. I’m not trying to be evasive at all, man — or am I? I don’t spend that much time in sports. Some of the sounds, they were made by a chain of equipment, like modular synths and shit, and getting back to that exact spot’s gonna be pretty tricky. And [now] it’s pretty different every time because, well, for one, we never discuss what anyone should be playing [laughs], and I think we’re still, as we go, trying to figure it out. Old song that’s better with the new, bigger lineup

Most of them are more fun to do with a bigger group of people. Somehow I’d gotten gifted pretty nice seats at a [Portland] Trail Blazers game. I haven’t played it in years, but “Beach Side Property” is pretty fucking hard to sing. It’s actually super fun and funny to me. Oh! I’d feel like an ass, just being like, “Here’s a little bit of me. I’m looking at the band’s discography like, I think I like this band! I was doing the math after this thing, of how much effort everyone [in the audience] had put in to showing up, be it time off work, travel, getting a babysitter, whatever fucking makes up life — people carved out the time, and it’s supposed to be good for them, and I got fucking wasted. Yeah, I think that’s a nice song. But it does remind me of Issaquah. Worst show I think I ever fucking played was right after Good News [for People Who Love Bad News] came out. One is with the song “Strangers to Ourselves,” ’cause it’s so mellow and plodding. Lots of people watching, excusable bad snacking, this kind of shit. Some of them, at this point in my life, I won’t go near, for reasons of being overly familiar, or something or other. But I remember, I had smoked a shit ton of weed. “Wooden Soldiers,” that’s the fucking song; thank you, Isaac, for having such a memorable name on that song. Worst show

Easy peasy. You know, if somebody sneezes on something, that alters the sound enough to make it not the right thing. Best song to open a show with

I’ve had a few favorite songs to open with. Well, I mean, not really [any]. Best “well!” in a song

The beginning of the song [“King Rat”], I just say “well” like fucking five times. I’ve heard the songs a whole lot — it’s just more fun to add another thing to it, to everything. No, I don’t know. Hats off to guys who do that for an entire frickin’ show. It was the right thing at the right time. Taking its time till some guy with a lisp starts yelling at you. “Was it?” he replies. I think I saw [a joke] at one point, and I thought it was people kind of making fun of how good I am at lyrics, and it was just “well” over and over. [Laughs.] Yeah, that one’s gonna be interesting to play. And I’m looking forward to it. Song you regret releasing

Oh jeez, that’s an interesting question. Song that reminds you of Issaquah

Not our best song [but] — what was that fucking called? I couldn’t even finish most of the lines, it was pretty bad. There’s something about starting with that song that I feel like really focuses our intention, and allows us to be quiet before things get chaotic. He scrolls through his catalogue as we speak, seeing which song titles can jog his memory. Let’s see. WELL! I’d say if someone wanted to vent or [was] feeling an angry way, there’s one song, and — I don’t know. “Novocain Stain.” And you know, I don’t really like the name of that song. [Or] just completely on fire. Well, I’m still sick of that song, so we’re going to move on. So that one I remember pretty well. I really like starting one of two ways. He’s still working on that album and “trying to make it feel right,” but in the meantime, Modest Mouse recorded an entirely new record: The Golden Casket, released on June 25. New song that the Isaac of 25 years ago would be surprised by

I think I would be surprised by so much more, if you were to just fly me 25 years into the future from back then. We were playing some parking lot in Kansas City, to I think around 10,000 people. Here’s the best song by me.” [Laughing.] I think I’d let someone else do that. It exceeds expectations for a Modest Mouse album in 2021, from its adventures in synthesizer performance to some great Brock-isms (“You should never fuck a spider on the fly,” he warns on one song). And that is pretty fun, too; that would be something like “Invisible.” But, like any exercising, if you just start sprinting at the beginning of the workout and shit, you’re gonna probably be playing catch-up and stuff for the rest of the time. The songs were, in general, kind of more collaged than performed. It’s been 25 years since Modest Mouse released its first album, 1996’s This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About, and closer to 30 since the Washington band has existed. [Laughs.] But I don’t know, man. I get it’s been many many years, but I don’t like the name. Photo-Illustration: Vulture. I think it was a move to sell a guy some season tickets. [Laughs.] I really enjoy that part every time I get to play that song during a show. In general, “Shit Luck” is kind of hard, even though you don’t even have to scream in key. And then there was this Costanza moment, where I had just gotten some hot dog or something, and I couldn’t figure out how to eat this fucking thing. I don’t think so. The beginning of tours are actually probably when we’re most likely to play some of these things. That I regret putting out? “Well, I’ll be goddamned, it sure was!”

For a band with such a long, odd history, from making quirky, heady DIY rock in Issaquah, Washington, to finding a commercial indie smash in 2004’s “Float On,” Modest Mouse remains focused on the present. I’m trying to think of these songs. Superlatives

A Vulture series in which artists judge the best and worst of their own careers. Yeah, I like a lot of these songs. I wouldn’t do that. It’s the closest to a thrash-metal song or thrash-punk song that we fucking have. And I’m supposed to be like, “Oh, hey!” or what the fuck ever, and instead, I just ducked. Well, I am, it’s just a percolating kind of anger. At the end of our conversation, I note that fans argue over whether the sprawling Lonesome Crowded West, the spacey Moon and Antarctica, or even the Johnny Marr–featuring We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, is the band’s best. [Pauses to look through his songs.] Honestly, man, I think this is a question for not me, ’cause uh … I really like “Guilty Cocker Spaniels.” For one reason or another. The front man isn’t used to thinking about their back catalogue, he’s used to playing it during concerts; just because he hasn’t gotten to do the latter over the past year doesn’t make him any keener on the former. So I’m feeling pretty optimistic about screaming now. It’s time for one more time and then it’s back in the chest. I’m sitting, watching the game, and I was cheering when either team had scored. New song you’re most excited to play live

That one’s a little loaded, because it’ll probably also be the one that’ll be the hardest for me to play, meaning there’ll be some clunky versions of it in early days but it’s “Never Fuck a Spider on the Fly.”

If I can be completely honest, I forgot the name of the song I was gonna say [first], so since I’m drawing a blank, I just said the next thing that came to mind. I’m kind of aware that there’s some running joke with that, but I didn’t know it was, like, memes. I’d make them listen to “Dramamine.” That’s easy on the ears, kind of trippy. Hardest song to scream

Oh, screaming, screaming, screaming. From then on, I started getting my act together in that regard. You know what? And I got shit-faced in a way that I don’t like being, which involved my brain watching me try to say words and sing and play my instrument, knowing what should be happening, and it was just like, Why is my hand not doing any of this stuff that I, the brain, am telling it to? The joke among Modest Mouse fans, especially after the subpar Strangers, has been that this great band hasn’t made music worth listening to in years. There’s just so much to be angry about.