After they released the best hardcore album of 2003, ScenePointBlank became curious as to what Modern Life Is War was up to in 2004. Fast forward to late 2004, and SPB correspondent Zed called up Jeffrey Eaton from Modern Life Is War for an interview which included news of their new label, upcoming tours and panda bears wrestling with battering rams.
ScenePointBlank: What's your name and what do you do in Modern Life Is War?
Jeffrey: My name's Jeffrey, I do the vocals and write the lyrics.
ScenePointBlank: How has your band's name changed for you since its inception? If it hasn't changed, what does the name mean for you?
Jeffrey: I don't really feel like it's changed a whole lot since its inception. I think it's evolved a little bit in my mind maybe, but it basically means the same thing to me and to all of us since the beginning. Sometimes it's construed to mean that we live really rough lives. I think sometimes people try to make it out to be, "Life isn't that bad, quit bitching," it's not like that at all. I feel like our generation, in the world that we've grown up in, is a pretty hard one to find our own identity. That's because of things like mass media, intense advertising, public school, religion and all the things we're fed. I don't want to sound like we're a political band because we're really not by any means. That's the basic meaning of it, is just finding an identity in a world that is constantly trying to feed an identity or sell you one. And telling you if you're confused about that there's something wrong with you and that you need to see a therapist, you need Prozac or whatever the fucking prescription drug is. That's basically the meaning of the band, is finding your own identity in a world that's constantly trying to take that away from you.
ScenePointBlank: To clarify, you're not saying you're the 50 Cents of hardcore, you're not getting shot at...
Jeffrey: Haha, no, definitely not. We didn't grow up rich by any means. We don't come from a wealthy town or wealthy families. I feel like we've all had to work hard to get where we've got and so did our parents. We're not trying to be martyrs or say that we're living some bleak reality that nobody else is because by all means we're all stuck in it. Even furthermore, that includes kids that live in new suburbs in cities because I think it's just as fucking bad and maybe even worse for those kids to figure who they are and what they want to do with their lives.
ScenePointBlank: How do you go about writing lyrics?
Jeffrey: I don't really have a set process that I do, honestly. I don't really consider myself a talented writer; I just do everything by my guts. I keep pounding away at it. I've probably filled up seven/eight notebooks for this upcoming record. A lot of it is shit; I try to write as much as I can and get everything out of me. Then go back through it and see what's worth putting on the record. Or see what I actually want to say and what I want people to hear. I definitely don't have a process for writing. I'm proud of that because people say my lyrics are good; I just take that as proof that anyone can do it, anyone can write or anyone can write good lyrics to songs.
ScenePointBlank: So you write the lyrics first, then you hear the songs. So is that hard to put the lyrics to the songs?
Jeffrey: Like I said, there's no set way we do it. A lot of the time I'll hear a song and it'll strike up something in me that I can write down and put it to that song. So I wouldn't say I have all the words there before hand before I hear the music because the music and the tone of the songs are definitely something that inspires me and shapes the direction and mood of the shit I'm writing. It's never easy and there's not set way we go about it, we're pretty random.
ScenePointBlank: How was your European tour?
Jeffrey: Europe was great. I think as a band it was probably our best tour experience we've had so far. That's not necessarily because of huge show turnouts, crazy reactions or anything like that. Just us all getting along, feeling like we have a purpose, and that we're all in this thing together, I think it's been our best tour so far. We got some good receptions and some weak receptions, just like we do in the states. But overall it was one of our best tours ever, if not our best.
ScenePointBlank: Did you play with any notable bands from out there?
Jeffrey: We played for about twelve days with a band called Malkovich from Holland. They just put a record out on Reflections that I recommend called A Criminal Record. Other than that we played a few shows with The Hope Conspiracy in Switzerland. We played with Shai Hulud, who I wasn't that huge of a fan of and I'm still am not, in Italy. But other than that it was mainly just local hardcore bands. We played with a straight band from the UK called The Legacy, another band from the UK called The Permanent. But other than that it was just local hardcore bands, local punk bands, whatever.
ScenePointBlank: Not just Europe, but what's your favorite part about touring?
