Catch You By Surprise: An Interview with MODAFF About Their Two New Singles

by Matthew Gregory Holis

by Matthew Gregory Holis

I’ve been following MODAFF’s music since I saw them at an April 2018 show at Burlington Bar, with Mykele Deville, Counterfeit Madison, and Tragic Trip on the ticket. The band’s camaraderie extended beyond the players and through the room, a shared kindness between performer and fan alike.

MODAFF is the combined forces of Emilie Modaff, Chris DeSalvo, Andy Modaff, and Josh Stanley. Fast forward to September 2018, they were recording their first EP "Clean House" at Audiotree. Through a Kickstarter, their community had supported them in getting the album funded. In the recording studio, the excitement was palpable, and has continued to grow as they’ve continued playing shows around Chicago. On April 8, they played at Montrose Saloon, surprising the audience with a sneak peek of two new singles: “Pill” and "Nightlight".

Listening to "Pill", I heard a little blues, a little Marilyn Manson, and later in the song, some the Hives and Led Zeppelin. If one thing is for certain, MODAFF has never shied away from experimentation. In finding their sound, they’ve created an eclectic and honest listening experience for their fans.

I caught up with Emilie Modaff and DeSalvo to learn a little more about how things have been going.

What has been the reception of "Clean House"?

Modaff: So the reception to the record has been very positive. The feedback we’ve received has given me the confidence to throw myself completely into my music for the next few months. We’ve played a few live shows since then and they just keep getting better. As we continue to write new songs I think I’m finally figuring out what our sound is. "Clean House" is all over the place in terms of genre, which isn’t a bad thing. But it’s nice to feel everything finally coming together. Making "Clean House" taught me what kind of music makes me the most excited.

How did the process differ for writing "Pill" and "Nightlight" than the songs on your EP? What were immediate differences you noticed in the process, and what observations came once the songs had been fully formed?

Modaff: Our process is in a massive transition since our drummer, Andy Modaff, has moved to Nashville to play in his band Shelter Cove. The way we write hasn’t changed much but of course the general energy of the band is going to be different until we find a new, permanent drummer to fill Andy Modaff’s big ass shoes.

"Pill" and “Nightlight” are way harder than any of the songs on "Clean House". Are we a pop-rock band? Punk? Nirvana wannabes? Yes. All of the above.

"Pill" and "Nightlight" were both group efforts. DeSalvo (guitar and vox) brought me the skeletons of the songs and I filled out a lot of the lyrics. Stanley (bass and vox) gave us the structure of both songs and made them a lot more dynamic. I love our process. Knowing I never have the sole responsibility of writing a song makes it a lot easier to write a song.

How has collaborating with the band evolved since the EP and in the release of these two new singles?

DeSalvo: Honestly... I have no idea how to answer such textured questions. I just don’t see songwriting/collaborating as a process. I get a riff. Give it to Emilie. They and I collab on melody. Stanley pieces the whole thing together, adds/subtracts to polish and incorporates all our collective instincts, which differ in fun ways. This winds up giving us something that sounds fresh and new. I see my approach to songwriting and same way I see mine to cycling: peacefully necessary, never over thought.

What are some influences you had in making these new singles, and what do influences do you think showed up in the song creation process that you didn’t quite plan for?

Modaff: What’s different about "Night Light" and "Pill" is, most noticeably, the genre/tone. The songs are louder, dirtier, and grungier than the songs on "Clean House". For me, the greatest differences are the ways the songs flow. The breakdowns in both songs catch you by surprise, something I’ve always admired when listening to songs by Paramore.

"Pill" started off super simple and very much influenced by Nirvana. Stanley and DeSalvo reworked the structure and blew my mind. The first half of the song flows into a seemingly out-of-place and upbeat chorus, followed by a psychedelic breakdown, and then we close it out with DeSalvo, Stanley, and I screaming. I wouldn’t have come up with that structure on my own.

Outside of the band, who has influenced or helped craft your approach to these two new singles? Do you interact with and/or respond to fans of "Clean House"?

Modaff: Outside of the band, we have a strong support network of friends who believe in our music. I actually just now received a text from a friend telling me they loved the record and now I’m very freaked out because the timing was impeccable. I just want to collaborate with as many artists as possible and hear feedback from anyone who has listened to our music.

Are you working on releasing a new EP in the future?

Modaff: Another EP is absolutely in the works, but this summer we’re focusing on playing as many shows and writing as many songs as possible.

MODAFF’s new single "Night Light" is now live; “Pill” will be live today, June 3rd. You can listen to their music on Soundcloud and most other streaming platforms.