Those who have been in tune with independent rock since the early ’90s will know of the band Modest Mouse. However most of us became aware of the band when, perhaps, their most notable song began to play on the radio nationwide. That song, "Float On," was the single off of their 2004 album, "Good News for People Who Love Bad News." It and its accompanying music video ushered the band and their unique sound into the mainstream. Ever since that ascent to popularity, they have become less prolific in their output. In the last 17 years since they arrived on our radars, they have only released three albums. This is largely due to the band’s oddball frontman, Isaac Brock, who is a bit of an enigma in and of himself, as Buzzfeed alluded to in their article titled "Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock Wants To Be More Than A Myth."
Brock’s lyricism and his bandmates’ music within the world of Modest Mouse’s discography, the myths that Brock creates around his life, and the real-life incidents that happened to Brock and the rest of the band are the stuff of classic rock ‘n’ roll lore. Here’s the untold truth of Modest Mouse.
Modest Mouse Has Some Famous Collaborations
Modest Mouse, like many bands out there, has had a revolving door of band members, and only Isaac Brock and drummer Jeremiah Green remain from the original roster (via AllMusic). It is not every day that a band gets to collaborate with members of iconic bands from the past, but it is even more rare to be able to incorporate them into the band’s roster. Between 2007 and 2015 – -the space in between the release of "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank" and "Strangers To Ourselves" — Modest Mouse has racked up quite a collection of famous musicians.
According to Buzzfeed, "In the last eight years, Modest Mouse chewed up and spit out four record producers … two mixdown engineers, their bass player, plus Nirvana’s bass player, who auditioned to replace him, not to mention the guitar player from The Smiths." The song that Nirvana‘s Krist Novoselic recorded with Modest Mouse still hasn’t seen the light of day because they were cut from the finished product of 2015’s "Strangers To Ourselves" (via Exclaim!). However, Johnny Marr from The Smiths played on their 2007 album and toured with them for a stint between 2006-2008 (via NME).
The Band’s Name Came from a Virginia Woolf Story
Perhaps one of the first mysteries around the mythos of Modest Mouse is the band’s name itself. The name comes from a rather unexpected source, the great English novelist, Virginia Woolf, in her debut 1917 story, "The Mark on the Wall," which reads, "I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises" (via Paste Magazine).
Isaac Brock stated, according to "The Big Book of Rock & Roll Names," by Adam Dolgins, that he had to read the story in a class he was in and intended to name the band Modest-Mouse Like People but found it too long. He grew to regret his pick after a while. Yet, since then Brock has grown to embrace the name and build it into the grand mythology of the band.
Modest Mouse and Big Boi of Outkast Collaborated
In one of the more odd collaborative moments in Modest Mouse’s career, Big Boi (of OutKast fame) tweeted back in 2011: "Been camped out in the Lab with Modest Mouse all week, workin on the new mouse LP, coolest cats ever. Long Live The Funk" (via Twitter). The rumors swirling around Big Boi’s part in the new Modest Mouse album — which would become "Strangers to Ourselves" — were numerous. Was he going to rap or just produce? Or both?
Even leading up to 2014, Stereogum asked about the supposed collaboration again, and Big Boi responded, "We’ve got these songs they’ve been sitting on forever. I saw [lead singer Isaac Brock] a couple months ago and they’re working on some additions to what we did. I don’t know. It’s a crazy camp over there. It’s coming." But it never did. The 2015 album came, and none of the Big Boi tracks made it onto the album.
Jeremiah Green Checked into a Mental Hospital
The long-time Modest Mouse drummer, Jeremiah Green, found himself in the run-up to recording "Good News For People Who Love Bad News" beginning to lose track of reality due to taking Haldol. According to an interview with Green in The Courier, "I started having these religious hallucinations. I believed I could put curses on people, and I also started to think I was possessed by a demon." He went on to say that his doctor told him to check himself in to a mental health facility, and he came to realize after a day that it was really just his meds that were off and not that he was going crazy.
A year-long departure would lead to Green missing the whole recording of the record that would bring the band into the spotlight, which is deeply ironic considering Green is, outside of Isaac Brock, the only remaining original member of the band. Tristan Marcum, who played with Green in the band, Vells, shared that he and Green were having the same issue at the same time. According to SSRI Stories, they checked in weekly to see who would be crazier. "Is it you or me?" Marcum recalled. "Oh, you’re going to take it this week? Cool."
