Antidote for the modern condition: Erica Dunn of MOD CON

Photo credit: Jamie Wdziekonski

After putting out one of this writers favourite albums of the last few hazy years, MOD CON are set to release their 2nd Album titled “Modern Condition”. We’ve been lucky enough to have songwriter-in-chief Erica Dunn join us to discuss its makings and the antidote for shitness in the current times

Thanks so much for joining Neptune Wakes to discuss the new album. I’ve been listening heaps since receiving it and I’m a fan.

No wuzzzzz happy to chat!

  1. Upon listening to “Modern Condition” for the first time I noticed the recognisable MOD CON sound, but it definitely feels like it has evolved and expanded between releases. Was this something that has occurred naturally, or did you have an idea of where you wanted to take it?

I think it’s a fairly natural development. About half of the tracks we had the opportunity to take on the road, so they were built on how we were playing in front of a live audience. Then when we came outta locky d at the end of 2020 it was a bit of a mad dash to get ready for recording. The decision we made about the other songs were very intuitive and on the fly. I guess, in our playing and in our musical relationships with each other we are always growing, challenging ourselves etc. and this record documents that progress. I can also attest that last record, Raquel was anti any overdubs percussion wise, not a single tambourine made it, but on this one we managed to even get some vibraslap in over the line. In fact, she plays it with her butt.

  1. Managing to write and record an album in studio in the past 2 years seems like a mammoth task with all the hurdles lockdowns have thrown up. How much has this effected the process of capturing “Modern Condition”?

Well, yes there has certainly been some weird plateaus and a fair few obstacles to making music. Mostly the difficult thing has been our inability to be in the same room together. It’s been a real heartbreaker. But it hasn’t stopped me from writing music. In addition, the moments that we were actually able to get together, we were manic with excitement and things seemed to go in double time. The pre-production for this album and the recording itself has been a highlight of the year for me. It’s kind of unbelievable it even happened in this climate and I feel very grateful for that.

  1. There is lyrically a close examination of some of the shittier aspects of the current times, especially on tracks like “Ammo” and “Learner in an Alpha”. Is the current state of things, although quite infuriating, a goldmine for songwriters?  

Haha oh there’s a whole lot going on in the world which I can’t get my head around and songwriting is a way to process some of it for sure. I get a cringe when people talk about bad times being a gold mine for writing, it makes me feel like a grief scavenger! But there’s a truth to both music being an antidote for the shitness in the world and writing being a way to untangle some of the madness. I don’t claim to have a lot of answers on this record, but I’m asking a lot of questions, and yelling a lot certainly brings some relief. Also, the major antidote is actually playing music together and celebrating that little diamond amidst all the dirge. 

  1. Your talents are shared across a handful of projects – Is there a clear difference in your approach when writing for MOD CON? 

Mod Con is one hundred percent based on the close relationship of Sara, Raquel and I so yeah, the approach that we have to things wouldn’t fly if some of the variables changed. When I’m writing stuff at home, it’s clear to me pretty quick which songs are Mod Con and which songs are Palm Springs. Springs songs are normally extrapolated voice memos that I make when I’m walking my dog. 

  1. The interesting interplay of drums and bass has been a consistent joy to listen to over the 2 MOD CON albums. As a guitarist this seem so give you more freedom to take the guitar off to more interesting places. Are you writing your parts on top of these grooves or does everything kind of get worked out together?

Definitely! I love turning round and watching the interplay between Raq and Snazz myself! Yeah the songs are initially written in terms of me bringing a structure of riffs and lyrics to the table but there’s a fair process in what happens next. We trial and error bass-lines and rhythm phrases/approaches and iron shit out. Definitely the bass taking up a sonic mid range helps me chuck out my lines in another space, following the vocal melody or some other weird wonky shit.

  1. Of the new tracks, is there a standout you can’t wait to thrash out on stage?

I am frothing to play all the new ones we haven’t managed to get in front of a live audience yet, the ones that were written over the summer : is yr heart a joke, i saw a rat, electric whip! I can not wait!

  1. Here at Neptune Wakes we are gear nerds. Can you give us a little insight into your MOD CON setup, and are there distinct differences in what you would use for the MOD CON sound, or do you run similar elements across projects?

We tried pretty hard to keep the rig to as close to what I play live as possible but you’ll notice there’s a kind of fucked out Ibanez Fx unit across a few tracks. it’s a UE405 and adds a weird dimension to things. I’ll probably have to sort out how to get that across live but we’ll see cos I’m a lazy motherfucker.

8. “Modern Condition” seems to musically pull inspiration from a wide variety of styles while maintaining the fundamentals of your sound. If you had to trace the DNA of the sound to the a few artists or works that inspired it what would we find?

Ooof I find this question impossible haha and I can’t speak for Snazz and Raq but I’d say a willy wonka combo of: Kleenex, The Rats, Devo & B52s are some pretty key building blocks.

Thanks a million to Erica for joining us for a chat. “Modern Condition” will be released on October 22nd via Poison City Records. Links to the album below, and more info about MOD CON can be found by clicking here

By the way, if you have enjoyed this article and want to check out more from chats with awesome artists, don’t forget to follow Neptune Wakes on facebook or insta by clicking on the icons at the top of this page. Cheers

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