By Carl Begai
Like any serious band, the members of Toronto-based trio Modified – Tricia Stanley (vocals), Anthony Xander (guitars/vocals), James “Jones” Rose (drums) – are fuelled by their individual rock star dreams. Those aspirations are tempered, however, by keeping their collective feet firmly planted in the real world. Every step they’ve taken since the release of their EP debut Cruel Intentions in 2009 has been with a goal in mind rather than to prove a point to curious people watching from the sidelines. Battle Of The Bands competitions, sharing the stage with screamo, pop rock and death metal bands, shooting live-off-the-floor studio footage or an official video clip, Modified have taken on the music scene with a professional and thought-out approach unexpected in a young band still learning the ropes.
Ironically, Tricia sent out a message via Facebook a month prior to this interview stating that Modified were finished with Battle Of The Bands competitions from here on out. Not quite a rant, but a clear indication the band has had enough of being a number on a ballot.
Tricia: “I’m not pissed off, but it just seemed like we were getting bombarded by these promoters coming to us all at once saying ‘Do you wanna play this show?’ which was always followed by ‘Here’s the catch…’ It’s not like: ‘We love your band, we believe in you guys.’ It all comes down to how much money they can make off us. I know that’s the reality of the business, but I feel we’re past the stage in our lives where we can drive around the city for two weeks selling tickets. I don’t like it, so I’d rather not be involved in that part of it. And half the time it’s not a true contest; it comes down to how many friends you bring and whose ass you’re kissing. If it was a true contest where you could get something significant out of it to help the band, that would be fine, but we just don’t have time for that.”
The new self-titled debut album, released at the end of 2011, consists of the five songs featured on the Cruel Intentions EP and six new tracks. It’s a move that may look questionable on paper, but has proven to be a solid introduction to the band for those that have been oblivious to Modified until now.
Anthony: “Like you said, we take things one step at a time and make sure that everything we do is the best possible decision. We’re constantly writing music. We’ve probably written 60 or 70 songs, so it’s not a case of having a lack of material at all. We just came to the conclusion at some point that instead of releasing EPs and demos, let’s put those five songs out there with the six new ones. I guess it looks a little bit better, and we had the chance to re-master the old songs. We feel they’re still a good selling point, so why abandon them?”
Tricia: “And a lot of people haven’t even heard those older songs before now. They’re only old to our 100 friends around Toronto (laughs). We actually set out just to do three songs for financial reasons; paying for a producer/engineer is expensive. Anthony and especially James really wanted to have a full length album, which is where we came up with the idea to combine the songs. It was kind of a last-minute thing. We didn’t know exactly what we were going to do, but we had to keep going because it had been long enough since we’d released any new material. We would have loved to put out 11 brand new songs, but we need to win a lottery first. The three songs turned into five songs because we brought back ‘Hollow’, which is an old Modified song…”
Probably the heaviest song on the album. Not at all what people would expect after hearing ‘Running From Myself’ or ‘When I Wake’, and it’s this broad dynamic that makes Modified stand out in a crop of new talent.
Anthony: “That’s the first song that Modified ever wrote, before Trish was even in the band. One of our key intentions with our music is to not only have vocal hooks, but to have guitar and drum hooks as well. I think that’s lacking in a lot of new music; there are no guitar riffs anymore, no cool little drum hooks. We try and do what sounds good instead of thinking that we need to focus on the vocals. Every element is important, not just one element. We’re also very spontaneous when we write. We don’t really have anything in mind when we start. Like the riff on ‘Running From Myself’… it came out and it sounds good, so I don’t care if it’s reggae.”
Tricia: “We don’t like to commit to an idea just because it’s there. Quite often Anthony will write a song and I’ll make him change the verse 75 times (laughs).”
Anthony: “She’s not exaggerating. Sometimes I’ll write 10 different verses for a song and eight different choruses. It’s ridiculous, but we’re very on top of the quality of the songs. We want everything to sound really good.”
Modified’s “let’s see what sticks” approach to their music makes them a head-scratcher for people that prefer to have their music stamped with a label and shoved in an easy-to-find box. Not surprisingly, they remain unapologetic for making people think before filing them on a shelf.
Anthony: “We’re not a formulaic band. We’re artists. Obviously, we want to write catchy music that is accepted by the masses, but we also want to write songs that we’re happy with as musicians. It won’t be cookie cutter Three Days Grace-type stuff because that gets old really fast. I’d liken our aspirations to that of a band like Muse. If you listen to them, they have metal elements in their sound, classic rock, all kinds of stuff going on. I guess we have a similar approach.”
Tricia: “We all came from different backgrounds, and they influence the Modified sound. I came from a pop band, Anthony has more of a metal background, and James came more from a classic rock band. We all have our own styles and I guess that comes through.”
Which makes the live show crossover into the realms of metal and everywhere in between a relatively easy, if not exactly comfortable switch of the gears.
Tricia: “It’s true. We play a lot of metal shows and most of the time I’m the only chick there (laughs). It’s odd playing on the same bills as these heavy bands, but then we’ll go out and play with rock and pop-oriented female fronted bands. We were booked a while ago by Noel Peters at Inertia to open for Otep, and then we got booked to open for Halestorm. They’re completely different acts. We didn’t end up playing the Otep show because she was sick and had to cancel, but we did the Halestorm gig. That show was great and we got a lot of new fans out of it. It was pretty exciting, and it was a last minute show where we only found out about it three days before.”
For the immediate future, Modified are mapping out the rest of 2012 with live gigs on their own terms – or as close as they can get without losing their shirt – and building on the buzz created by their new video for ‘Die To Resist’.
Anthony: “We’re definitely looking at playing more shows in Ontario, maybe into Quebec. Sort of like a 401 tour, a St. Catharines to Montreal kind of thing. We’re probably going to work the shit out of Ontario until we find proper label support or management to help us. We would go to Europe or Japan tomorrow if there was a demand for it, so we’re just going to work our asses off as we always have and make more noise here at home.”
Tricia: “We going to try and get out there this spring and summer to really push this album. We’re going to do another video, and we’re talking about doing one new song just to keep things going. We don’t have a complete game plan at the moment, but we really want to start shopping the album. And if the labels tell us to screw off, at least we tried. We at least have something to show people.”
Visit Modified on Facebook here.