What the Hell is Alt-Punk? Modern Withdrawals Interview
Trying to find an "alt" version of punk is no easy task. In a genre that prides itself on individuality, giving zero fucks to the point of recklessness, and being willing to throw out the rules and boot stomp the status quo, rebellion can become cliche and individuality can fall victim to gatekeepers who want to keep the "scene" exactly as they remember it: in short, nostalgia is the cancer of punk.
That's why it was so refreshing to hear Modern Withdrawals for the first time. It's punk for sure. Songs like "Our Town" give a bleak social review of suburbia -with lyrics like "if you're different then you'll be swinging from a happy tree" - while the pop-pop banger "Highwaymen" is something you could hear on any radio station on any given summer evening.
Its not New York punk and it's not SoCal skate punk. Modern Withdrawals have found something that they get to call their very own and the result is a fresh alternate to what's been called punk in the past.
Intrigued by all this, I chatted with Damon, Randi, Regan, and Kyle about who they are, how they make music and where they want to go.
Headwormz: Lets start at the beginning: who are you?
Modern Withdrawals: We are Modern Withdrawals! Randi Wright is our drummer, Reagan Wright is our bassist, Kyle Ballard is our lead guitarist and Damon McCall is our lead singer
Headwormz: How and why did you start a band? Tell me your story.
Modern Withdrawals: So, we started out with just Damon and Kyle, who have been playing music together for years and were even in a band previously. They had a good amount of success, though they weren’t well known, and in the end the band just kind of dissolved in 2015
Fast forward to 2020, and one day when Kyle’s in-laws were cleaning out a family members garage, they found an old drum set. He immediately let Damon know and the two of them started jamming out in his garage every week, just getting drunk and playing random stuff like System Of A Down, some MxPx, etc. After a few weeks, Damon brought up that they should start writing some original stuff and start a new band together, and Kyle agreed, so they wrote ‘Highwaymen’ together. From there, we started writing more and more songs, and ultimately knew that we had to expand if we ever wanted to play live shows and do more than just recording crappy sounding demos in Damon’s apartment and playing in Kyle’s garage.... Damon made up some posters advertising their need for a drummer, and went around Edmond and OKC talking to people and hanging these posters up all over the place.
After a few weeks of silence, they got an email from Randi, wanting to set up a jam session to see if she could join. The guys were ecstatic, and to top it off, she also just so happened to have a sister who played bass! So it was definitely just an absolutely perfect scenario. And after we all played together, the guys liked what Randi and Reagan brought to the table and decided to bring the sisters into the group in January of ‘21.
Headwormz: what do you call your brand of music? alt-rock? pop punk? something else really cool i dont know about?
Modern Withdrawals: We like to think it’s a weird kind of mix of both those genres, kind of an alt-punk (or punk alternative, maybe?) thing, or at least that’s what we’re going for.
Headwormz: Your cover of the Animals-House of the rising sun- is pretty fucking killer. Why that song?
Modern Withdrawals: The story with that song was that we wanted to cover a song that we could really make our own, so Damon did a bit of research and found that the lyrics for House of the Rising Sun is actually in the public domain. It was originally a folk song that was sung by coal miners in the early 1900’s, and like a good amount of folk songs from the 1800’s and early 1900’s nobody really knows who originally wrote it. So, we tried to make the lyrics more personal to us, and did our best to make an original melody to go along with it!
Headwormz: I also noticed in the description for that song on youtube, you said you were going to have a “BUNCH” of songs finished soon (at the time of the posting) - where are they?
Modern Withdrawals: A bunch was definitely exaggerating, since we only had 3 others that were actually ready to show off, but we did finish them! We do have a few new songs in the works that will also be finished soon, so stay tuned for that!
Headwormz: Tell me about how you write music. What's the process like? It seems every band has their own way of working things out.
Modern Withdrawals: We try to keep it pretty organic for the most part, usually someone will come to practice with a lick or lyric and we all just kind of build around it.
Headwormz: How do you record, mix, master?
Modern Withdrawals: A lot of cheap DIY with a $5 usb hookup that’s run through an amp, a yeti mic for the vocals (usually recorded in a tiny closet) and drums, FL Studio, and a whole lot of experimenting. Damon’s the one who handles all that for now, but hopefully sometime soon we’ll be able to get a bit more professional/knowledgeable help with it.
Headwormz: Whats your goal as a band? Diy for life? Arenas? burn out? fade away?
Modern Withdrawals: We definitely want to get bigger and get ourselves out there eventually, because (just like so many other bands out here) we feel like we have something to say, and we want to share our perception of the world around us with others who feel like we do about it. Beyond that, we really want to have fun, and hopefully help other people have fun with us while we’re out here screaming about the fucked up shit that we’re all going through.
Headwormz: Anything else you want to add?
Modern Withdrawals: Major thank you to everyone who’s been helping us out and believing in us! We’re working hard to be our best and make more music to jam to, and we hope to be able to play on stage and have fun with our current and future fans sometime soon once things are safer.
You can find - and I would suggest you follow them and keep an eye on their career - on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, as well as their first demo on soundcloud via Headwormz Records. Links Below!
Click the things!!