Isaac Brock’s Mother Was Cared for by the White Panthers
Everyone has heard of the Black Panthers, which were founded in 1966 and led by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, according to History. However not everyone knows that they had a counterpart made of non-Blacks and white people called the White Panthers. The group was start in Detroit by Leni and John Sinclair, Lawrence "Pun" Plamondon (a Native American activist) and the band, MC5. The Sinclairs heard that the Black Panthers didn’t allow white people into the group, so Seale said they "should start their own organization if they want to help …" (via The Guardian). Leni Sinclair went on to say that the group’s main goals were "fighting for a clean planet and the freeing of political prisoners … rock ‘n’ roll, dope, sex in the streets and the abolishing of capitalism."
Buzzfeed interviewed Kris Adair, Isaac Brock’s mother, about a story her son likes to tell of his mother being a member of the White Panthers. However Adair set the story straight: "I left home when I was 17 years old and through a friend I was given a safe place to live by a White Panther collective. They were not happy to have an underage liability on their hands, but luckily for me they were not willing to put me on the street either. I learned how to advocate on behalf of our elderly neighbors whose homes were threatened by developers."
Isaac Brock Had at Least Three Stalkers
Spin Magazine interviewed Isaac Brock about their 2021 album, "The Golden Casket," and the discussion took a very paranoid turn when the subject of Isaac Brock’s stalkers came up. Brock said, "Honestly, I had three prominent stalkers. One of them got arrested for lighting the security cameras on my porch on fire. There’s another one who I won’t even mention any of the details, but he went to jail for a while. And then there was another one. He was very, very interesting. He at some point basically drew my attention to the fact that I was not only being stalked by him. The reason that he thought I was so fun to stalk was that other people were following me."
Brock started talking about "gang-stalking," a type of stalking where several people work together to stalk the same person in order to drive them a little (or a lot) crazy. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, gang stalking involves a single stalker who would enlist the help of others in a more concerted effort by a group. Clearly, it did a number on Brock since he still thinks it happens to him to this day.
The Band Built Their Own Studio
In a Newsweek article in 2015, Isaac Brock was asked what led to "Strangers To Ourselves" taking eight years to release. Brock responded by talking about the various producers they went through, the recording process, the touring, and eventually their struggles finding a place to record. "Our six-month lease was done, and rather than just have a makeshift studio that was going to work, we actually … built one — which, you know, a lot of time and resources, personal time and money, went into doing [that]."
Brock went into more detail to Relix about what building their own studio entailed: "We were thinking really bare bones — rent a warehouse, put mattresses against the wall to deaden it, stacks of used books around the engineer …" Brock clarified that the warehouse they had leased ended up being the warehouse they bought "because I’d dumped so much money into building an actual studio." The studio was eventually dubbed Ice Cream Party Studios.
Isaac Brock Experienced the Phoenix Lights Incident
Near Phoenix, Arizona, on March 13, 1997, a V-shaped craft emitting lights of some kind yet seemingly completely silent was spotted by hundreds of witnesses that night, including Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock. One of the witnesses reported that the alleged UFO, dubbed the Phoenix Lights Incident, "didn’t seem threatening. … When it was right overhead and we couldn’t hear a sound, it was like you’re just awestruck" (via CNN). Experts still do not know to this day what Arizonans witnessed on that evening. Yet Brock has his own story to tell about that night, and depending on the source one reads, his witness might become more exaggerated.
In and interview for Studio 360, Brock said he "was in a plane in a holding pattern while [the Phoenix Lights incident] was going on." He stated that the song, "The Best Room," was an homage of sorts to that evening. Yet in an interview for the Irish Examiner, his story gets more involved: "Look, I saw the Phoenix lights. My flight was put into a holding pattern, for hours, I know what I saw." Merely an unknowing bystander or an unverified witness of the craft and/or lights? Whatever you believe about Brock’s plane ride that night, it only makes his persona that much more entertaining to contemplate.
Isaac Brock Got His Jaw Broken by 14 Kids
While the band was recording "The Moon & Antarctica", Isaac Brock was living above Clava Studios in Chicago and had come home from the bar, drunk, and decided to smoke a cigarette before he went into his apartment. There was a gang of local kids outside, and he decided to talk to them. He recalls in an interview with The AV Club that one kid punched him out of nowhere, and the remainder of the 14 kids started throwing bottles at him and insulting him. Yet no other punches landed, but Brock walked away with a broken jaw.