Jeffrey: I love touring. I know some people in bands get burned out on it, it becomes old news. But I love everything about it. It's the perfect lifestyle for me. You get to see different cities all the time, make friends around the country and around the world. I think one of the best things about it is that, in traveling around America, we get to see shit that no one else sees, that no tourists see really. When you play in a band, you might get dumped in the worst part of a city to play a show. So I think you can see how people really live instead of how the tourists live, or what the theme parks are like. That's one of the coolest parts for me is to go to the bad neighborhoods, the gritty neighborhoods or the corner stores, or whatever. I think it gives you a taste of what people's lives are really like all over the country or world. That's probably the coolest part about it for me.
ScenePointBlank: What's the worst part about touring?
Jeffrey: Being stuck in a van all day long with smelly...van guys. It's easy to get on each others nerves. The drives get long. It's definitely frustrating. Sleeping on hardwood floors and getting no sleep. Eating bad food. Truck stops at 3 AM. All that kind of stuff. Just normal run of the mill shit for touring bands I guess.
ScenePointBlank: Do you find it hard to balance school or work with touring?
Jeffrey: Yeah, I definitely do. That's one of the most challenging things about it, is to balance your life out when you're touring. When you're touring enough where it fucks up your life but not enough that you can make a living off it. I think it's pretty hard to be in college or to be at a full time job and just try to juggle everything in your life and make it all work out. It's definitely a challenge.
ScenePointBlank: The last time I saw you guys you played a new song, it seemed slower and more epic than your earlier stuff. Is the rest of the new album leaning in this direction?
Jeffrey: Overall I wouldn't say it is. I think people are going to find this record to be faster and even more intense than My Love My Way, in a lot of ways. There are definitely some epic songs, slow songs and epic moments. But I think overall it's a pretty raw/intense record. The song we were playing out this summer is called "Hell Is For Heroes," and that might be the slowest song on the record. That's probably the song that's going to start the record for us.
ScenePointBlank: Lyrically what kind of themes can we expect on the upcoming record?
Jeffrey: "Hell Is For Heroes" is a song that is basically about...it's definitely about my life but it's also about a lot of people that I've met and grown up with. I think there's a certain point that we hit in life where the whole youthful rebellion thing becomes more and more difficult and less rewarding I'd say. I shouldn't say less rewarding...I just think you get to a point where financially you're burdened and you feel like you need to do something with your life. And you're not sure whether to keep following with the direction of all the things you were involved with when you grew up or if there's a time when you should abandon that and get on with life and say, "Well that was fun, we had good times, we learned a lot, but we're going to get careers now, settle down and lead normal lives." That's basically what that song is about, being in this turning point where I honestly don't know what's right and what direction to go. I know that a lot of people feel that way when they get to be that age, it's different for everyone. I'm 23 now, I finished school and it's definitely hard for me to decide which direction my life will go. That's what that song is about. I'm saying the best thing to do is follow with the things that inspired you as a kid and carry them through, make them be the things that define your life instead of getting to a certain age, kinda getting burnt out and turning back. That is what "Hell Is For Heroes" is about. I think overall the songs, compared to the things I've written before, are a lot grittier and a lot more real life, which is something I intended. I wrote a song called "John and Jimmy," and that's about two kids that I knew growing up. One of the kids lived down the street from me and was like one of the neighbor kids on the block. Another one was a kid I skated and went to shows with for years. Both of those kids enlisted in the National Guard and got called up when the whole terrorist 9/11 thing and then the Iraq thing after that came up. I basically wrote a song about how they were over seas fighting not necessarily to defend the ideals that we were over there supposedly trying to defend, but because they didn't know what to do with their lives and they felt like they were going nowhere. That kinda provides people with structure and a future. They join the army and then they get called up, and it becomes this whole completely different thing. So I wrote a song about them and what they're doing over there and the way I felt about it being back home. I opened up the newspaper and saw them holding guns in a battle, it's a really weird thing. And that's definitely not a political song but it's just a song about kids I grew up with and where they're at now and where I'm at now. There's a lot of shit just about our hometown, what it's like here, what life is like here. That's another thing I really intended was to really try to write shit to let people know where we're coming from and why we feel the way we feel. I felt like I wanted to justify in a really real life way why I feel the way I feel about life. I've gotten a little criticism, just kind of like I said about the name of our band and things like that, I just don't think people understand what it's like to grow up in a shitty small town and then try do something spectacular with your life or try to something different with your life. Once again, I think there's a lot of kids out there that feel that way. I think those are good examples of the kind of themes that occur on the record a lot.