From label internships to crossing over to the US market, the boys of Modern Fever are proving you don’t have to fit into a mold to find success
One thing is clear about Modern Fever’s Ben G. (Métis Cree) and Niiko Soul (Mdewakanton Dakota/ Métis), they are not afraid to take what has already proven to be successful and throw it away in order to create something that is uniquely their own. These award-winning and critically acclaimed musicians succeed in putting their own spin on the rock genre by mixing classic rock and soul with elements of modern songwriting in a manner that catches the listener completely off guard in all the best ways.
There is a depth and maturity present in both the musical and lyrical composition of their debut single, “Howl”, that you just don’t find in a lot of today’s music. They dare to be bold and rebellious in a way that resonates through the music rather than the superficiality of appearance or schtick that so many bands and labels bank on. So, it’s not surprising that their debut single was met with such immediate success and fanfare.
When they released “Howl” in March, it debuted on the NCI Radio Charts in Western Canada the same time that it debuted on iTunes. It earned glowing reviews in ‘Scene Magazine’ and ‘Riff You’, while also drawing comparisons of Modern Fever to bands like The Black Keys and The White Stripes. More recently, July 26th to be exact, “Howl” reached #1 on the NCI NAMC.
During our discussion, Ben G. and Niiko Soul opened up about how Modern Fever came together, their influences and their upcoming E.P slated for a mid-September release.
It seems before you teamed up, you each have a pretty solid background in music…what spurred your interest in music?
Ben G.: I started interning for a U.S Label, 456 Records (which was Carson Daleys label), and I was the only Canadian rep and I did really well. They started offering me concert promoting gigs in Buffalo but when they called me, they found out I was 15. Laughs They were kind of surprised. I originally wanted to write and manage, but it wasn’t viable initially. Although a producer DID discover me based on my writing and he found out I had some unique qualities to my voice and got me to develop it more. I fell in love with being in bands and being the artist although… if you ask Niiko, I still LOVE writing for and with other artists. I don’t know why. I really feed off other people’s experiences and emotions. It’s really fun to bring new sides of people out in their music and sort of acting like a conduit for the art.
Niiko: I honestly believe it was just something in me since very early on. I started playing drums at 7 and quickly became just so obsessed with music and art and I was lucky to be exposed to a lot of great stuff. I was always a true outsider. I was just different. I didn’t fit in and people didn’t really take any chance to understand me. So, I think I delved deeply into music as a way to express myself and live out my fantasies and dreams. It was escapism. It was, also, a challenge that kept me interested in things when my surroundings seemed sort of foreign and dull. When I was on stage, I could be entirely who I needed to be without any sense of fear or judgement. It was really a safe haven for me. And continues to be.
I guess that brings me to the next question. With Howl, it seems there’s a fusion of funk, rock with just a twist of some Elvis Costello influence, so what genre would you say you fall in to and what musicians or musical styles influence your sound?
Niikio: I think it’s such a fusion because we come from varied backgrounds. Our influences are very different. I think what we make together is very traditional rock and roll, but it’s also very contemporary. We’re not living in the past. We just share an appreciation for a certain aesthetic, but there are other elements that creep their way into the sound. My own background is very much in funk and soul music. I listened to a lot of James Brown, Al Green, Parliament Funkadelic, Amy Winehouse in my teen years and I think starting out on drums and bass gave me a good foundation in rhythmic music. I’m also influenced by more eccentric pop/rock artists like Queen, Scissor Sisters. Prince is my musical idol. To me these are all people that just make classic stuff that I listen to time and time again. It’s interesting how our influences blend together. I really enjoy the end product.
Ben G.: I have really odd influences. I think Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson were really huge to me. I liked how they sort of wanted to be pop stars but obviously could never pull it off, so instead they just rocked out and have had awesome moments. People focus on their personas a lot, but musically they both have some awesome moments. Courtney’s Pacific Coast Highway is such excellent songwriting and a super inspirational Manson cut is Great Big White World. I am, also, a huge fan of Sheryl Crow. Vocally, I always really respected Glen Campbell. Anything I do country-wise is always influenced by him.
How did you two decide to collaborate? Have you always known each other?
Ben G.: Well, we started making music as part of a project for an Artist, Gal Harper, and we really hit it off. This is recent, like last summer. We hit it off and wrote a lot of songs for other artists, released a single, and then the band happened with the upcoming E.P. I feel like a lot of people in my life, like my cousin Sal (who did our promo shots) and my buddy Zach, I’ve known in past lives like maybe every past life. But I really feel like Niiko and I really met for the first time in this life and it’s like a new very cool friendship in the purest sense and I think big things are going to come out of it. smiles
As far as the writing, are there any particular themes or messages that you’ll be focusing on for the E.P?
Niiko: All of the themes and messages are coming from real life experiences. Some of it is empowering and about overcoming obstacles and struggle. It’s our reflections and commentary on the modern world we live in. The way it affects our own lives and those around us. There’s also a little fun and sexy thrown in there as well for good rock and roll measure.
Since the themes and messages are coming from real life experiences, how has music helped to shape or change the way you view and live your life?
Niiko: Ben and I pretty much have tunnel vision. It’s not only a part of the view. It created the view. It’s responsible for so much of our mindsets. The artists I listened to growing up were, also, my role models and shaped my worldview. They opened up my mind and world in such amazing ways. They continue to do so. I wouldn’t know myself without music.
That’s amazing to hear because music does have the power to effect us in the most unexpected ways. When can we expect to hear more and do you have a name for the E.P yet?
Ben G.: September 16th, 2014 and the E.P is called ‘Howl’ named after the song. We’ll also be releasing a second single “All In Your Head”, which will be serviced to Aboriginal radio stations like we did with “Howl”. But it will also be released to mainstream radio, which is daunting and exciting. We’ll be releasing it for sure in Canada, but we are researching the U.S radio scene. another smile
Awesome! Are you going to be touring or doing shows to promote as well?
Niiko: Yes, we are! We are setting tentative dates the next couple of weeks, but the majority of dates will be in October/November.
Where can our readers find you online?
Ben G.: The magic moment. www.themodernfever.com. So happy to get to use this site! Freshly built and launched.Twitter is @themodernfever and Facebook is www.facebook.com/themodernfever as well. We pretty much got all the real-estate on this Modern Fever thing laughs
Last question, what advice would you give to youth interested in music and wanting to have a career in the industry?
Niiko: Our advice would be to first and foremost, do it because you love it and have a drive and impulse to do it. Make music that you love. That way no matter happens, you’ll have a product you are so proud of. Realize the importance of having a voice. It’s a powerful thing, it’s a beautiful thing. Your story is important and deserves to be told.
Focus on honing your craft, keep an open mind and constantly put yourself in situations that will challenge you. Never stop learning. Most importantly, focus on the journey as opposed to the end result. Make small goals to keep yourself interested and stay committed. A lot of it is a matter of timing. Be patient. Don’t stop believing that what you’ve got to say is important. If you don’t believe in it 1,000,000 % it will be hard to get others to believe. It’s not impossible.
I think on a technical level, it’s super important to diversify. Try new things. Get to know every angle of the artistic, technical and business parts of the field. You don’t need to necessarily be an expert at everything but have a clue about what’s going on. The music industry is going through a lot of changes at the moment and the people who will ultimately survive are the one’s who will never be the last to know what’s going on. Take an interest and investigate all areas of the business.