Of course, with the crazy stories he tells about his childhood, family, the Phoenix Lights, and more, this all could be another unverifiable story. However, The AV Club knew about the incident, so perhaps this is one of too-odd-to-be-fiction situations where the truth actually fits into the mystique of Brock, himself.
Modest Mouse Was Nearly Killed by a Cow
Back in 1997 before the release of their album, "The Lonesome Crowded West," the band was driving through Montana and Minnesota to a gig in Chicago. Along for the ride was photographer, Pat Graham. In an article for The Washington Post, Graham shows pictures of the band — whom he was with for about a decade — and tells a fascinating story about that specific trip to Chicago.
"Twenty-four hours after this photo was taken, Eric [Judy, the band’s former bassist] crashed the tour van as he spun out on a bridge in the snow. The guardrail stopped us from plummeting to our deaths. Thirty hours after this picture was taken, we almost ran over a frozen cow that was standing dead in the middle of a snowy Montana highway. Thirty-four hours or so after this picture, the van got stuck in the middle of a huge snow drift. Eventually, a hay-bailer pulled our van free and we drove to Minnesota," Graham said. A dead, but standing frozen cow in the middle of a Montana highway is perhaps the stuff of nightmares, but Modest Mouse just incorporated this trip into the iconography of their 1997 album instead. Go figure.
Isaac Brock Was Sued by a City of Portland Employee
In August 2016, Isaac Brock collided with a city of Portland vehicle after falling asleep at the wheel but was not charged with a crime at the time (via Billboard). However, he would eventually be sued by city employee Cassidy Kane for physical damages, including "herniated disks in her spine and … other tissue and muscle damage that continues to cause her pain and numbness in her extremities." The report went on to say that she "will need steroid injections and may need surgery." She sued Brock for $865,000.
Rolling Stone went on to report that Brock was checked for signs of intoxication or drug use, but neither were able to be confirmed. He got a ticket for "careless driving" that came with a $435 fine. According to Kane’s attorney, "the case settled for an undisclosed sum."
Isaac Brock Had a Wild Childhood
Isaac Brock had a pretty wild childhood. Brock had a lot of familial incidents that unsettled his life early on. According to Brock, "If I wanted to count divorces and separations, on paper I have something like 16 or 18 … stepbrothers and sisters. The guy who kind of identified as my dad was my dad’s brother, who was the second person my mom married. [She] left my dad for his brother" (via BuzzFeed). His mother, Kris Adair, responded to many of Brock’s stories about his childhood, stating, "though they may be fractured memories and sometimes not completely accurate in chronology, they were his perception and truth at the time. Isaac isn’t necessarily a linear kind of fellow. You have to get used to that when you talk with him."
Some of the crazier stories involve being raised in a fundamentalist church and having hands placed on him until he was able to speak in tongues (via PRX) and that, for at time, they were part of the Great Oaks commune in Oregon, which his mother said was full of people who "lived in yurts … were also into raw foods, fasting, and enemas … Isaac stayed there a grand total of one night" (via BuzzFeed).
The Band Was on the TV Show, "The O.C."
Between 2003 and 2007, "The O.C." was a popular teen soap opera and, since 2007, its cult status has only become more magnified. Jim Tankersley declared, in a dialogue with Mike Konczal and Dylan Matthews in The Washington Post, that the show was "the most culturally important television show of the 2000s …" They go on to discuss the show’s prescient comprehension of economic and class analysis. Yet the show’s witting (or unwitting) portrayal of class struggle wasn’t the only thing it was known for. It also became a showcase for some of the great bands of the 2000s through its soundtracks and the band appearances on the show itself.
Not too surprising, then, that after Modest Mouse’s rise to the mainstream in 2004, they would find not only their music on the show’s soundtrack but themselves playing on the show itself. On season two, episode seven, they appeared on the show’s in-world club, The Bait Shop, and played "The View" from "Good News For People Who Love Bad News" and "Paper Thin Walls" from "The Moon & Antarctica." "Their music served as the backdrop for Seth’s failed attempt at being a ‘bad boy’ in an effort to impress Alex" (via Screen Rant).