Photo: Jessica Flynn
Take one look at Modern Baseball and it’s pretty obvious that not one member of the Philadelphia-based band is a total jock. Or even half a jock. When co-founders Jake Ewald and Brendan Lukens named the band, it really had nothing to do with the sport. It just sounded good. And when they named their debut album Sports and wrote a song called “Play Ball!” again, it meant nothing. But Modern Baseball have a secret weapon in bassist Ian Farmer, who actually knows quite a few things about America’s pastime.
Modern Baseball just released their third studio album, Holy Ghost, which just to clarify is once again not about sports. Instead, it’s an album of impressive gravitas; songwriters Ewald and Lukens individually confronted their inner demons and each turned in a side’s worth of deeply emotional yet wildly melodic pop-punk. And yet, instead of going deep about the album’s lyrical themes, we just decided to talk ball with Farmer. Because the man knows his shit.
AUX: I hear you are the only member of Modern Baseball who actually likes baseball.
Ian Farmer: Yes, I am a baseball guy. Brendan [Luken]’s really into soccer, but Jake [Ewald] and Sean [Huber] don’t really follow anything. Me and our merch guy Jeff are big Mets guys, so we’ve been following them on tour.
So the Mets are your team, not the Phillies?
Oh, I’m not a Phillies fan. I grew up in New Jersey, so I became a Mets fan that way. It’s funny because I lived near [Citizens Bank Park], but I was actually closer to New York City.
Do you get flak for being a Mets fan in Philadelphia?
I definitely don’t feel super comfortable walking the streets around south Philly at night in a Mets jersey. The people I hang out with most don’t care about baseball too much, but I do have some friends that are big Phillies fans and we have disagreements but in general I feel OK. I just don’t feel comfortable at the stadium after a Phillies game.
What Mets players did you look up to when you were a kid?
I guess I kind of always really liked Al Leiter… at the time not really Mike Piazza, because at the time I was young and he gained all of this hate, completely unnecessary hate, and so I played into it then and I have come to appreciate him more now. And the ’69 Mets, in general, were really cool. I used to really be into sports books and I read about them.
OK, here’s some sports trivia. The Mets last won the World Series in 1986. Can you name the MVP?
Honestly, if you asked me 15 years ago, I’d be able to tell you. At this point though, my memory is a little shoddy on things like that.
It was Ray Knight.
Oh, that’s right! Oh man.
How are you feeling about the Mets this year?
They’re doing pretty well. The NL East is a pretty tight division so far. Cespides is a monster! He just can’t stop hitting home runs and that’s cool. David Wright is back hitting a few home runs too. Lots of home runs being hit this year. I think they definitely have it in them to take the pennant.
The Phillies are playing well too.
Yeah, the Phillies and Nats are up there too. I’m actually surprised by the Phillies.
For your sake I really hope Matt Harvey gets his magic back. He’s really struggling.
It’ll come back. Even the pitchers are hitting home runs now [laughs]. Syndergaard is insane! He literally won that game himself! He pitched eight innings!
Did you know that he was originally a Blue Jay? The Jays traded him for R.A. Dickey.
Really? Oh god, I’m sorry.
It’s pretty ironic though that the guys that came up with the band’s name aren’t actual baseball fans.
Yeah, it is a little ironic. Jake’s dad was a physical education teacher and the name Modern Baseball came from one of the books he had in his basement [Modern Baseball Techniques]. But yeah, it’s definitely a little ironic.
You guys have a song called “Play Ball!” Has the band ever played ball together?
One time – and I wasn’t there. They were in Maryland, and I was coming to Maryland to meet them at the show. Some of their friends from high school were organizing a baseball game, and of course, I wasn’t there.
Did you play baseball as a kid?
Yeah, until I was about 10, and then my parents said, “Well, we can play for baseball or we can play for guitar lessons.” And I chose guitar lessons.
So becoming a professional musician got in the way with you becoming a professional baseball player?
I don’t know if I was quite that good. I guess I’ll never know. I was mostly a pitcher, but I did also play a lot of shortstop and sometimes second base. When I was young playing baseball I was actually on the shorter sides of things at that age. Now I’m actually pretty tall.
Have you watched many baseball movies?
My favourite one growing up was Rookie of the Year [laughs]. And it might still be my favourite. I will also put out there the Futurama episode, “Blernsball,” and The Simpsons episode with the Isotopes. Or even better the one with the power plant team that had Ken Griffey Jr. and Jose Canseco on the team.
And Don Mattingly’s “sideburns.”
Yes! That was a good one.
OK, I’m gonna throw some names out there and you tell me which baseball movie is the best: Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, The Sandlot, The Bad News Bears, BASEketball, Major League, A League of their Own, Moneyball, or Angels in the Outfield?
This is going to make me sound like an idiot, but I do love BASEketball. It’s such a good movie! I’ve actually seen about half of those, and most of them are pretty good. But I have to say Field Of Dreams doesn’t really hold up for me anymore.
Don’t miss Modern Baseball as they tour across North America with two other awesome bands, Joyce Manor and Thin Lips.
6/15 Milwaukee, WI – The Rave
6/16 St. Louis, MO – The Ready Room
6/17 Cincinnati, OH – Bogarts
6/18 Cleveland, OH – Agora Theater
6/19 Toronto, ON – The Opera House
6/21 Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot
6/22 Pittsburgh, PA – Altar Bar
6/23 Boston, MA – House Of Blues
6/24 New York, NY – Irving Plaza
6/25 New York, NY – Irving Plaza
6/26 Philadelphia, PA – The Fillmore
6/28 Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage
6/29 Richmond, VA – The Broadberry
6/30 Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
7/1 Orlando, FL – Beacham Theater
7/2 Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Revolution
7/3 Tampa, FL – The Orpheum