Q&A with Jaymz Carlson of Modena

Stewy, Justin, Jaymz and Derek

This week Carolina rock band Modena releases what has been referred to as their calling card to the music industry. After a whirlwind year that included a famed producer and a brand new label contract the guys are putting it all on the table to see where it takes them.
There have been some major changes for Modena in the last few months, including getting signed to an indie label and recording with famed producer Jim Wirt. Tell us about getting signed to Filament?

We really weren’t expecting the deal at all. We had plans to record before we got signed, and had just got done sending out a final run of our old presskits to some local labels in order to give it one last shot and see if any were interested; Filament contacted us the next week. All it took were the first two songs on the old Modena EP and we already had an offer.

What things do you think Modena did that other bands might not be doing that made you stand out to a label?

Our music speaks for itself. It doesn’t try to sound like any other band from this area, from this era, or even anything you’ve heard on the radio. Sure you can probably hear our influences, but we strive for originality. I think Filament realized we had a very unique sound that would stand out in a crowd of bands all flooding the market, that all sound the same.

On the business side of things we had a great marketing team and manager that really helped us project the professional business image of the band we aspire to be. That helped too.

What about Filament Records made members of Modena sure that it was the right fit for the band?

When we first spoke with the owner, Tony Andrews, he came across as a very down to earth guy. We could tell he had his head on his shoulders and he knew what he was talking about. He has the attitude that music should make you feel great, not get you down. The label’s slogan is “Great Rock, Great Times!” because he believes that whenever you hear a Filament artist, whether in a restaurant, or bar, or in your car, it will make you want to pick up a beer and just have a good time (preferably not while you’re driving though!). haha.

Was their a lot of negotiating to maintain control of Modena when signing to a label or do they give you your artistic ‘space’?

There were never really “negotiations” about that per se. Tony was very forward with his idea of letting us do our own thing. He did not, by any means, want to interfere in the creative process of Modena, or any of his bands for that matter. Of course he has his say and offers us advice on how to approach the marketing/business side of things, but as far as artistic control in the direction of the band, I’d say he’s done an amazing job in giving us our ‘artistic space’ as you call it.

This summer you traveled to Closer Look studio in Cleveland to record with the well known producer Jim Wirt (Incubus). What made you choose Wirt and how do you feel the tracks turned out?

We really liked his track record. I had a list of producers that included Trevor Kustiak (Evans Blue, Rains) and Beau Hill (Ratt) that had approached us in re-recording songs off our old Modena EP, but none of them had the experience and consistency that Wirt did. I remember buying that first Hoobastank album he produced and blasting it in my headphones in high school. And to think, now my band gets to work with the guy who made that all possible for them? It was unreal. He has taken so many great bands to that “next level,” which is what we needed. I feel we got every penny’s worth out of the tracks we did with him. He helped our recordings sound like we’ve always wanted to sound, the way we knew we could sound.

What is Wirt like to record with?

The guy is a machine! We did like 3 songs in 4 days or something like that? 12-16 hours per day in the studio… now that’ll make most people go crazy after awhile – but not Jim. He’s the most down to earth, easy to work with guy you’ll ever meet. Plus he had ideas flowing for days on how to make the tracks so much better. It was an awesome learning experience just to see this guy work. Everything he had to say was so supportive and positive, unless you were out of tune or you just did a crappy take.

You recorded 3 tracks, two from the demo and one new one? Tell us about the new song?

Yes, we re-recorded “Second Time Around” which is the title track, and lead-off single, and “Hang It High,” which will probably be the next single.

The new song “The Chosen Few” was written, and re-written for years. I wrote the music for it back in 2006 right before the band’s first gig. The lyrics have been a work in progress ever since. We just changed the vocal melody in the chorus right before going into the studio because the old one was very drawn out, had too many words, and just didn’t catch your ear – so we simplified it. Sometimes what you hear in your head and what comes out on the speakers are two totally different things – in this case, it worked out for the better.

The song itself is about my frustration with the local music scene as a whole. The chorus line “The chosen few have no alternative, be my guest if you please” refers to the select few bands in this area that really have no choice but to deal with playing in crappy bars for no one every weekend, even though their music is better than 90% of the pre-packaged crap you hear on MTV. The next line “The chosen few are hopeless tendencies, hello, goodbye its all the same to me” refers to no matter how hard these bands try, it’s always the same song and dance at the local level: You don’t get paid unless you play the same old songs in a bar for 2-3 hours at a time that people hear on the radio everyday.

Now don’t get me wrong, we love playing covers – but we refuse to be a cover band.

What is your plan for releasing this material?

“Second Time Around EP” is being released on Tuesday Dec 14, following the CD release party the Friday before on Dec 11 @ Deep South The Bar in Raleigh, NC. It will be on all major online retail outlets, including iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, CD Baby, Amazon, and eventually (or should say hopefully) be available in major outlet stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart someday soon as well.

Modena - Second Time Around

At the same time as the label you also signed a booking contract as well. What upcoming shows are you most excited about?

We have been really pumped about our CD release party in December. We’ve been waiting for months to get this EP out and I think it will be a huge relief for us once our fans can get their hands on it. We’re anxious to see what people think!

We are also excited to be branching out and doing more out of state shows. Look out Southeast!! We’re coming for ya.

Tell us a little bit about the band members themselves, what makes the 4 of you special, as a group?

We’re a pretty unique bunch, mostly because the 4 of us are friends first, business partners second. We’ve had our ups and downs in 2010 that included a few temporary line-up changes, but I think we reached a point where we realized that we have to put aside our petty differences and focus on the main goal: to make Modena the biggest band in the world. And we realized the only way to do this is with the 4 original members. Any new member we try and incorporate into the group wouldn’t even have 1/10 of the heart that we all share for the musical integrity of the band as whole; we learned that the hard way.

What do you love and hate most about the NC music scene?

I love the fact that there is so much talent in this area. Both discovered, and undiscovered. Everyday it seems like I find a new local band that really has potential to break out, yet they’re limited by the downward spiral of the local rock scene here. We intend to change that. For example, when an international band like Shinedown comes to Raleigh and sells out the Lincoln Theatre, there is no reason to not have a single local band on the bill. Even a short 15 minute set would suffice for a band at our level. Unfortunately this business is all about money and NOT looking out for the little guys. THAT is what I hate most. You better be sure if MODENA ever hits it big, and we return to our hometown, we are going to have an up-and-coming local band open up for us. Not because we need them in order to hit our attendance quota, but because it’s good form. Everyone deserves a shot in my opinion.

Anything else you would like to add?

Yes! Special shout outs to Static Mgmt, Filament Records, Tony Andrews, Jim Wirt, & everyone that’s helped us get to this point. 2011 is looking to be a big year for Modena!!!